Dear Friends of John Curtis, We are Stronger Together

Dearest Friends of John Curtis,

Thank you for asking how I’m doing after John’s campaign loss.  I am heartened that you have asked; for you understand how much we invested our hearts and souls into this campaign.  You know that something deeper than politics is at stake.

A desire for moral leadership and social justice motivated many of us to invest our hearts and time in John’s campaign.  We worked with urgency because the current depopulation of the region is tied to a lower quality of life for all.  We invested our hearts because the impoverization of the region is demoralizing to all.

The vibrancy and quality of life of this region is interdependent with WIU and we knew that John would have taken risks for WIU.

We worked for our youth. When WIU jobs are eliminated, professionals leave the region, the tax base shrinks, and then our schools lose funding.  Teachers are forced to work more hours for the same pay, which can lead to burnout.  Some of the most talented and caring teachers in Macomb are spouses of professors.  But when WIU professors are forced out, great teachers go with them.  Our young people bear this cost.

A conversation I had with a friend and policy expert in the Poor People’s Campaign last summer motivated me to invest more time and heart in the midterm race. My friend and I were standing on the sidewalk, waiting for a bus to take us to the Poor People’s Campaign rally in D.C.

I told him about the impoverization and depopulation of our district.  I said the realignment of WIU’s curriculum is representative of the war economy that Martin Luther King had denounced:  Dr. King said that the war economy steals from the poor to fund violence and is therefore immoral. Dr. King’s analysis of the war economy is as important as his criticism of voter suppression.

I told my fellow activist about WIU’s divestment in the Liberal Arts and reinvestment into the war economy:

WIU’s administration has stolen from the disciplines that take a critical approach to war, poverty, and injustice (Women’s Studies, African-American Studies, Religion and Philosophy, for example) and re-appropriated those funds to Homeland Security, Law Enforcement, and others that provide ideological support for the war economy.  Homeland Security is the institution most responsible for separating families and kidnapping children at the border. For the last decade, Homeland Security has looked the other way as extreme right-wing domestic terrorists have far outpaced Isis and Al Queda in mass killings of Americans.  According to Dr. King’s philosophy, public investment in the curriculum of Homeland Security is immoral.

At WIU, the sacrifices the war economy demands are not subtle:  the month after President Jack Thomas terminated my contract and eliminated my position in Women’s Studies, they advertised two tenure-track positions in Homeland Security.  The current state representative is party to the curriculum of war economy:  she has supported (Ex) Governor Rauner’s agenda of attacking the Liberal Arts; she benefits from thousands of dollars of campaign donations by the former Chair of the Board of Trustees, who pushed for the immoral faculty realignment and recently resigned in a corruption scandal, in which the other board members, Thomas, and various administrators are involved.

My friend in the Poor People’s Campaign listened to my story about WIU, and then advised:  The most important thing you can do, he said, is work to elect John Curtis for state representative.

Post-election, we feel the grief and heartbreak over the missed opportunity to make this district more politically balanced, as well as more vibrant and livable for all.  Grief and heartbreak are much more pronounced than the blow to self-esteem that defeat entails: A willingness to take risks for the greater good is part of democracy, and we would do it again.

We have learned the hard way that even when we are engaged, even when we are walking the district to get out the vote, even when we are doing everything we are supposed to do, it won’t be enough to elect a Democrat in this district.

Even when the incumbent has caused WIU to eliminate jobs and allowed poverty to rise, even when she supported the draining of state resources from our district, a slight majority of voters will reward her.

We are mourning the fact that if John Curtis, possibly the fairest, smartest, most committed, and most competent candidate to seek office in decades, can’t win, no Democrat can.

A missed opportunity for strong moral leadership has imprinted itself in our hearts, shaping who we are and who we will become. But, dear Friends of John Curtis, we have gained momentum to work for a more moral community.

By coming together to realize the values we share, we have strengthened bonds with each other.  We are forming a local chapter of the NAACP,  we are naming bigotry and demonstrating love, and we persevere in the structural work required for peace and justice.

We have gained friends and become closer.  We are stronger together.

Holly

All are Welcome here, but Hate is Not. 

Dear Editor,*

The most obnoxious and rabid hate group in America is scheduled to spew it’s structural (not physical) violence on the WIU campus on Saturday, Nov. 17, at 11:45 am, before a football game with Indiana State University.

