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Furloughs and Privilege

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Furlough days at Oregon State University plus privilege by Robert P Garrett

It was almost two weeks ago when the Oregon State University faculty senate voted for furloughs for all faculty (grant-supported salary is exempt) in 2010. It should be noted that the Oregon State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors “came out in support of furloughs provided that a number of important principles be included in the resolution.” I agree with the OSU AAUP’s suggestions. The top income tiers for furloughs need to be modified so that people who make more than $14,000 per month take more furlough days. If you make $168,000 pre-tax, I think you can handle a bit more of a cut. If you can’t make ends meet, then perhaps you should hire me to manage your finances.

Speaking of privilege…OSU Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship, Robert P. Garrett, decided that the best way to address the furlough situation was to attack Oregon State’s multicultural support programs via a letter in the Corvallis Gazette-Times. According to “Bobby,” OSU’s programs that support underrepresented and/or historically marginalized groups represent a redundant financial burden on our predominantly white campus. In summary, a white male professor on a mostly white campus says that there are just too many campus groups that support women, people of color, and LGBT folks. I wonder how many groups/organizations/offices at OSU are made up of a majority of straight white men. Anecdotally, I would offer that there are a lot…more in fact, than the “redundant” orgs of which Robert writes.

Here are few of the choicest bits from Robert P. Garrett’s letter with a few added thoughts from yours truly:

The biggest failure is the lack of thought that went into redundant university organizations.

I would suggest that a significant lack of thought went into Robert’s letter.

I attended a faculty meeting Friday afternoon where representatives of WAGE (Women’s Advancement and Gender Equity) advertised their mission while twice explaining how they are not redundant to affirmative action or the Women’s Center (if you have to explain how you are not redundant, you probably are!)

The folks at WAGE have to explain their mission because you most likely had no idea about what they do…because as a man on OSU’s campus, you never have to really think about gender equity. If Robert had done his homework as opposed to purchasing outdated discriminatory Cliff notes, he would have realized that WAGE, the Women’s Center and the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity all offer unique services, resources and outreach to the OSU community.

This led me to research and learn that OSU sponsors at least five different women’s groups, at least three gay organizations, at least three African-American groups, and many other similar organizations.

Why did it take the implementation of furloughs to get you to find out about OSU’s multicultural resources? Your lack of knowledge about the “many other similar organizations” as you put it is quite telling. You didn’t have to know about resources for underrepresented/marginalized groups because as a person of immense privilege, you didn’t have to..until you needed a set of scapegoats to buttress your illogical and false statements.

Now, I am not arguing that the missions of these organizations are unimportant. I, in fact, believe they are very important. But do we need multiple organizations pursuing the same mission, or are are we being railroaded because no one wants to say, “We don’t need that group; we already have one.”

I love it when someone says one thing and then says something in direct opposition to what they just said. Who exactly is it that is being “railroaded”? Is there some sort of quota for groups/organizations that support women, people of color, and LGBT folks? In answer to your question about needing multiple groups to support the “same mission,” I would say that yes, we need several groups at OSU to support social justice.

We are so afraid of being labeled “anti-” or “-phobic” that we won’t say no to unnecessary bureaucratic expansion.

I think that you are afraid of being labeled “anti-” or “phobic” because you probably are. Since when do we leave it up to white men to decide on what gets to be expanded? Because if I think of almost any historical reference where white men have been the sole decision makers, then women, people of color and LGBT folks usually get a raw deal.

So, I just took a pay cut in order to pay for dozens of redundant organizations. These organizations have a total budget far in excess of any savings generated by a faculty pay cut. Let’s make meaningful cuts rather than shortsighted symbolic gestures.

Robert P. Garrett
Asst. Prof. of Entrepreneurship
Oregon State University

The interesting part of Robert’s “pay cut” is that a lot of the organizations that support marginalized populations at OSU are funded by student fees. The funding streams that pay Robert P. Garrett’s salary are not even connected to a huge portion of the funding pools that pay for the organizations that he labels as “redundant.”

It should be noted that a few days after Robert’s letter was published, an “apology” was posted on the Gazette-Times. It should also be noted that Robert gave a non-apology apology:

Was I ignorant? – probably. But that is not mutually exclusive of moving forward with an open mind, and I will try to self-examine and become a better, nicer person. It is my hope that I may also be perceived as a good person who used poor judgment. I sincerely apologize for that poor decision made emotionally with no regard for rational thought.

Robert is apologizing for his poor decision making while under duress which apparently brought out his anti-/-phobic thoughts. He’s not apologizing for upsetting the OSU community. I would contend that Robert was more than “probably” ignorant. His “poor judgment” rationale, and need to be perceived as a “nicer person,” reads as a plea to save his reputation at OSU, not as a sincere apology. I hope that Robert P. Garrett is being sincere when he says that he will “try to self-examine.”

  • Reid Parham

    The College of Business does not do well with systems of oppression, but they sure love to put photos of (Black) atheletes and women (doing manly things) in their marketing materials. Their administration condones zero-pay internships (and welcomes their purveyors as guest lecturers), insisting that the free market and supply/demand might even make it necessary, despite potential barriers to low-income students. Garrett’s misunderstanding of others seems entrenched in his College—a situation where ideas of “one group devoted to cause X is sufficient.”

    While I agree that hard work brings reward, the business academics don’t seem to include systemic ills in their worldviews.

  • http://rhetoricalwasteland.wordpress.com Dennis

    Minor point – his piece was not an editorial, but a letter to the editor. An editorial is something that represents the official view of the newspaper or it’s editorial board.

  • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

    @Dennis – good point! [now corrected]

  • Erin

    Wow. Makes me want to email Bobby and tell him my thoughts.

    Since I’m not on campus, Eric, can you tell me what’s happened since? Has there been any public dialogue?

  • Pingback: OSU furlough details » Eric Stoller’s Blog

  • http://ericstoller.com/blog/ Eric Stoller

    I have not heard anything more about Robert P. Garrett’s letter to the editor. I initially found out about the letter via a listserv…

    Winter term starts on January 4th, I doubt that anything else will occur regarding Mr. Garrett’s ill-informed letter.

  • j.a.m.

    Dr. Garrett made an excellent point the first time, and it is absolutely shameful if he was coerced into issuing an “apology” because our universities have been turned into Stalinist gulags.

    Those idiotic anti-intellectual p.c. victimization campaigns have no business diverting resources from serious academic endeavors. These are funds that come ultimately from hardworking parents who sacrifice to try to provide their little darlings a serious education. Do your idiotic politics on your own dime.

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