by Marti Epstein, Vice President, Full-Time Faculty
When we were graduate students at Boston University in the 1980’s, Rick Applin and I were roommates. Rick was also teaching at Berklee during this time and brought home lots of stories. In the fall of 1985, his stories started becoming more and more grim; it was looking like the faculty could not get the administration to consider reducing what was then an egregiously heavy workload. It also looked like the faculty efforts to be paid a living wage were not going to be effective without forming a union and going on strike. I remember very clearly Rick outlining just what it would mean to take such a drastic measure. People would be at risk of losing their jobs, and no one had any idea how long a strike could last, or if it would even have an impact on the Berklee administration. Finally, in the spring of 1986, the faculty voted overwhelmingly to take that drastic measure. Most of us know how that story turned out; we all owe the Berklee Faculty Union our gratitude for taking the ultimate risk so that we can earn decent wages with a more manageable workload.
I visited Rick on the picket line a few times- brought him coffee, kept him company. Those of us who had the great fortune to know him won’t be surprised to learn that, even in the most stressful and uncertain of situations, Rick was upbeat and cheerful. His job, just like everyone else’s, was in jeopardy. He was risking everything to help make the gig better- not just for him, but for everyone here. Rick was a constant presence on the negotiating teams for each subsequent bargain, and his role on those teams was indispensable. He was a tireless advocate for his colleagues, and he never thought only of himself. When I started teaching at Berklee in 1991, I expressed dismay to Rick about how poorly the part time faculty were treated. His response was to convince me to run for the Vice President of Part Time Faculty the next time Union Officer elections were held. I won the position and learned the negotiation ropes first hand from Rick.
As most of you know, Rick passed away in September 2015 after a long battle with cancer. I lost a dear friend, but the Berklee Faculty lost an impassioned member of the Union Executive Committee. Contract Negotiations are often contentious, and we often feel disrespected by the other side. When Rick spoke in bargaining sessions, however, management listened. It was clear to me that he was regarded by the management side with utmost respect. They always listened carefully to what he had to say, knowing that he always spoke rationally and without hyperbole. His presence on our committee, both in our weekly meetings and during contract negotiations, will be missed more than words can say.