LETTER TO THE EDITOR: An open letter from MAWU

Fall has arrived at Marquette. The air is getting colder, the days are getting shorter, and the changing seasons offer us a chance to take stock. For students returning to campus, some for the first time in a year and a half, what kind of university do you see? For new freshmen and transfers, what kind of school have you just joined? While magazine rankings are a limited way of measuring anything, the university administration is proud of its standings, and those standings are dropping. Over the last year, Marquette’s US News and World Report has dipped from #13 to #58 in the nation for undergraduate teaching. Clearly, something has changed.

Have you noticed this change? If you are a returning student, you might notice that you can no longer access a favorite research database from the library. You might notice that it’s harder to get an advising appointment, or that an advisor you’ve worked with is gone. You might be in a program whose future seems increasingly uncertain — Education, for instance, or Engineering, or Languages. These kinds of problems were exacerbated by last year’s budget fights, which resulted in the firings of more than 50 faculty and staff plus cuts to programs and resources. Maybe you remember the Race, Ethnic, and Indigenous Studies job searches that were canceled and wonder what that means for the university’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts in the future. Maybe you remember how the university administration demonized faculty and students who disagreed with their plans and wonder whether you will have the freedom to speak up on other issues and be heard.

But you don’t have to be a returning student to sense that something is amiss. Every student who passes through Marquette will be taught by graduate and non-tenure track instructors whose jobs are still in danger. Even before the cuts, those instructors were overworked and underpaid. Some teach the same amount of classes as tenured professors for four to eight times less pay; others teach double the classes for two-thirds to three times less pay; graduate and part-time instructors teach without employer health insurance. On top of this, all instructors face firings and the further erosion of their working conditions. If your teachers seem exhausted, stressed, or frustrated, you can bet these issues are at the root of it. If they don’t seem exhausted, stressed, or frustrated, know that they are making a heroic effort to protect your learning environment, perhaps at their own expense.

This doesn’t have to be Marquette’s reality. The University’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors commissioned a financial audit that showed that Marquette’s finances are stable and that the firings and program cuts weren’t necessary. It also showed that the university administration is pursuing risky investment strategies that have made the university less money than they’d make by more straightforward means. To the degree that Marquette’s finances are actually under threat, choices like this are to blame.

If you take stock of this situation and see a problem, there are several ways you can act. The first is to pay attention to your learning conditions and ask questions when you see them changing. The second is to understand that your learning conditions are connected to the working conditions of Marquette’s faculty and staff. Faculty and staff are not asking for the world. We want a safe, stable, and fairly compensated work environment so we can focus on doing what we love: providing you with the instruction, guidance, and support you need to reach your professional goals and become informed citizens of the world. You can support us by amplifying our calls for the following:

  • A halt to staff and faculty firings
  • A fair union election for non-tenure track faculty, graduate workers, and staff
  • A shared governance structure that gives tenure-track faculty a meaningful say in the University’s budget process

This fall doesn’t have to be defined by problems; with your help, it can be the beginning of a season of change. Please join us in telling Marquette’s administration that when it protects its workers, it protects you, its students.

This story was written by the Marquette Academic Workers Union Organizing Committee. MAWU members are not staff members for the Wire. They can be reached at @MarquetteUnion on Twitter.

To submit a letter to the editor, email Executive Opinions Editor Alex Garner at alexandra.garner@marquette.edu and copy Managing Editor of the Marquette Tribune Ben Wells and Executive Director of the Marquette Wire Aimee Galaszewski on those emails. They can be reached at benjamin.wells@marquette.edu and aimee.galaszewski@marquette.edu.