You protected an alleged perpetrator. Tell me why, Mac 185.

Head straight to the end of this post is you just want contact information for the Board of Education.  BoE meets this Monday at 7 in MHS library.

I am still overwhelmed by allegations in the suit brought against Macomb 185.  I can’t imagine being a student at Macomb High right now–the same administrators charged with educating me are not willing to to protect my right to learn in a safe environment?

How can our daughters, sons, and gender-queer children attend school confidently and safely knowing that this administration allegedly did not protect victims against a sexual predator?  And our students do KNOW this.  They know it deeply–from their daily lived experiences.  It’s going to take a long time for this town to make sense out of this sexist corruption, and an even longer time to recover.

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Schools are required to uphold Title IX at all times.  Title IX is the law, and it is wrong to ignore it.

Today is Laura’s (my sister-n-law’s) two-year death day anniversary, but I’m distracted by the allegations that the Macomb school district–teachers, administrators, the school board, protected the rights of a sexual predator and violated the rights of the victims, and that this went on from the time the alleged perpetrator was a freshman: 4 years.  Laura went to Macomb High–she would be sick if she knew.

There are so many potential angles for this story:  the culture of silence, the ignorance about Title IX, family ties, the large number of people who knew and were complicit, the rush to blame victims and call them greedy, sexism and elitism, patriarchy, the courage it takes for the victims to seek justice, and so many lives forever changed by something that could have been addressed correctly had the 185 leadership been competent and informed.

How does a student remain in a school with her predator for 4 years? She doesn’t.  I know because in the wake of my sexual assault in the school hallway, I told my dad that the culture of my school was too aggressive and nasty and I wanted to move.  As a preacher in the tradition of the Apostle Paul, who moved around, my father obliged.  Likewise, in Jared DuBach’s meticulous reporting, we learn that the first victim left Macomb High.  If she was like me, it would have been hard for her to concentrate in class, and her behavior may have changed.  I stopped eating and got a D in math–that’s how my behavior changed.  If my perpetrator had left school, I would have had an equal chance.

How has the hush-hush culture of Macomb worked out for us?  Badly: we face a ten million dollar lawsuit that could have been avoided if we weren’t so intent on protecting the patriarchy, violating Title IX, and then covering it up while the perpetrator continued to prey on others.   Worse, we take a deserved hit to our reputation.

I have followed several high-profile sexual assault cases in which the victim had to face her predators on campus.  Stuebenville is one.  The University of Missouri is another.  Often, the town/university rallies around the perpetrator, especially if he is a football player.  Already, on social media, I’ve seen folks come out to support the alleged perpetrator and the Macomb 185 teachers and administrators who protected him.  In some cases, the victim-blaming and support for the perpetrator is so overwhelming that the victim commits suicide.

I have complained about Macomb 185 violating either Title IX or state laws many times over the last 5 years, so I can’t say I’m surprised about the current allegations.  When I have contacted the 185 administration to complain about sex discrimination and Title IX violations, they have resisted and taken a stand for a discriminatory practice.  They do eventually back off from the sex discrimination, but not before telling me some version of “Boys will be Boys” or other sexist myth.

I’ll be unraveling this for a long time.

Contact the members of the BoE.  Let them know you believe the leadership has failed and that our teens don’t feel safe in school.

Call 185 and request to be put on the agenda to speak at Monday’s Board meeting (2/26): Ph: (309) 833-4164.

Tag social media with #Mac185.

Superintendent Mark Twomey:  twomeym@mcusd185.org

BoE emails

Myers: myersj@mcusd185.org

Matt Biermann: biermanm@mcusd185.org

Ardell Thompson:  thompsona@mcusd185.org

Lara Adams:  adamsl@mcusd185.org

Matt Duncan:  duncanm@mcusd185.org

Jim LaPrad: lapradj@mcusd185.org

Scott Torrance: torrances@mcusd185.org

Quick link to 185 Board of Ed contact and information page:  http://www.macomb185.org/index.aspx?nid=73

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted Laura to solve the riddle of my layoff.  She wanted to say goodbye.  

