Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Faculty Advocacy Committee criticizes Northwestern editorial

This morning's Northwestern contained a letter signed by five faculty members, who call themselves the faculty advocacy Committee. In their letter, they make a very nice argument as to why the claim that the university's sick leave policy is not at all extravagant.

I looked in my email and discovered that the Faculty Senate created this committee and is looking for more people to join in its work. Their mandate:

1. to react to criticisms that are lodged against the state University or its faculty
2. to publicize the good things tha
t faculty do.

This sounds like a very important job for our community. We have little public voice, so this committee can only help.

Anyway, here is the letter:

UW health benefits earned, not out of line

On Dec. 1 the Northwestern ran an editorial asking state legislators to stop their unfair attacks on the University of Wisconsin. We agree that this would be a positive step.

Unfortunately, this editorial also contained its own unfair attack.

You not only suggested that the UW's sick leave program was "overly generous" but you also stated that it amounts to us having our "hand caught in the cookie jar." Sadly, this language portrays all of us at the University, from maintenance people to professors, as cheats.

We wish the paper would tone down its rhetoric too.

If University employees get decent health care coverage, it shouldn't be used to stoke public resentment against them. And it shouldn't be used as an excuse to suggest that our benefits be scaled back. If anything it should be used as a model for what hard working people should be able to expect from their jobs. These are the kind of benefits that we hope our students can get with a good college education.

There are good reasons to be allowed to convert unused sick days to health care benefits. This is why many corporations offer this very policy. They recognize that it discourages absenteeism.

The "use it or lose it" policy the paper endorsed would encourage more frequent absences. So beware of what you wish for if you really think that we are cheaters.

There are no substitute teachers at the University. When we take sick days we have to make up the work on our own time and we lose a portion of our retirement benefits. That doesn't seem like an overly generous policy to us.

James Chaudoir, Don Hones, Tom Lammers, Al Lareau, David Siemers, Stephanie Stewart UW Oshkosh Faculty Advocacy Committee


Anonymous said...

In my opinion, this is probably one of the best ways to put a positive light on the university and the faculty.

As a member of the Oshkosh community, I would have to say that I don't hear anything coming from the faculty regarding any of the negative issues that have come up in the past. Marketing is crucial in all fields of work --- up to this point, faculty marketing has been next to nill.

How can the community positively support the university if all we have to go on is negative press?

lammers said...

>>As a member of the Oshkosh community, I would have to say that I don't hear anything coming from the faculty regarding any of the negative issues that have come up in the past.<<

Sometimes, it's a no-win situation. Once you are on the defensive, it is difficult to speak up without seeming like a whiner. I've been called an "elitest" in the Northwestern (by someone with a lakefront address) for daring to suggest there is some difference between a professorship and an hourly-wage blue-collar job. A lot of folks wiser than me have just learned to bite their tongues.

And, FWIW, I think the Northwestern does a pretty good job of singing our praises. Our beach-monitoring program in Biology gets a lot of ink, Kalinofsky in Theatre gets a lot of attention, Gerry Grzyb's "Dr. Christmas" program got a nice write-up, etc. But ask anyone in the media: Bad News sells; good news is Snoozeville.