Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Where the money goes

A job posting sent my way by a reader has goaded me into commenting on one of the disagreements between the unions and the Chancellor. One of the lies spread by the unions, according to the Chancellor, is that SIUC has the money to pay its employees what it said it would pay them, despite the Chancellor's insistence on the contrary. We're implying, she says, that she's got a big sack of money hidden somewhere in her office, and is inflicting pain just for laughs.

I'm not going to go into the details about the budget surplus here: those interested can consult my masterpiece on the topic. Here's the basic disagreement, to my mind:

The Chancellor puts a lower priority on paying current faculty and staff their full salaries than on other campus needs

For all those "achievements" she outlined in her talk at the Town Hall Meeting--reducing the backlog of deferred maintenance, improving our distance learning efforts, better marketing and recruitment--they all cost money.

Here's one such item.  SIUC is now hiring seven new coordinators to assist in recruiting transfer students from community colleges. (It's apparently seven openings: the language of the ad is confusing, as it first says that SIUC is conducting a "regional search for two Service Center Coordinators", then immediately says that "Seven positions are to be hired for the following locations"--seven area community colleges.)  The average salary of these folks is to be about $33,000, so if SIUC really hires seven of them, that would be an expenditure of $231,000, which isn't trump change.  The position is PVC-97-PN, and it should be listed fairly soon here: http://affact.siuc.edu/ap.html.  [The ad is now posted, and clearly calls for seven positions--ed.]

Two or even seven such positions may be a wise investment. And perhaps some of those hired will be current SIUC workers who change jobs. One wonders, though, whether it may not have been possible to reassign current SIUC staff to these duties; whether these new (non-union) AP positions will replace (unionized) civil service positions on campus; whether this sort of hiring contributes to the bloat in administrative support staff the FA and others pointed out this fall (see pages 5 and following of the first FA White Paper)

I was going to say that it is conceivable that hiring new people to play a vital role in recruiting may be so important that it could justify furloughing current employees. But I don't think that that's the case. I think it would be far better for SIUC to reorganize and reassign current staff, and perhaps even call upon staff to add to their current duties, rather than to make new hires for new priorities while cutting the salaries of current staff. 

Imagine how much better morale would be on campus were the Chancellor working with current faculty and staff to meet our challenges, rather than cutting their pay and hiring new people in new positions. I think staff would have responded far better to a call to shift assignments and take on additional responsibilities for their current wages rather than being ordered to do the current amount of work for less pay via the furlough days scheme. 

One other proof that the furloughs aren't simply devoted to preventing layoffs is the fact that the Chancellor has been unwilling to trade furloughs for job security. If the Chancellor said there would be no new positions created, or any layoffs, in a year in which furlough days were required, she'd put herself in a far better bargaining position. But she'd also lose "flexibility", a.k.a. power. 

So I don't think the Chancellor has a big bag of cash in her office.  I do think--after too many hours spent studying the budget--that things weren't so dire that taking back money from staff was our only option. SIUC took in $15.8 million more than it spent last year. Furlough days were a decision, not a necessity. The money saved by furloughs is being spent on other priorities.


  1. I think these positions typify the expansion of the academic bureaucracy. The job is to help CC students navigate the transfer process. Of course the CCs have people who do this, but we want the students to come here. Some other colleges are starting to do this - opening service centers to recruit students at CCs. The competition forces use to do the same. Maybe the only solution is to get the IBEH to ban the practice or get all Illinois 4-year colleges to agree not to do this.


  2. asking current staff to add to their duties? I don't think so! If a civil service union member were asked to add duties to their job, there would be outrage. I support the union here, but "walk the walk people!


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