Saturday, August 13, 2011

A speech for the Chancellor

I've been asked, reasonably enough, whether I'd ever approve of something the Chancellor proposes. So here's a suggested speech. I hereby give Chancellor Cheng carte blanche to use it as she chooses.  Neither consultant's fee nor charges of plagiarism shall apply.

We all know that SIUC faces a difficult budgetary situation, and that SIUC faces a long-term enrollment decline. I'm convinced that we need to improve our campus athletics and administrative facilities; to upgrade our marketing by developing a new message and doubling our spending to communicate it to the world; to continue aggressively funding scholarships for our student athletes and other aspects of our athletics budget; to set up innovative Saluki First Year and Saluki Start Up programs; and to put greater resources into more effective enrollment management. And we need to get the best people we can to fill top administrative positions, and pay them competitive salaries.  None of these moves will be cheap: in fact I believe that we must increase our spending in these areas by X million dollars in the next Y years if we are to get ourselves where we need to be in these crucial priorities. But if we do not up our game in these ways we may well face a bleak future.

To fund these priorities we are going to have to hold the line on spending on faculty and staff. 

This will mean that when lines come open in academic departments, most will have to go unfilled for the time being.  It means that we cannot promise salary increases for remaining faculty and staff in upcoming years, as once we dedicate funds for construction and other long-term projects to turn around our enrollment crisis, those funds cannot be redirected. And as the priorities I have outlined must remain funded in the years to come, in the event of a decline in state appropriations or lower than expected tuition revenue we may even need to furlough or lay off faculty and staff, though this will of course be a last resort. 

In the short term, leaving academic positions open will do some harm to our academic programs, and thus to our teaching and research mission. Allowing our salaries to stagnate will come at some cost to campus morale, and could make it harder to recruit and retain high quality faculty and staff. And of course furloughs and layoffs will be painful for the individuals involved.  But in the long run we cannot fulfill our academic mission unless this university begins to grow enrollment again and regains a solid financial footing. Once we surmount these entwined crises in enrollment and finances we can revisit our academic programs and undo any short-term damage these programs have suffered in the interim. In the long run, I am confident that our mission and our people will be served best by the initiatives I am calling for. 

This is my vision for SIUC. I am calling for an open and honest campus conversation to enable us to resolve any differences we may have about our priorities, and to move forward together. In particular, I am eager to reach agreement with our campus unions in order to sign and ratify new collective bargaining agreements which will provide us a foundation to move forward together. I am confident that we can reach agreements that will be in the best interest of those represented by the unions and of SIUC as a whole.  Many of us here on campus will be called upon to sacrifice in order to turn things around for SIUC.  But working together we can turn things around, and ensure a bright future for our university.

I would hope that the Chancellor and her writers could put her case better than this, while still keeping it honest.  I of course think that her case is weak, for reasons I've outlined elsewhere and will no doubt continue to argue. But her case is not completely without substance. The problem, in my view, is that she hasn't made her case in an honest way. What we've been told is (a) I'm sorry that there's no money for faculty and staff and (b) I'm happy to announce a series of new initiatives that will turn things around. We get extensive numbers documenting why there's no money for us, but no numbers at all about how much the new initiatives cost.  In order to have a reasonable debate one needs to see the numbers on both sides of the ledger; one needs to have a campus debate on whether it makes sense to shift money from faculty and staff to marketing and athletics and the like.

While I'm pretty sure where I'd come down on that debate, I'll grant at once that we need to spend some money on marketing and that, alas, I can't imagine us cutting athletics to the bone. Some of the other recent initiatives (Saluki First Year and the revamped Honors Program, for example) have genuine academic value--though of course putting more resources into them means spending less elsewhere.  Reasonable people can therefore disagree about how much money to spend on the Chancellor's priorities, and whether this justifies shifting money from faculty and staff to marketing and other activities aimed at recruiting and retaining students, rather than educating them.  But we can't have a reasonable debate at all--or engage in reasonable negotiations around the bargaining table--if one side doesn't recognize the need for a debate at all. 

So, as I said on the radio, I'd feel much better about the campus environment if we were engaging in an honest debate about campus priorities.  Maybe such a debate will break out this fall. But the pressure-cooker of an imminent strike will make doing so rather harder than it would have been during Chancellor Cheng's first year in office, when she failed to make her case. On the other hand, I did just write her a swell speech, didn't I?  