This hate group goes by the name of Westboro Baptist (WBC), but they are not affiliated with the Baptists.  They are, at best, a hate group.  Because we now know that hate speech is connected to hate violence, some analysts have argued that the WBC qualifies as a domestic terrorist organization.

The WBC travels the country to spread a message of hatred towards a broad swath of the population: LGBTQA+ people, Jewish people, Muslim people, Siekhs, soldiers, Catholics, Amish, and veterans.

The WBC uses social media to embolden and praise domestic terrorists.  They praised the domestic terrorist who opened fire on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.  They praised the domestic terrorist who killed 50 people in an Orlando night club.

When we study the social media pages of domestic terrorists, we often find that they followed hate groups like the WBC.  John Russell Houser, who shot 12 people in a Georgia cinema, followed and backed the WBC.

On Nov. 17, over a thousand advocates of love and acceptance are planning to participate in peaceful rally of love and acceptance for all the folks in the WIU and Macomb community, as well as our guests from Indiana.

I hope you will come to demonstrate love and acceptance of our community, but when you do, do not fall for WBC’s taunts and traps.  Do not engage the WBC; instead, focus on making WIU students, Indiana visitors, and Macomb Community members feel safe and wanted here.

I hate it that the WBC has chosen the grounds of my alma mater as one of the places from which this hate group will continue to knowingly embolden domestic terrorists and later praise the killings, but I love it that we have organized quickly to send a message:

All are welcome here, but hate is not.

*After the WIU and Macomb community learned that the Westboro Baptist is coming here, I sent a version of this letter to the McDonough County Voice, and they ran it yesterday.

Towards Wholeness at the Balandic

We walked along the Chicago river path on the way to my labor hearing in the Balandic building,  about halfway between the two Broadway theatres on Randolph.

The word Balandic rolls off my tongue and generates power, a sophisticated power:  heels knocking on the sidewalk in a quick rhythm, engines whirring by.  But the sound of  Balandic is not all positive; it holds something negative as well, for it ends in “dic,” which sounds like “dick,” which Merriam Webster defines as “a mean, stupid, or annoying man.”  So, Balandic:  empowerment and stupidity, efficiency and annoyance, balance and tension.

In the lobby, I saw Western Illinois University administrators filing past security and into an elevator.  They, four of them, including an expensive attorney, had traveled to Chicago to argue that they don’t have to obey the arbitrator’s (judge’s) orders to make me “whole.”

Before I set my cross-body bag on the security belt I turned to my mom, who’d come along for support:

“I’m glad we don’t have to ride the elevator with them.” I’ve written about this before—how administrators often cross paths with the people they’ve fired, how rotten that moment is.

Last year, I had gone to the Balandic building to testify before the House Higher Education Appropriations Committee.  The window in the House hearing room spanned the entire east side wall from floor to ceiling. I had told the House committee that the budget crisis was hurting the quality of WIU’s education and debilitating the regional economy.

The room for this year’s hearing was windowless and plain.  We could have been in Morgan Hall or Stipes. A few rows of chairs were arranged for the witnesses and the audience.

Bill Thompson was already sitting in the first row. When he invited me to sit next to him, I smiled and my shoulders relaxed. Bill and I were both born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and he was the first faculty member I met when Tom and I started thinking about moving to Macomb in 2004.  Also, I like Bill’s company because his steadfast commitment to the quality of education at WIU and to our community inspires me.

An Administrative Law Judge entered and we rose.  She was tall, with dark hair neatly pulled back.   She wore a black jacket over a smooth dress and low black heels.

The witness stand consisted of a podium and a short and wobbly chair, so each witness tended to sink down behind the podium.  I busied myself thinking about how I’d keep my head visible above the podium when it was my turn.

I lengthened my spine when I took the witness chair, then raised my right hand to swear in.  The judge asked me to spell my name.  I did, careful to make sure “t” didn’t sound like “d” and “v” didn’t sound like “b.”  (Don’t want the record to show my name is “Sdoball.”)

There were several thick binders on the stand in front of me.  Our attorney told me to open one of them to a tabbed page in the middle.  I tucked my foot under my skirt to prop me up high enough to maneuver the heavy binder.

The dialogue went something like this:

UPI attorney:  (Referring to the open page of the binder) Is that your testimony?

Me:  (I nod yes)

UPI attorney:  Yes. (she looks at me to let me know I must answer verbally for the transcript.)

Me:   Yes.

