The following is written by an Illinois student.
The right to form a union is a right that belongs to all workers. For a significant number of educated, skilled workers, however, this representation is not even an option. Since the late 1970’s when the Supreme Court’s ruling in NLRB vs. Yeshiva University largely blocked unionization in private colleges, the faculty of these places of higher education have struggled to be heard. Many are at the mercy of a tyrannical Board of Trustees and are poorly organized into largely-ignored faculty associations. Hearing about workers unable to unionize would shock a progressive nation, but here in the states it is a reality and an issue that very few are willing to tackle.
I recently had the privilege of transferring to one such college – the only college designed for students and faculty of my faith. It is a picturesque campus complete with historic structures, sculpted hedges, and hundreds of eager pupils.
The school is governed by a very conservative Board of Trustees, which imposes right-wing policies and codes of conduct under the guise of our religion. Despite this, I interviewed one professor who told me “I truly believe in this school and what it stands for- it is the policies that need changing.”
Another professor was very discriminating in her approach toward the policies: “I try to always keep our religion and this school separate.” Her point? The policies of the school do not always represent the teachings of our church.
For example, among the conservative policies in place is a ban on all homosexual PDA (public display of affection), including non-sexual dating, an issue on which the church takes no official stance. Several students have been on disciplinary suspension for their sexual orientation, and yet there has been little action from the students here. “We are told that all the rules here are based on religious principles, so if we oppose them, we are treated like we’re opposing God,” says one concerned student who is very active in the largest religious student organization on campus.
During an in-depth discussion with a recently hired professor, I asked her why she would come to a school which seems very hesitant to even discuss progressive policies. She told me, “I went to this school and I love this school. The teachers here had the biggest impact on me and I love the idea of giving back.” She had previously taught for over ten years in public education before accepting a pay cut to come back to her alma mater.
During her time in the public sector, she had been an active member of the teacher’s union and participated in two strikes. “They were over pay cuts both times, and I don’t believe the issues were resolved, but at least we had the right to picket.”
“I have faith that the policies can change,” says the new professor. “A whole new generation is coming into the faculty and I think that soon we’ll see a lot of positive changes. The founders of this school left ample room for progress.” This sentiment seems to be shared by many her colleagues who feel that the non-progressive policies of the school do not accurately reflect the progressiveness of the church. “Not all of the policies are bad,” says another professor; “many were revolutionary when the school was founded. We just can’t give into the idea of stagnation.”
One professor summed up the faculty consensus, “The same active faith that helped organize the school over 100 years ago is active now; we just need to get politics and personality out of the way of progress.”
Photo: wohnai // CC 2.0