The Daily Illini

Editorial: Non-tenure faculty strike exemplifies peaceful protest

Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition holds a rally in front of the Swanlund Administration Building on Tuesday, April 19. Daniel J Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, speaks in front of the crowd.

Brian Bauer | The Daily Illini
Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition holds a rally in front of the Swanlund Administration Building on Tuesday, April 19. Daniel J Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, speaks in front of the crowd.

We live in a time when every public misstep is met with widespread criticism.

It’s the age of scrutiny, and people would do well to consider the potential consequences of their plans before taking action.

Protests are an essential part to our democracy — people have a right to voice their opinions.

There are those who take their freedoms too far. The pro-Donald Trump chalk messages written on the Main Quad two weeks ago were targeted and hateful to an unnecessary degree, and the writers failed to provide any reasoned argument to support their position.

In the April 11 issue of The Daily Illini, the Editorial Board criticized the way those supporters abused their right to free speech at the expense to others.

But we should take the time to applaud those who do the right thing. The Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition has followed the proper procedures for an effective strike, while avoiding any of the common blunders that could have detracted from its cause.

This is what a civil protest should look like.

The Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition strike began Tuesday morning and ended Wednesday night. For two days, faculty members handed out flyers and picketed outside the English Building, educating students and passersby about their cause.

There were no over-the-top disruptions. The faculty members were open to discussion, but firm in their convictions.

Students should pay attention to the coalition’s example. Certainly, there are issues that evoke more deeply rooted anger than delayed contract negotiations, but the best protest is still a peaceful one.

One could argue the details of the faculty’s cause for hours — this issue is complex, and without a simple solution. The union’s most prominent desire, that non-tenured faculty members receive multi-year contracts, seems reasonable. But so does Interim Chancellor Barbara Wilson’s response in Wednesday’s MassMail: that “multi-year contracts should be awarded based on performance, evaluation and merit, not centrally mandated and automatically granted.”

The Daily Illini Editorial Board does not have a concrete opinion either way on the strike, but we support the coalition’s methods. Yes, students paid for the lectures and discussions that were cancelled due to the work stoppage, but the terms of the strike could have been much more severe.

The faculty could certainly have stopped work for more than a week, likely until the April 27 negotiation session, but chose not to because of the harm it would have done to students. The faculty’s value was appropriately demonstrated to the school in two days, and more striking at this time would have been counterproductive.

Unlike those who wrote the pro-Donald Trump chalk messages that filled the Main Quad last week, the NTFC stood by its message without causing excessive harm or discomfort to students.

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