At 3:50 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 11, two figures walked up the steps of Powell with a letter in hand addressed to President Connie Book: namely, the Rev. John Thornton and the Rev. Chris Agoranos, both religious leaders from Durham.
In their hands was a letter, signed by a total of 37 religious leaders, ranging from a rabbi to an imam to a pastor, in support of the non-tenure-track faculty trying to form a union on campus.
After dropping the letter off at the President’s office they walked over to Alamance and the Provost’s office to deliver the same letter.
“We see people's lives at the highest and lowest points. So when we see working people struggling with those things, we want to look at what we can do to help,” Thornton said. “We are not just supposed to help spiritually, not just in word but in deed, and so we think that supporting them organizing a union is one of the ways that we can help support them in their working lives.”
As their letter states, the pastors believe that Elon has been a leader in higher education in North Carolina and are urging Elon administration to continue being leaders in regard to this union.
“You can be a leader in higher education and still support unions forming among the faculties. It's about working together and choosing to do so,” Thornton said.
The union is not only about connections, though. They also exist to change the status quo.
“I think that forming unions is a way to challenge some hierarchies that not only keep us apart but also unequally distribute power,” Agoranos said.
The pastors want to raise the question within the university of whether or not they want continue being a leader in higher education.
“One of the questions I have for President Book and Provost House is do they want Elon to be a typical university when it comes to these elections or do want to be a leader and exceptional?” Thornton said. “If they want to be just like everyone else, keep putting up these roadblocks, but if they want to be exceptional they should back off and let the faculty decide for themselves.”