The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


OPINION: Students should be supporting the faculty’s unionizing efforts

Kyle Ferreira
A faculty union pin sits in the snow.

You may be under the impression that as the opinion editor of the Communiqué, someone who has frequently railed against Chatham University’s decisions in this very paper, that I dislike or even hate our University. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I write about the problems I see at our institution because I love this place more than anything, and I have the optimistic belief that our administration means the best and is truly trying to do right by us.

Right now, that optimism has been jumped, beaten and been left for dead. 

Chatham University’s President Rhonda Phillips sent an email to full-time and part-time faculty on Feb. 16 informing them that the University has declined the request of Chatham Faculty United, the faculty’s unionization effort, to recognize Chatham Faculty United as a collective bargaining unit. Now, the National Labor Relations Board will step in to determine whether Chatham Faculty United should be recognized. 

Chatham Faculty United formed in response to the University-wide reorganization, and more than 75% of the faculty have joined to support Chatham Faculty United. Faculty have dealt with their free bus passes being cut, changes to health insurance benefits and cuts to funding for conference travel. 

This was the administration’s chance to support the faculty after everything the University has put them through. 

Ultimately, what Chatham Faculty United is asking for is just a spot at the table. Chatham Faculty United’s website states that “Chatham has a long history of top-down decision-making that disempowers faculty and relies on input from a narrow group of actors. We believe a union contract that legally requires that faculty be treated as equal partners in the governance of the institution will lead to a stronger, healthier university.” 

The administration refusing to recognize Chatham Faculty United as a union is a disappointing, albeit unsurprising decision. 

And it is a completely selfish decision based in the University’s egocentric understanding of itself. Denying their right to collective bargaining is an egregious insult to the faculty’s work and suggests the University fails to recognize the importance that the faculty plays in this institution.

In denying Chatham Faculty United’s request of collective bargaining, the University has failed to realize the simple truth of Chatham: the faculty are Chatham University. This institution would be absolutely nothing without the faculty that makes it what it is. When the University considers cutting the laptop program, it’s the faculty who are on the line for redesigning their syllabi to accommodate all students. 

When the University cuts majors and programs, it’s the faculty who advise affected students. When prospective students visit campus, faculty members make connections and motivate them to join the Chatham community. 

And when the University doesn’t support the faculty, it’s our responsibility as students to support the people who have supported us. 

Oftentimes, I will end my pieces with something of an open letter to the administration urging them to do better, a gesture of good faith in their ability to do the right thing. I have lost that faith. 

Instead, I address this piece to the students of Chatham University. 

You may be angered, just as I have been, by many of the decisions made during the reorganization. You may have lost faith, just as I have, that the University will do right by its faculty. 

At this point, you may feel so dismayed at that state of Chatham that it feels pointless to do anything. But we have power. 

Every semester, our tuition helps fund this institution. We attend the classes that they advertise at admissions events. We do the work they flaunt in marketing materials. We are the customers, and we are the constituents. 

Unionization efforts rely on those in them and support from the community. Whether the National Labor Relations Board determines that Chatham Faculty United be recognized as a collective bargaining unit or not, the faculty will need our support when the administration attempts to make decisions that go against the best interest of its employees. 

The Chatham Student Government is holding a town hall from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on March 27 in Eddy Theater for students who have questions, comments or concerns about anything at Chatham. President Phillips will be in attendance. This is the perfect place to let our voices be heard and express our frustration at the University’s decision. 

As Chatham Faculty United continues its efforts to better the lives of faculty, we as students must be vocal supporters. These are the people who have written our recommendation letters, graded our work and supported us through our education. We need to show up for them like they have shown up for us. 

And if any of those behind the decision to not recognize the unionizing efforts are still reading this, I leave you with this message: you are not on the right side of our history. Pittsburgh has, and always will be, a union town.

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About the Contributors
Abigail Hakas
Abigail Hakas, Opinion Editor
Abigail Hakas ’25 is a Communications major with a concentration in journalism and a minor in African American Studies. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Abigail transferred to Chatham from the Community College of Allegheny County after three years of study. Abigail’s focuses are opinion pieces and informative stories on issues relating to inequity and social justice. Outside of journalism, Abigail has a passion for wrestling, video games and animals. Abigail can be reached at Abigail[email protected].
Kyle Ferreira
Kyle Ferreira, Contributing Writer
Kyle Ferreira 25' is a Media Arts major with a concentration in photography. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Kyle chose Chatham because it is a bastion of tranquility and natural beauty in the heart of the city, and because the size of the University lends itself to a more personal experience of higher education. An avid photographer, Kyle believes in the power of visual storytelling for documentary and journalistic endeavors. Kyle seeks to incorporate compelling visuals with the Communique's written stories. He considers photography and the visual arts to be an essential tool for capturing the attention of an audience and engaging them with stories. In his free time, Kyle enjoys exploring the city or hiking in the wilderness with his camera as his guide. His passion for photography motivates Kyle to perfect his craft, for there is always more to learn and new places to see.

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