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Editor’s note: Commentary provides university faculty and staff an opportunity to express their opinions in The Miami University Report. Contributions should be no longer than 500-600 words in length and should be directed to Bill Houk (physics), email@example.com.
The Invisible Men and Women of Local 209
By Helaine Alessio, physical education, health and sport studies
At the opening ceremony of MacMillan Hall, several administrators made comments about the building’s history and future. For most of its existence, it served as an infirmary for sick students. Following renovations, MacMillan Hall now houses the Center for American and World Cultures and organizations that focus on diversity and tolerance. Over 85 percent of the people in attendance at the MacMillan Hall dedication were members and supporters of Local 209. The history of their work in the infirmary was never mentioned, nor was their presence at the ceremony acknowledged. The new building was described as being for faculty and students. Period. One would wonder why a building that houses organizations dedicated to celebrating and supporting diversity and world cultures would not be for all people, including those who clean it, serve food in it and assist in offices.
Flashbacks of Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man appeared in my mind as I perceived that the men and women of Local 209, who attended the ceremony, were not seen. They were invisible. When people feel as if they are not seen or heard, then frustrations mount. Throughout the ceremony there were many missed opportunities to extend some kind of acknowledgement and appreciation for past contributions by the men and women of Local 209, their presence in the room during the ceremony or a vision of a future that would include them as part of the mission of the building.
This is the time for university administrators to put faces on the men and women of local 209 — they should be easier to see now for they are the cleaning, kitchen and maintenance workers at Miami University with their heads held high.
Date Published: 10/16/2003