I woke up at midnight and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I put earbuds in and listened to Abby Jacobson’s essay collection: “I Might Regret This.” She was ruminating about how to fall asleep. Each sentence seemed to start with “should I?” Should I roll over? Get out of bed to unplug the charger-thing with the blue glow? Close the gap in the curtains? Adjust the thermostat? Make a cup of bedtime tea?
As for me, I took off my socks and I kept restarting the timer on the audio app. Usually, I have to re-start the timer only once or twice before falling asleep, but last night, when Abby’s book ended, I started another collection of comical essays.
But this post is not about insomnia. I’m easing into the heartbreak.
I’m writing this post because I woke up at 5 am with something toxic blooming in my throat. My spouse could lose his job today. His department is on the elimination list. The elimination committee has refused to recognize the full major count of the programs on their list.
And does the elimination committee even matter? According to TSPR: “WIU administrators can be heard on tape during a closed door meeting last June saying they plan to make cuts regardless of what the APER report recommended.”
Some people tilt their heads, puzzled, when I say we are worried about my spouse’s job. He’s a full professor, economics is one of the most popular majors in the country. Surely his job is safe.
Only a few years ago, we learned that in my case, rank, seniority, and qualifications didn’t matter; there were some 300 faculty with less seniority and/or rank than I; I had completed requirements for tenure; I was not the junior member of the department; I held WIU’s only Masters in Women’s Studies and one of the few PhDs in Spanish. Women’s Studies earned the highest profit margins in the college, probably in the university. None of that mattered. Why would it matter for my husband?
I didn’t accept or acknowledge my layoff. Those decades of investment in my career, all the emotional labor I’d spent buying into Women’s Studies. All destroyed, erased.
I denied it all.
This time, I know too much to so easily deny the facts and warnings.
But this time around, I have work that eases my despair. I’m organizing for the UPI and the #BuyintoWIU campaign. In a week, 4,000 people signed our petition. We’re on our way to 6,000 signatures! That many names is a great thing. I am so heartened to see these names piling up. Not only does our community care, but we are willing to put our names on the line.
Dr. William Barber won a MacArthur genius grant for convincing people that when we get together, we can do great things. Today’s geniuses are the ones who can unite people around the shared, intersectional values of justice for all. When we get together on behalf of values and human needs, rather than ideology and fear, we create a collective genius.
I’m hearing stories that fuel a bloom of toxic algae in my throat: Atwoodian rumors that police will escort out our sisters and ban them from campus.
Armed police escorting them off campus? Our brothers and sisters treated like criminals?*
They force our brothers to miss retirement by a few months, catapulting them into poverty in old age. They strip our sisters of seniority–from two decades to two months! As if we haven’t made a life here. 2019 is 1984.
These dystopian procedures are rumors, but today, March 1, 2019, we must exercise vigilance to verify that they are false.
Meanwhile, they reward an administrator with a monthly check that a full-time minimum wage worker would barely earn in an entire year. In Macomb, Il, such income inequality violates our sense of fairness and decency. With a monthly check of nearly $16,000, we could pay debts, cook something more than pasta with cheap butter, send our kids to college, pay medical bills, get the house and car repaired, take a well-earned vacation, etc. etc.
Last night at a rally for WIU, more than 100 community members united in solidarity for our WIU. We will restore our WIU.
When we get together, we can do great things.
*Note, since I posted this, TSPR reported, “There were several eyewitness accounts provided to Tri States Public Radio Friday that some UTech employees had been escorted out of their offices. Shinberger denied that in an email . . .”