BY TAYLOR ROBINSON
After being the president of Washtenaw Community College’s Education Association Union for two years, Maryam Barrie decided to not run for reelection. When she originally took the position, she ran unopposed, after her predecessor Jennifer Baker stepped down because of the “strained” relationship with the administration, as cited in a previous Voice article.
“A very small part of what I have learned is that when I don’t handle stress well, my health gets challenging…Partly because of that, and because I know we have a more active and engaged membership and board now than we did two years ago, I am not running for reelection,” said Barrie in a letter addressed to the WCCEAU members.
In the letter, Barrie commended the faculty’s committment to the students and that it “will continue to be true.”
“Whatever the outcome of our upcoming election, I plan on continuing with my responsibilities through the end of the winter term, as long as that is what the next group of leaders wants.”
Running for the position were two members involved with the union: David Fitzpatrick, history instructor and chief negotiator for the board, and Michael Duff, an automotive instructor and 1st vice president of the board.
Fitzpatrick has been the chief negotiator for the board for more than 10 years. Speaking about Barrie’s, he referred to the two of them as “yin and yang.”
“I’m very hardlined…she’s softer around the edges. We’ve come at issues frequently, although not all the time, from different points of view and that’s a good thing so that you aren’t getting tunnel vision,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve very much enjoyed working with Mariam.”
In a discussion prior to the election, Fitzpatrick commented that one of the important aspects of having a faculty union is to continue a path where the communications are improved with the administration.
“We have an administration right now that for the last five years, have been disregarding the faculty, and only because of our resistance has it started to pay at least a little attention to us. And I think that path needs to be continued so that eventually, we begin to play the role we are supposed to,” Fitzpatrick said.
And now, Fitzpatrick will assume the new leadership position as president of the union as decided in their election on March 3, and will be able to help continue the path he speaks of.
“I look forward to working with President Bellanca to solve the problems that continue to roil the college, chief among them the development of a program by which all current full-time, adjunct and part-time faculty can be brought into compliance with the HLC qualification requirements,” said Fitzpatrick after becoming the new president.
Michael Duff has worked under Barrie for the last two years as vice president, and served as an area representative for the board for two years previously. He will continue to be a union member. Duff’s main concerns are focused on student success and retention, improving the communication with the administration, the upcoming millage restoration, among others.
“I thought we were at a spot where we weren’t really moving forward so I wanted to step forward and make a change, either that would be me, or somebody else.”
In response to Fitzpatrick receiving the position Duff commented that Fitzpatrick knows the history of the college and has been around for a long time. Duff added that he will face some tough issues and that as a group, he hopes they can be solved.
“Hope is not a strategy,” Duff said. “If you are hoping for things to change, it’s not going to change, so you need to do something to change it. Even if you find out that it failed, at least you know that it didn’t work and you can try something else.”