Dear Fellow Faculty, Staff, and Students,
It is with great sorrow and outrage that we write to you this morning. For those of you who may not yet know, on Thursday, April 20, The Olympian ran an article on the results of the regular faculty election that was held the week of April 10-14 to decide whether the regular faculty and librarians of Saint Martin’s University were in favor of forming a union outside of the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board. This election was conducted by BallotPoint, a neutral non-governmental election services provider, and of the 80% of eligible faculty and librarians who participated in the election, 72% voted in favor of forming a union.
In response to the election, The Olympian article quotes Genevieve Chan, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Saint Martin’s: “Chan said university officials were ‘saddened to learn that SEIU unilaterally decided to hold a secret election during Holy Week, one of the most sacred periods of the Catholic religious calendar.’” We are outraged by this characterization of the election on three counts.
First, SEIU did not “unilaterally decide” to hold the election; this was a unanimous decision by members of the Organizing Committee of the Saint Martin’s union, which is entirely composed of Saint Martin’s faculty. We decided to hold the election in order to give voice to the overwhelming majority of faculty who have signed union cards, and obviously the results now speak for themselves. We have a union and are asking the administration to come to the bargaining table.
Second, the election was not held in “secret.” On Monday, April 10, a faculty and student delegation delivered a letter to President Heynderickx to notify him that the election was taking place. All eligible faculty and librarians received emails from BallotPoint with instructions on how to cast their votes electronically. The decision to use this electronic election service was motivated primarily by our firm commitment to safeguarding the privacy, security, and independence of every single voter. A faculty union is nothing if not democratic, and we stand together for increased transparency, public dialogue, and professionalism against the administration’s continued obfuscation, suppression, and pettiness, of which Ms. Chan’s recent comments are yet another example.
Third, we, as faculty and librarians who are faithful members of the Catholic Church and other Christian denominations and religious traditions, are particularly grieved by University officials’ insinuation that holding an election during Holy Week was an act of sacrilege. Within our faith traditions, this is the most defamatory claim that a co-religionist can make against another. Given our steadfast commitments to our faith traditions, we take this claim very seriously and, thus, refuse to allow it to go unanswered.
We find it deeply ironic that University officials would single out the faculty union election as a violation of the observance of Holy Week when other activities that took place on campus that week were not. Depending on your definition of sacrilege, the Saint Martin’s baseball and softball games that were played during the very time when the Liturgy of the Lord’s Passion was held in the Abbey Church on Good Friday could be viewed as sacrilegious. The fact that University officials allowed these games to be scheduled and played suggests that their definition of sacrilege is dictated by their desire to further denigrate and discredit the Saint Martin’s faculty and librarians, not their pious principles. Because they are opposed to the unionization of faculty, it is all too convenient for them to cast any activity related to these efforts that takes place on a holy day as sacrilegious. This indicates that it is in fact University officials who are intent on exploiting the genuine faith of faculty, staff, and students for their own cynical purposes.
At the conclusion of his address to the faithful gathered for the Via crucis at the Colosseum in Rome on the evening of Good Friday, Pope Francis warned against manipulating the meaning of Christ’s death for selfish and oppressive ends. He prayed: “O Christ! We ask you to teach us never to be ashamed of your Cross, not to exploit it but to honor and worship it, because with it You have shown us the horror of our sins, the greatness of your love, the injustice of our decisions and the power of Your mercy.” We are saddened to hear that University officials are willing to exploit the Cross in order to preserve their power and privilege over their employees.
We believe that Holy Week commemorates the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, the Word made flesh. Though fully God, Jesus completely assumed and participated in everything that it means to be fully human, “even death on a cross,” as Saint Paul says in his letter to the Philippians (Phil 2.4). Yet Jesus suffered this ignominious death because of his unwavering commitment to remain in solidarity with the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the suffering, the ritually unclean, the marginalized, the oppressed, the imprisoned, and the despised. He was tried and executed as a political criminal, an insurrectionist against Roman occupation. Moreover, co-religionists condemned him as a blasphemer because he claimed to be the Son of God. All four gospels recall that Jesus was accused of sacrilege by members of his own faith community for breaking the Sabbath in order to feed the hungry and to heal the sick and the lame.
Pope Francis, in his homily on Palm Sunday, called us to “think of the slanders and insults, the snares and betrayals, the abandonment to an unjust judgment, the blows, the lashes and the crown of thorns… And lastly, the way of the cross leading to the crucifixion.” Though we think that the administration’s slanders against us are incorrect and unjust, we are honored to stand with One who was also so maligned.
As faculty of faith, we ask faculty, staff, and students to join us in calling for University officials to recant and retract their statement in The Olympian article and to recommit themselves to the social teachings of our shared tradition by recognizing the contingent and regular faculty unions.
Katie Ann-Marie Bugyis
Julia McCord Chavez
Sonia De La Cruz
Stephen X. Mead