Passion sometimes trumps ‘respect’
I have always believed that one should be polite and professional when dealing with people, for that is how you will make the biggest strides. The more respectful you are, the more that whomever you are dealing with will respect you. However, that doesn’t always work. Sometimes, depending on the issue on hand or the people you are dealing with, playing nice won’t cut it. The other party will take advantage of you, and the whole notion of “giving respect to get respect” flies out the window.
That is what happened at University President Richard L. McCormick’s address on Friday afternoon. Students, faculty and staff banded together in disbelief and anger over the University’s treatment of them. Three years ago, faculty and staff unions signed a Memorandum of Agreement deferring pay raises by one year as a sign of goodwill and solidarity with the University. Come time to pay the workers their next raise, McCormick and his administration decided not to. Professors and staff have not received a pay raise since 2008. While McCormick continues to make half a million dollars a year and have his house, car and personal driver provided to him by the University, there are scores of workers making significantly less at this University, with no end in sight because the administration refuses to pay what they owe.
Yes, workers who attended the meeting to protest interrupted McCormick. Yes, there were heated and passionate comments made. One even told McCormick it was “hard to believe you after you’ve been screwing over your employees for so long.” Was all of this inappropriate, and as The Daily Targum pointed out, rude? Probably. But it needed to be done. In my opinion, the time for calm, intellectual talks are over. They have gotten the faculty and staff nowhere. And for those who think that escalating the tone of speech and actions will not be beneficial, take a look at past events on our campus. Last year, the Latino Student Council staged a walk out at the annual address and had a meeting with McCormick days later, after more than a year of peaceful, by-the-book proceedings that resulted in nothing. And just last semester, 600 students staged a walk out and another 11 spent 38 hours locked in Old Queens. The result? A 1.6 percent increase in tuition and fees, the lowest in almost 25 years, and less than half of what we’re used to.
I had another comment on Friday that was drowned out amid the others. I pointed out that without our faculty and staff, the University would be nothing and achieve none of the greatness McCormick spoke of. They are the people who actually run this University and ensure its success. What I and others said on Friday was on behalf of the around 14,000 employees here. That favorite professor you had? A part-time lecturer who made less teaching that class than you paid for the three credits you earned. The woman who has been swiping you into Brower Commons every morning for three years? She’ll be here another 30, because she can’t afford to retire before then. The man who does maintenance on your residence hall? He does it because it’s the only way that his child will be able to afford to live in one.
Keep this in mind the next time you condemn us for speaking out or being “rude” to McCormick. We wouldn’t be in this situation if the University Board of Governors and administration were paying their workers what they are due. I’d rather be known as the passionate, angry girl who fought for the people who work here than the calm and collected professional who let them suffer in silence.
Kristen Clarke is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in political science and economics.