Thursday, March 02, 2006

Solidarity? Ok, sure, whatever...

This is what I think about the fact that one of my professors (and lots of other profs) is holding class in a synagogue until the strike is settled and another has also promised to have class off campus, although he hasn’t yet told us where.

At first, when a Professor said class would be in a synagogue until the strike is resolved, my reaction was “oh crap, where will I park when I come back to campus?” Then I thought to myself: “Self, what’s wrong with you? Don’t you think the inconvenience of riding the shuttle from the parking garage is minor compared with these poor janitors who don’t make minimum wage and don’t have health insurance? Of course I can make this sacrifice.”

But after thinking it over, I think something else. I’m not complaining about being inconvenienced. I’m really not that selfish. Honestly. I realize that my inconvenience is nothing when you think about all that these poor workers are doing. (In fact, I agree with these professors in their view that this strike is something worth sympathizing over. I support the workers 100 percent on this. That’s not the point.)

But what bothers me is the sanctimonious abuse of the power that professors are committing when they decide to hold class off campus. If professors want to make a statement, why don’t they do what normal people do who take job actions in solidarity with strikers? Strike. Or do a work slow down. Or physically walk the picket line. (Maybe I’m wrong but in the old days, I don’t think when the mechanics struck at a plant and the engineers walked off the job in solidarity that the engineers did their work off site – when they walked off the job, they walked off the job).

Better yet, why don’t they use their positions of power to help the colleagues they think they are standing in solidarity with? They’re lawyers. I know nothing about labor law, but surely someone could file a lawsuit fixing, at minimum, the pathetic policy that has the picketers squirreled away on a side street that 90 percent of the public will never see. Use the legal system to get help for these people. File a class action lawsuit.

Even better: donate a portion of their paycheck to a fund that would go toward a health insurance pool type account for these workers. If professors donated one percent of their paychecks for the next year to an endowment it could create some kind of emergency health care fund for uncovered university employees or subcontractors. (I realize that that’s not the point of the strike – they deserve health insurance and a minimum wage, not charity from their fellow university employees; but that’s not what we’re talking about here – we’re talking about taking a job action that shows solidarity and holding class off campus doesn’t make any sense to me as a way to show support. Professor state and local government went on a nearly hour-long rant about the injustice of the system yesterday. That’s fine. I agree that the system is unjust. But if you’re that upset about it, do something about it. And not some empty gesture where you force other people to go along with the action.)

Personally, I support the strikers. I think Shalala has transformed herself from a champion of the working people into a despicable symbol of all that’s wrong with corporate America. But at least she’s honest. In the New York Times article, she all but admits she basically is only interested in one thing now: accumulating personal wealth and making as much money as possible for this school. (She doesn’t admit it, but it doesn’t take an idiot to figure this out. Hey, I don't begrudge her that massive salary, but she needs to be honest with herself -- she's in it for the money and only for the money. She's no longer interested in helping the working poor as she was when she was secretary of HHS.)

But although I support the strike, I just don’t know what to do and how to help them. Sitting at home and not crossing the picket line makes no sense to me. It feels like an empty gesture. Because here’s the thing: I am paying a lot of money to this school. A whole lot. Should I ask for my money back? Should I drop out of school until the strike is resolved?

So no professor has the right to mess with my education for his political statement. Ok, technically they’re not ‘messing’ with my education just by holding class in a church or synagogue. But that’s only a small part of the problem.

I’m at a total loss to understand what kind of a statement this is. If the prof chooses not to cross the picket line, then don’t cross the picket line. Don’t teach at all. Is the prof never going to set foot on campus until the strike is over, or is this just for classes? That doesn’t make sense. So you’ll do some work for the evil university but not other work? Will you check your e-mail? Will you check phone messages? Where do you draw the line?

Let’s also not forget that the professors taking this stand are, for the most part, tenured faculty members. But I’ll bet there is some provision that says if they choose not to teach the classes they’re assigned to teach, they’ll get fired, even though they have tenure. So, what? Just holding class off campus is the best they can do? Forcing hundreds of students to go along with their statement is the right thing to do? And don’t give me that garbage about not taking attendance. If you don’t go to these off campus classes, you’ll suffer later when it’s exam time.


At 6:10 PM, Blogger LawFool said...

Here here, Some Guy! Now you are making sense. I was curious if these profs would be fired if they refused to teach classes, and I bet you are right. Wow. What a statement---not come to campus, but keep doing the job. This is great for Miami. They can turn off the lights and save some money. Hey, they would never have to hire the cleaning crew in the first place. With no one to clean up after...

How about this genius professors... MAKE A MESS!!! Throw trash everywhere durring the strike. Clog toilets. Throw apple cores on the bricks. Vomit in the fountain. Scrawl curse words in crayon on the side of the buildings.

At 7:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with you. Profs should put their money where your mouth is. I fail to see how my prof and me walking out of the library to hold class across the street means anything when she will return to her office afterwards.

That's the beauty of tenure, you can be as hypocritical as you want, and you'll still get a great paycheck until you die.

At 7:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will you be in the pews or in Sunday school classrooms, or what?

At 10:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! I agree with you 100%! I acutally have been posting this exact point on Froomkin's blog tonight, then came over here and saw the same thing. How about the self-righteous students who are on "strike" by skipping class? I wonder if this will continue if the strike runs through the exam period.

At 10:41 PM, Anonymous another student said...

i agree as well. it's such an empty gesture.

At 11:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could be wrong, but I think they are already getting paid more than minimum wage - they are asking for a "living wage", which for some people means $10 an hour + benefits.

Could any confirm what their salary is? I thought it was illegal to pay anybody below minimum wage.

Remember - it's not the professors' or Shalala's money we are talking about here - it's YOUR MONEY that keeps this place going. The strike means you'll pay more for less.

At 12:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Law professors participate in a meaningless circle jerk, helping no one yet boosting their own self esteem immensely. News at 11.

At 2:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is my new favorite - I just had a prof's faculty assistant send out one of Fischl's e-mails at the prof's request. What a great way to fight the power: have your faculty assistant do it for you.

Miami is so ahead of the times, always redefining the struggle.

At 10:48 AM, Anonymous Cathy said...

When I was an undergrad the graduate assistants went on strike. But most of them still held their classes off campus.

I'm not entirely sure where this anecdote leads, but I thought I'd throw it in there.

(As a side note, though, my Spanish teacher also chose to dress as a nun when he was picketing. No one really understood where that was supposed to lead either...)


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