Interview with Paulette Feld, 04/29/2016

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
Sophia Willer, Interviewer | uwocs_Paulette_Feld_04292016.mp3
Campus Stories Oral History Project (UWO Audio Series 51) |

0:00

SW: To start off this interview, I'm going to say my name and your name and the date. It is Friday, April 29th, 2016 currently 2:35pm my name is Sophia Willer and I am interviewing Paulette Feld.

SW: Can you tell me a little bit about your childhood?

PF: I grew up, I'm the youngest in my family, I have three older sisters, my early years in Sheboygan WI on Lake Michigan, and lived in the same house the whole time. The first time I left was to come to school at Oshkosh. I've always felt it was a great childhood, it was a great place to grow up. Most of my 1:00family lived in Sheboygan, the typical 1950s 1960s childhood, we didn't move around or anything like that.

SW: Did you have any family outside of WI?

PF: I had an aunt and uncle who lived in Colorado, and then another aunt and uncle, their family, both of them were my father's sisters. My aunt's husband was in the military and so they moved around a lot, to places like Germany and Thailand and France. Even after they came back they settled down in Georgia and that's where my aunt still lives, she's the only aunt I still have.

SW: What can you tell me about your family? Your mom your dad? What were their morals, how did they raise you and your sisters?

PF: I was born when my mom was forty so she was older than most kids parents. I 2:00spent a lot of time with my older sisters, there is thirteen years between me and my oldest sister, in some ways my oldest sister was a second mom to me. I really looked up to her and followed a lot of things she did because when I got older I wanted to read the books she was reading. She would be reading Catcher in the Rye and I would want to read Catcher in the Rye. I might have been in 7th grade. She was a high school teacher and she also went to school here. I don't think that's why I came here but it's kind of ironic that we both ended up 3:00coming to school here. So my parents were older than most kids parents and even though I had an older sister and my two next sisters that I spent a lot of time with. My parents had a big impact on my life. My dad was an electrician, who served in World War II, but he didn't talk about that a lot. We knew it but he didn't talk about it a lot, many men who were in World War II didn't talk about it a lot. He was an electrician, he was involved in his union, I think that's where I got that part of it from. I can remember, he would get union stuff in the mail, I would read it and I would know what was going on. I would talk to him about it and he would talk to me about it, he didn't keep any of that kind of stuff a secret, he shared with me. My mom, until I was in junior high school, 4:00stayed at home and took care of us. She was involved in a lot of stuff, you know the normal things like girl scouts because there were four girls. Like my dad she also got involved in politics so from her example, I realized it ok to be involved in that kind of stuff, you know even woman of her generation. While my dad was away, she did work up until the time she had my oldest sister. Working was important for her. When I did start junior high school I didn't need to have someone there when I got home from school. She went back to work, she worked in a store and later worked at a bakery in our neighborhood. That was an important 5:00part of her life, it gave her identity and a career so to speak which was important to her. I think the value of working and doing a good job came from my parents and then the whole political background and caring how people are treated. Church was important too even though my dad was catholic and my mom Lutheran, she made sure we went to church and helped us learn what we needed to learn. It was a pretty good childhood. We didn't have a lot of money or anything like that but they made sure we had what we needed.

SW: So you went to church regularly, I assume, did you do anything else in the community?

PF: Besides being in girls scouts, I was also involved in band, in grades 6:00school, high school, that kind of thing. I was in band in school and there was also a band that kids could be in and we participated in parades in the summer, so I was in that. I was probably in that for six of seven years while I was in junior high school and high school. The band events in high school, concerts and that kind of thing. I was also involved in my student newspaper in high school, I wrote for that and those were the big things. Kids didn't do a lot with sports unless you did it in school and I wasn't big into sports, I mean besides goofing around in the yard, but not playing sports in school as part of any sports 7:00program in school.

SW: You said your parents were really big on morals and values, would you say education was also really important?

PF: It was important, they both really encouraged us to do well in school. My mother did go through high school. The high school classes she had concentrated on secretarial skills, she had secretarial skills and that kind of thing. Those were the kind of jobs she had until she was married and until my older sister was born. The classes she took in high school emphasize those classes. She always called it vocational school, she didn't call it high school but she completed all of that. My dad only went through 8th grade and a lot of that 8:00happened because they were in high school during the depression. For a lot of men it was important for them to go out and work and help their family. That's what happened to him. It was after he got out of World War II that he apprenticed and became an electrician, and developed those skills. Prior to that he worked in a lot of industrial jobs in the community. I know he worked at Kohler which is just outside Sheboygan which is where both my grandfathers worked. I know he worked other places too but I think his career really started after he got out of the army in World War II.

