Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dueling emails

After the break I post the dueling emails, since I've gotten a request (from the indefatigable Kristi Brownfield) to do so.

From the Chancellor (sent 5:02 on Wednesday, 8/31). Those who receive her emails--at least on Mac systems similar to mine--will recognize that the odd formatting isn't my attempt to make her email look bad but some sort of glitch present in all emails I receive from the Chancellor's office.  

To the University Community:

I am pleased to share with you the Financial Progress Report we submitted to the Higher Learning Commission and the Commission‚s staff analysis and formal acceptance. Both are available at

As you may recall, the University last year earned the maximum 10-year continuation of our institutional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. This followed completion of a thorough self-study and a campus visit by a team of consultant-evaluators from the Commission.  Accreditation documents are available at

While it granted full accreditation, the Commission expressed concerns about our financial situation and requested an update on our budget in August 2011. In addition, the Commission will conduct a site visit in spring 2013 to review our progress with strategic planning. The analysis of our financial report by the Commission‚s staff is a strong endorsement of the steps we have taken over the past year by respected professionals in higher education.  Here is the staff comment:

„The progress report submitted by SIUC gives strong evidence and detail regarding the University‚s ability to address its financial challenges effectively. In spite of the challenges posed by the State‚s financial uncertainties, SIUC has taken sound and well considered measures to assure its continued financial health. Continued careful monitoring and sound planning, particularly with respect to safeguarding and enhancing enrollment, will be necessary for the University‚s strong future.‰

I am proud of the efforts by our campus to address our financial stress this past year, and am particularly grateful to the Chancellor‚s Planning and Budget Committee (CPABC), academic deans, unit directors, and vice chancellors for their assistance and support during this difficult time.  As a result of their leadership, and sacrifices made by all employees (unpaid closure days, unfilled positions, and reductions in other-than-salary budget lines), we ended fiscal year 2011 with expenditures reduced to within our budget and maintained the ability to pay our bills over the summer 2011.  Most importantly, although we remain in a fiscally uncertain environment, with the State of Illinois owing our campus roughly $72 million and enrollment only beginning to turn around, we entered this academic year with a structurally sound (balanced) budget.

A special thanks to Judith Marshall, executive director of finance, for writing an excellent and detailed report, members of the strategic planning steering committee for their review and suggestions, and to Professor James Allen for leading our accreditation efforts.

The conclusion reached by the Higher Learning Commission staff stands in stark contrast to false assumptions that appear to be held in some parts of campus.  A few examples:

 Our financial health:  We began last fiscal year with a structural deficit in excess of $13 million.  Working with the colleges and departments, we reduced budgets and lowered that deficit to $5.7 million.  The combination of savings from the hiring freeze and unpaid closure days helped to temporarily cover the deficit for fiscal year 2011. No one wanted to take unpaid days, but I was heartened by the recognition of so many, including many labor unions, that by working together and with temporary sacrifice, we could continue our mission and avoid layoffs, which would have had consequences for families, communities and of course, the University.

We began this fiscal year still facing the $5.7 million structural deficit.  We addressed it through the modest tuition increase and a permanent reduction in state budgets of 2.2 percent, leaving us with a balanced budget. 

 Our branding and marketing initiative:  Funds for this essential undertaking, which come from the existing marketing budget as well as some internal reallocations, are paying for far more than a new logo.  After too many years of a fragmented and underfunded approach to marketing, this effort will convey a consistent message about our excellence in academics and research and our talented faculty and staff across all student recruitment platforms: viewbook, financial aid and orientation publications, program and department brochures, electronic media, billboards and event promotions.  I believe most people on our campus would agree with the Higher Learning Commission that the most effective way to ensure our future financial health is to grow our enrollment.

 Campus improvements:  While Saluki Way has its critics, the reality is that less than 1 percent (.78) of our state budget ˆ the same budget that pays for faculty and staff salaries ˆ goes to athletics and no state funds have gone into those much-needed improvements. The decision to proceed with Saluki Way was made several years ago under very different economic circumstances.  Commitments were made, and while the economic realities are more difficult now, those responsibilities remain.  And we cannot take funds donated by private individuals or committed by the City of Carbondale specifically to Saluki Way, or student fees collected for that purpose, and use that money elsewhere.

