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Promoting Quality Higher Education– An Investment in Oregon’s Future


PSU-AAUP President speaks out to Board of Trustees for a fair contract and to protect academic freedom

January 26, 2024 / PSU-AAUP

Today PSU-AAUP President Emily Ford spoke to the PSU Board of Trustees about the escalating organizing by PSU SEIU 503 classified workers and Portland Community College Faculty and Academic Professionals to win fair contracts.

Please join us in rallying in solidarity with PCC faculty this Sunday:
Sunday, January 28 at 12pm
Terry Schrunk Plaza
431 SW Madison St, Portland, OR 97204

You can also support their members by contributing to their strike fund:

Additionally, our AAUP leadership underscored the upsurge in academic labor unions happening now, pointing to the record contracts for CFA faculty, up to 45% raises by University of Oregon grad workers39% raises for workers at Washington State University, and underscored the urgency of a fair contract in the upcoming negotiations here. To help your colleagues get ready to win the teaching and working conditions faculty, academic professionals, and students deserve, please fill out your bargaining survey here and ask your coworkers to do the same. The more of our coworkers who fill out the survey, the more faculty are engaged in our contract negotiations, and the more our mandate for change is strengthened at the bargaining table.

See President Ford’s full comments to the Board below:
Hello and welcome to Winter term! My name is Emily Ford and I am the President of PSU-AAUP, the labor union representing full-time faculty and Academic Professionals here at Portland State. Everyone in this room cares deeply about Portland State, and everyone here wants the best for our institution. 

I am here today to share with you what Fall term at PSU felt like for on-the-ground workers, and to share PSU-AAUP’s vision of crafting a bright future for the University. 

Faculty, staff, and students are feeling and hurting deeply. The heinous terrorist attacks on October 7th and the subsequent war have directly and personally affected many faculty, staff, and students at PSU. PSU community members have family and friends whose communities were attacked by Hamas, some of whom may have lost loved ones in the attacks, and some of whom may not have heard from their loved ones since October 7th. PSU community members have family and friends who continue to endure the violence of war, with rockets and bombs falling on homes, schools, universities, and hospitals. We are all witnessing mass suffering and human rights abuses. We are not okay. 

For many PSU faculty, staff, and students, this terrorist attack and war has triggered generational trauma stemming from the genocide and/or mass force relocation and displacement of our ancestors. There are no words that can adequately express how horrific the world's events on and after October 7th have been. There are no words that can adequately capture how heated, passionate, toxic, frightening, and utterly gut-wrenching discourse around Israel and Palestine has become in the world, and especially on university campuses, PSU included.

Universities can and should provide the environment in which all members of their communities have free speech and faculty have academic freedom. I’m proud to be seated in front of you as a spokesperson from PSU-AAUP. The AAUP originated the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, and has recently released statements regarding Academic Freedom in the Time of War, and Polarizing Times Demand Robust Academic Freedom. At PSU both President Cudd and Interim Provost Chabon have reiterated their deep commitment to academic freedom, for which we are greatly appreciative. We thank Dr. Cudd for forming the Building Community Task Force, and are hopeful that thoughtful, respectful, robust dialogue will be an example to our students and the larger Portland community. This Task Force can show how we can have divergent world experiences and deeply held personal and political beliefs, and yet respectfully engage in dialogue, listening, and understanding. Members of the Board are leaders on our campus, and you are also leaders in the broader Portland community. We are counting on you to be engaged in this deep listening and to provide this example to our community. We need you to help us heal some painful divides.

These conversations are also happening at a time when political interference in higher education is at an all time high, and will continue to escalate as the US moves further into election season. 

And then there was the weather. We have lost a lot. We are grieving and we are angry and we are utterly heartbroken. And we are frightened and anxious about the future.

But we still believe in PSU’s bright future.

In fall term PSU-AAUP members watched the Portland Association of Teachers strike, and many faculty, staff, and students had children whose schools were shut down for three weeks, which brought hardship to their work and families. Many of us joined Portland teachers on the picket lines, led bike caravans to protests, and more. We were prepared to caravan to Eugene to graduate workers’ strike lines at UO. We cheered on faculty colleagues at California State University and graduate workers at Washington State University as they struck for and won contracts that appropriately value the faculty and academic professionals who make those institutions run every day. 

We are also closely watching Portland Community College, whose faculty union is at the bargaining table as we speak, and is ready to declare impasse if they cannot make gains they need to be able to provide their students the quality learning conditions that they deserve. (For those of you who do not know what an impasse means, it means that a strike is looming at PCC.) And our own classified workers, represented by SEIU, are currently struggling to have their needs met so that they can do their best work at this university in service to our mission and our students. At yesterday’s Board committee meetings, several Trustees mentioned their acknowledgement that the problems experienced at PSU are universally shared. I fear that without action that improves working conditions at PSU, that we are headed toward the same path as Portland Public Schools and PCC. As a Board, you have the power to make the choices to improve PSU and ensure its bright future. 

I will reiterate what I have shared with you before about what a bright future for PSU means. A bright future for PSU means the financial reinvestment in student services. This means fully staffing the Disability Resource Center, Advising and Career Services, the CARE team. This means financially investing in programs to grow enrollment, to keep classes on the books, not cancel them. For the Board, this means taking a financial risk– changing the reserves policy and holding the University Administration accountable to take actions that will grow the University, not acquiesce to a doomsday narrative that seals the university’s financial fate. If we do not take the risk to financially invest in student services, if we do not fully staff all areas of the university, we will continue to hurt students. A lack of investment is a proverbial death by a thousand paper cuts for this institution. 

We cannot retain or attract students to the university when positions remain unfilled and students have to wait more than three weeks for an advising appointment to register for classes. We cannot retain students to the university when we promise a robust experience as an emerging Hispanic Serving Institution and an Asian American and Pacific Islander Serving Institution, yet when the students arrive they do not receive the services that would allow them to thrive. 

Inside this charged historical moment, our institutional lodestar needs to be investment and deep care, not austerity. We need the institution to show respect and dignity that fully values the beloved community my colleagues create everyday. We can forge our bright future together. PSU-AAUP is doing its part, and is counting on you, the Board, to do yours.

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