SW: When you do an apprenticeship, you don't have to go to college, correct?

PF: No, they teach you the skills you need to do the job that you're going to be 9:00doing and then you serve a number of years and you're working with somebody who's a master in that craft, in those skills, and he worked with them to learn various things. Further along the line he did work with other men and apprentices and he taught them what he knew. I think it was a great way to teach people skills. I have a friend whose son is working to become a plumber that way. It makes me feel good to know that still works for people.

SW: What about your mom? Did she get a college degree?

PF: No, neither one of them went to college. I'm trying to think back, if any of their siblings went did, most of them, the farthest they went was high school. 10:00At that point in time it was good. No, it didn't stop them from encouraging us. Three of the four of us did go to college. One of my sisters didn't but she started working right out of high school at a job that she kept. It was, she worked at an office, at a manufacturer in Sheboygan. She kept that until, she got laid off from that job. She decided right before she was going to start college that she didn't want, she could do as well with what she was doing without going to college. My oldest sister like I said was a high school teacher over in Kiel, which is just across the lake. My next oldest sister is the one 11:00that didn't go to college. My sister whose five years older than I am became a nurse. She went to Marian college. She just retired. We're all retired now, she just retired last year.

SW: So the same year as you?

PF: Just earlier in the year, yeah.

SW: So college for you, did you apply when you were a senior in high school? Did you apply to places outside of Wisconsin as well?

PF: No, I didn't. I graduated from high school when my next oldest sister was still in college. I didn't know what I wanted to do. Talking with my parents and looking at things, I thought it would make more sense just to go to the two year 12:00campus that's in Sheboygan. I went to UW Sheboygan for two years and during that time I did decide what I wanted to do and decided where I wanted to go. I decided to major in library science and at that point in time Oshkosh was the only campus that had library science as a major you could get a bachelor's degree in. Pretty much made the decision for me of where to go. I finished two years at Sheboygan and got an associate degree there which at that point in time, if you get an associate's degree it takes care of all your prerequisites.

SW: That's nice.

PF: When I came here, I just had to work on my major and minor classes, and I would take other classes--

SW: Minor?

13:00

PF: My minor was history, and I had taken history classes in Sheboygan and really enjoyed them. I thought well I've taken so many now I may as well make that my minor and it goes with library science. I pretty much concentrated on my library science stuff when I was here.

SW: Why did you choose library science?

PF: I got a job working in the library at UW Sheboygan and really enjoyed it. It sounds kind of cliche' but I liked reading. (Laughs) That's what everybody always says. Working in a library you get to do a lot of different things, actually meet a lot of different people. You know everybody has to come to the library sooner or later (laughs) you can't get out of it. I just realized it was more than just a quiet place you know where people could hide out, people who were shy, or you know didn't want to have to talk to people, which is one of the 14:00other things that you know was always like "if you work in the library you don't have to talk to people" which totally isn't true. I just thought that would be something I would enjoy doing. As I was at Sheboygan, like I said Oshkosh was the only Wisconsin school that offered that. Really it was not a common program for a bachelors, now if you're gonna go into library science you get a master's degree. That's why I came here.

SW: You have your bachelor's, correct?

PF: Right, I never got my master's degree.

SW: How was it working, well first off, why did you decide to come back, I know you kind of had that six month gap, did you apply anywhere else?

PF: I did. When I graduated in '79 I would apply for any job that was 15:00available. My bachelor's is in the college of letters and science, so I wasn't certified to work in a school. It was a slightly different program, you had to go through teaching you know education classes and stuff. So I went through the letters and science program which you could work at a public library or academic library. I would apply for whatever jobs were open during that summer and fall after that and realized to work at any UW school you had to take the state civil service test. So I did that I think late in the summer of '79. I had interviews, 16:00besides interviews at small public libraries all over the place. I also had interviews at UW Milwaukee, here, I'm trying to think if here were any other UW campuses [unclear]

SW: Madison? Did you apply at Madison?

PF: It's whatever jobs that would open up, with that civil service classification that I tested for. As jobs opened up I would apply for them, and you know you would get called in for an interview and that kind of thing. I think it might have just been that Milwaukee and Oshkosh might have been the only places that had openings during that period of time. I think I had two interviews for different jobs at Milwaukee and then probably late that year there were a couple jobs open here at Oshkosh and I started in February of 1980. 17:00It was probably, just a little over six months.

