I cried before the Western Illinois University Board of Trustees meeting today.
I witnessed trustees apologize and lament their vote to eliminate positions in the Liberal Arts and Sciences. 24 faculty and 2 professionals (not administrators) will be laid off. Seven of them are tenured. When I heard this, I said F***. I said it audibly, and within hearing distance of some low-level administrators who don’t have to worry about their jobs. You can say what you want about civility, but I’m going to err on the side of maintaining my capacity for shock. I don’t want to see the layoffs of tenured faculty normalized like the leaking roofs at WIU.
However we respond and react, it’s not going to be perfect, and so in my imperfection, I’m going to err on the side of outrage. I grew up in a Christian tradition (Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)), and it was never lost on us that Jesus did not always conduct himself in a way that could be called “civil.” At least I didn’t push any tables over this morning.
I left the board meeting and cried. I cried for my dear friends who will get a letter tomorrow, and I cried for my own lay off that I’ve not recovered from, not even after two years. (And please don’t tell me to “move on,” because my appeal is still in process and my dead loved ones are memorialized at WIU and I’m an alumnae (-a, -i–? so much for my year of Latin)).
After two years, though, I perceive a shift, and it’s in the power of the people and in a change of heart–probably my own heart. Once you’re laid off, you’re not as afraid. After years of grieving, I am able to connect with others and be supportive. These connections give me hope. Janus, by the way, could weaken us, but it might also empower us to love and support each other more.
Plus, JB Pritzker, who’s coming to Macomb tonight, is probably about to defeat Bruce Rauner. He’s going to have a lot of damage to repair at WIU and our other universities, but if anyone can protect tenured faculty at WIU, it’s Pritzker.