  1. I wonder to what extent the admin is hoping that a) stalling and stiff arming the FA, along with b) the very real uncertainty with public pensions will = c) attrition through retirements, thus avoiding layoffs and an UGLY, down and dirty strike on both sides? It's been a trend but I keep running into people who have decide to retire this year because of the uncertainty and the upcoming change in the pension formula.

    Any thoughts? Does FA have numbers on how much the hiring freeze has saved in terms people retiring or leaving and not being replaced?? Does it approach the several millions in equity money from last contract (that the admin now complains was too generous)?

  2. Who nows what they're thinking. But according to the (FA) figures I've seen, in FY 2011 (the one that just ended), the administration spent $1.8 million less on faculty than it did the year before. That already factors in promotional raises (that the administration kept reminding us about) but doesn't count the $1 million they saved from furloughs. Projections for the FY 2012 faculty head count (the current count) are down even further, meaning further savings. But I don't have specifics on that yet (and don't think the FA does). We will probably end up with roughly 50 fewer faculty in the bargaining unit this fall than two falls ago (down from a few more than 700 to a few more than 650).

    The administration has, however, agreed to maintain the 26:1 student to Faculty ratio (bargaining unit faculty--TT and tenured), a figure they had originally hoped to remove or raise. This is rather good news, in my book. The FA believes that we may be near this figure this coming year, depending on how enrollment goes, and how many faculty retire or head for other greener pastures. 650 times 26 is, after all, 16,900, and we've got more than that many students, I think (though I don't know exactly how students are counted for this calculation--FTE? undergrads only?).

    So I don't think attrition can "save us" in the long term--unless it has already saved the administration enough money to buy all the neat new banners and stuff with our new logo.

    The agreement over student-faculty ratios would imply that the administration has cut all the faculty positions it plans to cut. Future savings would have to come from salary cuts, or at least salary freezes (as tuition and other revenues rise, faculty salaries become a smaller share of university spending).

    So the good news, assuming the 26:1 figure holds, is that the administration isn't planing massive TT faculty layoffs (say to switch to more NTT faculty). They still want the power to lay us off, it would seem, and they certainly want the power to furlough us. As usual, power is at least as central an issue as money.

  3. Are you sure the administration is committed to the ratio and that it didn't end in 2010? Most of the imposed terms don't specify dates, but the ratio does.

    Section 9.07b of the imposed terms states,
    "During the term of the parties’ 2006-2010 collective bargaining agreement, the Board will make a good faith effort to assure that the ratio of full-time equivalent students (i.e., Student FTE based upon the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System definition) to Faculty (i.e., Faculty in active status (head count)) is not more than 26 to 1. The target number of Faculty shall be determined by dividing the number of such full-time equivalent students by 26. Thus, commencing on October 1, 2006, and on each October 1 thereafter during the term of the 2006-2010 collective bargaining agreement, if the number of Faculty is less than one for every twenty-six (26) students (FTE), the Board shall initiate good faith searches to hire prior to August 15 of the following fiscal year the number of additional Faculty necessary to achieve the 26:1 ratio described above."

  4. Laura Dreuth ZemanAugust 14, 2011 at 7:09 AM

    I really don’t think the administration is eager to reach an agreement on the entire contract. Last fall, they seemed eager to separate the items they had an interest in, layoffs and furloughs, into a separate agreement. Ultimately, they imposed those without regard to bargaining. Now they are not bargaining. I suggest replacing that with a statement that the chancellor is willing to accept labor unrest in order to create change or perhaps that labor unrest is a positive sign of change. The later would help her argument that change is change.

  5. Dave,

    Just a guess given the July 2012 pension formula change: I expect there to be more than the usual 50 retirements and departures.

    Plus by attrition I didn't just mean faculty but other SIUC personnel. Anecdote: I ran into one mid-high level administrator who is retiring in 12 days. That person will likely be replaced by an internal faculty hire so the net result is a loss of one position.

    We'll see. The pension formula prompted many to file. Many have filed for retirement ahead in the future but can retire earlier if they wish, according to one source.