SW: So between the two you choose Oshkosh then?

PF: Well actually they choose me I wasn't offered any of the other jobs but I think it did help that I had, while I was at school here, I worked at the library and one of the. [Pause] I worked in [pause] there was a separate area for periodicals at that point in time, when we still had hard copies of magazines and that kind of thing. It was actually in the basement of the south side of Polk. I remember shortly after I started, because the person who was in charge of that area when I was working there as a student, is the person who was my supervisor and actually hired me. He said "well one of the big reasons you 18:00got the job was because we knew you could work with the people you worked with in that area" there were some issues in that area that I could deal with, I guess that helped. It was kind of nice to be able to come back and be familiar with the campus and it was just like "ok I'm back, I'm working" *laughs* it made it a lot easier. My friend, I still had friends who were in school. When I came back I stayed with some of them in their house that they were renting, before I found my apartment and that kind of thing. It made it a lot easier, transitioning from being a student to working, so it was nice.

SW: What kinds of, what were your I guess responsibilities for this job?

PF: When I started?

SW: Yes. What was your position as well?

PF: I was a library assistant, I think that's what the classification was back 19:00then and when I started I worked nights. I was in charge of circulation, the circulation desk at night. I also worked weekends, so I worked like three nights a week on Saturdays and Sundays at the circulation desk and also Halsey had a little resource center that had reserves and I worked there a couple nights a week too. That's what I started out doing. That job, Oshkosh was one of the first libraries in the UW system that had an automated system and whoever was in charge of circulation also had to deal with any problems with that. I had to 20:00learn how to do that which was something, I knew nothing about computers at that point in time, I mean this was 1980 things are just starting--

SW: So that's when you first started seeing computers?

PF: Right, and we just, we had a mainframe computer that was in the backroom in the library and then there were just terminals, we didn't have PCs that was a ways off. We had to troubleshoot if there was a problem with it, call the vendor and have them you know do whatever they told us to do to solve the problem, that kind of thing. That's how I got into what I was doing the rest of my time in the library, kind of evolved over the years.

SW: So, technical support?

PF: Right, that's what it became after a while. I started out just doing, I shouldn't say just doing, but working at the circulation desk and doing that as just a backup person. It was fortunate for me, I think that I fell into that job 21:00[unclear] something that I could continue to grow and do things that were interesting to me. I said over the years to people that I think what kept me from getting bored and in trouble or anything like that, was that my job evolved and there was always new things to learn. I think I was fortunate that I had a job like that.

SW: So, do you think it was [pause] because you had that introduction of the computer in 1980 and then obviously now you have stuff like the IPad and PC's like you mentioned, so what was that like, was it easier to work with technology?

PF: I think you had to be willing to you know go with the changes and be willing to change with whatever came. The change from just working with terminals, did specific things, and having things hooked up to the mainframe and moving from 22:00all of that to the internet, for some people that was a difficult transition, just understanding that was really a different world. To be able to be part of that was very interesting, I think it required me to probably put in a little bit more work to understand the changes and that kind of thing too, but I enjoyed it. It was ok. For some people it was very stressful.

SW: For some people, meaning your co-workers, what were your co-workers like?

PF: Some of them resisted it and for a long time they were allowed to resist it 23:00and their jobs would be you know made so that they didn't have to use a PC in their job. Not everybody had to right away. That was helpful too so people who weren't willing kind of got put in places they could still have a job and do whatever they had to, but eventually they did have to learn. That part of it wasn't so much my responsibility to teach them and make them do that but I still had to work with them and make sure their equipment was working and those kinds of things. My responsibility was more dealing with the equipment than teaching them what they had to do for their job.

SW: Did that change at all? Did you ever have to learn how to train someone too?

PF: I didn't [pause] because I wasn't [pause] generally librarians are the 24:00people who have master's degrees and they're the people who generally did the training and that kind of stuff, because of that, I didn't have to. I would do one on one and help people, if they thought there was something wrong with their computer and it turned out it was just something they were doing wrong as far as the program or something like that, I had to be able to know the difference between that kind of thing and help them if that's what it was. The actual teaching them how to use programs and that kind of thing on the outset, that wasn't a part of my responsibility, I had to know how to do things, you know I had to know how to do a lot more than most of the other people had to know because I had to know how it worked in various departments but I didn't have to train them.

SW: You also won some awards for this too?

