Members of the Board of Trustees,
This past week there have been numerous momentous events. As a historian, those in the United States House of Representatives captivated me. There, members of Congress, led by Representative John Lewis, conducted a sit-in in an effort to force the House to vote on a gun control measure.
As a young man Representative Lewis was one of the founders of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. He participated in the lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1960; he led the Freedom Rides in 1961 and was severely beaten in Birmingham, Alabama, for doing so; and he organized and led the 1965 Voting Rights March from Selma to Montgomery, where he was again beaten in the infamous “Bloody Sunday” on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. When SNCC rejected non-violence, Lewis resigned from the organization. Throughout his career, John Lewis has spoken truth to power. It is what he was doing on the Freedom Rides, what he did in Selma, and what he and his colleagues were doing last week on the floor of the House of Representatives.
Speaking Truth to Power.
For the last three months I have not been speaking truth to power in my addresses to you. I’ve not done this for numerous reasons:
I had an adjunct contract to negotiate.
I had to negotiate a program by which the college would help full-time faculty get back to school so they might meet HLC faculty qualification requirements.
And I still have to negotiate a similar deal for the adjunct faculty.
Continuing to lay bare in a public forum the issues at this College made little sense if I wanted any constructive movement in any of these areas.
Also, the pending millage election loomed large in my mind. I did not want to endanger its passage in any way.
And, finally, this Board has proven remarkably obtuse to a faculty that, for the past 3.5 years, HAS spoken truth to power. At best we have been ignored; at worst we have been belittled, humiliated, and lied about.
I therefore had no reason to expect anything different had I continued down that path, and so I chose not to.
But because I have not been speaking truth to power it seems likely that you understand my comments over the past few months to be a sign that the situation at WCC is improving. If so, that is a wild misreading of my comments, for it is not. The dysfunction at WCC gets worse on a daily basis.
And yet my board has endorsed the millage. How could it not? But many members of the faculty and staff have no intention of voting for the millage, and they know many in the community who will not support it, as well.
The millage is just six weeks away. I have remained publicly silent regarding the continuing situation at the College so that I do not jeopardize the service we offer to the community. Yet President Bellanca has asked that you, six weeks in advance of the millage election, renew her contract. Whether or not you choose to do so, this action cannot but generate publicity the College does not need. Anyone who believes they are acting in the best interest of the College would realize this.
I anticipate that this communication with you will make it much more difficult for me to get the things done that support my membership.
If so, that’s simply a risk I have to take.
The College needs someone to speak Truth to Power.
As always has been true, I am happy to speak with you privately if you wish.
Dr. David Fitzpatrick
Washtenaw Community College