Two years ago, before my first layoff grievance hearing, I invited Laura to Yummy Chin’s.    Laura was my sister-in-law.  I wanted to be with someone who did NOT view her job as a  a calling or a source of personal fulfillment.  I wanted to be with someone who kept the towels in her linen closet folded evenly, who was never in a hurry, who kept 8 or 9 souvenirs on her keyring, and who would write down, each night, exactly how she spent her day outside of work.

Going to lunch with Laura the Thursday before the Monday she died, I did not notice how frail she was– she covered it up by smiling and expressing gratitude:  “Thanks for driving– I’m so glad we’re having lunch.” She walked from the car to the restaurant so slowly, but I thought it was because she was enjoying the sun.  I did not notice that the color under her skin had changed—had become green like the sky before a tornado.  I did, in fact, hear the urgency in her voice, like a plea, but, in my state of shock from being laid off, I could not make sense of it.  She must have been in pain.  She must have known.

My layoff was a riddle and I wanted Laura (she was so quick and witty) to solve it for me. Instead, she kept asking about Maya and Mathew.  She had seen them only two days before, but she kept asking.

“Maya goes from school to track to home for dinner and back to school for musical rehearsal. And Tom will take her to drive in the parking lot this weekend,”  I said.

“And Mathew?” She asked.

“He likes his teacher and friends and reads a lot now, and moves along quickly with piano.”

“He’s so talented.  What about sports?”

“I will be happy if he runs cross country and track, like Maya.  I don’t want to deal with any concussions.” Laura already knew all of this, but she wanted me to say it anyway.

I resumed my trash-talking of WIU–their actions were so unbelievable.  Laura listened and supported me.

What makes my eyes sting now is that my answers were so inadequate.  I want so much to have been able to give her more.  My layoff had depleted me even more than the tenure process had.  The more time passes, the more I realize that. When I am in pain, it is so hard to tune in to how others are doing and feeling, so hard to have a relaxed conversation.  And so it’s not just about Laura, and how I could not be present for her in a way that I might have and that now feels like such a missed opportunity, but also, what comes out in the story of lunch is how I wasn’t present for my children either—I could only speak about them in the most general of ways–couldn’t tell her something she didn’t already know.

I wasn’t even fully present for my own pain.  It should have been a happy time—completing the work of tenure after 20 or 30 years of dreaming about the life of an academic and working towards it!  Travel and study and travel and study and accumulating experience and more experience and the rejection letters from editors, and the re-submissions!  Only now, two years later, do I dare begin to feel the loss of my dream and the loss of Laura in the same winter.

Tom and I take walks around Compton Park and try to practice “couple compassion” (a rif on Dr. Kristin Neff’s Self Compassion). The circumstances of our marriage have been quite challenging—PhDs are hard on marriages; sudden deaths are hard on marriages.  We’ve had two of each of these.  Layoffs are hard on marriages.

I often feel I’ve done my best to cope with a death and a layoff and the grievances for that layoff that occurred at the same time.  I also feel that my best is lacking.  My best leaves me with such regret.

There is nothing Laura could have done to solve my layoff, and nothing I could have done to stop the cancer I didn’t know she had.

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For Christmas one year, Laura gave me a magnet with this New Yorker cartoon on it. Laura was not impressed with the work world.  It’s funny that we had lunch on a Thursday.  That was the only time ever.

 

AAUP Committee ‘A’ finds WIU violated Tenure Standards

Yestserday, Western Illinois University President Jack Thomas and 16 other administrators and faculty received a letter from The Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure of the Illinois Chapter of the American Association of University Professors.  Committee A has concluded that WIU has clearly violated the standards that are articulated in the AAUP Redbook (Policy Documents and Reports).  The AAUP’s Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic freedom and Tenure is a national model for academic due process across the academy.

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A screen shot of the page with the link to the letter on behalf. 

If Committee A finds a violation, it means that the institution has failed to protect academic freedom and tenure.

Committee A’s Chair, Peter N. Kirstein, says that “Tenure is a sacred commitment on the part of and institution and cannot be arbitrarily revoked through layoffs without a determined, good faith effort at relocation.”  He’s referring to the fact that I am easy to relocate within WIU.  I don’t need retraining:  I have two advanced graduate degrees in Spanish and more than ten years of teaching Spanish.  Dr. Kirstein is also referring to the fact that two of my colleagues teaching Women’s Studies resigned after I’d been given notice that I would be laid off.  He’s referring to the fact that I have not been reinstated.