PF: I did, I won an award [pause] because I was involved with some national 25:00library groups; The American Library Association and Library Paraprofessionals which is essentially what the folks in jobs like mine were. I won a national award with that, the Library Mosaics, which was a journal for Library Paraprofessionals, I got paraprofessional of the year award. I can't even remember what year it was, it was probably in the early 2000s or something. On campus I also got the outstanding performance award for classified staff.

SW: I read something about classified staff [pause] you were a part of the council for classified staff?

PF: When the classified staff advisory council started in 2001 I was part of 26:00the group that helped pull it together and what the responsibilities of that group was going to be, because at that point in time, the employee union, which I was also a part of still had a role on campus as far as representing employees. We still had a contract with the state of Wisconsin,

SW: So Wisconsin state employee union?

PF: Right, the Wisconsin state employee's union. The classified staff advisory committee, whatever that group did couldn't do anything that was the responsibility of the employee's union. It was important that both groups 27:00continued to be recognized and that they weren't stepping on each other's [pauses]

SW: Toes?

PF: Right, and doing things that the other group was doing. The reason I got involved with advisory council was because I had seen other campuses where those two groups were at each other all the time. One group of people didn't like the other group of people. That didn't make sense. That was shortly after Chancellor Wells came and he had pulled a number of people together to talk about this. [pause] She was the affirmative action director at that point, Beth Heuer was the administrative liaison and I started working with her a lot to make sure 28:00that the advisory council would be an effective group that would have a voice on campus because it did give the classified staff, the ability to be involved in things that they didn't have the chance to be involved in before, like search and screen committees, just being more visible than they were.

SW: So how does that benefit them? Can you clarify what exactly the classified staff does?

PF: Classified Staff, now they're called university staff are the people like [pauses] they were program assistant, like ADA's in departments, who are, who take care of the department's things you know

29:00

SW: Their department specifically?

PF: Right, they take care of the clerical and the secretarial work in the departments. The custodians are classified, the support staff in the library. That's probably the biggest group. Anybody who's not academic staff or faculty are probably university staff or classified staff. For a long time we didn't have a lot of ability to be involved in things on campus, like committees, search and screen groups that kind of thing. The answer that was always given to us was "well you have a contract, you're a union employee so you don't need to be involved with those things on campus." We didn't really have that much to do 30:00with the chancellor or administration of the university and it put the employees at a disadvantage at least I thought because you would come to work and see all these things going on around you but you had no part in what was happening.

SW: So you just wanted a voice?

PF: A voice to be able to say "hey we care about these things too" a lot of the problem was people felt like they were just part of the wood-work and they weren't valued as part of the university and the whole group that was involved in that just wanted to make people have the ability to be involved in things if they wanted to be. Let's say a new dean was being chosen and there's a search 31:00and screen committee and people from all over campus are involved in it but...

SW: Besides the classified staff?

PF: At that point in time classified staff wouldn't be involved in it. Even if you worked for that person you had no ability to be involved...

SW: That's frustrating

PF: You're right, it is frustrating. Actually some departments did allow it but they were few and far between.

SW: So then search and screen, I'm assuming means, looking at the background of this person, are they qualified?

PF: Right, looking at candidates for jobs being involved in the interviews, that kind of thing. For whatever reason the library was one of the places that did allow support staff people to be on search and screen. I knew it was a valuable thing and I wanted other people to have that ability, plus being involved in 32:00other committees on campus that students and faculty and academic staff were involved but we weren't.

SW: So then, you created this?

PF: I helped create, it wasn't my idea but when I heard the idea, I thought it was a good thing and I thought that it was a good thing to get involved in and make sure that it was done right.

SW: When did this--

PF: It was like in 2000 or 2001

SW: Ok, would you say it has come a long way since then?

PF: I think we were fortunate that ours had developed the way it did, in 2011, and 2012, after act 10 took a lot of the union's strength away, it was good that we were there where we were. We were one of the leaders of the UW campuses, to 33:00have this group that could function and keep things going and becoming an official governance group at that point in time. For some campuses it was like "what do we do?" Whereas we were ten years ahead of them, they had to form their group they had to write bi-laws, they had to do all kinds of things in a year that we had ten years to pull together. Yes, we had to make changes but there was some structure there.

SW: Can you explain to me [pauses] I don't understand it as well as you do but how does having a classified staff council benefit us, when the unions lost their power?