  6. Laura, my imaginary speech from the Chancellor assumes the very best about her intentions (or, rather, perhaps, hopes to urge her to adopt the best intentions). For all I know you are right: she may think that a bit of labor unrest is well worth it, if it will ultimately strengthen her hand on campus. She may well believe, wrongly, there will only be a little unrest, even if she sticks to her current extreme bargaining posture. Or she may think she can crush a strike after a few days and be done with the damn unions. The Southern, as you noted, even argued that labor unrest is a good sign. Perhaps she's channeling a recent national Decider: "Bring It On!"

    Who knows? My *guess* is that she's somewhere in the middle, having failed to think it through, and is just hoping that the unions will simply go away. But that is just a guess (based to a large extent on her failure to mention negotiations either during her last radio interview or in her lengthy email sent this week). When the unions don't go away this fall she will be forced to make up her mind. My own thinking is that the most sensible thing to do, if we must speculate about her intentions (as it is only human to do), is to attribute to her the best possible intentions that are conceivably consistent with her past actions. And then to attempt to hold her to those intentions by loudly noting actions inconsistent with these hypothetical intentions. She says she wants to protect tenure, and wants to negotiate in good faith. Okay, great: let's see contract language protecting tenure as one example of good faith bargaining. Take her at her word and try to hold her to it. If we assume the worst, we alienate those who won't assume the worst, and we lose the chance to call upon the other side to follow their better angels.

    Paranoid, I believe that the student faculty ratio has been agreed to in a tentative agreement between the two sides since the time of the imposed terms. This, I think, is good news--at least for TT faculty. It of course doesn't help any of the other unions. I think it is also good news for the quality of education at SIUC. It is, of course, not an administrative concession, but only a reversion to the status quo; it's not progress, then, but does indicate that the administration has abandoned its initial effort to gain more 'flexibility' to reduce faculty numbers. The 26:1 ratio can help ensure that SIUC, unlike some other places, doesn't try to cut funding on instruction by replacing TT with NTT. (Again, nothing against NTT, but as a faculty member who's been both NTT and now TT as SIUC, I can say that both I and the university are better served by having me as a TT. Unless, perhaps, you count this blog. )

  7. Dave,

    We are working under the imposed terms and not under the tentative agreements. Until a contract is signed, the tentative agreements are, well, tentative.

    Putting on my paranoid hat for a moment, the chancellor could lay off tenured and tenure track faculty and later sign an agreement to bring the ratio back down.

    If that agreement has the language of the old contract, it would obligate her to hire faculty, but it would in no way obligate her to hire back the same positions or faculty.

  8. Exactly, "paranoid" she will fire those who go on strike and not rehire them. This is the result of her perverse brinkmanship strategy and will certainly cause great insecurity on campus this year.

  9. Anonymous (1:30 PM):

    Despite my pseudonym, I'm not quite as paranoid as you. Firing people who go on strike would smack of retribution and lead to a lawsuit that the FA could easily win.

    On the other hand, the imposed terms have so many factors to consider regarding who would be laid off, that targeted layoffs, including of tenured faculty, would be easy. The chancellor could decide that the "University's program needs" no longer include classics. Based on "length of full time service" and tenure status, Yasuka Taoka and Paul Brown would be the first and second to be laid off, and Dave, the "tenured" unionist, would be third.

    From Article 19.02
    "19.02. If the Board decides it is necessary to fully or partially lay off Faculty members in accordance with this Article, the factors which will be considered in light of the University’s program needs, in determining which, if any, employees will be retained, are: length of full-time service at the University, including approved leaves; length of full-time service in the department, including approved leaves; educational qualifications; professional training; and professional experiences. The full or partial layoff of Faculty members in the level of organization as determined by the Board to which the layoff applies shall be in the order listed below:
    a. Full-time untenured tenure-track Faculty;
    b. Tenured Faculty."

  10. She is already facing one lawsuit that could go against her and, as most of these administrators are arrogant, could go ahead with firing strikers in an anti-union era. Then she would go after her supporters deciding that their positions could be filled by adjuncts doing online education as well as closing departments that have no relevance to her "brave new world" such as Foreign Languages and Linguistics.

