Grievance Hearings, 2016: Picking up where Sister Grimm Left Off

I tried and failed to act cheerfully during the 2015 “holiday” season,

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I’m trying, but I hadn’t slept much, nor would I for almost two years.

but I was hopeful that in 2016, the hearts of those in charge of Western Illinois University would soften and broaden.  Alas, no– not enough to reach me anyway.  In front of TV cameras in the Grand Ballroom, WIU’s president reinstated the 12 officially tenured professors.  As fate would have it for three of us on the layoff list, tenure was merely a formality (we had completed all the work). The WIU President could have easily justified our reinstatement as well.

The provost sat at the head of the table during my first grievance hearing, in February 2016. A copy of the “You-are-being-laid-off” script lay on the table.  The administration denied knowledge of it, and claimed I had no grounds for grievance because I was not laid off.   I guess I’d lost all that sleep over nothing.

Of the three of us who had submitted tenure files in January, the one who was a man saw himself reinstated before his tenure was officially conferred.  So that left two women dangling.  Two women, who happen to be mothers, who had completed all work for tenure.  At about 35 women for every 65 men, the tenured professorate is the most gender-imbalanced rank. [1]

At the June 2016 BoT meeting, I was officially tenured and the Women’s Studies major was eliminated.  A plan was already in place for the Women’s Studies faculty to join the faculty from African American Studies and Religion to form a new department:  Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the new department would materialize within months–and well before my contract was set to end.[2]

I complained.

In the step two grievance hearing (June 2016), an administrator stated that WIU didn’t need my “skill set.”  We were approaching the era of #metoo, when feminism is popular and departments of women’s studies are growing nationally, and he was laying off WIU’s only faculty with a graduate degree in women’s studies.   WIU does not need scholars trained in women’s studies, the discipline grounded in feminist theory.   Feminists need not apply.   WIU has never been the most liberal place on earth, but since I’ve became a member of this community in 1987, we’ve made room for the feminists who ask uncomfortable questions.  Here’s an example:

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By Holly Stovall, July 7, 1988  (Thanks to Tom for saving 45 Western Couriers!)

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I am a young feminist journalist for the Courier

Back to June, 2016, the WIU president denied my grievance.

Meanwhile, Janine Cavicchia, the feminist who had directed the Women’s Center, retired. Would they replace her with someone with a record of feminist activism?  They did not consider me even for the interim position.

All the faculty in the “LAS” department have tenure and all come from an eliminated program.  I have more than or the same seniority as half my colleagues, yet I am the only one laid off.  Out of ten professors whose departments were eliminated, how do you justify singling out only one of us, especially the one with more seniority than many of the others?  The one who has the strongest record of feminist activism?

To be continued.

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For The Western Courier, Summer, 1988

[1] An even smaller number of tenured women had done the work of motherhood.  Fatherhood, however, is not underrepresented in the tenure ranks.  In the professorate, fatherhood is rewarded, while motherhood is punished.  Currently, not one mother serves on WIU’s administration. In addition,  a need to point out the obvious continues to present itself:  Women compose the majority of the general population, so until we are half every level of faculty and administration, WIU suffers from a gender imbalance.

[2] In Macomb, LAS attracts a small fraction of the students Women’s Studies did.  Another inconvenient truth is that some 90% or more of LAS majors are in the Quad Cities, but 100% of LAS faculty live and teach in Macomb.  And have you visited the QC campus during the week?  It’s very, very quiet.  Where are the students?