Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Βοήθα με να σε βοηθώ ν' ανεβούμε το βουνό. Help Me, So I Can Help You and Together We Climb The Mountain. Ubuntu

Climbing the Mountain Together
Fairfield University Faculty, 2016
Βοήθα με να σε βοηθώ ν' ανεβούμε το βουνό. 
Help Me, So I Can Help You and Together We Climb The Mountain. 
Men and Women For Others

Faculty service can bring one's journey to a variety of places, and somehow I was voted onto Faculty Salary Committee at Fairfield University, first as a fill-in, and then in a more permanent position. Many advised me not to sit on this committee as the demands are tremendous, the controversies often, and the paperwork almost impossible to keep up with.

When one works at a University where scholars take pride with expertise of research, statistics, history, economics, business, humanities, sciences and general knowledge it is easy to imagine how many opinions need to be unified so best decisions can be made. Faculty do not often agree with one another (hubris) and it is typical for confrontation to occur (departmental meetings). For this reason, it is also awe-inspiring when faculty come together as a united front. That is what I witnessed yesterday.

In 2014, I wrote on Kreativet  the importance of work, the integrity of being one, and the inspiration of community. It was after the Feast of St. Joseph, when colleagues united to advocate for staff, adjuncts, grounds people, and Sodexo workers. At that moment I found myself feeling satisfied I chose Fairfield University to continue my career and quoted Wendell Berry, "The freedom of affluence opposes and contradicts the freedom of community life." At the rally that day, I stood next to Gisela Gil Egui - a colleague who took me under her wing and shared a zest for life and equity (and for doing what's right), action I hope to replicate in my own work. Sadly, our colleague and friend at Fairfield lost her life on the last day of 2015 in a car crash on I-95 in Miami. She was 48 years young and her death was tragic to our campus. Gisela was a tremendous inspiration and when I was given the MLK Vision Award for Faculty at Fairfield University this year, I dedicated the acceptance to her. 26 days after her passing, too, I reflected again that the loss of her spirit hadn't gotten easier.

Yet, part of Gisela's drive, focus, and mission was rekindled yesterday when, after an emergency General Faculty Meeting was called on the last day on contract, my colleagues at Fairfield University and I united with a willingness to stand in solidarity. I returned home from campus late yesterday afternoon and went for a run to think about the experience. Although I once loved numbers as a high school kid and pride myself on acing the NY State Math Regents exams, I moved my interests toward a world of words (and not numbers) in my education and spent a large portion of my adult life pontificating denotations and connotations in the narratives I tell myself.

Collegial. \kə-ˈlē-j(ē-)əl marked by camaraderie among colleagues; characterized by an equal sharing of of authority.

Discussion. \di-ˈskə-shən\ an act of conversing with other people or another person - to host a mutual conversation to share information, ideas, opinions 

Equity. \ˈe-kwə-tē\ fairness and justice in how individuals are treated

Jesuit. \ˈje-zü-ət a member of the Roman Catholic Society of Jesus founded by St. Ignatius Loyola in 1534 and devoted to missionary and educational work - one given to intrigue and equivocation

Mission. \ˈmi-shən\ a task or job that someone is given to do.

Service. \ˈsər-vəs\ contribution to the welfare of others: help, use, benefit.

Trust. \ˈtrəst\ belief in what is reliable, good, honest and effective.

Good Faith. \ˈgu̇d\ \ˈfāth\ honesty in dealing with other people, high quality trust.

For the last few months, I have been part of collegial discussions about salary equity at a Jesuit University with a mission for serving others (a definite draw that unites well with my Ubuntu philosophy - I am, because we are). This has been my major University service, and I trust the good faith of others (although in my second year, I'm growing more skeptical and doubtful about the words "leadership" and "vision"). Good faith, collegial discussions connote/denote something entirely different to others not directly at the table. When faculty chanted "social justice" yesterday in support for the Faculty Salary Committee, and eventually "Doors are locked," I couldn't help but think of another word.

Symbolism. \ˈsim-bə-ˌli-zəm\ the use of items, motions, or traditions to express or represent larger, significant ideas

Faculty was shut out. Doors were closed. Actions spoke louder than any words.

It's been a year, and I know it is unhealthy to clock the hours that FSC has put into good faith collegial negotiations through reading emails, running numbers, searching for best solutions, surveying colleagues, answering questions, and having faith in the mutual process designed to bring parties together. Ethnographic notes taken at each and every meeting offer a more accurate narrative of negotiation this year and I'm wondering what the real vision for our campus really is. I'm shaking my head. Bambi has met Godzilla, and I'm no longer naive nor optimistic. I now see truer colors that make me distrust the faith I had in the good.

I'm wondering about the story I've been telling myself for the last few years with the words that attracted me to teach at a Jesuit school in southern Connecticut. The hope that remains are with the colleagues I admire. They continue to motivate me and engage me with brilliance. They are good people. And yesterday I learned they share the same narrative and interpret the language as rational, cooperative, and well-intended people. 200 individuals in agreement against the mind-boggling negotiation of a few. 

It made me proud to to climb the mountain together with them. We have a lot more mountain to climb. 

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