  11. Those of us who go on strike will be de facto laid off for the length of the strike--we won't get paid, or, likely, get our health insurance paid. But my understanding is that our jobs would be secure upon our return. Could the Chancellor illegally fire us? Yes. She could also illegally hire mercenaries to shoot us all in our beds. Permanently firing striking workers is, unless I'm widely off base, something only the truly paranoid need worry about.

    I didn't make myself terribly clear regarding my praise of the 26:1 ratio. I'm not arguing that the 26:1 ratio is a substitute for tenure protection. We need tenure to remain strong here, which means that the imposed terms must go. They would indeed allow the administration to fire any of us TT, so long as they "take into consideration" some "programmatic need" to do so (the Chancellor has of course argued that that's not what the terms mean, but I'm not going to go into that now). I'm just saying the 26:1 ratio is a good thing to have. in addition to tenure protection. It would help ensure adequate numbers of faculty on campus even if there are many voluntary departures. I was imagining it as going along with a contract that retains our tenure rights (unlike the imposed terms). Tenure doesn't protect us against attrition, any more than a student to faculty ratio would prevent the administration from shifting faculty lines around at its own sole discretion, firing some faculty to hire others.

  12. "She could also illegally hire mercenaries to shoot us all in our beds."

    You people are just off the wall. This page is full of wacky conspiracy theories, what-ifs and innuendo. The above quote is just crazy. Good luck building up support for your "positions."

  13. It is a joke! What is the matter with you, Anonymous 8:47?

  14. Maybe, John....but it seems to go hand in hand with the wacky conspiracy theories, what-ifs and innuendo that are being pushed as facts here. Some people, who really probably know better, should be ashamed.

  15. Anonymous 8:47 & 9:29:

    Dave was using the mercenary example to try to make the previous anonymous's comment look implausible by saying that there are a lot of illegal things the chancellor could do, but that doesn't mean she would. In other words, he was agreeing with you - somehow you managed to decide that he should be ashamed of himself for it.

  16. It is all too plausible that the administration would punish striking faculty in some way. Recall their actions against the NTT faculty?

  17. Here I was thinking that imagining myself getting shot in bed by a mercenary would be recognized as a unrealistic outcome. We're not in Libya; Cheng is not Qaddafi. That doesn't mean real issues aren't at stake.

    Could the administration punish activist faculty? Their layoff notices to NTT had shall we say a curious distribution: there may well have been an attempt at intimidation of the NTT bargaining team. But I'm not aware of any clear cases of FA members facing retribution for supporting the FA. And frankly I don't think I'm running any great risk by blabbing on this blog, though perhaps I may be naive.

    Of course if we lose the fight over tenure, retribution would be rather easier to inflict (witness, perhaps, the layoff scheme for NTT). But heavy handed efforts to silence faculty will not be received well by any faculty, whatever their views about the union. I think our administrators are grown up enough not to try that--and I'm more certain that the costs for trying would be far higher than any gain to them. I think we have to remember that when this fall is over we will need to work together to make things work around here. I like to think I can disagree with people, pretty vehemently, but still work with them when the time comes for that.

    Judging by the high rate of anonymity on this blog, though, I suspect that others are less confident--more worried they will face retribution either from administrators or unionists. Is that why you anonymouses are anonymous? Or are there other reasons? I am curious.

    At any event, I will boldly predict here that I will not be shot in bed by a mercenary.

  18. Dave, from an "anonymous", the fact that Rita's pets (also using the anonymous tag) are reading and contributing to this blog makes several of us hesitant to post under our own names. During the "purge of 1973"" students went along with banners "Save our Socialists" since many activist faculty members were among those fired. The administration already knows who is in the Union but we don't want to make anything easier for the recent crop of those who will "name names" once Rita decides to "Cry Havoc and let loose the dogs of war", namely her pet rottweilers.

  19. We have to remember that, as Dave Johnson 12:56 PM said, we're not in some banana republic without laws or any sort of dictatorship. All administrators, even Cheng, have to abide by laws.

  20. Quoting "The administration already knows who is in the Union but we don't want to make anything easier for the recent crop of those who will "name names" once Rita decides to "Cry Havoc and let loose the dogs of war""

    What!?!? (With apologies in advance to "Paranoid") It appears that *paranoia* is alive and well among FA supporters. This sort of garbage just makes FA supporters look like they are skipping their meds.

