The Faculty-Student Union, a group seeking to bring students and professors together in order to petition the UMW administration and the Board of Visitors, had their first two meetings back-to-back on Tuesday, April 6 and Wednesday April 7.
Eleven students attended the first meeting and seven students attended the second. Mike Isaacson, the student spearheading the union, said that although faculty was unable to attend the meetings, some faculty members have expressed interest.
Suzanne Sumner, professor of mathematics and president-elect of the Faculty Senate, addressed the formation of the Faculty-Student Union at the Faculty Senate meeting on Wednesday April 7.
Sumner also placed a letter from Isaacson at each faculty-senator’s desk, which explained the nature of Faculty-Student Union and welcomed feedback.
John Johnson, an adjunct instructor in the classics, philosophy and religion department, teaches the course in cultural activism from which the idea to form a Faculty-Student union sprung.
In an e-mail to Isaacson, Johnson encouraged the formation of such a union.
“I write to offer my support for your working group’s intention and effort to establish a Student-Faculty Union,” Johnson wrote. “This is a significant strategy to develop a much needed dialogue in place of the culture of silence that dominates relationships and to do so with issues of critical importance at UMW.”
Johnson was unable to attend the meetings, but sent his support.
When Isaacson spoke at the second meeting on Wednesday, he explained the reasoning behind establishing a Faculty-Student Union.
“Why are we here?” Isaacson asked. “My answer: we’re here out of love. We love the university, the faculty and staff. We love the community we have built and the community we can build.”
Isaacson then invited the students to propose a list of issues they wanted to see addressed. The attendees put together a long list of items they wished to discuss with faculty and bring to the attention of the administration and the Board of Visitors.
Some of the issues students raised included tuition rates, faculty and staff raises, the library budget, lack of cooperation between the Stafford and Fredericksburg campuses, greater class selection, offering a comprehensive event calendar, issues with Eagle Village and possible student representation on the BOV.
Freshman Haley Campbell was vocal about her concerns. She addressed budget issues, the need for more professors, and a possibly renovation for the library. Campbell expressed her hope that Mary Washington could rise to these and other challenges.
“One of the reasons I came here is because I felt like it has such huge potential,” Campbell said. “I feel like we could, if we have some successes, enact some long-term changes, not just for us, but for future generations.”
Junior Simran Kaur was concerned about the lack of the Student Government Association’s involvement in the Student-Faculty Union.
“I feel like the SGA should be here,” Kaur said. “It’s essential that they hear what these concerns are. I feel like I’m more likely to get something heard here than heard in SGA.”
Sophomore Nick DeSarno addressed his concern about the lack of faculty pay raises.
“I think the faculty here are deserving of a pay increase,” DeSarno said. “Three years without a pay increase, I would expect this room to be filled with faculty.”
Isaacson explained that the faculty and students are allies, not enemies, and often work to accomplish the same goals.
“There is a general consensus that faculty and staff are the enemy,” Isaacson said. “This mentality has stopped a lot of progress for both the students and the faculty.”