Most students know that faculty are big on “debriefing” — taking a lesson, exercise or discussion and unpacking it, offering reflections and drawing conclusions about what was learned. The same is true as we move from the historic and dramatic event of a faculty strike on our campus.
As the immediate emotions of the faculty strike on Oct. 19, 20 and 21 fade, there are several significant take-aways:
First, the relationships between students and faculty on this campus are truly what makes Shippensburg University an amazing place to live, learn and work. The amount of support and encouragement faculty received from students was completely expected, unprecedented and absolutely priceless. From the donuts and water, to the grills and pizzas, the time you spend walking off campus and walking on picket lines, the honks and waves as you drove past — your faculty are tremendously grateful for your support. Although a strike can be a disruptive event, here at Ship we found that the strike brought us together in ways we did not know were possible, and we are grateful to know that students understand, and appreciate, the work of your faculty.
Second, that gratitude will create opportunities and changes. Already, students have approached our faculty union with suggestions for how we can continue the momentum experienced on the picket lines. One significant issue is the failure of the state Senate to approve students nominated to the Board of Governors. We are in discussions with the state union leadership about helping to support a “Seat the Students” campaign. There is no excuse for these seats to be vacant while issues important to students — faculty contracts included, but also policies including tuition raises and per-credit tuition — are voted upon. Students deserve representation! In addition, we will continue to seek increases in state appropriations during the budget cycle, and keep students informed and involved in that process.
Third, the learning we do at Shippensburg is not confined to classrooms, or office hours, or even the campus itself. Students came out to the picket line and held discussions with faculty about the economics, politics and history of the State System. Some brought articles they were writing about the strike and received feedback from faculty members. Most importantly, in comment after comment online and in the media, we heard students state a clear recognition of the value of our strike. The recognition that faculty stood for a principle, took an enormous risk to preserve the quality of students’ education, and ultimately settled for less in pay/benefits than had been offered to sell out adjunct faculty and students. Risking your own security in order to stand up for others is a lesson all of us, student and faculty alike, will always remember. Standing up for what is right is a lesson that can only be taught when it is modeled, and when the faculty was forced to go on strike, an opportunity for teaching and learning became an unanticipated outcome. Being on strike — together with our students — made that “teachable moment” a success.
As we resume classes and the rhythm of the semester, I pledge to you that we will not go back to “normal.” Instead, we will continue to work to build something better.
I am grateful for your support, I am proud to be one of your faculty members, and I am hopeful for your continued input and involvement as we work together to continually improve Shippensburg University.
Kara Laskowski, Ph.D.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and are not representative of The Slate or its staff as a whole