  21. Anonymous (9:29 AM):
    What exactly was wacky or shameful about the scenario I presented? It was consistent with the imposed terms. In my opinion, an administrator would find the scenario neither illegal nor immoral.

    Dave (12:56 PM):
    Don't you know that I have a semester to prepare for? I could write pages about why people around here want to remain anonymous. My plan is to leave a new reason each time I complete something off my to-do list. If I do well on my list, you'll see even more than my usual, high comment rate!

    Anonymous (4:13 PM) "With apologies in advance to 'Paranoid'":
    Oops, I haven't done enough to live up to my name. :)

  22. Reason #1 for Anonymity: Being Heard and Reputation

    Enough people on this campus are so polarized that they are unwilling to listen to those with whom they disagree. Someone who disagrees with you might at least bother to read what you write without immediately rejecting it if you post as anonymous rather than under your own name.

    Take, for example, Ken Anderson’s post on discretion. Although I disagreed with his bullet points, there was a lot that was reasonable in what he wrote. Nevertheless, the 1:33 PM Anonymous rejected what Ken had to say because it was coming from Ken more than because of anything in particular about Ken’s post. Later, an anonymous or some anonymouses started implying that it had to do with his national origin.

    On this post, anonymous (1:30 PM) and I are dismissed as wacky and crazy by Anonymous (8:47 AM). Why would I want my name to be associated with my comments? Having my name there would mean when I serve on a committee with Anonymous (8:47 AM), s/he will already have made up his/her mind that I’m crazy and therefore would not take what I have to say seriously.

  23. Reason #2 for Anonymity: Being Heard and Status

    The following types of statements can occasionally be heard on campus, usually made with a dismissive tone of voice. She only has a master’s degree, no doctorate. He’s only written x papers. She’s never had a grant. He’s in the y department; you know that field of study is a joke. She’s not a full professor. He’s only a full professor because he had an in with someone. They treat her like she's the greatest, but she's never won any prestigious international awards.

    Most of us who comment on this blog are just concerned citizens. We did not write dissertations on labor organization in higher education. Most of us cannot claim much special expertise beyond our own experience. Even though most of us, even the most decorated, lack credentials in the topics of this blog, the academic pecking order still matters to some. Writing as anonymous prevents those readers from prejudging based the esteem they hold or don't hold for our academic credentials.

    Similarly, people who believe others don’t take them as seriously because of some “-ism” might choose to write as anonymous and be judged by what they say rather than by who they are.

  24. Thanks for the comments, paranoid. As it happens, it was the Ken Anderson episode that tempted me (following a suggestion from an anonymous defender of Ken, I believe) to outlaw anonymous comments. I thought that many of the attacks on him were petty and mean. But one reason I didn't remove them was that I thought they pretty much nullified themselves--with a bit of help from more rational comments from others. I.e., the comment stream was more or less self-policing. Another reason was my desire to avoid making numerous difficult judgment calls. The judgment I was most of afraid of making was that to remove a nasty comment about Ken Anderson (or another one daring to question the union line) not to protect Ken Anderson but to protect his critics from themselves. And of course, given the mild outrage about comments momentarily stuck in Google's imperious spam filter, imagine what wrath I would face from those whose comments I deleted. What a tangled mess.

    The theory on ruling out anonymous comments was that people who had to put their name to their words wouldn't indulge in character assassination or other untoward nastiness--or at least that if they did so, we would all know who they were, and that those attacked would have the solace of knowing who their attackers were. But of course this rule would have greatly reduced the number of comments, including many good ones. I suppose I developed a thicker skin (easy enough for comments not directed at me, of course!) and decided to just let things ride. We'll see what happens as things heat up this fall, though.

    As to your second argument for anonymity. Well, you are of course right that people judge each other based on status, degrees, etc. And this would open up a whole new line of attack for nasty comments, along the lines of: of course you like the union, you're a career associate professor! (I'm not a career associate professor, yet, but had better wrap up this comment soon . . . ) But you yourself make the excellent point that we are here debating issues where none of us are credentialed experts (besides, I suppose, anyone out there with a PhD in higher ed--who would of course be attacked at once for having a degree in education). But we all have relevant experience here (I assume few writing comments have no experience with SIUC--if there are such folks, they really need to get a life). And if we could be more open about those experiences by bringing our real identities along we'd be able to share more insights and be more persuasive. (The latter is the ethos argument, for any of you up on rhetoric or classics--look how I can flaunt my expertise, as I'm not anonymous!)

