Unity among faculty, staff and students was emphasized at the Fairfield University Workers United’s (FUWU) “Freedom and Solidarity at Work” event on Wednesday, March 22 in the Lower Level Barone Campus Center. Dr. Jocelyn Boryczka, associate professor of politics, introduced the overarching theme of the event by speaking on the significance of knowing your own rights and exercising them for both students and staff.
“We are gathering to hear about the strength that we can each individually have when we come together collectively,” Boryczka said.
President of the Faculty Welfare Committee/American Association of University Professors, Professor Irene Mulvey, stressed the importance of freedom of speech and teachers’ working conditions. Both Mulvey and Boryczka sported shirts stating, “Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.”
Among multiple student, faculty and staff speakers, the highlight of the event was the presentation of the first annual Campus Worker Solidarity and Community Award, given in the memory of Professor of Communication Gisela Gil-Egui.
The flier advertising the nominations for this award stated that Gil-Egui, “embodied the commitment to standing with her fellow workers to advance social justice, fairness and equity in the workplace.”
Both part-time and full-time workers were nominated because their peers believed they represented community values and solidarity. The winner of the award was Carrie Robinson, assistant director of the Office of Student Diversity and Multicultural Affairs. Robinson was nominated by Megan Webster, assistant director of Leadership and Professional Development for her “tireless advocacy for issues of social justice for the Fairfield community.”
Robinson spoke on her work in promoting social justice and cross difference dialogue on campus. Along with the Office of Diversity, Robinson hosts dialogues for both teachers and students to allow for different opinions on campus and nationwide issues to come out.
“We can have different opinions, but at the end of the of the day we all have to move forward and work together. It’s important that everyone feels like they have a place on campus,” Robinson said.
Todd Levin from the University’s power plant reflected Robinson’s statement and discussed how each worker deserves respect on this campus. He described employees of the University both in the FWC/AAUP and outside of it as a family that sticks together.
Senior Matt Parenti, chief justice of Fairfield University Student Association court spoke about the importance that worker unity has had on his own life. He discussed how both his grandfather and father joined unions in order to improve their own conditions. He explained that he owes where he is at Fairfield University to the efforts the unions made to help his grandfather and father get to where he is today.
“Solidarity [among workers] is simple, it’s love,” Parenti said.
Parenti also emphasized how the actions teachers take affect the current generation and those to come.
Dr. Robert Epstein, associate professor of English, discussed how united the faculty is at Fairfield.
“We have a union spirit even though we don’t have a union,” said Epstein.
Although the workers are united at Fairfield, some are left vulnerable.
Fellow English professor, Sonya Huber, spoke about her husband. He was a part-time professor at Fairfield and asked his students to advocate for part-time teachers’ full-time positions. He was asked to leave when students complained.
“We will not rest until everyone is safe,” said Huber about the FWC/AAUP.
Senior Meghan Hamilton, vice president of Fairfield Alliance, offered an opinion from a unique place. She echoed the importance of working for the rights of those who could be pushed to the side.
“Working for justice in some capacity helps others work for justice in some capacity,” said Hamilton.