Meet Our Union Monday: Phil Christman


Every Monday, look forward to meeting another one of your fellow union members and hearing about how they got involved in LEO. This series is a way for us to learn about our fellow Lecs, and remind ourselves that We Are the Union!

This week, meet Phil Christman, a Lecturer of English on Ann Arbor campus. Phil is the Ann Arbor Campus Co-Chair (alongside Erin Lavin) and was previously a member of Communications Committee. Read about Phil’s experience with union activism below, and let us know if you’re interested in getting involved in a union committee here!

Phil Christman (Photo by Scott C. Soderberg, Michigan Photography)

Phil Christman (Photo by Scott C. Soderberg, Michigan Photography)

What's your name?

Phil Christman

What do you teach and on which campus?

English, Ann Arbor

How long have you taught at the University of Michigan?

Since January 2013

What’s your favorite song to dance to?

Men Without Hats, "The Safety Dance (Extended Mix)"

What was your first experience with unions or the first time you learned what a union was?

Well, when I was a kid my family gave me to understand that unions were associated, in a general way, with thuggery, laziness, and Stalinism (somehow all at the same time). I got over that though.

What union committee(s) are you on and what is your favorite part of being involved?

I was on the Communications Committee last year and have been on the UC both of the last two years. When I rotate off the UC, I'm looking forward to rejoining Comms, where the meetings have wine and people are fun.

Why should a LEO member join your committee?

Being on the UC is an incredibly fast and efficient way to learn a whole lot about the internal politics of your university, your state, and also, of course, your union. This is intellectually fascinating and, in the snakepit that is the neoliberal corporate university, potentially life-saving. As for comms: see above, in: re: wine.

Well, when I was a kid my family gave me to understand that unions were associated, in a general way, with thuggery, laziness, and Stalinism (somehow all at the same time). I got over that though.
— Phil Christman, LEO Ann Arbor Campus Co-Chair

Football or basketball?


Current obsession?

The abolitionists. I'm reading old abolitionist writings and secondary sources because I believe that, due to climate change, we need to fundamentally change the structure of this society very quickly, if we wish to survive at all. The abolitionists were basically a) a bunch of marginalized black people who objectively had no chance whatsoever plus b) some white dorks who wrote pamphlets and checks.

Yet this hopeless coalition effected just such a fundamental change, over more or less that timeframe. They rule. They are the coolest, most interesting, badass people, and about the only bright spot in this country's disgusting history.

What century would you want to live in (excluding 21st and 20th)?

The 22nd, I suppose. I don't want to live in any era when I'd have to smell bad all the time. Sorry, history.

Hard shell or soft shell (tacos)?

Huh. Soft.

Favorite LEO slogan from this past round of bargaining (could be one we actually used, or one we considered)?

Winter Is Coming, And Some Lecturers Can't Afford Heat. (Thanks in some part to the sloganeering genius of John Buckley, who came up with that one, the statement is far less true than it was two years ago.)

Your personal fight song--the one that gets you fired up to fight the good fights?

The Clash, "Clampdown"

Share a guilty watch (a movie or show that’s probably no good but you enjoy anyway)

I would follow my lord and savior Godzilla to the ends of the earth and back.

What’s a favorite book you read in the past few years, fiction or non-?

My getting-through-the-Trump-era bookbag consists so far of the following.

I'm reading the collected works of the late Mark Fisher right now--the compilation, like his blog, is called K-PUNK. It's a mixture of political writing and music and literary criticism and it is the truest, most exactingly accurate description of contemporary life that I have ever read.

I feel more or less the same way about INFINITY TO DINE, an essay collection by a writer who goes by the name "lazenby."

I also really loved Meghan O'Gieblyn's recent book about the Midwest, INTERIOR REGIONS.

I love everything Tressie McMillan Cottom writes, and everything B.D. McClay writes.

Post-2016, I find myself returning a lot to the "Who Stands Fast" section of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's LETTERS AND PAPERS FROM PRISON (about which I feel more or less as I feel about the abolitionists).

Finally, George MacDonald's UNSPOKEN SERMONS keeps me sane.

What would you like to eat for your last meal?

Little Caesars, goddammit. You can take the boy out of hicksville...

What superpower would you least like to have?

That one's easy--telepathy.

In one word, describe your experience with LEO so far.


If you could teach something in another discipline for a semester, what would you teach?

Theology. (I currently lead a study group on Christianity and Radical Social Thought with the Campus Chapel. It's cool as hell.)

What’s one pleasant surprise about your experience with our union?

Um, our FUCKING CONTRACT was a pleasant surprise. I sank 10-15 hours a week into the campaign and it actually *mattered* and *turned out well.*

What was your favorite question on this quiz?

The one that allowed me to proselytize for Mark Fisher.