PF: I think if there wouldn't have been anything in place at all it would have 34:00been really chaotic. One of the things the council had to [pauses] and they're still working on is they had to develop policies, that were, in the past, part of our contract with the state of Wisconsin. When the contract went away, like a grievance procedure, somebody has a problem with their discipline for something, as an employee the contract covered all those things, without that contract there was no procedure for that. That was one of the policies that had to be developed. [pauses] Things like," what are the rules for calling in sick?" Do 35:00you have to call in? Can you email? All those things had to be figured out because thing were covered pretty specifically. Some group had to be there to start working on those things and that became the responsibility of the university classified staff council, because--.

SW: The union was no longer--?

PF: Well, we were still around but we didn't have a contract that stipulated those things anymore [unclear] control our hourly wages and that kind of thing. That's the biggest difference between the classified university staff and the faculty and academic staff. We are hourly employees and they are salaried employees. It makes a difference with how things are done.

36:00

SW: For the classified staff council, I know you were a part of that but I also know you are a member of the Wisconsin employees union. At one point you served as president.

PF: I was president of the Wisconsin State employed union up until last June.

SW: Last June? When did you begin?

PF: I started getting involved in that in probably around 1985. I became a member of the statewide executive board in 1995. I was secretary, I was vice president. In 2012 our president retired after act 10, so I became president. It was already after act 10 that I became president, so changes had already taken 37:00place. Up until last spring there were three councils for AFSCME which is our union in Wisconsin. Because of act 10 those three councils became one last spring, in June the Wisconsin state employees union essentially doesn't exist anymore. We became a part of AFSCME council, that covers all the members of that union in the state, that's people who work for cities and counties and now the state. I was president up until then. I'm still president of our local, on campus up until November when my term ends and if you're retired you can't 38:00continue. That's how that all evolved.

SW: I'm sorry, did you say AFSCME?

PF: American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees. AFSCME.

SW: I've seen that logo around. You were involved in the union, what was act 10 like for you?

PD: I think when the whole thing started, most people didn't know what was going to happen, how this was going to impact us. There were people who were worried about if we would still have jobs and what was that going to look like, with what was happening. That was probably the hardest thing to deal with. People 39:00were just worried about, "am I going to have a job next week?" I remember telling my supervisor at the time that I didn't like going outside of my office area or out on campus because somebody would always be stopping me and worrying. I ended up spending a lot of time talking to people during that time.

SW: Was that because you were in this--.

PD: Right, because they figured I knew what was happening and I think everybody just needed to talk. One of the things that surprised me so much was how people pulled together. I got to know people better on campus in different areas than I 40:00knew. That's when I got to know Jeff because even though he was an academic staff person they had the same concerns and issues. What was going to happen to all of us? It kind of proved that the bigger your group and the more organized you could get, then it's hopefully going to turn out better for you, I mean it didn't turn out better in the end but I think we did as much as we could to stop that. I think it was a scary time and it made people realize how quickly your life can change. For a lot of employees it meant a big change [pause] we started 41:00having to pay for things that we didn't have to pay for in the past. Paying more for insurance, paying more for pension. The way you would get compensated for your job changed. The likelihood of raises [pause] how were we going to get raises, that kind of thing, these were all questions people had. I think a lot of what's happening now is still dealing with the after effects of all of that. There was just so much uncertainty and we did whatever we could to try to pull together.

SW: I know you were involved in the protests because Dr. Pickron told me he had asked you to speak.

PF: Right, here?

42:00

SW: Here, here on campus.

PF: The first week when things were really ramping up, we had things going on on campus and there were things going on in Madison. This is something I've said to a lot of people [pause] is that people don't realize what was going on all over the state, on campuses, at worksites, that kind of thing. Probably late in the week, of the first week, we did have a rally on campus. I think it was a Thursday afternoon. A number of people spoke at that and I was one of them.

SW: How many people were there?

PF: It was a pretty good crowd. It was right in the middle of the mall, by the library, we were under the overhang, it was February but it

was really warm out that week--.

SW: Wisconsin.

PD: *laughs* yeah. I would say there were probably at least two hundred people 43:00if not more. I don't know if there's anything in advance titan's about it but there must be something from it. I did that, I also spoke on one of the first day down in Madison, in front of the crowd down there. Our union president didn't want to do it, so I had five minutes to put it together.

SW: At that point where you the Vice president?

