I’m gearing up for my last layoff hearing, scheduled for next month. For years now at WIU, I have spoken the truth as I see it.
I feel pride about this blog at some moments, and other times, shame. I have often felt shame about speaking out, as if I were an impulsive little girl who acts impolitely. Girls are supposed to be nice and polite and accommodating–all the sugar and spice that, actually, causes diabetes, so the bitter truth may actually be much better than the quick fix of the sweet stuff.
Early next month, I will testify before the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board in Chicago. I see this last step from different perspectives: it could mean this whole ordeal is almost over–I’ve jumped over all the hurdles and will be rightly restored to my position. OR, it could be like tenure–a make or break situation where much is at stake and I could lose my position at WIU forever.
(Actually, WIU’s enrollment is so low, and the current administration so lacking in any will to correct it, that if we don’t replace the leadership soon, we could all lose our jobs. I often worry it is already too late.)
For me, the important lessons are not rational ones, but ones of the heart, one of acceptance. First, if I tell the truth as I see it, and that truth angers the powers at WIU, it’s best for me to simply accept the consequences. Because by accepting the consequence, I live with more ease, with less anger.
After risking arrest for the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC), I became more accepting of this “lesson.” To tell the truth and expose injustice and a corrupt narrative of power entails consequences. I stood with others in the PPC to block the busiest intersection next to the capitol in Springfield, Il. That was a form of calling attention to the truth of poverty in this country. I was risking arrest. I knew. I accepted the risk.
At WIU, I have not as easily accepted the consequences of telling the truth, as I see it, about the destructive actions of WIU’s current administration.
I rationalize the positions I take: an institution that calls itself a university MUST make room for dissent, MUST protect those who dissent, MUST engage in self-criticism; otherwise, the degree we offer is a sham, an indoctrination, an instruction on how to follow orders and surveil others, a disempowerment. And worse, we betray our students by failing to provide them with the kind of education that will empower them to be defenders of democracy.
Still, to articulate these points publicly makes me a traitor. That’s fair enough, for I AM a traitor, not to WIU, but to this current administration. But it’s important to remember that first, WIU hired me for a tenure-track position and then this administration betrayed me by refusing to honor my tenure. And they are betraying my colleagues, as well.
I still believe that if universities don’t won’t to honor tenure, then they shouldn’t offer tenure-track jobs. How would we be able to recruit tenure-track faculty if candidates see that this administration doesn’t follow through with tenure? University administrators must be competent enough to plan for the future and defend the tenure they’ve committed themselves to.
Fortunately, Western Illinois University has a strong faculty union (University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100) that understands what a university is and does. Faculty are invested over the long haul. Faculty are the ones who fight to make sure WIU remains a real university. Most importantly, faculty work with students every single day.
As for my position at WIU, some sort of resolution is imminent, but what is important is the resolution in my heart. Yes, I want my job back. Yes, I want to be with my students in the classroom again, but also, YES, I’m glad I’ve spoken up and told the truth as I see it. Too much is at stake to censor myself. And YES, I will accept the consequences.