I am the parent of a GEO member who joined the virtual picket line. I signed up because I’m appalled at the way universities all over the country are risking lives by opening up too quickly and without enough concern for the safety of very large populations of people, including the towns in which they are located. And, I am also very concerned about the way UMich has deployed extra police to campus as if that is a valid substitute for taking safe measures recommended by infectious disease experts. At least at UMich, the graduate student union is able to organize to protest these bad decisions on behalf of the greater community. I have a background in university fundraising, and I know how endowments work, so I have an insight into what is actually possible for universities with substantial endowments versus what they say is possible. I also know how donors have outsize influence and how, in many cases, regents/board members have vested interests that are not aligned with the health of the community. With regard to UMich, it terrifies and disgusts me to watch the way fiscal policy is driving decision-making, and not the well-being and health of the community. So, I told my daughter I wanted to help out and signed up to be on the picket line.
Now, after being on the digital call and seeing the combined wisdom, principles, care, concern, and sheer talent and humanity of the young people who are striking, I am even more engaged. I can’t believe that UMich Regents want to risk the lives of these young people, and that they are foolish enough not to listen to them and engage them in a dynamic and safe community decision-making process. I can’t believe the city of Ann Arbor is in favor of this, much less the state of Michigan. What happened to caring about the community good?
But most importantly, after listening to the GEO members talk about the strike and their concerns, it is even more evident to me today than ever before how much the graduate students care about their students and about the university community. All of their concern is for the well-being of others. They are desperately worried about their students, they want badly to go about the work of teaching in the disciplines that they love, and they feel abandoned by a university bureaucracy that has traded their professional well-being and their personal safety for the concerns of a small group of financial stakeholders. Thank goodness GEO hasn’t lost sight of what is right and true when it comes to learning and teaching. What a privilege it has been today to learn from and see these brilliant people in action. I wish I could do more.
-Courtney Cook Williamson, GEO Parent, Vermont, USA