Dear Provost Robel,
We are writing to you in our capacity as IUB faculty members in regard to an IU system-wide strike currently being organized by students for April 11-12, 2013. As you might know, the students hope that the strike will focus attention on some crucial issues pertaining to rising student debt, wage inequality at the university, the ongoing privatization of university services, and the necessity for the university to pursue more aggressive diversity measures.
While we are sure that reactions to the proposed strike among faculty will range from robust support to outright condemnation—indeed, many of us do not want to see the teaching mission of the university disrupted—we would like to go on record as supporting the students’ right to protest. If the students do interrupt the usual functioning of the institution, their actions should be understood as being consistent with the best traditions of American democracy and student protest. Throughout the twentieth century, students have acted as the moral conscience of this country by drawing attention through civil disobedience to domestic and international injustices, ranging from the necessity of universalizing civil rights to divesting from South Africa to ending sweat shop labor. We need students to remind us of social injustice; such reminders often require dramatic challenges to institutional etiquette if only to jolt the rest of us out of our conventional responses to domestic and global crises. In the last few years, university students around the world have organized protests against rising tuition costs and austerity measures. Given our university’s recognition of the importance of international issues, we should be heartened by the interest exhibited by our students in these movements and the links they have forged with students in other countries.
Historically, the university has functioned as a primary site of debate and has been committed to the pursuit of knowledge motivated by humanitarian impulses. For these reasons, we urge the administration to start a dialogue with the students about their concerns: tuition and fee increases, the privatization and outsourcing of university services, the stagnation of staff salaries, the negative impact of HB 1402 and SB590 and the lack of racial diversity on campus. Such a dialogue can benefit the entire university community. In addition, we ask that the administration refrain from taking punitive measures against students for participating in the proposed strike.