PD: I was the Vice president. The president didn't want to do it. They were looking for somebody from our union to speak and I'm like "I guess so" so you're finding a piece of paper and scribbling down some thoughts and that kind of thing. That happened too. Ironically the day we had the rally here on campus was 44:00the afternoon that the democratic senators left. It happened while ours was going on. People were seeing it on their phones or getting calls from people that this was happening. We announced [unclear] and it went crazy. That's what I remember about that day. That's the day that they left.

SW: I was actually a freshman in high school at this point. Can you explain to me--I remember hearing about how the democrats left but I wasn't sure what that meant.

PD: What it meant was that the republicans didn't have enough votes to pass 45:00[pause] because of the rules in the state senate they had to have a certain number of senators present, not necessarily voting but present in the room because it was a fiscal bill. Once the democratic senators left, they didn't have the quorum that they needed to be able to hold the meeting and vote on any of the stuff. As long as they didn't have that quorum they couldn't have that meeting and that held things up for a few weeks. Probably what you heard a lot of was how it was impacting teachers. There were so many people this was impacting all over the state. A lot of people didn't understand, well "what did that mean?" "Why is that stopping this?" Understanding that and explaining it to people--

46:00

SW: It stopped it, were they obligated to come back?

PD: No, they didn't come back until after, finally they took what was considered the fiscal, the money part of the bill, out, so that they could vote on it without the quorum they needed. [unclear] question whether that was legal or not. It was a mess. They took the vote and passed it and it was able to move along. After that fourteen came back.

SW: There were protests going on in Madison, I knew about that, I didn't think they would have that on other UW campuses. Do you know if it happened on other campuses besides Oshkosh?

PF: It did. Being involved, I have friends who worked on other campuses [pause] 47:00Madison obviously had them but Milwaukee had things going on too. I would say the majority of the campuses had similar events that happened during that time. Maybe not as early as our but they did.

SW: Ok, so obviously it passed but then there was a recall effort for Walker. How were you involved in that recall?

PF: I was involved in both. There were also the senate recalls. The senator for this area [pause] we did a recall for that too, so I was involved with that, it happened first. It happened the summer right after act 10 was passed.

SW: Are we talking republican senators?

PF: Our state senator in this area at that time was a republican. We did a 48:00recall petition to recall, his name was Randy Hopper and then Jess King ran against him in the recall election. Jess had actually ran against him for senator in 2008 and lost by just a couple hundred votes. It was really close, sadly close. She ran again against him and she beat him and was senator for less than two years. I was involved in that recall, doing the petitions and that kind of thing. That election was held in August of 2011 and then that November I 49:00believe the recall started for Walker. I was involved for that the same way [pause] we had to collect enough signatures to do that and the whole election process of knocking on people's doors. I was involved with both of those things. Throughout that time there would be rally's in Madison. It was a time that really consumed your life. It was hard to think of other things besides work.

SW: I'm just curious because I'm from Madison. Coming to Oshkosh, I felt it was different because Madison, in my view is more liberal than Oshkosh. What was it like knocking on people's doors?

PF: I think it was the whole atmosphere at the time. There were people who 50:00understood how important this was and there were other people who didn't understand it, you know so they didn't understand what the issues were and then there were people who were like "yeah you all deserve this because you were getting all this stuff"

SW: Do you think one was more prevalent than the other?

PF: In Oshkosh actually, I think people are more a little bit more liberal than in other places. I know people who had interactions with people when they were trying to get signatures. I never experienced anything like that, maybe I didn't put myself out there like other people did, like standing out in the street. 51:00[Unclear] It didn't make any difference it was a state-wide thing so you could get whoever you wanted to, so family--. I guess throughout all this, I was fortunate is that the neighborhood I live in and my family were supportive because they saw things. My sister being a teacher understood what the impacts on teachers was, that was helpful. I never experienced that like other people were, if they talked about it amongst family they would fight with each other about it, but I heard a lot of that from friends. We have a lot of retired union people in the neighborhood I live in and so they were very supportive and 52:00understood. I definitely think there were divisions in Oshkosh and you can still talk to people about it. If something like that would have happened twenty years ago, it would have been a completely different experience because Oshkosh used to be a lot more conservative than it is now, believe it or not. Even when I was in school here there was a lot of animosity between the people who lived in 53:00Oshkosh and the students on campus. When I was in school, near Becketts that used to be a mall, with stores and stuff, like Yonkers. Students would walk there, it as easy to walk to. If you were a student you go treated differently than the townspeople, going out any place besides here there was a difference. I think if something like that had happened then verses five years ago, I think we would have had different experiences. Oshkosh also has a pretty high percentage of people who work for the state of Wisconsin because of the prison here and also Winnebago and the university so there was a big group of people that this 54:00was impacting in 2011. I think that made it a little more similar to Madison than other communities where there might have been only a UW campus or something like that.

