Militant Journalism

Victory in historic Oregon Tech faculty strike

On May 4, one week and two days after the start of an historic faculty strike, the Oregon Tech senior administrator negotiating team signed the third strike settlement agreement proposed by faculty represented by the American Association of University Professors. The faculty received most everything they had bargained for: fair wages, secure benefits, and a reasonable and clearly defined workload. Immediately, senior administrators used their massive platforms to call for unity and forgiveness. What is this new rhetoric all about? Let’s look at what they have been saying and why that might be.

The rhetoric used by the senior administration before and after they came to an agreement is like night and day. The day before the agreement, they published a statement in which they claimed, “The faculty union is not concerned about the Oregon Tech students and is putting self-interest ahead of students.” Similar statements were published in the local paper, the Herald and News

The next day, OT President Nagi G. Naganathan sent a memo to the entire student body, saying things like “Oregon Tech is poised to emerge from this contract negotiation stronger and with a renewed vigor,” and “It took great effort and a willingness to compromise from both sides to arrive at a mutually beneficial agreement.” To claim it took such effort from both sides is silly. “The bulk of the work writing three different drafts of a final strike settlement agreement was left to be the responsibility of OT-AAUP’s negotiating team,” professor and union member Franny Howes explained to Liberation News. 

Photo used with permission.

There is now palpable anger from the students at the senior administrators for how poorly they treated the faculty. “I did support my faculty because they’ve done so much for us,” said a student in the Dental Hygiene program, whose classes were severely affected by the strike. They had been promised by the administration that classes would continue as normal during the strike, but some of the scabs were not even qualified. “We were kind of disgusted,” the student told this writer.

While faculty and their student supporters are celebrating a victory won through organizing and solidarity, the faculty and student body also have unresolved conflicts with administration. A new building is being constructed on campus and Naganathan made the decision, after it was already over halfway done, that the second floor should be his new office. The faculty senate voted “no confidence” in him and is calling for his resignation. On May 26, there will be a board meeting, where the student government will be present to discuss the possibility of Naganathan’s resignation. Then there is the issue of the board itself which is controlled by conservative corporate and political interests.  

The change in the administration’s rhetoric, from the venom they were spitting at the faculty before, to calls for unity now, are an appeal to the desire to return to normalcy and a distraction from the movement towards actual justice. They are asking, now that we are not in open conflict, that we not hold them accountable. We will not fall for it!

The writer is a student at Oregon Tech. 

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