Civil Discourse Now

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Mitch the ... makes Purdue clerical employees take a hit; hey, there's always Plasma Alliance.

   On March 1, 1980, I moved to Lafayette, Indiana. I obtained employment on the clerical staff at Purdue University, across the Wabash River from where I crashed on a friend’s couch. A few months later I moved to a basement apartment in the student ghetto. At 15 North Salisbury, I paid $112.50 for my half of the rent, and the price included all utilities and basic cable. I did not own a car. My job, in the Life Sciences Library, was a six-block walk from my residence. A grocery store (Smitty’s) was on the levee, about four blocks away. Between home and work were Harry’s and The Stabilizer. I did not need a car.  A car would have been an expensive luxury in my circumstances. If I traveled out of town for a weekend, I took either Amtrak, Greyhound, or rode with friends whose destination was the same.  I did not have a telephone. I could make calls from a pay phone or from work. If someone really wanted to talk with me all that much, the person could come over to my apartment.
   My job at Purdue was necessary for the way libraries functioned then. I checked out books for students, monitored overdue books, searched for items people could not find, and answered questions about the use of the library.
   I was surprised at how quickly I was hired.  I placed my application with Purdue’s hiring office (whatever it was called then) in the morning, interviewed with the libraries in the early afternoon, and was hired by later afternoon. My first official day of work—at a job not with a business owned by a member of my family—was March 17. The money I had in my pockets that day I had derived from sale of plasma at Plasma Alliance, also on the levee.
   As I later learned, Purdue had a labor pool that was limited. College graduates were relatively scarce in the area around West Laughalot.  
   For my work I received $3.95 per hour. The pay was booted up to $4.05 (as I recall) in July. In the fall, I received $4.35 per hour. My co-workers were married, had families, had lives outside of work. The library was open from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. Monday through Thursday (I cannot recall the hours on Friday), about the same on Saturday, and 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday. A full-time staff member had to be there until 8 p.m. on weekdays. The same was true for Sundays. I volunteered to do Sunday (full shift) and Monday through Thursday evenings.     
   Purdue’s pay was lousy, but (1) we had “flex-time,” which meant one had paid time-off for up to 15 days per year and (2) my cost of living was very low—$112.50 for rent and utilities, with cheap pizza at Garcia’s or in the Student Union.
   Since Mitch Daniels was designated by the Purdue University Board of Trustees, a great many of whom owe their appointments to that body to him, he has gained notice for austerity measures, the chief goal of which has been to stabilize students’ tuition.
   Anytime I see the former governor’s name in print, I shudder a bit. A lot of people lost pensions—pensions they had earned—because of him, before he was even governor. He was busted for selling acid (a/k/a LSD) while in undergrad at Princeton in the 1970s. How in the hell did he manage that? Somebody “narked” on a classmate at a private university—Ivy League at that—for dealing hallucinogenic drugs in the 1970s? That would seem to indicate classmates and former customers were not fond of Mitch.
   An item in the Indiana Law Blog caught my eyes this morning. The item quotes articles by Dave Bangert in The Lafayette Journal & Courier.  In one, a Purdue clerical employee is quoted: “Those on the bottom [of the 15,000 employees at Purdue] are feeling crushed. A number of clerical and service staff live below the 2015 federal poverty guidelines.”
   The upshot is Mitch is doing what he has grown accustomed to doing. In this instance, he has cut personal days available to employees, lined up health insurance policies that have higher deductibles, and ended the ability of employees to build up sick leave to cash out when those employees retire. When pensions are not offered to clerical staff, they make do where they can.
Veterinary teaching hospital administrator Mimi Arighi was quoted: “If our pay wasn’t top dollar we used to be able to say, ‘Hey, we have tremendous benefits.’” Now? “‘We’ll have tremendous problems recruiting.’”
   I do not see Purdue cutting some of the fat off two of its top salaries. The head football coach and the men’s basketball coach rake in a lot. About the time Purdue wins the NCAA ®—hell, even makes it to the Final Four ® as the Boilermakers have done twice (1969 and 1980)—the men’s basketball coach should receive the $2 mil the Indianapolis daily newspaper, on July 9, 2014, reported he was paid per year.  (What about the women’s basketball coach, a program that has won the NCAA®? The J & C reported on 5/24/14, Sharon Versyp would make just over $600K, after various perks.
   I had thought Purdue was a marvelous place to live and work, between college and whatever lay ahead. My co-workers needed those jobs. So do the people on staff there now. Too bad the members of the Purdue University Board of Trustees chose Mitch over all those other candidates with experience as university presidents. Oh wait—there was a reaon he was zipped to the front of the line.

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