Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hughes v. Cheng

Dueling emails this evening, as FA President Randy Hughes attempted to rally faculty for the demonstration tomorrow at 11-1 (at Grand Ave and Route 51), while the Chancellor attempts to rain on the union parade by pointing to the "false assumptions that appear to be held in some parts of a campus".

Hughes' email, which includes a report from the FA bargaining team, makes it clear that little progress has been made during the first bargaining sessions this fall. In addition to the perennial issues of tenure and furloughs, there is a cluster of issues about distance learning. While the administration has made a positive step by moving control over distance education from continuing education to academic units, it appears to be insisting on the right to require individual faculty members to teach distance learning courses, to outsource distance learning work to other institutions, and to not include distance learning students when calculating the student/Faculty ratio the contract is supposed to protect.

The bargaining team also reports that they have been told that the Chancellor is working hard to attempt to offer faculty the following generous compensation package:  -2% for FY 11 (counting furloughs); 0%  for FY 12; 0.5% for FY 13, and a whopping 1% for FY 14. Some context: the current rate of inflation (as measured by the CPI) is 3.6%. SIUC's budget (tuition and fees + state appropriations) for next year, assuming static enrollment, will go up $4.1 million dollars in FY 2012 (-$1.3 in state appropriations, +$5.4 million in tuition and fees--this from the reports the Chancellor references in her email).  That's approximately a 2% increase in the budget (tuition & fees and state appropriations). Thus SIUC has a hiring freeze for faculty, decreasing our numbers greatly, and says that, over a four year contract period, it can't even compensate faculty for the 2% cut they took last year. I believe it is safe to conclude that the administration plans to give Faculty a smaller and smaller share of campus resources.

After the break, a first take on the Chancellor's email.

Cheng's main claim is that her overall account of campus finances, and her moves to improve those finances, have been endorsed by the Higher Learning Commission. This is an important point, which deserves a fuller response than I can muster this evening. I will however note that I was rather surprised to see that the "Staff Report" by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) consists largely of verbatim excerpts from SIUC's own internal report on finances. I will admit to being no expert in how the accreditation process works, and what sort of overlap between institutional reports and external reports is usual, but an external report that largely consists of an internal report strikes me as somewhat less rigorous independent confirmation of the internal report than one could wish. There is much more to be said here: as I emphasized on the radio the other day, the FA's main beef is not with how the SIUC administration is managing our overall finances (i.e., we don't think they are either hoarding cash or running us into the ground) but with how SIUC is allocating resources among internal priorities.

Cheng defends her marketing program by tying it to the HLC report. But while the HLC report does call for SIUC to improve enrollment, it says nothing about marketing. Cheng here says that the previous marketing effort at SIUC was "underfunded" and also says that "some internal reallocations" were used to fund the marketing effort. This resembles her version of this story from the DE of June 28, when she said she planned to double spending on marketing, rather than her story on the radio last week, where she implied that we were merely spending the same amount of money on marketing as before, just spending it on an external firm (as President Poshard said the other day). If the Chancellor wants to address criticism of her marketing program, she needs to provide a transparent and consistent account of how it is being funded. If I were on the BOT, I'd demand such an accounting.

Cheng defends spending on athletics only by saying that athletics makes up a relatively small part of our overall budget, 0.78%.  She did not attempt to articulate any reason SIUC should subsidize athletics from the academic budget (perhaps she doesn't believe in doing so herself). The budget she has in mind is apparently that covered by tuition and state appropriations.  Our 2009-2010 athletics budget was, according to the Chronicle (my post with links can be fond here), $23.2 million. Of that total 60.8% was a subsidy from the academic side of the university (student fees and direct and indirect institutional support). 60.8% of $23.2 million is $14.1 million. That is, if we were not subsidizing athletics, SIUC would have faced no "structural deficit", even by the Chancellor's calculation (her email puts that deficit at $13 million). Our athletics budget has doubled in the last five years, and is $5 million higher than our nearest rival in the Missouri Valley Conference. I'm sorry, but I continue to find a $14.1 million subsidy for athletics scandalous.

