Residence hall librarians ‘undervalued,’ underpaid
To the Daily:
Librarians and library workers at the University are systematically underpaid, and their work systematically undervalued. This fact quickly becomes apparent in observing the University’s dealings with librarians who seek to improve their working conditions and pay through collective bargaining. Residence hall librarians joined the Graduate Employee Organization in Fall 2002, after a year-long struggle with the University. They are currently negotiating their first collective employment contract. RHLs have been among the more exploited workers on the University campus, receiving only $5,500 a year for 30 hours of work a week. Although the RHLs have now joined GEO, the University is still seeking to pay them at a much lower rate than other graduate student staff assistants and graduate student instructors, simply because they are librarians. In addition the University has yet to pay RHLs fairly for work that they have completed.
The systematic undervaluation of librarians and their work is no mere accident. Library work has long been portrayed as “women’s work” and hence thought unworthy of respect or fair wages. Such attitudes contribute to the gender gap in pay. In Michigan, which lags far behind the national average, working women earn only 67 cents for every dollar earned by working men. The University’s casual disregard for librarians and library work is thus disappointing on two counts. First, as an institution that claims a commitment to excellence in education and research, the University should be swift to value librarians’ work, rather than stingy. Second, as a major employer in the state of Michigan, the University has a moral obligation to help close the gender gap in pay, rather than widening it still further. The University should begin to meet this obligation at once by paying RHLs the same as other GSSAs and GSIs.
Residence hall librarians make important contributions to academic life at University
To the Daily:
I am a former residence hall librarian (at Alice Lloyd Hall (1997-1999), and a graduate of the School of Information. I am writing to commend the efforts of current RHLs in joining the Graduate Employee Organization, and to support them in their fight for fair working conditions and proper training to do their jobs and to serve their residence hall communities.
The residence hall libraries are a valuable space within the residence halls. The hall library is the embodiment of the living and learning philosophy of University housing. Not only do students study in the hall library, perhaps reading an assignment that was on reserve for the living learning program in their hall, but they also catch up on events happening in the world through the books, newspapers, and computers provided. Students may attend a program in the library at which they learn something new about another culture, ask for help from the librarian to find resources for a paper, or maybe just take a break in a comfortable, inviting atmosphere. What is vital is that the libraries exist as a space to extend the community of the hall, and that the RHL has the tools necessary to do her/his job properly and in a professional manner.
These tools include proper training on how to run the library, and respect from both University Housing and the School of Information for the work done by the RHLs. Housing has already taken steps to ensure the future success of the hall libraries by signing a tentative agreement with the RHLs that gives them tuition, a larger stipend, and health insurance. A memo has also been drafted that agrees to develop training recommendations for the RHLs. These are encouraging steps, and I hope that Housing follows through on these agreements.
Being a RHL is an excellent opportunity for a School of Information student planning to work in libraries to become closer to the University community and learn valuable professional skills. If the University and University Housing truly value the commitment they’ve made to the idea that the “Residence Hall Libraries manifest the University Housing Residence Education living and learning philosophy,” they’ll give the fullest support possible to the Residence Hall Librarian program.
Finkelstein misrepresented by critics; ‘U’ appearance good
To the Daily:
Over the past week, the Daily has published two letters by vocal members of the pro-Israel community criticizing Students Allied for Freedom and Equality for their invitation of Norman Finkelstein to the University. Both letters contextually distort the writings of Finkelstein and have the clear objective of delegitimizing SAFE by making inflammatory attacks against the academics that we invite to campus.
Finkelstein is a professor of political science at DePaul University, and is a highly-regarded academic. He tours the country, often at the invitation of university departments, to discuss topics ranging from his book, “The Holocaust Industry,” to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Attempts to discredit him by the pro-Israel community fall short, as they fail to realize that holding an opinion adverse to the brutal, military dictatorship policies of Israel and her advocates does not always (and in the case of Finkelstein) equate to being “radical.” This irrational leap of logic has no room in the intelligent discourse which should be fostered in the academic setting of the University.
SAFE reaffirms its commitment to promote dialogue and a critical assessment of the status quo by bringing in speakers that, although may be perceived as controversial by some elements of the pro-Israel community on campus, are well-respected academics in their field. We also urge these members of the pro-Israel community to halt their character assassinations and smear campaigns, and attempt to base their arguments on the issue at hand – the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Honors Commons’s benefits should be available to all
To the Daily:
I write to endorse the Daily’s editorial, Coffee Talk (03/07/03), and to oppose the letters written by Yasmin Naghash (Honors Commons a fair reward, 03/10/03) and Gwen Arnold and Stephen Darwall (Editorial reveals a complete misunderstanding, 03/10/03).
First, I am bothered by the notion in Naghash’s letter that Honors students deserve certain privileges because they value “academic excellence.” Hogwash! As if the rest of us plebes do not. Rather, the commons represents a further pampering of already entitled students. In the six years that I have taught at this University I have taught over 400 students, slightly over a quarter of whom have been Honors students. Allowing for the usual caveats about generalizing from one’s own experience, my observation suggests that there’s no difference in student quality or work ethic based on whether they are in the Honors Program; if any difference does stand out it’s the Honors students’ higher propensity to complain vociferously about grades since, as so many of them have told me in no uncertain terms, they haven’t received lower than an A since that stupid math teacher in 7th grade failed to appreciate their sure brilliance and promise (typically evidenced by their eventual acceptance into the Honors Program). I mean, how arrogant (and delusional) does one have to be to claim as a freshman that one is “exceptional in their field?”
Second, the elitism that Arnold and Darwall admit exists but suggest should not be viewed pejoratively (I’m clearly not Honors material for I do not understand their argument about elitism; I tried thinking hard but my head began to ache) is a rejection of the University’s responsibility to foster “an intellectual and cultural community” for all its students, not just the “smart” ones. For the same reasons that I am a fervent supporter of the University’s affirmative action policies, I reject Arnold and Darwall’s claim that Honors students are those “ready, willing and able to take advantage” of an especially intensive intellectual experience.” If “serendipitous conversation” is conducive to learning, then all students should have “philosophy cafes” built that foster it. Isn’t that what it means to be a public university?