    So I still think that the benefits of putting one's name to one's words are greater than the downside. But anonymous comments have been a big part of a valuable conversation so far, adding light in addition to heat, so I've got no plans to change our modus operandi.

  25. The ghost of Harold GrosowskiAugust 16, 2011 at 9:24 AM

    Perhaps if those who wish to participate in the discussion would chose innocuous screen names it would help sort out some of the personalities.

  26. To Anonymous 8:04, the original comment had nothing to do with Ken's national original but was intended to be satirical in the same way as Dave's walking tour. On the other hand, Ken's callous attitude towards low paid SIUC employees forced to take furloughs affecting their pensions and daily living expenses was truly reprehensible. At least, the University of Illinois fixed the limit at $30,000 and now we know there was no need for these furloughs at all according to the Board of Trustees financial report - not that this would register any sympathy from someone earning a six figure salary/

  27. To anonymous 3:28

    Ken can certainly speak for himself if he so chooses, but I will throw in my 2 cents worth on his behalf.
    1. Ken's post had NOTHING to do with furloughs.
    2. Some of the comments posted in response to his post clearly ARE deeply bigoted.
    3. I take it your opposition to furloughs is mirrored by you opposition to Fare Share? After all, fare share is even worse! Although furloughs were scaled with income (everyone paid the same %, such that those earning less paid less total $) fare share will be a flat tax regardless of income. Faculty earning less will pay a proportionately LARGER share of that income as a fee to the union, without choice in the matter, and not just once or occasionally when the university has fiscal challenges, but every year, in perpetuity.

  28. Anonymous 3:28

    What about your "truly reprehensible" disregard for the 60+ families that would now be without any income or benefits?

  29. "Fare share" is not needed. Administrators should be made to pay any deficits from their huge salaries, then a ceiling of $90,000 p.a. should be set on all administrative salaries. Money is being wasted on these incompetents plus sports in SIUC and I see no evidence of the opposition speaking out against the focus on athletics over academics and getting the McLafferty books and journals back into the Morris Library. The problem in SIUC involves corrupt and greedy higher administrators.

  30. Anonymous (August 16, 2011 3:28 PM):
    Which comment did you mean as "the original" one?

    The April 24 1:33 PM comment, which on the face of it was inoffensive, was the one that bothered me more than the joky Australia ones because it dismissed Ken because of what he had said or done in the past without addressing his post.

    If you're referring to the later national origin comments, it would have been easy to use satire without bringing in Ken's national origin. In telling us to watch what we write, he used the phrase, "Don't piss in our sandbox." The jokes write themselves!

    "Hey kids, watch your goddamn language. We don't swear in this house."

  31. 8:07: try my radio interview last week at WSIU, which included lots on athletics (perhaps too much) and the campus tour, which began by noting, if in a satirical way, the absurdity of having a new library without books. I'm of course not the only one speaking up. Perhaps if more were union members more would hear us.

  32. Reason #3 for Anonymity: Fear from Ghosts of the Past
    (with apologies to The Ghost of Harold Grosowski)

    Some of the comments in this blog express the belief that it’s ridiculous to think that the university would lay off tenured faculty unless the situation were really desperate. After all, doing so would harm the university’s reputation. They believe that the paid leadership and the Board of Trustees would never do something so foolish.

    The trouble is that the university already did it in 1973.

    Even though some of the members of the faculty weren’t born yet when it happened, the memory lingers in the stories from old timers and alumni. If the administration could do it once, what would keep them from doing it again? If they do it again, what would keep them from finding ways to target those who speak up or speak out?

  33. Reason #4 for Anonymity: Falsehood in Numbers

    By posting as anonymous, one is free to bloviate (as on anonymous called it) without taking responsibility for how frequently one comments. It protects one from a reputation as a windbag.

    Anonymity also makes it easy give the appearance that there's a lot of support for a particular opinion. One person can just post the same opinion repeatedly.