UPI attorney: Have you re-read your testimony from the supplemental hearing?

Me:  Yes.

UPI attorney:  Is that testimony correct?

Me:  Yes.

The UPI’s attorney recited a similar line of questioning for the Interim Provost, who, like me, opened the binder to her testimony and answered “yes,” but minutes before, she had given a different testimony to the administration’s attorney, so I wondered which testimony she intended to stand by.

I left the Balandic building feeling good, that the UPI’s case on my behalf was strong and rigorous, and that the administration’s arguments were weak and self-contradicting.

But, I’ve left every single one of the previous five hearings believing that the UPI’s arguments were far stronger than the administration’s, more consistent with what a university is and how one functions, and yet, here I am, at the end of year three, still not reinstated.

However, the arbitrator has kept open for me a possible path back into the classroom.  We might say that the path is muddy and overgrown, but still a path.

The larger picture here is that my firing is a measure of this administration’s refusal to defend the quality of education at Western Illinois University.  General Education in the liberal arts and sciences, not trendy career training, defines a university degree.  I taught general education every semester.  (I also taught upper-level and graduate courses.)  I am a part of what makes WIU a timeless degree, not a trendy one.

IMG_0717

The Balandic Building sits two blocks south of the river.

Making me “whole,” as the arbitrator has required the administration to do, makes the university more whole, in the sense of more perfect, more like a university.

 

Slowing my Heart before the Hearing in Chicago

I wear a running watch to track my resting heart rate (RHR).  Research indicates a RHR below 70 beats per minute is optimal for a long, healthy life.  When I wake up I the morning, my RHR usually checks in around 66, but if I’m worried, stressed, or sick, it’s higher–a warning to slow down.

IMG_0694

I wish they made these for smaller wrists!

Illinois has a special judicial system for education labor disputes, the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board (IELRB).  I testify before it tomorrow.

The UPI’s attorney told me what to expect at the hearing.  She explained strategy and process.   Testimony should be easy, but I’m swearing in in front of a state board, so it’s enough to make me feel that something important is at stake.   After talking to the UPI’s attorney last week, that night I went to bed anxious and the next morning I frowned when I saw that my RHR rose above 70.

The following day, a union leader told me that the question before the labor board is one of process:  Has Western Illinois University complied with the process?  Does WIU have to comply with the process?  Phrasing it that way, so that I could better understand this long and complicated grievance, put me at ease.  My RHR slowed to 66.

In my early 40s, I was worried that my RHR was too high, so I started running.  I was in the middle of tenure track and my RHR was sometimes 80!  Running lowered it, but not enough.

Now, after a year’s break from WIU, and a heart rate that eased itself, I often wonder if it was the tenure track that prevented my heart from slowing down when I was at rest.  In hindsight, I sometimes think the tenure track was stripping me of the ability to relax.  I looked forward to completing tenure and believed that after the conferral, I’d be able to work with a slower heart rate.

It’s not that the requirements for tenure were excessive (I knew how to publish and teach); rather, it was the feeling that so much was at stake, that I had so much to lose.  If tenure was denied, I’d have to either end the career I’d invested decades in or move away from my family.  As long as my entire career was at stake, I could not rest, not even while sleeping.

In addition, I was anxious because I felt that I was being surveilled–that anything I said or did at work, or any public activism I engaged in, would be monitored and used against me.  Feminist activist academics developed Women’s Studies, which has always been a publicly critical and publicly engaged discipline.  I wanted my colleagues and administrators, especially, those with power over my tenure process, to say, “We support academic freedoms. We support dissent and diversity of perspective that is central to the discipline of Women’s Studies.”  They did not.  My heart raced.

Still, how would I have lived with myself if I had hidden the activist that I am?  If I would have silenced myself?  I would have felt like a coward in front of my students.  Maybe I erred on the side of too much critical dissent, and that’s okay too, because it’s not going to be perfect. Knowing I have acted in a way I believed was good and true eases my heart rate.

As it turned out, nothing was at stake because tenure at Western Illinois University no longer exists-not in any reliable way:  when administrators conclude they don’t need you, your tenure is irrelevant.  My heart speeds up with righteous anger.

In hindsight, the irony is dramatic:  I believed that the anxiety induced from working towards tenure would be temporary and worth the stability of having WIU commit to me and me to WIU; for that is how the contract (20:10) defines tenure.  The ability to reflect, because time has passed, slows my heart.

