Monday, April 14, 2014

Greetings Colleagues!

Last Friday I was installed as the second president of the HSSU-NEA chapter---the most dynamic higher-ed chapter in Missouri! It is indeed an honor. In just two years, the HSSU-NEA has been able to re-constitute the faculty senate (after a 10 year hiatus), negotiate a the university's first labor contract on behalf of the full-time faculty, and force one of the most despotic administrative regimes in the country to grudgingly accept the concepts of shared governance and transparency! Even more, ours is the first chapter in Missouri to offer full voting membership to adjunct professors and instructors. What we have done is admirable and our chapter is the envy of many other institutions.

The next chapter of our story is critical. As I see it we have a number of challenges:
1) The chapter needs to build its membership and support in order to leverage contracts for the professional staff and adjunct faculty.
2) We need to assert our prerogatives of shared governance in every arena--from university meetings to the faculty senate.
3) We need to continue gathering information on university finances, personnel and initiatives until the administration is fully transparent.
4) Membership needs to directly engage the Board of Regents and the President of the university every month with reports and issues of concern.
5) We need to record every incident of intimidation on our members by administrators and address it with firm resolution.
6) We need to continue to share our story with our students and the community.
7) We need to cement our legacy within the NEA as a dynamic chapter and continue to send our members to national conferences in order to build relationships within the union.
8) We need to change the culture of the university by reminding our administrators that they work for us--not vice versa.
9) We must endeavor to change the oral culture at the university into one of written policy and communications.
10) We must work through the summer to keep up the pressure and achieve our goals in a timely manner.

These are challenges we all must face together. Simply paying your dues is not enough; membership in a union requires robust debate, resolution and action. In the coming months, I will be looking for ways to promote greater inclusion and involvement from our membership and our supporters. 

I have attached copies of our next meeting agenda, scheduled for Friday, April 24 as well as an updated copy of the chapter's bylaws. We will be using Robert's Rules of Order for chapter meetings. Some guidelines about the parliamentary process follow below:

I would be remiss if I failed to thank outgoing president Mark Abbott for his work over the last two years. He endured a very difficult situation with patience and steadfast determination. He understood that membership in  a union is like a marriage: sacred and worthwhile but stressful as hell.

It's hard to believe that we first met with the NEA only three years ago! There had been layoffs the previous year and the whole mood on campus in 2011 was a state of gloom. My, how far we have come! I believe that as a union we can work to make Harris-Stowe State University a great place to work and a great place for our students. As your president, I promise to do everything within my power to achieve these goals. 


Brian Elsesser, PhD