The WMU-AAUP has taken many steps to ensure that its initiatives and statements are rooted in the will of its members. First, we have used numerous surveys, polls, and votes. The results have been impressive, including in the November election for Chapter President and Vice President — with very high numbers of participation — and, on a number of key issues, remarkably univocal. In addition, at all-member Chapter meetings, and meetings of the Association Council (department reps), and in countless emails and one-on-one meetings, WMU faculty have spoken out in unusual numbers and with extraordinary candor.
To be sure, no organization can satisfy the wishes of all its members and there’s no use pretending otherwise. But it’s also good to keep in mind that a classic divide-and-conquer strategy used against those engaged in collective action is to question the basic legitimacy of the group expressing concerns. Far too often, here’s what happens: Instead of listening to repeated worries, suggestions, and complaints expressed by campus community members, including faculty, administrators insist that such expressions are those of a “radical fringe” and don’t represent a supposed “silent majority.” No matter how many voices speak up, nor how loudly or reasonably — including through damningly direct performance evaluations — administrators may continue to justify actions and policies by effectively dismissing whole swathes of the campus community as disgruntled, whiny, or difficult. Such administrators may be listening to some faculty voices, of course, especially those that consistently, and sometimes publicly, celebrate and applaud them.
It is frustrating and dangerous when such dismissive and trivializing strategies are used against any group, but it is especially pernicious when it happens during negotiations, and when the group in question is a legally recognized collective bargaining unit, the official voice of its members. As we have all seen in recent years, tirelessly spreading rumors that cast doubt on the legitimacy of elections, polls, and properly collected qualitative data is a tactic employed by those desperate to believe they are right. No matter what. It is precisely because of such stubbornness and wishful thinking that the WMU-AAUP, including the individual voices of its members, must continue to speak up. This is especially important now, as we are in the midst of negotiations, fighting not just for faculty salaries and decent benefits, but for the ongoing viability and dignity of the professoriate.
During negotiations, the WMU-AAUP will be finding new ways to share members’ experiences and messages of concern, then, for example, in graphics like the one below. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have experiences you’d like the Chapter to consider highlighting in these campaigns.