I’m not sure what’s at stake at tomorrow’s hearing.  (Backpay?  A path back into my Women’s Studies classroom?)  We could lose.

Wish me luck and thanks for reading.  As for me, I’m going to read a book.  Reading books, real books, slows the heart.

IMG_0695

Serve the Public, Please

Dissenting community members filled the Board of Trustees meeting today.  We came to stand with Tri States Public Radio.img_0627.jpg

I’ve been reading George Orwell’s 1984.  I’ve seen others at Western Illinois University reading it, too.

1984 is a dystopian novel in which the main character fears the “Thought Police.”  Every day, government workers are required to assemble for the “Two minutes hate.”  Dissent is met with “vaporization.”  Propaganda and surveillance control citizens.

The job of 1984‘s protagonist is, quite literally, to re-write history to conform to the narrative of those in  power and destroy any evidence of previous written history.  Those who publicly speak with historical accuracy are vaporized.  1984 is both a warning against and a commentary on fascism.

A historian spoke at today’s meeting.  He’s lived in Macomb for a half a century.  He said that the way the BoT and administration go about things is too secretive and too deaf to those of us who want the administration to talk about alternatives to wiping out local investigative journalism and original programming.  Why not cut back on athletics and upper administration? After all, a golf course or football field is not necessary for education and democracy.  Why not at least talk about it?  The BoT and Thomas administration did not acknowledge this question.

If the Thomas administration fires our local investigative journalists, they can turn the radio station into a marketing (propaganda?) machine that asks no hard questions and vacuums out dissent from the air.  They can play upbeat infomercial music and broadcast cheery voices that are always congratulatory.

Some community members reminded the administration that WIU is a public institution and TSPR is public radio.  WE are the public. These institutions are ours.  The job of WIU is to serve the public, and we were letting them know that they were not serving us.

President Thomas’s response was to tell a story about a baseball fan who heckled an umpire.  I wasn’t sure what he was trying to say, but it seemed to be that when the public dissents, we are bad baseball fans, and he is the umpire, and it’s not his job to listen to us.

Over and over, I heard administrators claim that they are such good listeners and that they’ve held so many, many, forums and roundtables where they listen oh so carefully.  I sat on one of those round tables and the atmosphere was very tense and I was afraid to raise hard questions. Why did most of the people in the Grand Ballroom today feel they were not heard?  Have not been heard?

And why isn’t the administration attempting to bridge that gap between their claim that they listen to us on one side, and, on the other side, our insistence that we don’t feel listened to?

At least we were still allowed a little dissent, but before we were done speaking, the BoT chair said that it was against the “rules” to allow further pubic comment.  Time was up.

IMG_0640Two armed officers patrolled the hallway outside the Grand Ballroom. One, left, and the other, in a white shirt reflected in the mirror. Did armed officers surveil public meetings before December, 2015?  Who’s afraid of public radio supporters?  Are these officers serving the public? Or are they intimidating us?  Whom are they protecting?  Whom are they subjecting to surveillance?

For my Excellent Colleagues who are Fired

BUTTERNUT SQUASH FOR THE SHOCKED

In the puke-green kitchenette/meeting room in Morgan Hall that winter afternoon, we didn’t talk about the provost’s plan to fire faculty.  Instead, we tried (and failed) to figure why we were meeting, then adjourned.

At home in the kitchen, I put on my greasy hoodie that doubled as an apron, and placed a heavy wooden cutting board on my favorite corner of the counter—the one that gave me a view of Tom and the kids arriving home from work or sports.  I set a butternut squash on the board. The squash was longer than my hand and one end was wider than the other.

With my 10-inch chef’s knife, I sliced off the prickly stem, then turned the squash upright, held it with my left hand, and pierced it with the knife.  I was going for an even split, which took some effort. To stay on track, I cut into one end a little, then turned the squash over and started from the other end.  I repeated this procedure until the gashes on each side met, dividing the squash in half, exposing its insides—the world split open.

I dug my fingers into the slimy cavity of squash seeds and scooped them up with my hands, but I had to use a melon baller to remove the stubborn strings that clung to the orange flesh.

This was, it occurs to me now, the last activity I was engaged in before my worldview, my confidence in democracy, my confidence in the future, began to fracture into sharp edges, like a mason jar does when filled with boiling or freezing water.

My hands were still slimy when Tom walked in.  He had been at a UPI meeting.

