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Education

Elmhurst College administration hears from clergy, adjunct faculty on union organizing issue

ELMHURST – A delegation of United Church of Christ clergy delivered a letter Dec. 5 to Elmhurst College President Troy VanAken's office.

The letter had been signed by 104 pastors from around the United States who support non-tenured faculty's ability to organize a union, which event organizers say the administration has been fighting, despite its connection with the United Church of Christ.

In the letter, clergy members expressed their "deep disappointment that Elmhurst College is seeking to use its affiliation with the Church to claim exemption from the oversight of the National Labor Relations Board in the efforts of its adjunct faculty to organize" and asked the administration to "find in the Church a partner for sharing in the struggle for justice and peace."

"We work continually with all of our employees to maintain a strong working environment for them so that we can offer the best learning environment for our students," college spokeswoman Desiree Chen said in a statement Dec. 6.

Twelve people had gathered at 2 p.m. Dec. 5 at the campus's Frick Center in support of non-tenured faculty, including Elmhurst College alumna Shelly Ruzicka, communications and development director for Arise Chicago, a workers' rights group.

"It's pretty disappointing for my alma mater to do things that are not in line with the teachings that I learned here," Ruzicka said in an interview before the event.

She added those teachings included "honoring all humanity," "dignity on the job" and "learning about the world around me."

Matilda Stubbs, an adjunct professor of sociology, and David McCurdy, an adjunct professor of religious studies and United Church of Christ clergyman, discussed their concerns about low pay for adjuncts and lack of office space.

"It's hypocritical...for the school to claim or use as a shield religious exemption claiming affiliation with a denomination that supports, clearly and for a long time, organizing," said the Rev. John Thomas, board member of Arise Chicago and former president of the United Church of Christ.

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