If tenure can be arbitrarily revoked from one professor, as it has been in my case, then  not one professor at WIU can count on the institution to uphold tenure.  If we must self-censor or risk losing our jobs, that’s not academic freedom.   Tenure was not created to reward those who are complicit–rather, it was created to protect those who dissent.

WIU advertises itself as a military friendly School, but this administration has violated even military standards.  In the military, rank is respected.  The higher the rank, the greater the expected loyalty.  Honor is important.  Trustworthiness is important.  Contracts are important and must be honored.  This administration chose an arbitrator, and that arbitrator ruled that they have violated the contract with the UPI.  This administration agreed to go into arbitration, but when things didn’t go their way, they tried to back out.  That is dishonorable.  How can we trust this administration to follow through on their promises?  Promises to a contract.   Promises to faculty who earn tenure.

Two  verdicts are in.  And the verdicts come from recognized authorities in Education and Academics. This administration is guilty.

 

When I lost my Foil

Twenty years ago, hundreds of sympathy cards arrived.  One was from an old church lady:  “I enjoyed Chad and his devilish ways,” she wrote.  Chad was very kind. He was also roguish.

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Christmas Eve, 1997. (Yes–I had short hair.)

I’ve spoken and written (p4) about Chad and his death, but I don’t really dig into it.  I’m still not ready.  But I will tell you why our TV in Tennessee had a bullet mark:  when Chad was 5, after the Dallas Cowboys lost the Super Bowl and everyone left the den, Chad shot the TV with his BB gun.

I will tell a little about how Chad and I learned to foil each other:  One Sunday after church, I beat him to the bathroom.  I peed in the toilet.  He peed in his bedroom vent.  I played the piano.  He played the rogue. I was the good girl and he was the bad boy.  When he died, I lost my foil.

Yesterday, the dentist told me I have a dying molar.  Of course my tooth would throb on my brother’s death day. The dentist and his assistant speak with caring and empathetic voices.  My molar has too many cracks from all the tooth grinding of the last two years (my layoff caused tension and anxiety).  Tomorrow, a specialist will attempt to save my tooth.  I had fantasized about saving Chad.  At night, I would be beamed from New York to the edge of the Bernadotte dam, where I’d pick up a long stick.  Chad’s canoe would have capsized right next to shore, so he would have been close enough to grab the other end of the stick.  In the fantasy, the stick and I were stronger than the force of the dam.

Some months before Chad died, I lie on my psychoanalyst’s couch and said, “If Chad can make it to age 30, he will be fine, but the risks he takes.  He keeps taking them.  One of these times, he won’t be lucky.”

Chad made it to age 23. For Chad, a Trump Presidency would be dystopian.  We are living the dystopia now.  As Ruth Bader Ginsburg so sadly understates:  “We are not experiencing the best of times.”  The justice looks sad and defeated.

I am worried about the dangers Donald Trump is exposing us to.  Trump takes so many childish risks–he taunts a dictator who owns nuclear weapons, he says he’d love to see a (government) shutdown, he has authorized the police to use weapons of war against communities of color, he has, without hearings, sentenced to death hard-working young mothers,  he has handed over state secrets to Russia, and he has alienated our allies.  Trump and the Republicans are exposing most Americans to risks and insecurities we do not choose.

One of these tweets, we’re not going to be lucky.  Trump’s going to sacrifice us.  We just need to make it until we can restore the balance of power in the top branches of government.  We may not get there.  Especially if Trump keeps taunting North Korea.

Two days after Chad died, I piled in a mini van with my closest family members and we drove out to Bernadotte.  It was daytime,  but it felt dark.  A man from the Bernadotte cafe approached us:   Chad should not have taken the canoe out on a cold day when the river was rushing from melting snow, he said.  Perhaps I should have told him to leave us in peace–to get the hell away, but we were a preacher’s family.  We were polite.

When Tom, Maya, and I moved back to Macomb in 2005, it would often occur to me that I should visit the Bernadotte dam–that was the only grave Chad had.  I didn’t go until last month. I waited twenty years.  The Spoon River has shrunk so much that the shape of the top of the dam is now exposed.

