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The Point: “Campus” Updates?


Greetings, Colleagues:

Those of you who read these email blasts regularly (blessings on you if you do!) have probably noticed that I always end The Point with some version of “This is your union” and an invitation to be in touch with the union leadership through our email address

My main goal this week is to underline this invitation in the boldest strokes possible.  It’s right in our name, right? We are a union! This does not mean that we can—or even want!—to speak always in one voice.  Far from it!  I think, in fact, that our collective strength comes from the productive tensions that inhere to all democratic institutions. So here’s the headline: your voice matters. Come to our regular executive committee meetings and speak up. Come to FSU sponsored forums and share your concerns and ask for the information you need.  Get in touch with me if there is something you want me to learn about and write about in The Point (or better yet: propose a guest column you want to write). 

I recognize that this is not as easy for some of you as I’m making it sound.

I’m a full professor and I occupy every identity position that has been, in US history, most protected and most privileged; I know I have a responsibility to use my relative comfort and security to speak up on issues of concern when I can. And I know from my own very anecdotal data that not everyone feels safe speaking up: I am thinking of all the colleagues—from untenured staff to full professors— who have contacted me to talk about various controversial issues on campus in the past months, but first requested that I take the conversation “off the server” (and never in writing!). It is kind of staggering. (BTW you can find me at if you need to initiate a conversation off the server!)

These musings were inspired by last week’s “Campus Updates” event.

It is good, I guess, that management has at least stopped offering these meetings under the banner of “Town Hall,” since these unidirectional infodumps have none of the multivocal aspect that defines actual democratic meetings: it simply would not do to keep that name.  (We’re not alone: See Jonathan Beecher Field's work on how once democratic Town Meetings have degraded into glorified press conferences in the era of corporate cooptation.) At a recent Faculty Council meeting, FSU President Steve Striffler directly addressed the Chancellor and Provost and reminded them that it is incumbent on upper administration to actively seek out input from members of the campus community who challenge them, make them uncomfortable, and so on.  That can’t happen when almost all of us are on mute.

I don’t know about you, but I found the whole experience profoundly alienating: sitting in front of a laptop, on zoom, with not even a chat box to make comments, ask questions, or say hello to colleagues….the campus update meeting did not have any of the community-building potential of similar events in the past. I can’t be the only one who notices how Faculty Council always makes time for reports from upper administration—and staff and students—at its regular meetings, but upper administration does not make time for elected leaders of faculty, staff or student groups (college senates, Faculty Council, the unions) to speak at its events. 

Even calling this event a “campus update meeting” is more than a little misleading: so many major UMB concerns were not even hinted at. Even those issues that were addressed—Covid mitigation, for instance—were talked about in a remarkably narrow way.  While I appreciated University Health Services Executive Director Robert Pomales taking the time to report to us, I was very aware of major issues he did not address or that he addressed only superficially. Why drop the mask mandate when all of the unions on campus, representing a substantial portion of our community, are opposed to doing so (and as data from Europe suggests that the BA-2 wave is likely to cause surges here)?  Why not talk at all about mental health issues caused by the pandemic or the university’s response to that related epidemic?  What do we know about how long Covid is affecting the UMB community, and whether the effects skew—as so many health disparities do—by race and class?  And I know many of us who spend our work lives far down the plaza from Quinn (cough: Wheatley) really want to know how UHS is going to respond to the recently completed ventilation study

I know this whole meeting was only an hour—in itself a problem—but I left it feeling like it didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of things we all might want “campus updates on.” I know I would love to hear at least some discussion from management on how they understand the status of bargaining with the graduate workers union, which, according to GEO, is at an utter standstill.  I would love a much a much fuller accounting of where all that federal Covid money went.  I would love to know (per my column last week) how management plans to promote the health of those faculty members most likely to be carrying the heaviest burdens of pandemic-related stress. 

And most of all I would just love if upper administration acted like they wanted to hear the voices of our community.

This really is your union: please tell us at what is on your mind and what you want to do about it


Jeffrey Melnick (

American Studies Department

Communications Director, Faculty Staff Union Executive Committee

For information on the FSU, links to our contract and bargaining updates, and a calendar of events, see the FSU webpage