12/07/19: My Response to an Anonymous Message

Dear Colleagues:

The following anonymous message was forwarded to me by Professor Aaron Retish:

"Dear Aaron,

As I mentioned when we spoke this afternoon, I want to express my displeasure about the appearance that Charlie Parrish, as president of the AAUP/AFT, speaks on behalf of the union in criticizing President Wilson’s handling of the medical school crisis. Although Charlie has sent informational emails to members in the past on different matters connected with the situation at the medical school, circumstances are now different. With open dissention and even hostility among members of the Board of Governors towards President Wilson, it is important that the union be circumspect about its position. When Charlie distributes a letter criticizing the President and cc’s the membership via the union listserv, it gives the appearance that he is speaking for the union. However, members have never been given the opportunity to express our views about whether or not we support Charlie’s interpretation. Under the present circumstances, the union should either remain neutral or there should be a vote on whether or not to support President Wilson’s removal from office. Until there is a vote on the issue, however, I do not believe that Dr. Parrish should give the impression that he is representing the position of the union."

My response:

The Union has nearly 1900 members. They represent a variety of opinions and views on most issues. When I send a message to the membership I am expressing my view of events and developments that affect their professional lives. I nowhere state that I speak for all our members' policy positions or points of view.

I believe that the Union should always be sensitive to the views of its members. Because of that belief, I recently asked the Executive Committee to authorize negotiation with the American Arbitration Association (AAA) to carry out an objective and anonymous poll of our members’ views on present issues that face the University. That poll will be administered in the near future, and its results will be summarized independently by the AAA. The Union leadership will not be involved in the process beyond the designation of the subjects that will be covered in the interview schedule that will be administered independently by AAA. The AAA will provide the independent and objective data of the study. The data will be available for further analysis by anyone.

The leadership of the Union is renewed regularly by elections every two years. If the membership feels that the present leaders of the Union are not reflecting their views, they have ample opportunity to vote them out of office. If members want their views to be taken into account by the Union leaders, they should speak up at the membership meetings that are held each semester, or send messages directly to them voicing their concerns. They need not send anonymous messages through third parties. There is no sanction that the Union leadership has available that might be brought against individual members who speak up, even if they wanted to do so. I have never seen an instance in which diverse opinions voiced by members have not been encouraged by the Union leadership.

I trust that no one sees the presentation of my point of view in my messages to the membership as a representation of the all views of our diverse membership. These messages represent my views and information that I believe that it is my obligation to present to our members. People can object to these messages freely, and I get messages that both endorse the views presented and some objections to them. I try to answer all of the messages I get and engage both the criticisms and the praise received. My advice is that if any member wants to influence the Union membership: speak up. In doing this, you will have more influence if you are willing to sign your name to your contribution.




Charles J. ParrishPresident, AAUP-AFT, Local 6075, WSU ChapterVice President-at-Large, AFT MichiganPresident, AAUP Michigan ConferenceMember-at-Large, National Council, AAUP5057 Woodward Avenue, Suite 3301Detroit, MI 48202313.577.1750