Open letter to Mark Emmert: Come to the Picket Lines!!

. Monday, February 22, 2010

On February 2nd, 2010, Mark Emmert and others gave a "town hall" on the budget cuts (see more here).  Students and workers responded, and were angry--he told us to go to olympia, while the cuts here are being made by him, Charles Kennedy, Gene Woodard, and other top-level administrators.  We wrote this letter as UW SWC to see if Emmert is serious bout supporting workers and students of color!

February 19, 2010 

Open Letter to Mark Emmert: 
On February 2nd, 2010, you, along with 4 other panelists, were part of a Town Hall meeting concerning the 2010 budget cuts to financial aid at the University of Washington.  Student after student questioned you on the financial situation at UW, particularly regarding why, when the UW budget is growing, these devastating cuts to students and workers on campus are being instituted.  Additionally, you were questioned on how the cuts to financial aid would affect students of color and working class/low income students.  Repetitively, you answered these questions by asserting your allegiance to students and to diversity on this campus.  Specifically, you cite your commitment to the Husky Promise, a program you created and are very proud of.  Furthermore, you continue to place blame at the feet of the state legislators as well as donors to this school who apparently specify where their donations should go.  You cite this as the reason for why money cannot be moved around to alleviate the effects of these cuts to students and workers on campus.  You say you want to fight to keep diversity alive and hold on to the Husky Promise. 

When questioned about the layoffs of custodians and other workers on campus, you said that as the person with ultimate firing power, it is a very difficult job deciding who should be let go.  However, it seems hypocritical to say this while the university hires more managers and supervisors in custodial services and the trades, and while many administrators and directors continue to make over $150,000.  In fact, Charles Kennedy, Associate Vice President of Facilities Services received a 30% raise from 2007 to 2009, bumping his salary up from $200,000 to $260,000.

We are glad that under pressure from the UW community, top administrators agreed to give 5% of their salaries to a scholarship fund. However, this leaves many top administrators with salaries well in excess of $150,000 per year. It should not be a voluntary choice, but instead a UW policy that salaries be capped at $150,000 a year. Instead of recapturing $600,000 as this 5% voluntary contribution does, a firm salary cap would restore over $5 million to the UW budget. This $5 million could be used to re-hire laid off workers, increase class offerings, reverse speedup/overwork for workers, reduce tuition or increase support to the libraries. All of these projects are far more important and useful to the UW than maintaining the exorbitant salaries of top administrators.

At the Town Hall, you expressed that you would like to see students lobbying for our demands in Olympia.  We, the UW Student/Worker Coalition, are committed to fighting against the budget cuts here at UW.  You accused one of us of not being in Olympia to lobby on a daily basis, but this is an unreasonable expectation.  How can full-time workers and students, many of whom have jobs, afford to travel to Olympia regularly?  We will make a few trips and we were there on February 15th, rallying and demanding that the legislature fork over what we need.  But, we also believe that students and workers on this campus should not have to bear the brunt of the damaging effects of these cuts, including the potential layoffs of workers, as well as cuts to financial aid and student services.  Members of our coalition were present at the Town Hall meeting and found your answers to be inadequate when you were questioned on the financial situation.  Instead, since you seem so adamant about fighting these cuts, we propose that you support our coalition’s efforts in organizing a mass movement of students and workers on campus to fight back. 
The UW Student/Worker Coalition is planning a student strike against budget cuts on March 4th, 2010 here at UW- Seattle beginning at 1 PM on the Quad.  March 4th is the National Day of Action to Defend Public Education.  Students and workers all over the country will be engaging in actions to demand that public education be fully funded in a way that does not subjugate the needs of workers, working class students, students of color, women, queer folks, and people with disabilities.  On this day, we are calling for a student strike to send a strong message to Olympia that students and workers have the power to stop business as usual.  If you really want to defend public education, you, Mark Emmert, should support our action.  First, publicly announce your support.  Secondly, mandate that all professors and managers not retaliate against those that participate in the action. Make it clear that if any professor or manager fires, disciplines, grades down, or otherwise punishes a student or worker for participating in the strike then you will fire that person.   Finally, walk the picket lines with us to truly show your support for students on this campus. 
On the webpage for the Husky Promise Scholarship, you are quoted saying, "The Husky Promise is our guarantee to the state’s kids that if you work hard, there’s a spot for you here."1  However, this “promise” seems to be in a precarious position.  According to you, “We will not be able to offer the Husky-Promise program if those cuts come to pass.”2  You implore the campus community to join the struggle against the budget cuts, acknowledging that “We have to work together, collectively…”3  Well, we feel the same way.  However, we challenge you to truly demonstrate your commitment to working collectively with the students and workers at UW.  How much do you mean what you say about the Husky Promise and the importance of diversity on campus?  How far are you willing to go to support students of color?  How badly do you want to stop firing immigrant workers?  Will you join our efforts to unite the campus and fight together, “collectively?” 
We expect an answer by February 25th, 2010 at 12pm. 

UW Student/Worker Coalition