 

 

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The community filled the church–upstairs and down.

Eights of Winter

The death days of my three family members who died while working or studying at WIU fall on the same day of the week–this year on a Thursday.  The death days occur within a 28-day span.  Each death day lays two weeks apart.  Today is the Thursday between Charles’s and Chad’s.  fullsizeoutput_1524

8 is the number I never confuse or forget.  Each winter, 8 haunts me like a ghost. Charles died in 1985, Chad died on the 8th in 1998.  Laura died 18 years after Chad.  There are 28 days between the death days of father and daughter (Charles and Laura).

I like the perfect figure 8 symmetry:  Charles’s day is the bottom of the bottom loop, Chad’s is the middle, and Laura’s is the top of the top loop.  If you fold the eight in half at its narrowed equator, the death days of Charles and his daughter meet.

The number eight is now associated with another anniversary of great loss.  December 8th is the day that WIU President Jack Thomas and his provost announced their plan to lay off 50 faculty.

The word university is derived from the Latin concept of a “community of scholars and teachers.”  Now that the administration has laid off tenured faculty, now that morale has been dropping for more than two years, now that the adminsitraiton is doing everything in its power to eliminate fair and equal pay among faculty, it’s a stretch to describe WIU as a community of scholars.  Especially if we compare our current “community” to what we had once been, to what we might have become, to what we might recover if the the current administration were to leave.

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President Thomas called us to the Grand BallRoom for a devastating announcement.

Sometimes I think of  December 8 as the death day of the “University” in Western Illinois University.

 

Charles G. Sadler, Death Day Anniversary

Tom and Charles

Dr. Thomas R. Sadler in early 1980s with his father, Dr. Charles G. Sadler.  Tom is now a professor of Economics at WIU and the treasurer for the UPI.  Charles was a history professor known for his dynamic lecture style.

Today is my husband’s father’s death day–the anniversary of his death–January 25, 1985.  Charles was a history professor at Western Illinois University from 1969 to 1984.  This blog is the first of a 3-part series about my family members who died, each in January or February, while working or studying at WIU.

I didn’t personally know Charles G. Sadler, but I knew the grief from his loss,  and I knew about the great education WIU dreamed of during Dr. Sadler’s career here.

I met Tom on the courthouse lawn two and a half years after his father died of cancer. Summer was easy.  But the cold arrived, and snow piled up.  Across the street from Macomb’s fire station, at the back door of what used to be the church parsonage, Tom would knock, or maybe he would just step inside, onto the square of linoleum, that place where you had to choose–either step up or down.   Tom’s grief filled the landing immediately and I breathed in its heaviness.  I was afraid of his sadness.  I understand that now.

I long for Tom’s father’s presence at the Thanksgiving table, but I also long for that 20th Century historical period when state governments reached towards public greatness.  During Charles’s tenure at WIU, faculty ran the university.  Charles and his colleagues founded the professional union and the Western Organization for Women.  They were public activists and intellectuals at once. When students occupied Morgan Hall in protest of the Vietnam War, Charles went in to talk to them, to keep the lines of communication open.

When Charles was teaching here, people valued education for education’s sake.  Now, ideology has replaced values.  Then, it did not occur to anyone that faculty had no basis “for determining what an education is,” as a WIU retiree recently wrote on social media.  Most of the time between 1987 and 2007, I was getting an extensive education, at various levels and in different fields.  I invested nearly 20 years enrolled in educational institutions, but, according to many folks today, I don’t know what an education is.  Academics has always demanded discipline and focus, but now, it also demands a determination to take a stand when what you do is unpopular.

If the faculty-degrading comment on social media were an exception, it would be funny. It’s not an exception.  The WIU administration has been belittling and degrading faculty for a decade.  When I was on the President’s select inner circle of faculty, he told us that professors are lazy and spoiled (I’m paraphrasing).  He saw the shock on my face, and he said he was speaking of people who were not in the room, and by that, I believe he meant faculty who had taken leadership roles in the University Professionals of Illinois. Belittling some faculty in front of others was unprofessional and wrong.

