Rallying for rights, students and lecturers joined forces Tuesday afternoon to march across campus. They grabbed their signs, noisemakers, megaphones and marched from Pray-Harrold to Welch Hall, where President Susan Martin’s office is located.
They were marching for labor rights at Eastern Michigan University and across the entire world and were asking others to sign a petition for it.
Students for an Ethical and Participatory Education and Adjunct Lecturers Organizing Committee came together to support the need of adjunct lecturers to have the right to vote on unionizing.
Thirty-five percent of all faculty on campus at EMU are adjunct lecturers, and according to the ALOC brochure, an adjunct lecturer’s salary equals the tuition of only two students.
This makes these professors upset because they believe they are just as important to a student’s education as any other professor.
Before marching across campus, several student and faculty members made speeches about how important education was to them.
Students honored professors such as Betty McGowan and Dr. Lisa Laverty by giving speeches about them and telling others how much of a difference they have made in others’ lives.
Many teachers said students don’t know which of their professors are adjunct lecturers when they join the class, so they often have no idea what some of their professors go through.
SEPE member Philip Patterson said, “SEPE is committed to fighting for social justice and participatory educational experience. Students need to take more time to support their education.”
SEPE also started an anti-sweat protest. It wants the university to stop selling merchandise made in sweatshops to its students. SEPE linked this with the adjunct faculty issue as part of a labor rights protest for the whole world.
Joining in the rally was a large puppet by the name of Ralph Bunche, who represented the labor rights activist who was a part of the American Federation of Teachers at Harvard and won the Nobel Peace Prize.
He put emphasis on how important class rights were at the time and not just rights for all races.
The puppet consisted of three people, the main person being Ken Srdjak, from a community-based theater in southwest Detroit. Once the parade stopped at Welch Hall, a few students from SEPE went into Welch Hall to present the petition to Martin.
After that, an AFT representative gave a speech about how the adjunct faculty at EMU deserve to have elections for unionizing and that administration members in other Michigan universities have already discussed the possibility of having elections for their adjunct faculty. He also said AFT is “working toward adjuncts to be part of the AAUP and EMUFT.”
SEPE plans to have more rallies of this kind and hopes more students will participate in the fight to better their education. Martin said after a February Board of Regents meeting, “We value our faculty and respect their concern. At this moment the part-time faculty has filed for certification and we are looking into it.”
Part-time lecturers at EMU filed for a representation election with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission in December 2009.
For more information on SEPE and Campaign for a Sweat Shop Free EMU, visit their groups on Facebook.