Community protests outside Zilber in response to positions eliminated

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Photo by Isabel Bonebrake

Many staff and faculty members were present outside of Zilber.

Following the looming threat of positions being eliminated by Marquette University, staff members stood outside Zilber Hall in freezing cold temperatures in solidarity with the 39 positions that were eliminated  Jan. 21.

The group of 50 undergraduate and graduate professors, faculty, students and staff members were joined by graduate student of philosophy Sarah Kizuk, who has been a vocal part of the movements on campus to ensure that no staff member has to get fired as a result of the financial shortfalls the university faces due to the pandemic.

“Many of these (laid off members) have been here for a decade, or more,” Kizuk said. “We demand that Marquette reinstate these employees, commit to firing no one else … and Marquette commits to a fair budgeting process that is open and transparent and includes all faculty and all staff.”

The fiscal year budget is approved by members of the Marquette Board of Trustees every December. This year, the approved budget stated that 225 positions would be eliminated.

Besides ensuring no staff member’s position is eliminated, demands for better access to personal protective equipment, hazard pay due to the pandemic and keeping course loads to manageable amounts for teachers were among the demands the group of protesters had.

“One thing that we are all united here for … is the shared fight for the dignity of our work,” Kizuk said.

Brooke McArdle, a recent graduate who received two student conduct violations last semester, was also present at the protest in solidarity.

“It’s very frustrating because part of a Jesuit education is learning to discern and to listen,” McArdle said.

McArdle expressed her frustration that these layoffs directly affect a student’s experience by devaluing it, with bigger class sizes meaningless personal connections with professors, and a downgrade in education overall.

“We’re supposed to be valuing labor and the dignity of work over capital and that is not how the administration is going about this,” McArdle said.

Tony Peressini, assistant chair of the philosophy department, was also present at the protest. The faculty member of 26 years expressed his frustrations with the situation.

“I was very close to one of the 39 (faculty) fired recently. (This) person had been at Marquette for 21 years,” Peressini said.

However, Peressini was not allowed to give a name or any other information due to the university’s nondisclosure agreement faculty and staff has to sign in order to keep certain benefits. He spoke extremely highly of the staff member, saying that their dedication to the philosophy department was extremely beneficial.

“This is the exact thing, Marquette, as an institution, should be against,” Peressini said.

In the past, Peressini received an award from the Center for Peacemaking for building into his introductory course the idea that labor always has to take place over capital, according to the Catholic social teachings.

“We’ve seen time and time again how (the layoffs) cannot be a principle of philosophy,” he said.

President Lovell, in an email, addressed to “Marquette colleagues” about the 39 positions being eliminated, stated that the past year has been one of the most difficult years in Marquette’s history. But he still has hopes for an optimistic future.

“These difficult decisions were made with great care and discernment, and I thank each of our colleagues affected by this news for the contributions they’ve made to Marquette,” Lovell’s letter said. “The provost will continue to work with deans and department chairs to align course demand with non-tenure-track faculty levels.”

This story was written by Benjamin Wells. He can be reached at benjamin.wells@marquette.edu