We have fallen so far from Dr. Sadler’s generation.  Next to the red peppers in Hy-vee, I crossed paths with Charles’s closest colleague:

“I feel bad that I had such a great career and that WIU is so terrible for your generation of humanities scholars,” he said.

Then I felt bad that he felt bad!  None of us have any power to choose the historical period we are born in.

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You can visit a memorial brick for Charles G. Sadler at the east entrance to WIU’s Rec. Center.

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Stone or brick memorials for my dead family members are half buried on each of the points of this triangle I walked last fall: Charles’s and Chad’s at the Rec Center (next to Q lot), Laura’s in the tree grove on south-east corner, and Chad’s Interhall Council brick between Sherman and Simkpins hall, in the bottom, left corner of this map.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colleagues

 

Today, Facebook presented this selfie (right) to me as a memory from 2014.  Then, I was searching for images of what students were wearing at Western Illinois University in 2006 (a lot of body-hugging scoop-necked t-shirts left untucked over curvy jeans and brightly-colored cardigans), and this image (left) of Lori Baker-Sperry, actually from 2003, appeared.

For fun, I put the images next to each other.  Mine was a selfie and hers was a professional photo to accompany an article about her work on gender roles in fairy tales.

Lori was my mentor for 10 years at WIU!  We even published an article together on feminism and food.  Lori’s office was always much neater than mine!

Our perspectives often diverged, but as department colleagues, we worked as a team.  I write today and feel a force from inside pressing up on my throat.  I suppose my readers feel it too.  Sadness and grief are so hard.

Swearing Against

To feel calm in Arbitration Hearing Number 2, I did three things.

First, I kept my spine straight with my shoulders back and down, like the yoga teachers instruct.

I had to sit on the edge of my seat—because I am petite, that’s the only way my feet will reach the floor flatly, and to keep my spine straight, I need to be able to plant my feet firmly on the floor.  If I scoot back, my feet don’t reach.

Second, I wrote down what I heard and saw:  the square-ish arrangement of tables and chairs in the Capitol room, what people said, what they wore, their drinks (bottles of Mountain Dew and Diet Coke, a bright red Coke can, and stainless steel coffee tumblers) how they held their hands when swearing in, and the line of their spines. Moving my pen across paper–forming humps, then loops, words, then sentences, lends me a calming sense of control.

And Third, I have a mantra that I learned from Dr. Kristin Neff’s work on Self-Compassion.  I saved this for the hardest part–when I took the witness stand (actually just a foldable table) and waited for the Arbitrator to reconvene the hearing:

This is a moment of suffering

Everyone suffers

May I hold my pain with tenderness

Reciting the third line almost made me cry.  I have so much pain that I am afraid I cannot hold it–not with tenderness, not with steadfastness, not with anything.  When I felt that pinch in my eyes, I went back to the beginning of the mantra, and continued to repeat only the first two lines until the arbitrator reconvened the hearing.

“The reason I’m qualified to teach Spanish is I have a PhD in Spanish,”  I testified.  It doesn’t matter.  I mean, for the sake of our students and our values, it matters, but Western Illinois University has already told me they don’t need my skillset here.  Though deeply valuable, all those fancy degrees I’ve earned and the tenured status I jumped through hoops to achieve, do not do for me what I have thought they would. This lesson hurts.  I try to hold that pain with tenderness.

It helps to remind myself that suffering is part of life for everyone.  I saw and heard various forms of suffering on the witness stand.  A voice died out, as if the witness had left the room, leaving a mute body at the table.  A head sunk into its shoulders, as if afraid.  When swearing in, a hand was closed, as if swearing against or swearing at.

My body also betrayed pain:  on the witness stand, I kept having to re-straighten my spine, and at one point,  when the administration’s attorney asked me a question that insulted my academic values, I took a breath in, held it, and turned my head towards the Union’s attorney.

Body language leads me to conclude that both sides have suffered the last two years. Dr. Kristin Neff makes a compelling argument that everyone suffers.  Who does not suffer?  Suffering makes us human, she says.

It occurs to the cynic in me that management might not be suffering at all.  Maybe they feel just fine about breaking their promise (p. 52) to me, about reducing me to a line on a spreadsheet, about taking the side that my rank, seniority, qualifications, and experience (p. 69) don’t matter.  I did’t lay myself off.  In official letters for 10 years, management encouraged me to persist.