He was breathing quickly and he didn’t ask me how my day had gone.

I washed the slime off my hands and gave him a kiss.

“Right there in the meeting, union leaders would interrupt discussion to announce they were getting emails from faculty asking for help.”

“Sounds like your meeting was more relevant than mine,” I said, smiling, holding on to the innocence I was about to lose.

“They were forwarding messages from their deans, who were forcing them to go to layoff meetings,” he said.

Tom did not change into his Cubby hoodie.

“Check your email.” He sat down in one of the tall chairs on the other side of the counter and waited.

I threw a chunk of butter in the squash cavities where the seeds had been, salted them, slid them into the oven, sat down next to Tom, and folded back the cover of my tablet.

There was an email from my dean, but that was not unusual.

What was unusual is that she addressed me as“Dr. Stovall,” not Holly.

At first, I saw only a bunch of hard black lines—like a set of weapons—bludgeons and swords.

“Here,” I passed the tablet to Tom.  “You read it.”  I looked towards the garlic that waited for me on the cutting board, stood up, and then sat back down.

“I don’t believe it,” Tom was right next to me, but he seemed far away.

I grabbed the tablet and forced myself to read the words, but I couldn’t make sense of them.  It was a joke, a mistake.

“I don’t believe it.  I don’t believe it.”

I posted on social media that I’d been laid off.  Maybe my media friends would also comment:  “I don’t believe it.”

I didn’t know what to do next, so I minced the garlic and tossed it into the pool of melted butter in the hollows of the baking squash.

My knuckle brushed against the red heat element and turned ashen, but I didn’t say “shit,” as I usually would have when cutting or burning myself in the kitchen.

Without turning on any lights, I went upstairs and lay down.

Tom, finally in his Cubby hoodie, sat on the edge of the bed next to me.

“Why don’t you come down and eat with us?”

“Eat?”

“Have dinner.”

I was grateful that he, the kind man in my life, was requesting something from me: share a meal with us, like we always do.

The kids had set the table.

The squash was soft and sweet.  I managed to swallow a few bites.

IMG_2285

My chef’s knife piercing a butternut squash. I’ve had this chef’s knife for 20 years. I keep it sharp, too.  Sharper knives are safer for cutting vegetables, because they give you more control.

 

 

I love Students of Western Illinois University

I attended the WIU university assembly, where I heard the message that if you dissent from the decisions of this administration, you don’t appreciate our students.

IMG_0612

Many faculty held up signs like this one at today’s assembly:  No More Faculty Layoffs

WIU students are the reason I continue this blog.

WIU students are the reason I want my job back.

WIU students are my students.

I miss my WIU students.

WIU students are the reason I dissent.

WIU students deserve an imaginative and critical education.

WIU students deserve tenured professors.

WIU students are dear to my heart.

I love many things about WIU students, but one is that they are first generation college students.

I also love it that WIU students have become more diverse over the last decade.

WIU remains less diverse than our counterparts–like SIU Carbondale or NIU.  In fact, when compared to the general population of the state of Illinois, non-Hispanic white students are actually over-represented at WIU.  In other words, if the “real world” is to be described in terms of the diversity of population demographics, then WIU is not yet the “real world,” but we are close.

In 2015 when I was laid off after working for many years with the promise of tenure, I was very hurt and angry, but I’ve had ample time to feel my own pain and to evaluate my career at WIU.  Now I know this:

I want to work at the historical WIU that meets the standards of a university, that not only states values of  equality, social justice, and academic rigor on its website, but works to close (not widen) the gap between those stated values and our current  policies and practices.

I want to work at the WIU that provides a general education that is deep and broad enough to prepare students to be citizens who value democracy.

A university educations that supports democracy is worth fighting for.  WIU students deserve it.

img_0610.jpg

Interim Admissions director Jason Woods spoke first at today’s university assembly.  President Jack Thomas, not visible here, must be sitting behind the podium.

 

 

IMG_0608

 

Pride and Shame and Resolution

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.

 

 

Exposing an Ideology of Hate, Resisting with Hope

In its narrow agenda to realign Western Illinois University, the WIU administration has inflicted so much destruction on us that it’s hard to know how to start to expose the hateful ideology beneath their narrative.  The attack on gender diversity is extreme, so why not start with women and then move to the equally appalling attacks on the Liberal Arts and the values we hold dear?