SW: I guess in the aftermath of act 10, what did the union do?

PF: For a while it was hard to understand, what was our role going to be. Leadership people needed to figure that out, so that we could share that with members. There are things we can still do, it's not what you're used to doing. That was very difficult [pause] even once we understood it [pause] it's difficult today to communicate that with members or potential members because 55:00[pause] before act 10 people just paid dues and we represented them. After act 10 they didn't have to pay dues [pause] unfortunately what happened also impacted the amount of money they took home in their check [pause] you know having to pay thirty dollars a month [pause] you know I can use that money for something else, I'm not going to use it on union dues because I don't see what they can do for us. We had to go from being an organization that represented people when they got in trouble or had questions or something like that to an organization that has to prove that we are still needed to our potential members 56:00[pause] and show that there's things that we can still do to help therm. That's the big dilemma even now.

SW: Can I ask-- What is it that you can still do? What is still within your power?

PF: Rights through federal laws [unclear] union members can still have a representative there when they are being disciplined, there's those kind of things. We can represent them through the grievance process that the university staff council developed. We can still represent them and help them put together their argument. We can--.

SW: A grievance is just--.

PF: If they are being disciplined, or something's happened [pause] if they think 57:00some kind of rule wasn't applied equally to them as someone else, those kind of things. There's no doubt that it's not as much as we could do in the past. Advocating for them, we have representatives on the staff council, who I think, from their experience being a part of the union understand some things better than people who weren't. That still exist, if I sit in a staff council meeting [pause] two or three years ago I could tell [pause] the people who were involved in the union verses those who weren't because they had different skills that 58:00they had learned [pause] than the others [unclear] their leadership skills or just ways to [unclear] being able to understand how meetings are run all those kind of things makes a big difference. There's no doubt that it's a tough time for public employees to try to have our union and be part of a union.

SW: Do you ever think [pause] is it possible the union will have the power that it had?

PF: I think that [pauses] I don't know if it will ever be the same. I think [unclear] if the political winds blow right in the next decade, I think things could be reversed [pause] to be back to the way they were I think it would take 59:00a long time and it probably wouldn't be the same. I think just because we're talking different times and different philosophies about things. I hope people do realize sooner or later that there is a value to it.

SW: It astounds me how fast something can come crumbling down and how longer it can take----

PF: I think it's going to take a long time to undo a lot of the things that happened in the past five years and it's not just unions, I think it's a lot of things in the state.

SW: I meant to touch on college, like your actual college experience here. You 60:00were here for [pause] you transferred from Sheboygan

PF: And so I was here for two years.

SW: Two years. So how was that experience for you?

PF: I went from living at home to being on my own. I think because I was a junior it was a different experience than someone coming in as a freshman. I lived in the dorm for one year and then I lived off campus my second year. I think [pauses] living in a dorm was a good thing. I wouldn't have had to when I was a junior but I think it was a good thing for me to get to know campus. One of the drawbacks was [pause] because I was a junior, I didn't get as involved on 61:00campus as I probably would have gotten involved had I been here for four years. By then I was like ok this is what I have to do these are the classes I have to take. I didn't really have a lot of desire or reason to get involved with any organizations on campus. As I think back I don't know if that was as important to a lot of people as it is now, you know having something that you get involved in. I wasn't a part of any groups or anything when I was in college...

SW: Until you became...

PF: Right, and then I became an employee and found myself then and got involved. There were things I was interested in and those kind of things then but I didn't 62:00take the step to get involved in them here. Although when I was a senior I was involved with a political campaign that took place [unclear] the US representative for the area passed away unexpectedly in office so there was a special election and it was during the winter, so I got involved in one of those campaigns. I probably shouldn't say I didn't do anything but that was the biggest thing that I can remember now. I think because I was a junior being away from home at that point it was an easier transition. I was ready for it for sure.

63:00

SW: By involved in that campaign [pause] did you mean [pause] like helping get the word out--..?

PF: Yes, working in the campaign office and that kind of stuff too. I think the timing of it [pause] it was during winter interim in January and I didn't take a class so I had time to do it. So I did get involved. The candidate I was working for didn't make it through the primaries, so it didn't carry through.

SW: It was still a good experience.

PF: Yeah, it was.