It is hard for me to be so cynical that I believe the administration has completely cut themselves off.  Is it even possible to cut yourself off from being human?  To testify against someone with whom you used to sit at the same table and work collaboratively is depressing to all.

For the moment, I have lost my academic career–the career I invested 30 years in.  But those in power have to live with the fact that they’ve hurt their own faculty and caused our enrollment to plummet far more precipitously than our peers’.

I’ll accept my suffering and my choices. In a way, I’m even grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain Dew vs. Diet Coke

My sketch of Western Illinois University’s Capitol Room on January 16, 2018, when it was arranged for Arbitration Hearing #2, pertaining to the unremedied contractual violations with regard to my layoff and 3 others.

Capitol roomWhen I testified about my qualifications, I said “The reason I’m qualified to teach Spanish is I have a PhD in Spanish.”

When I testified about my qualifications to teach writing, I said that in my Women’s Studies classes, including Writing in the Discipline, I’ve been teaching writing for years, and that I have a literature degree, which is the traditional degree of those who teach writing.  But I pointed out that so many people teaching writing  have no graduate degree in Literature or Rhetoric-if they are qualified, so am I.

I do not actually believe that “Anybody can teach Anything,” but I am confident that, with my 5 peer-reviewed articles across various disciplines and numerous other publications in various formats, I’m qualified to teach lower-level writing courses.

I’m tenured.  Who really believes I’m not capable of teaching 100-level writing course to WIU students?

 

 

Sassy Black Blazer for Hearing 2

The night before my Layoff Arbitration Hearing II (held yesterday in Western Illinois University’s Capitol Room), I tried on a flimsy grey blazer with navy slacks.  I went to bed.  The next morning, I stepped on some shoes and bags on the bottom of my closet and reached for the sassy black blazer that I keep zipped up in the back. The last time I wore it was to testify before the House Appropriations Committee, Higher Education in the Thompson building in the Chicago Loop.

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Testifying before an Illinois House Committee. June, 2016.  The man next to me was from NIU.

I hung the blazer on a loop in the bathroom, where there’s a full-length mirror and a heating vent.  It is woven from a structured and stiff cotton and the black is very black.  If I put it on, it means I’m taking the event very seriously.  It feels like armor–testimony armor.  It gives me a feeling of power and authority.

My daughter, who almost never comments on anyone’s clothes, saw it hanging in the bathroom and said,

“You’re wearing that?”  She knows it means something is at stake.

She went downstairs for breakfast, and I put the blazer on over a pink shell and grey pants.

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“Pink?”   She was not convinced.  Plus, she’s rarely seen me wear pink.

“Yes, because when you are a woman and you wear only black, they will say you are cold and uncaring.  Like crooked Hillary.  A teacher who is a woman must come across as maternal–even to people who are not her students.  If I do not appear at least a little soft, they will say I am not a good teacher.”

Plus, I liked the contrast of the peachy pink with the stark black.

If an outfit could restore my tenured status at WIU, surely this one would do it!  But it will take much more than an outfit.  Fortunately, the UPI has a knowledgable, meticulous, and formidable attorney who didn’t miss a beat yesterday.  And fortunately the UPI has a knowledgable, meticulous, and formidable grievance officer who has covered all his bases.

An  IFT representative who has seen many of these hearings told me that judging by the arguments presented, he did not see how the arbitrator could justify not ruling in our favor.  Justice is still possible, but I wonder if other, unseen, forces were at work yesterday.

As for how I’m doing, I was up most of the night replaying, in my head, the 3-hour hearing. My throat hurt and body ached–my first winter cold virus.  I haven’t slept well in more than a week.  And Tom and I have yet to sit down and figure out how to pay our bills.  We’ve had two full-time incomes for 10 years.  I’ve forgotten how to make due on one.  Thrift is a skill that requires practice.  I am out of practice.

Anyway, I’m happily taking a manuscript workshop, and the instructor, Ariel Gore, whom I admire as much as any other contemporary novelist, has said she likes my book.  I’ll end today’s post on that note of hope.

Thanks for reading!