What Kind of Future Do We Want?
This statement was written by Teia McGahey, recent graduate of the UM Dearborn campus, who was previously a part-time staff organizer for LEO. A version of this statement was delivered at our bargaining kickoff rally on October 27, 2017.
As a recent graduate of the University of Michigan-Dearborn, I'm deeply saddened by and ashamed of the way my home university is treating its Lecturers. I understand that this is a nationwide issue, reflecting a lot of the corporatization and privatization that is corrupting our values as a society, but as a leading institution, we have an obligation to do better.
In so many ways, I see this contract campaign as a fight against the corporatization of America. Universities across the nation are not only catering to private interests and wealthy people far more than the students and university community, but they are essentially becoming corporations themselves. They thrive off of extracting wealth from "customers," also known as students, and exploiting the labor of Lecturers.
The skyrocketing tuition, defunding of essential services, and refusing to pay our educators a living wage are all symptoms of this problem. While our universities prefer to fund the more profitable parts of campuses, classrooms are being left in the dust. Our Lecturers, who spend most of their time in the classroom and teach the majority of classes at the school, are also being left in the dust. While their sole job is to educate and empower students, they aren't the priority of our university anymore. So what are our priorities, then, if not students and Lecturers?
When our teachers are being underpaid the way they are today, we are essentially saying that what they do has no worth. I believe, as many do, that their work is the most valuable work that we have as a country. Without teachers, we don't have schools, and without schools, we don't have a future. If we don't adequately support our educators, we won't have a future.
Our fate, as students, is inextricably linked to this battle in more ways than I can count. This issue is at the root of the majority of the problems we face in school and also outside of school. We have a duty to fight with our Lecturers so that they are treated and paid equitably for their work, and so that we have a future that isn't terrifyingly cold and hopeless.