After learning yesterday that the arbitration of my layoff from Western Illinois Universtiy will extend until a resolution somehow presents itself, I reckoned with the fact that my life could remain on hold for yet another 21 months, or longer. Who knows? So I unpacked some boxes of feminist memoirs and theory from my office in Simpkins Hall and shelved them in my home office. Then I set up this blog, so that I can keep you up-to-date on the arbitration process.
I am the first and only tenured professor at WIU in recorded history to be effectively laid off–more on this history soon. Out of that seemingly random December 2015 group of laid off professors with tenure or tenure “in hand” (requirements completed, but application not), I am the only one of the 15 of us who is currently without a contract. How is it that I am the one making history this way?
I was proud of my WIU degree. In 1991, WIU was a “liberal” choice! Meaning a good place to get a well-rounded university education. Now, according to the yard signs, WIU is the “right” choice!–right, as in not left or liberal. I barely recognize this institution today and I feel a profound sense of loss for the century of state investment in an institution that had earned the name “university.” What does an institution have to do to continue to merit the title of “university”? My WIU diploma and the medals I wore at graduation.
Above: I celebrated with my Mom and Dad after the graduation in Western Hall. We pose in the parsonage of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), across the street from the fire station in Macomb. My father, Jim Stovall, had given the invocation at graduation and afterwards, he wondered if anyone had noticed that he had given thanks for astrology, when he intended to say astronomy; after all, WIU has never offered astrology classes, but given our current shift away from the liberal arts, maybe now is the time to start.
In 1991, I trusted WIU. I could rely on WIU to fulfill its commitments. What now?