Editorial—Administration has a lot on their plate; faculty just trying to put food on the table

North Wind Staff

With the two main conflicts occurring on campus at the moment, namely the search for the next president and the negotiations for a satisfactory faculty contract, newly appointed interim president Kerri Schuiling certainly has her hands full. She’s been handed a very difficult job and placed in an even more difficult situation.

A recent presidential email informed students that the search for the future president is ongoing, and the Board of Trustees is vetting agencies to help with the hiring process. Meanwhile, faculty have been working without a contract for just over 100 days. At homecoming, students saw the red union truck which continues to document the passing of each day our professors are not under a contract.

According to the most recently released statement from the AAUP (faculty union), “when NMU faculty were surveyed again on October 5th to determine if this movement [sacrifices in the contract] would be acceptable, it was resoundingly clear that the faculty continue to feel insulted by the administration’s relentless attempts to make permanent several of the Covid-19 related financial sacrifices that the faculty agreed to in the prior one-year contract as a temporary gift in good faith to the university to get through the financial unknowns of the global pandemic.”

After former NMU president Fritz Erickson’s abrupt termination, it seems as though the administration should want to clean up their public image and settle down the incredible amount of turmoil this semester. The NMU community was prepared to simply scapegoat Erickson, thinking that once he had departed, the problem of the administration’s treatment of faculty would be solved swiftly.

The fact that we now have Schuiling, an experienced NMU administrator, at the helm may mean we will see some positive progress in the coming weeks. We certainly hope Schuiling, who is an alumna herself and therefore somewhat connected with the interests of students, will be able to guide us through the transition to a new president and calm some of the current chaos. 

Yet it must be said, we are starting to feel tired by NMU administration’s continued refusal to swallow their pride and produce a reasonable contract offer for our professors. It’s not as though faculty are asking for anything outrageous (such as spousal benefits in the case of death). They simply want reasonable compensation for their work and expertise. Compensation that falls in line with that offered at other comparable universities and which takes into account inflation and rising costs of living.

Professors now have more leverage than ever before. Given that our former president was removed, perhaps the administration will be motivated to get the contract issue out of the way as quickly as possible. It’s time for professors to really stick it out for what they deserve. What’s a few more weeks, when half of the semester has already passed? We encourage our professors to continue their fight for fair salaries and a return to a pre-2019 basis of negotiation. We must remember, the union still has permission from its members to call a strike. All cards are on the table. We feel certain that students would support faculty if the union decided to put their foot down once and for all.