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By Gus Bode

“It” Is Not Over

Dear editor:

The Faculty Association strike is indeed over; however, the cultural climate that instigated the strike in the first place is still present.  It is pervasive.  And it needs to change. 

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According to SIUC’s mission statement, the university is committed to enhancing our community’s “quality of life through the exercise of academic skills and application of problem-solving techniques.”  Faculty, graduate assistants and civil service employees actualize this mission daily by inspiring, challenging, and supporting SIUC to become a community of intelligence and transformation.  Yet, despite their best efforts, the tenor of this university remains oppressively bureaucratic.  Sadly, we have exchanged strong academic leadership for micro-management, and this threatens the nature and value of what it means to earn an education in this country.

While many in our community strive to fulfill our school’s mission, constituents of the administration actively and consistently antagonize it.  The public rhetoric that is attributed to Chancellor Rita Cheng’s office is simply uncivil and degrading.  Worse, it assaults the very foundations of our educational and cultural missions.  Last week, the Chancellor stated: “Despite the ongoing strike, we are successfully limiting the impact on our students. At the close of the second day of the strike, less than 5% of class sections were affected by the walkout.”  This is ignorant.  This is arrogant.  This is wrong, factually and ethically.  Cheng’s use of the terms “successfully,” “impact,” and “affected” evince a horribly anti-intellectual worldview, one that belittles the hundreds, possibly thousands, of students who chose either to attend classes, only to have their attendance taken and then be dismissed, or to not attend classes as a sign of protest.

After the strike ended, the Chancellor thought it necessary to ignore the damaging impact of her insensitive comments regarding the replaceability of professors and claimed: “We also have petitions from students who want to keep their substitutes.”  Considering the need and desire for reconciliation across this campus after months of contract negotiations and public animosities, how does a statement such as this do anything other than attempt to disempower, disenfranchise and mock the most significant populations on this campus?

At SIUC, many undergraduates do not view education as a means to obtain a career or as a pathway to academic excellence; they see it as an agent of personal transformation.  These students express an intense hunger for something — a better life, the ability to see beyond their realities, a sense of purpose, an echo of joy — and it is our responsibility and privilege to help them satiate these hungers. 

I urge every member of our academic community to consider, at least momentarily, the ideals upon which this university community was founded.

I urge the administration to stop threatening the most significant and transformative opportunities of our students’ lives and then congratulating themselves on a job well done.

 I urge the entire SIUC community to resist the desire to slip back into the status quo and accept “business as usual.”  Whatever it is that we need, it certainly is not business, usual or otherwise.

For this is not over.

Tony M. Vinci

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graduate assistant of the English department

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