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English Department Now Home to Official FSU Subcommittee

By John Hess, English


Benjamin Franklin once astutely observed that small everyday actions and improvements are what lead to great achievements. These are wise words and I think they apply to union work as much as to Franklin’s reform projects.  It is the everyday small actions that build a trust and a culture around and about the FSU. If the FSU can become a part of the daily experience of its members, then it is solidly grounded.  In this vein I would like to report about a recent medium-sized step forward in the English Department that was built upon patient and constant work over several years.

In the recent reorganization of the Freshman English section of the Department, an FSU sub-committee was established as a permanent part.  The English Department has always been friendly and supportive of the FSU, but this recent achievement officially affirms the importance of the FSU, enshrines the union even deeper into the departmental culture, provides a recognized vehicle for department members to relate to the FSU, and facilitates the training of future activists.

At every semester-ending gathering of the FE faculty we ensured that there would be a presentation by the FSU to speak about the union and make sure members understood their contract, their rights, and their obligations.  We also made sure that when members came to us with questions or issues those issues were promptly addressed and resolved as best they could be, thus building the trust that is essential if any union is to function effectively and to grow over time.  In this way, FE members have come to rely upon the union, know their rights and be willing to assert them when necessary.

I think what has happened in the English Department could well be a kind of template for other departments, while still keeping in mind that not every department has had enlightened leadership as in English and many departments are much smaller.  I think that as the FSU moves forward it is important to recognize what real, effective militancy is as opposed to bombastic “sturm und drang,” and to develop strategies and policies that reflect the wisdom of Franklin’s advice.  I would be glad to speak with anyone who has any curiosity about what we have done in English.