Things are rolling pretty nicely around campus lately. Funding goals are being met, our president is getting nominated to special committees to oversee Fulbright scholarships and everything from the football team to the Mayo Clinic expansion seems to be on the mark and in a flow of success. Of course, that is if you’re in the hallowed halls of Morrill or the McNamara alumni center or the other offices involving administration. For them, life’s a bowl of cherries. Too bad these high times are only reserved for the high gods of the University and not for everyone else.
For the bulk of the good people who do most of the work in the University community, it’s a different story. We’re stuck in the position of either accepting contracts insulting our years of hard work and public service to this institution or going on strike. I’m taking the latter position.
In reality, I don’t think there are many of us who want to strike, but this time around the negotiations haven’t taken people and our circumstances into any real degree of consideration, so we are left with no other choice.
We do sympathize that these are hard times everywhere. We understand the high cost of health insurance and the nightmare of costs that have put the University, other institutions and businesses in the present bind we’re all in. We know that the state is in a bind financially, and I’m sure none of us were expecting to reap any big raises or huge windfalls in pay or even in benefits.
We’ve seen these times before, but in the past we had leaders who respected our commitment to this community. Now, they seem to have different agendas and consider working “grunts” and students as nothing but inconsequential irritants to their dreamscapes and divine plans.
The administration is turning a deaf ear to anything and expects us to give back many of our benefits. To that I can only tell them to get real and stop trying to be some kind of Enron of education.
The work force has already taken hits from forced layoffs to early retirements; with those cuts alone, the University community has been diminished because many of those people were the heart and brain trust of this community. Those of us who remain are left to compensate as best we can, but filling the gap has been a major headache for many departments. We workers are a necessity; our character, integrity and sense of community can’t be duplicated by anyone or any outfit. All we ask is to be treated fairly and intelligently.
Oh, I’m sure once the administration finally decides to come back to the bargaining table we’ll hear all sorts of lamentations about more cutbacks, but this time they better look to the head of the “snake” instead of its tail. Every department has probably faced the “big cut” except our royal echelon and, with more than 1,400 administrators making six figures and more, the wheels should cut from the head of the beast, not the tail. How many associate assistant consultants does this University really need?
The leadership has to wise up and stop making this community a crony melting pot for corporate misfits and industrial washouts. Every department has had its share of those types of leaders and the waste and incompetence they bring. This is the perfect time to rid the University of those types and get back to having people in charge who are more interested in the advancement of the University rather than their individual advancement. Let’s rid this “ilk” of leader and at the same time try promoting from within.
Yes, these are good times at the University, but let’s try and get everyone, not just the hot shots, feeling good about the successes.
Clell Staehnke Jr. is a 30-year building and grounds worker.