SW: Back then compared to now because it was thirty five years ago, would you say campus is different organization wise? I feel there might be more organizations and clubs on campus.

PF: Oh, I think there's more things for students to get involved in, its 64:00definitely more important to the students, [unclear] I see more interest that students have getting involved on campus, whether it's a social thing or it's [unclear] any kind of organization, that's something that's changed a lot. One reason why things are different is [pause] when I was in college the drinking age was 18 so that made a big difference in what people thought about. It was easy, everybody could go to bars and that kind of thing. I'm thinking maybe that had an impact on people and what they did during college. That was also when 65:00Oshkosh had a reputation for that stuff.

SW: What about campus life in general?

PF: Campus life in general? What I was thinking about is how campus has changed since then as far as appearance. It was, I would say [unclear] this campus looks so different than it did back then. There's building that weren't around obviously but the appearance, the way things are taken care of, the gardens and the flowers, a lot of that wasn't around.

SW: Beautiful.

PF: All that down the mall, wasn't there. In that area of the mall [pause] it's around Halsey, there's a green space with trees, there were mounds there that 66:00they had built. It was weird. All that was down that mall besides trees were the mounds.

SW: Now I'm curious, we have a reputation as a green university, when did that become a thing?

PF: Probably within the last decade or so, before that it wasn't our thing. In the 70s those things were important to people but sustainability [unclear] talked about academically or as part of the universities vision or anything like that, just those kinds of things [pause] the idea that that's what we care about 67:00here [unclear] it wasn't things that people talked about when I was a student.

SW: I guess [pause] my last question also deals with [pause] what about majors and coursework? Do you think there are more courses to choose from?

PF: I don't know if there's [pause] I mean I think the majors that are offered and the things that students can do as part of their majors [pause] I think there's a lot more ability to do what interests you rather than just the courses you have to take to get your diploma. That has changed. I think that [pause] I see things and I'm like "man if that had been around when I was in school that 68:00would have been great to be able to take those classes." A lot of the classes having to do with sustainability [pause] just being able to take something and understand it, I think [pause] USP, getting involved in the community, if that would have been around it would have made a big difference and a lot of people [pause] caring about more than just going to school and where I'm going out to drink tonight.

SW: Different? How so?

PF: Getting involved in the community [pause] getting the students out to meet 69:00the people who live here, I think might have made a difference sooner then [pause] things started changing here before USP went in but I think those changes had to be made before USP could work. I do think [pause] we have [pause] students have the opportunity to get involved with a variety of things [pause] maybe there's just more to get involved in, I don't know [pause] just being encouraged to be involved is important.

SW: The era of information.

PF: Right, that makes a difference too you know just how much is available I said I worked in periodicals and most of what undergraduates [unclear] you would 70:00be doing research, you would just use what was available here and now the whole world is available. It's cool to think [pause] you know how much more would I have been able to find out about if that would have been--. It's kind of neat having seen that happen and have been part of it.

SW: Ok, I lied, I do have one more question. What made you stay? You were here for 35 years, did you ever consider leaving?

PF: Well, I didn't think I'd be here that long. I actually thought I would go to get my master's degree in library science because it would give me the ability to go other places but as I started looking into that [pause] first of all I would have to get a job and start over. After ten years you've earned more 71:00vacation, you've worked your way to certain things, you had a certain [pause] by that time I was doing things I was really interested in what I was doing. I asked UW Milwaukee about one of their programs for a masters in library science and found that I would have to take a whole bunch of classes over again that I had already taken. I thought that was crazy, and I though "why should I do that?" A lot of things just worked and I thought I'm just going to stay [pause] once you get to a certain point you're like "why would I go?" *laughs* even 72:00though there were times I would be frustrated with work, for the most part I enjoyed what I was doing and [pause] I just stayed. I probably would have stayed a bit longer but with the buyouts [pause] I also looked at it as [unclear] last year when all of this started coming down, I thought "if I stay is somebody else going to lose your job?" when I could retire and have my full benefits and that kind of thing. There was no reason for me not to do it other than not wanting to quit work. It was [pause] it was sooner than I expected but it wasn't a tough decision to make [pause] but I didn't leave hating the place, sometimes people do, so I feel good about that.

73:00

PF: Got it?

SW: I think [pause] do you think we have it all?

PF: It's up to you, but if you think of anything that you want to ask me afterwards just

SW: I will email you

PF: Email me whatever, yeah.

Search This Transcript
Search Clear