Finally, responding (if a bit indirectly) to complaints about expensive administrative hires, the Chancellor argues that "more is being done with less".  This point would be more persuasive with some numbers attached. Has the number of executive/administrative and "professional non-faculty" staff on campus gone down faster than the ranks of faculty and civil service workers have gone down?

[Note: both emails are now available in a subsequent post.]


  1. The chancellor is carefully using the phrase "state budget" when talking about athletics. All she is saying is that taxpayer dollars aren't paying for athletics. That certainly should be reassuring to us as taxpayers, but it isn't reassuring for much else.

    She isn't saying anything about how other money such as tuition, fees, overhead money from grants, etc. is spent.

  2. What is her forecast for administration raises for next four years?

    Allowing for compounding, the five years of "raises" amount to a real cut of at least 15% at current CPI. I consider that conservative. Yeah, I would recommend teaching here.

    Elsewhere, there is discussion of teaching (number of courses) as workload. If professors at this doctoral institution increased their teaching 50% what would the admin. offer? 1.5%/year raises? After all, the hiring freeze means fewer faculty to teach, thus one would think management would want to increase "productivity" by having us teach more. Fine by me if they increase my salary in some relation (not even 50%, I'd take 30%). Somehow I don't think that creative thinking is on the horizon.

    Stick with bleed me back from full to assistant professor salary (real terms). Then, even if the state maintains its commitment to the pension, I'll get about half what I planned after 15 years of real pay cuts (post-CPI).

    Wonderful, just wonderful.

  3. With paranoid, I find Cheng's insistence that no state money is going to athletics bizarre. So it's okay if tuition and fees go to athletics? At any rate, we're back to the old argument that money from the state is different from capital budget money is different from tuition money is different from lemonade stand money. Money is money. (Yes there are strings, but most are tied by the administrators themselves.) What if GAs, for example, could put the $600 they pay for intercollegiate sports toward decent health care instead? Then you'd have no GA strike.

    Jonathan: Yeah, at current inflation their current offer must be at least a 15% cut in real terms. The workload threat seems to be in distance learning. I know you're a fan, but of course you're a volunteer (and had been getting compensated by continuing ed). Without contractual protection, we may be asked to teach online for a pittance. "Asked", perhaps, not required. But if you don't teach online for a pittance, they could farm your course out to someone who will. Or--since you aren't willing to do your fair share to keep your program viable--eliminate your program (a threat our pal paranoid has noted). Speculation, yes, but here's how to end it: Sign a contract that rules it out.

  4. Dave, I'd like to see the emails! They never go out to anyone in my bargaining unit (probably for the same reason Cheng can never actually get our acronym right on the rare occasion she's forced to acknowledge our existence) so I'm always hearing about them after the fact.

    You're also partially right -- if that fee money for athletics was going for something that benefited GAs (instead of, well, buildings), like heath care, we might have been able to settle this contract a year ago. I'd love to suggest that at the bargaining table and watch their heads explode.

  5. You'd see head explode alright. Student heads. Can't wait to see you folks tell students that the fees they pay for athletics should instead go to fund insurance policies for the GAs.



  6. I meant, as I think I made fairly clear, GA fees for GA health insurance. I suspect that would be rather popular with GAs. Ask the Undergrads what they want, but if I recall the student government was not gung-ho about raising fees for Saluki Way.

  7. Exactly were did the money the City of Carbondale added to the athletic kitty come from? Did the City of Carbondale get a grant? Was it a gift from Private Sources? Did it come from fees or taxes i.e. taxpayers?

  8. It's my understanding it came from taxes--sales taxes I believe. The city subsequently offered to redirect the money toward more pressing needs than Saluki Way, but the university declined, saying that it was impossible to do so.

  9. Yes, I believe it came from a .25% sales tax increase, starting Jan 1, two or three years ago. I believe the Carbondale City contribution is supposed to be 1 million dollars per yr for 20 yrs, if they can afford it. But I don't think they have paid in full for each yr so far. A sad state of affairs as the City really need the money themselves for their own projects, workers pensions, etc.


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