Women suffered 16 of the 21 firings this June:  16 divided by 21 is 76 percent.  I keep calculating that over and over and every time, the quotient is 76 percent of the layoffs were women.  I’d love to be wrong.  Women, at 63 percent (roughly, because the list fluctuated, but either way, it was mostly women) of the 2015 firings, were already forced to bear the brunt of the layoffs.

I open a tab to WIU’s missions and values and find that WIU professes to be committed to “critical thinking . . .  equity, social justice, and diversity.”  There’s a gap between what WIU says it values and  what the current administration does, because when you fire mostly women, a group that was already underrepresented among faculty, you are very uncommitted to equity, social justice, and diversity.

And when you eliminate Women’s Studies and African American Studies, and continue to fire their faculty, you are very uncommitted to equity, social justice, and diversity.

And what about diversity of academics?  WIU just fired political scientists, a philosopher, a scholar of Asian religion, and many others who were essential to diversity of offerings at WIU.  We can’t be all things to all people, says the provost, but that is a distraction: as long as we call ourselves a university, we must act like a university.  What we cannot allow ourselves to be is a Center for Centers of Excellence, which is a farce.

WIU’s realignment is not new, but it’s newly extreme and newly confusing.  And we must not tire of the act of exposing how false and ridiculous the WIU administration’s narrative is.

They made a flow-chart-type thing about “Centers of Excellence.”  In reality, there’s no actual centers and there’s no excellence, apart from what our professors in diverse areas  had been doing since well before I came to WIU in 1987.

There are no “centers,” unless “center” means “all across the university.”

It doesn’t.

There are colleges that house particular programs and disciplines in a way that has been academically logical.  But now, do we have colleges or do we have centers?  Where are the centers?  Are Economics and English going to share the same physical space?  None of this is explained in this graphic:

37189509_10103757605216125_8279462826490200064_n

How did English qualify to make it into a “Center of Excellence,” while History did not?  Was there a systematic study of the English professors vs. the History professors?  Have the History professors not published enough or won enough awards?  Or does “excellence” actually have nothing do with academics?

And, considering the wide-spread fear of police abuse –sexual assault and shooting of un-armed black women and men–, how did LEJA qualify as a “service”?  If my sisters and brothers I protested with in the Poor People’s Campaign are afraid to leave the house for fear of being shot by police, I’d call that a disservice.  Given that black people are three times more likely than whites to be shot by police, and that black victims are less likely to be armed than whites, black people have good reason to fear police.

If I were sexually assaulted by an officer (and one woman at least every five days is), I’d call that a disservice.  Sexual assault is against the law, and  police are supposed to enforce the law, not violate it.

If law enforcement is going to be considered a “service,” then our WIU LEJA students should be required to take several classes in Women’s Studies and African American Studies, but we fired those faculty. Additionally, we should require Latinx Studies, as well as literature and philosophy.  And future police should study with labor historians.

And, as my friend pointed out, how can you separate GIS from Geography and call it “excellence?”

Since there’s no centers, and the administration is destroying the excellence we once had cultivated, how do we explain the realignment?

My questions go to the extreme neo-liberal ideology of the the Koch brothers and their allies, including Bruce Rauner and Tom Cross of the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE).

Koch brother ideology is anti-poor people, anti-voter, anti-library, anti-education, anti-worker, anti-environment, antiwoman, anti-black, anti-Native American, anti-academic, anti-gay, anti-public transit, and anti-health care.    Plus, Koch money funds white  supremacy.  They force a cynical agenda of hate on public universities.  Koch brothers and their and their allies influence the IBHE, which WIU President Jack Thomas sits on.

An ideology of hate, not excellence, drives WIU’s realignment.  A resistance of love and hope will restore us to a university that is genuinely committed to diversity, equity, and social justice.

Unkoch the IBHE.

Unkoch public education.

 

 

 

 

Rural Illinois Poverty in the National Press

I’m so pleased to publish my article about the Poor People’s Campaign and the impoverishment of  Western Illinois in the digital version of the national magazine, In These Times.  This is my first national op. ed. since Western Illinois University terminated my contract over a year ago, and I’m happy to have found other satisfying work (that, I hope, will pay at some point).

But more than personal satisfaction, what I want is that we work together, rural and urban, rich and poor, black and white, etc., to protect geographic diversity in the MidWest and to create a kind and just economy for everyone.

rural-banner

Banner from website