LETTER: Changes to CMU over years have been heartbreaking
I have been teaching at CMU for eighteen years now, as what the university calls a “fixed term employee.”
I am not a Faculty Association member, but as a member of the Union of Teaching Faculty, I support them. I am also a graduate of CMU, and I am so very heartbroken over the changes I have seen in the atmosphere in CMU in the past forty years.
Things were once very different here. Attitudes of administrators were once very different toward faculty. For one thing, administrators and college presidents had been faculty first.
They respected and understood faculty because they had once been one of them.
The university was administered as an institution of higher education, not a business, and it was revered for it, by students, faculty and administrators.
Buildings were named for revered former professors and administrators who had once been professors. Those days seem long gone, since now, buildings are named for contributors.
Once upon a time (it seems like a fairy tale today), CMU had a feeling of being a family. All employees were treated with respect. For example, food service employees were part of the CMU family, until the university privatized food services and put employees, who had thought of the university as a life-time job, out of work. They provided wonderful, nutritious food choices for students. Many of them knew us by name, and we knew them.
Once upon a time, a man whose name I ought to remember, and I am ashamed I have forgotten it, was in charge of financial aid. He took that feeling of students being family to heart. I once went looking for an advance, over Christmas break in 1973 before my next financial aid came in. I was too late for the paperwork, but that wonderful man took fifty dollars out of his wallet, and handed it to me. He said, “You can pay me back next semester.” I did, and so did dozens of other students who had the same experience with him. We are not family any more at CMU, and it breaks my heart and my spirit.
I have seen a change in the way students are treated by the administration and what they get for their tuition dollars and fees. This involves the whittling away of services to students. Are present day students aware that CMU’s Health Services once had beds and 24 hour nursing carefor students who fell ill? We also had housekeepers in the dorms that not only cleaned the public areas of the buildings, but they also came into our rooms once a week, mopped our tiled floors, emptied our wastebaskets, cleaned our bathrooms and restocked them with bath tissue.
Once, many cultural events were free to all, after paying a very small student fee at the beginning of the year. Those days are long gone; tuition is rising fast, as are student fees. Famous speakers came to campus frequently, symphonies came, and it was all free. I think my student fee was a whopping $15.00 my first semester at CMU.
That year, I saw the Detroit Symphony play for free. During my memorable years as a CMU student, I saw a famous harpsichordist play; I saw poet Allen Ginsberg twice. I saw Ralph Nader speak to a packed auditorium at Rose Arena.
Proportionate to the tuition dollars students are paying, faculty salaries may as well havestood still, and have stood still or even regressed for the past ten years or so. The cost of living increases higher than the rate by which faculty of all groups are compensated. The money students are paying is not being reflected in the twice-monthly paychecks of their faculty.
Please support your entire faculty, in heart, mind, and spirit, with your respect, and your voices,whatever their university status. The Faculty Association has been muzzled by the court, but you can speak. Support the right of students to be treated well by their university. Support theidea that higher education does matter; it is important that those that educate be treated well.Professors shape, guide, coax and challenge students to be the best they can be. That is worth more than faculty will ever be paid, but they should be paid well, despite present day attitudes and policies.
- Sandra Snow
(BS in Education, 1975, and MA in English Language and Literature, 1989)