It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time again to call up Ruth Constantine (vice -president of  finance and administration) and Larry Hunt (executive director of human resources).  For more email templates and Constantine’s and Hunt’s phone numbers, check out the SSWWN Facebook page.

Ginetta Candelario, Smith alum and current associate professor of Sociology and Latin American and Latina/o Studies, was one of several faculty members/alums in attendence at the July 13th meeting between Smith administration and Local 211. The following is her report of the meeting.

Here’s my two cents on what I witnessed today:

I arrived 10 minutes late, worried that I would be interrupting negotiations in full swing. Instead, I found that half the conference table was occupied by a voluble, upbeat and friendly group of Smith Union 211 folks, while the side that should have been occupied by Smith administrators was empty. Surprised, I asked whether I’d gotten the meeting time wrong and was told that the meeting time was indeed at 2 p.m. but that the administrators had not arrived. Twenty minutes later, at 2:30, the administrators finally arrived, 30 minutes late and without a word of apology. I was struck by that lack of courtesy.

But even more striking was the palpable hostility, defensiveness and in some individual cases, anger, conveyed by the administrators immediately upon their arrival. After filing in and finally occupying the long empty seats, Larry Hunt opened by asking noting and questioning the presence of several new participants on the Union’s side (Elena Lavarreda ’08 and I). When informed that we were part of the committee and consultants to 211, Larry Hunt responded by saying that the administration would hear out the Union’s counter to last week’s offer but would not engage in conversation. Nearly every face before us seemed closed off and impassive (with one exception, who seemed somewhat embarrassed.) It was shocking to witness, and had I not seen and felt it myself, I wouldn’t have believed it.

But I did, and was deeply disturbed by how disrespectful the combined and cumulative effect of having been forced to wait without explanation, being confronted with such a negative vibe, and then being told that there would be no negotiation because the composition of the union committee was not to the administrators’ liking. With great aplomb, the Union’s attorney proceeded to respond as requested to the previous meetings’ issues and proposals. Along the way there was a bit of debate, often in the form of aggressive and hostile challenges on the part of the administrators, and calm and clear responses on the part of the Union negotiators, but all told the attorney’s presentation took about 20 minutes. At 2:55, Larry Hunt asked, “Is that it?” Bill responded “Yes,” and as one body they rose and filed out of the room.

I was stunned. I asked the Union folks if that was the end of the meeting, and was informed that it likely wasn’t, and that they would simply wait and see what would happen next, as it wasn’t uncommon for someone from the administration team to return to the room and re-engage. And sure enough, at 3:15, Larry Hunt and the College attorney returned and asked that we “put it writing” by listing a summary of the key points of disagreement remaining since they weren’t sure they had actually understood what those were following Bill’s presentation. That may have been because they were so busy being angry and defensive that they weren’t able to really hear him. In any case, with true grace and calm, the Union team complied and quickly compiled a list which they delivered to the administrators as they requested. Unfortunately, at that point I had to leave as it was now 3:30 and I had another commitment. I understand from another faculty member present that the Smith administrators did indeed return and with a much more “cordial” demeanor engaged in a discussion of the issues at hand. I am very happy to hear it. Nonetheless, I remain concerned by their earlier behavior and demeanor.

Through in the 26 years I’ve been dealing with Smith administrators (as a student from the class of 1990, an alum and a faculty member since 1998) I have seen some fairly angry and negative responses to student, alumnae and faculty questioning of College policy, practices, etc. Yet I have never witnessed anything quite as disrespectful and counterproductive as the first part of this meeting was. It was saddening and I felt embarrassed for and by the administrators, some of whom I personally know to be upstanding individuals. Yet it seems that this is demanded by their roles as representative of the administration’s current insistence on stripping away the dignity of the College’s most valuable resource — it’s workers at every “level” and the ethos we foster as key members of this community.

As I contemplated all the negative emotional energy and intellectual effort expended by the administrators in this meeting, I couldn’t help by note that it seems a disproportionately high institutional, individual and ethical cost to pay for what amounts to giving dedicated and critical members of the Smith workforce less than a cost of living increase, approximately $100,000 all told. That’s less than the salary of one average full professor or one of those very administrator’s at the table, who as individuals by definition do far less to contribute to this community than the collective workers of 211. That so much time and effort is being put into refusing to honor the work and contributions of 211 is embarrassing, disheartening and undeniably foolish. It would be so much better and productive in every way to just do the right thing. When, I wonder, will Smith finally learn this?

Ginetta E.B. Candelario ’90
Associate Professor, Sociology and Latin American & Latina/o Studies

Professor Candelario’s account only reinforces how important it is to call/write in and show support for Local 211. Again, for ways you can contribute, check out the SSWWN Facebook page here.