As our nation and state continue to struggle with the economy, it‚s unrealistic to expect much help in the form of new state support.  That means we have to be very strategic in how we allocate limited resources.  For too long, our facilities have been neglected, leaving us at a significant disadvantage with our competitors. Two priorities of the campus have significantly impacted the funds available for campus maintenance.  One has been the real need to bring wages of faculty and staff to more competitive levels over the 2006-10 contract period; and in addition, managing recent cash flow issues in 2011-12.

The good news is that this fall we now have 20 new high-tech classrooms available, bringing our total to approximately 50, and we more than doubled our bandwidth from a year ago.  These improvements facilitate teaching and learning.  We made significant improvements to the Agriculture Building this summer, and we are continuing an HVAC, painting and carpeting project throughout Faner Hall ˆ all paid for by funds provided by the facilities maintenance fee, not our operating budget. Other projects are in the planning stages. A recent anonymous submission to the Ask the Chancellor website suggests we must aggressively address our deferred maintenance: „As a student, I am having a hard time with the amount of deferred maintenance on campus. I find it hard to believe we cannot fix leaky ceilings or abnormally large holes that linger over students trying to learn. As someone who contributes about 20,000 dollars to the university, I expect these problems to be fixed ∑‰

 Administrative positions: The number of positions held open has grown tremendously across the campus. As a result there have been several large-scale reorganizations, including Enrollment Management, University College, Alumni Services, University Communications, campus auxiliaries and in the Provost‚s office. These reorganizations have resulted in eliminating some positions and re-titling of existing positions as staff assumed additional responsibilities. I wish to emphasize that in every case, more is being done with less. The overall number of staff is down in these areas, and the number of administrators is also less than before these reorganizations.

 Economic impact: Tomorrow I will share with you a new report documenting SIU Carbondale‚s contributions to the economy of Illinois and central and southern Illinois. This report is particularly impressive given the decline in recent years in state support to our University.

I‚m hopeful that the information shared in this e-mail serves to clear up false assumptions apparently held in some parts of campus.  It is great news to learn that the Higher Learning Commission regards our collective sacrifices over the past year -- especially in structural, long-term changes in student recruitment and retention, state and tuition revenues, and cost-cutting measures -- as securing the University‚s future fiscal stability.  We all contributed to this effort and deserve credit for its recognition by our peers.

Thank you for your commitment.

Rita Cheng


From Randy Hughes (to bargaining unit faculty).  Sent Wednesday 8/31 at 5:22

Dear Colleagues,

On September 1, it will be 428 days without a contract for us and our three sister IEA locals. The Faculty Association bargaining team met in negotiations with the Board (Administration) bargaining team earlier this week and more sessions are planned for this week and the future. In short, the report from our FA team is that the Board position has not substantially changed from the unacceptable terms imposed on our unit last spring. It is imperative that faculty in our unit become more involved in expressing their displeasure with the Board's terms. Your participation in the demonstration on Thursday, September 1 is one step you can take towards achieving a fair contract settlement:

         Demonstration in Support of Fair Contracts and Quality Education
        11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
        Thursday, September 1, 2011
        Assemble at Route 51 and Grand Avenue

In solidarity,
Randy Hughes

Report from the FA Bargaining Team

Over the last few bargaining sessions, the Board team has maintained its position of saying NO to our efforts at contractualizing language that protects Faculty interests and holds the Administration accountable.  They are saying:

  • NO to having a transparent and accountable process for layoffs that does not undermine our tenure rights.
  • NO to having a transparent and accountable process for furloughs that does not undermine our rights to collectively bargain salaries.
  • NO to our academic freedom right to determine the method of delivery of our courses.
  • NO to our right to choose whether or not we want to develop and teach Distance Education courses.
  • NO to including language that protects the student/faculty ratio as more distance education courses are taught.
  • NO to including language specifying that the delivery of SIUC courses not be outsourced to other institutions.
At the end of our last bargaining session, we were verbally informed that the Chancellor was working very hard to put together the following salary increases over 4 years:
        FY 11: 0%       
        FY 12: 0%
        FY 13: 0.5%
        FY 14: 1%.

Our team's  response to the Board team is that the Chancellor has to work much harder (at least as hard as she did to change our university's logo).

In reality, due to the furlough days, a 2% reduction in pay was imposed in FY 11. Under the Board's proposal, the slice of the pie put towards faculty and academics will just get smaller and smaller. To date, there has been no movement on a number of other key issues involving workload and overload, sexual harassment procedures, and conflict of interest policies.

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