    Or maybe all of the contradictory anonymous comments come from just one very confused person. :-P

  34. Re #4--You are of course right that anonymity can be a tool not only to protect oneself but to promote one's point of view. But I was looking for good reasons for anonymity--i.e. reasons that would lead me to allow anonymous comments (as you were no doubt aware). I for my part am happy to have earned my windbaggy reputation.

  35. Reason 4a for Anonymity:
    Not every windbag relishes having a reputation as a windbag.

  36. Reason #5 for Anonymity: I Can’t Tell You Because It Could Make My Precarious Situation Worse

    The rumor around campus is that the chancellor is planning program reviews for every academic department on campus. The rumor is that programs that don’t produce enough degrees or that have courses with too many F’s could be given special scrutiny.

    Some colleges and departments already have received bigger cuts than others. Some departments have struggled to get a waiver from the hiring freeze, while other departments have had theirs sail through.

    Upper administrators, more than usual, seem to be taking orders rather than having independent decision-making authority. Another rumor around campus is that the chancellor has a hard time not taking things, especially disagreement with her, personally.

    If you are in a targeted department, why risk offending the chancellor? Some little offense could be the difference between being moved to another department and being laid off when your department is dissolved.

    Why risk offending potential employers when you see all kinds of signs that it is time to be on the market?

  37. That's a lot of program reviews. As I noted over at the next thread (Wednesday's roundup), this is why declining enrollment frightens me so much. The Chancellor's habit of equating students with dollars strikes me as not only somewhat crass but exaggerated, and I don't want to automatically fall into the corporate assumption that bigger is always better. But bigger may allow for more programs--including some programs that are less efficient than others--while decreasing enrollment could conceivably justify cutting down on the number of programs we offer. If a program gets 1% of SIUC students to major, for example, it may fall below some sort of critical mass if enrollment has gone down enough.

    If program reviews are as top down as everything else has been of late, it is conceivable that that process could make union negotiations look like a picnic. Faculty involvement is crucial if we are going to ensure that academic values have a seat at the table (rather than cuts being made solely on the basis of efficiency).

    And the rumors I hear suggest that enrollment will be down in the fall, despite the spike in new Freshman (an area we did okay in last fall as well, I believe). Marketing won't keep students here. But any Schadenfreude among those eager to pile on the administration ought to be tempered by fears like those you raise--not only that the Chancellor will single out the non-anonymous, but that she will (perhaps rationally) move to review our mix of programs and then make cuts (perhaps without adequate faculty review).

  38. Rumor confirmation:

    See pages 10-12 of the Finance and Infrastructure Lens Group Report. It's in Appendix A on pages 24-26 of the Financial Progress Report.

  39. Reason #6 for Anonymity: The Better to Troll You With:

    The hybrid system of this blog, with some named posters, some pseudonyms, and some anons had offered protection who felt they needed it for expressing views that would be unpopular with someone (the FA, the FSN, the Chancellor, or someone else as the case may be). Persnickety and Socrates Finger and several anonymous posters argued against Dave, other anonymous posters and me. It was a lively conversation with decent arguments from different perspectives. Even if Socrates Finger and Dave could never persuade each other of their points of view, the readers could be persuaded by each of them or at least entertained or informed about the issues. Anonymity facilitated communication.

    Lately, though, the anonymous postings that have no apparent purpose other than to disrupt communication have outnumbered the good, if controversial, arguments coming out of anonymous.

    Instead, the messages out of anonymous have reached the point of, "You think you're so smart, but really you're stupid." These messages bother to document the pompousness or the stupidity of whomever is being attacked. What argument can be made against that? I'm rubber and you're glue?

    If that weren't enough, anonymity is being used as a mechanism to personally attack those who have the courage to include their names (see reasons 1 & 2 above) without much penalty for those attacks.

    As much as I have enjoyed the benefits of not using my Real Name, I'm being persuaded against my own previous defense of anonymity. Dave, do you still think that anonymous comments are part of a valuable conversation. Is it time to change the modus operandi?


I will review and post comments as quickly as I can. Comments that are substantive and not vicious will be posted promptly, including critical ones. "Substantive" here means that your comment needs to be more than a simple expression of approval or disapproval. "Vicious" refers to personal attacks, vile rhetoric, and anything else I end up deeming too nasty to post.