July 6, 2020
Dear MSCA members,
We in the Executive Council hope you have chances for relaxation and moments of distraction from the multiple crises we face in our world, nation and in our work as faculty in higher education. We have just called a chapter meeting for next Thursday July 16th at 2:00 (Zoom link to follow). In addition to the issues below, we will give room to discuss the mounting dichotomy between WSU marching towards opening on the ground this fall and the mounting scientific evidence that would argue against that. In all our meetings with deans, chairs and the new vice-president/provost, your concerns have been paramount. To keep this as clear and as brief as possible I’ll list the most immediate and important issues we’re working on and the status of our work.
Health and Safety in Teaching This Fall:
We’ve met with deans, chairs and the provost multiple timesto communicate what began as a recommendation and now is a demand. “We” should have the ability to choose the modality of our own teaching (on ground, on-line, blended). This choice should be based upon our personal circumstances. The choice each of us makes as a faculty member regarding teaching modality should not be met with intimidation, retaliation in the form of loss of work (for part time faculty) or poor evaluations. In response to our urging him,Provost Bob Kersting has reported that he will issue a statement representing the administration’s policy on this and the issue of on-line privacy in teaching.
Privacy from Surveillance of On-line Teaching:
The MSCA contract is very clear that evaluations of teaching must be proceed by informing the faculty member and involving the faculty member in the evaluation or classroom observation. The administration must assure faculty that all evaluations of on-line teaching will follow the MSCA contract standards on evaluation and that no extra contractual surveillance of faculty on-line work will occur by administration.
Status of Social Media Sexual Aggression by a WSU Student:
As some of you know, a month or so ago a WSU male student made sexually aggressive, misogynistic and racist remarks on social media to a female WSU student. Since that time, social media platforms such as INSTAGRAM, Tik Toc, and Facebook have exploded with negative responses, many that target WSU AND THE CULTURE OF TOXIC MASCULINITY AND RACISM THAT INFECTS OUR CAMPUS. On June 10th, the executive committee met with our provost Dr. Bob Kersting. We expressed our concerns about the racist and misogynistic post by the Westfield State student and the overwhelming responses to that post. We requested an update on the status of the investigation and guidance for faculty who are contacted by students regarding the incident. Dr. Kersting said he would get back to us on this.
This incident and the reflection of toxic masculinity and racism that it expressed is a topic we’ll bring to the chapter meeting. Most of us have, from birth, grown up in our nation’s culture of toxic masculinity and racism that is supported by patriarchal power and white privilege. But, as educators we know the role knowledge and reflection can serve in shaking the foundation of our beliefs and ignorance. We can change the way we see the world and conduct ourselves. Some of our faculty members teach explicitly about these issues and we have faculty who have extensive expertise to offer and are already meeting in small groups on campus. We ask that faculty come and be a part of the conversation and move to look at how we can challenge ourselves and change our campus culture.
Following the murder of George Floyd, a small group of the MSCA leaders from the nine campuses was led by Margot Hennessey in writing and issuing a statement. As members of a community of believers in higher education, the writers of this statement saw an opportunity and an obligation. Can we challenge ourselves to reflect, confront and act in response to the ongoing brutality of racism and how it impacts institutions of education? The statement from the MSCA begins with “We, the members of the MSCA Board of Directors, stand firm in our support of the uprisings, protests, and actions against white supremacy, police militarization, and systemic brutality perpetrated against Black people throughout the country and the world.” The link to the statement posted on the MSCA website is:
We, the EC bring this statement to open discussion in our chapter. We’ve challenged ourselves individually to reflect on whether we stand firm in our support of the statement and commitment to action. We’d appreciate it if you would read the statement if you haven’t already done so. We hope to have an honest and open discussion in our community of faculty.
Finally, typically in the summer months the union president and executive council would try not interfere with your summer break. The crises we face necessitates that we keep you informed and request your thoughts on terribly serious issues. There are problems that impact us directly and immediately in our teaching. More ongoing are cultural issues, never resolved, such as racism, police violence against black people, misogyny, discrimination and violence towards individuals in the LGBTQ community and other acts of hate. With COVID-19 on my mind I’ve thought that these cultural issues are not unlike the COVID virus. We all have a part in controlling, decreasing and ultimately preventing COVID-19. We have a unique platform to stimulate change through education and relationships with students and similarly reduce and eliminate the plagues of our culture. These are heavy topics I know and I hope together we’ll find the energy, strength and creativity we need.
WSU MSCA Chapter President
Beverly Army Williams