Op-ed submission: This Administration Cannot Be Trusted

Student Worker Alliance

Over the last couple of years, Washington University has seen a swell in political action. This has resulted in the adjuncts and Bon Appetit workers voting to unionize, which has been met with optimism that the University is becoming a more fair and inclusive space. Recently, the lecturers on campus have been deciding whether or not they wish to unionize. The administration has repeatedly stated that its goal was to be apolitical and ensure these groups on campus could meet and decide on their futures without interference. Despite these statements, leaders at Washington University have engaged in a campaign of disinformation and intimidation to undermine the unionization process, with Provost Holden Thorp as the face of this duplicitous endeavor.

Lecturers have been a part of Washington University for years and serve as a vital instrument to the success of students regardless of major. The contracts they operate on are relatively short term, and offer little explanation on key aspects of job security and advancement. Lecturers who have been excellent in job performance have seen little pay increases over their long tenures. There was a raise in the minimum to $45K after the adjunct negotiations guaranteed some of their members would receive substantial raises. There are lecturers who make less than the kindergarten teachers their children have, and parental leave is only offered after three years of employment.

The Student Worker Alliance does not wish to push the lecturers into unionization or to decide which union they should be a part of. Forming a union is a huge decision that lecturers must make for themselves, and we support them, whether or not they decide to unionize. We simply ask that the administration conduct itself in the manner that it claims to operate in. The University often refers to itself as apolitical; however, this campaign truly exposes its colors. Provost Thorp and the University administration betray their commitment to the apolitical neutrality they claim to espouse by sending emails that explicitly encourage lecturers not to join a union. They also exploit their positions of power when they use student’s tuition money to hire the largest anti-union firm in the country to create a coordinated campaign of misinformation, mistrust and fear. Incidentally, this firm happens to be the same firm and same union-busting lawyer hired in last year’s adjunct campaign. The administration is willing to take extreme measures to disturb the status quo, and in doing so, they ignore the sentiments and wishes of the larger university population. If Thorp is truly a “great man committed to engaging with students and turning their feedback into changes in our University,” then he should listen to students when we say that Thorp’s actions are unacceptable.

Chancellor Mark Wrighton and Thorp are meant to lead. Good leaders listen and adapt to those they are charged with leading. So far, our illustrious leaders—one whose tenure as chancellor at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill will be mired in controversy and scandal—have demonstrated that they are only successful at keeping their own bubbles intact.

Wrighton and Thorp: We, the students, are not afraid of you.