Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Furloughs and research

My colleague Véronique Maisier asked me to pass along this note she wrote in response to a letter on furloughs from the Dean's office.--Dave

Dear Administrator,

This letter is in response to your letter dated 4/13/2011 that you sent notifying me that you have designated 4 furlough days for me “pursuant to section 18.01 of the terms of the one-year contract-offer implemented by the Board of Trustees.”

Let me first point out that there is no such thing as a “contract-offer.” A contract is signed and agreed upon by all sides involved. Therefore the terms unilaterally imposed by the current Chancellor do not constitute a contract. Likewise, an offer cannot be imposed on the other side(s) otherwise, by definition, it is not an offer any longer but rather a decree. Hence the strange new word “contract-offer” means absolutely nothing but clearly indicates that the administration is at a loss to name its own creation.

Semantics aside, I am writing to let you know that even though your letter stated “you may not work during the period of the furlough days,” I do intend to work on these days. Three of the four days you have designated for me as furlough days are my research days. I will be conducting my research as usual on these days for the following reasons:

  • I am a researcher, research is what I do when I don’t teach.
  • I have research commitments that I intend to honor because not doing so would stain my name and the reputation of our university.
  • I have research deadlines that I intend to meet because not doing so would hurt my publication opportunities, and my career development.
  • I am co-editing a book with a colleague (from another university) who would not understand why I suddenly cannot work with her until May 13th. How would it look if I told her: “Sorry, I am not allowed to do research for a month”?

I consider SIUC to be a good research university. Our current Chancellor sent a message on April 12th complimenting all for their wonderful accomplishments in research and scholarly activities. I want to believe the Chancellor’s words were more than paying lip service. Yet, how is her message congruous with forbidding Faculty from working on research days? Has anyone calculated how many hours of research are going to be lost in the process?

It is vital for our university that the administration stops playing with words, and with people’s work and jobs. Let’s not invent entities such as “contract-offer,” or “chosen-imposed” furloughs days. Let’s not thank people for sacrifices they did not choose to make. Let’s just call the whole thing a pay cut and let people do their work. Despite the rhetorics, the plain and simple truth is that I will work on my furlough days because I have no choice.

Dr. Véronique Maisier
Associate Professor
Foreign Languages and Literatures

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