“No one gets fired.” Protest to reinstate 39 eliminated faculty ends up in the street

The+39+staff+members+Marquette+eliminated+have+yet+to+be+reinstated.

Photo by Claire Gallagher

The 39 staff members Marquette eliminated have yet to be reinstated.

A group of about 100 staff members, faculty and students gathered outside Zilber Hall March 3 to protest the university’s ongoing layoff process Marquette set forth since the fiscal year 2022 budget was approved.

Protestors demanded the reinstatement of the 39 staff members who had already lost their jobs  and the immediate halting of any more personnel reductions and budget cuts, so that “no one gets fired.”

“We’ve been doing this since the fall, and I got to say, solidarity is a beautiful thing,” Sarah Kizuk, a graduate student of philosophy, said.

The group stood at the corner of 12th Street and Wisconsin Avenue on the sidewalk near Zilber Hall to start the protest, where speakers voiced their displeasure with the university’s handling of the budget.

Besides protests that started in the fall, Kizuk said she has also been actively fighting as part of the Marquette Academic Workers Union to get an official workers union at Marquette.

As of now, Marquette University has yet to officially recognize a teacher union.

“In the fall … some concerned folks came together to advocate around safe and fair working conditions around COVID-19,” Kizuk said. “We demanded through a series of rallies … that Marquette takes the safety of all of its workers seriously.”

Kizuk said that some faculty have had to “risk their lives” while they were forced to teach in person over the fall semester.

“Because of the agitation of many of you here today, this semester a far greater number of instructors are able to teach in the modality that is safest for them and their families,” Kizuk said. “We did that, not the administration.”

Instructional modes for classes were unchanged from fall semester 2020 to spring semester 2021, Lynn Griffith, a university spokesperson said. The majority of classes are hybrid or all online.

In July 2020, Marquette implemented an extensive COVID-19 temporary alternative work arrangement process, Griffith said.

“Individuals were able to request to work remotely or work different hours due to having a disability as defined by the ADA, being part of a high-risk population for COVID-19 or having a person, family or other situation, such as a childcare or family care concern,” Griffith said.

This same protocol was in place last fall and this spring semester, she said.

But since the protests at the end of August, the fight has shifted into one to protect those who are at risk of losing their jobs and to bring back those who already have.

Kizuk said that MAWU demanded more transparency of the FY22 budget and make a commitment to shared governance for faculty and staff.

Kizuk then introduced someone she called her hero and recent graduate, Brooke McArdle. McArdle has been active in protests against the university since last fall semester and received multiple student conduct violations. Since then, she has been exonerated of all charges.

“I’ve been disappointed in this university in more ways than one, recently,” McArdle said. “But perhaps the biggest blow has been the realization that I’ve been committed to Marquette because I believed the lie that they deliberately sold to prospective students.”

McArdle said that the university’s dedication to teaching students to “be the difference” has not been upheld with the recent layoffs and budget cuts. 

“The truth is, we haven’t been modeling our motto, not just recently but for a lot of our history,” McArdle said.

She said that the administration has failed to address the financial shortfalls in a way that reflects the university’s values and that the current steps taken by the university have made a bad situation “so much worse.”

“We know that we are facing tough times. We’re not ignorant of the problems that the pandemic has caused,” McArdle said. “The university has adapted a Machivalian motto, ‘The ends justify the means. If my pockets are full at the end of the day, I can move forward without thinking about those who have lost their livelihoods.'”

Following sets of speeches on the corner of Zilber, the crowd moved out into the intersection of 12th Street and Wisconsin Avenue.

After moving on to the street, professor of political science Philip Rocco gave a speech from the intersection right in front of the Church of the Gesu.

“We’ve been told … that when the university lays off 39 valuable staff … while we’re running a budget surplus that’s for the purpose of sustainability,” Rocco said. “I may not be Merriam-Webster, but maybe you can define for me what exactly … we’re sustaining.”

Correction: A previous version of this story did not include steps taken by the university to ensure safety for faculty, staff and students during the COVID-19 pandemic. The story has been updated to correctly state what the university has in place regarding work arrangements for faculty and staff and when changes were implemented. The Wire regrets this error. 

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