Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bargaining Report 2: Financial Exigency

The sticking point here is what is technically called "RIF", i.e., Reduction in Force. As all will likely know, the administration's imposed terms outlined a procedure for laying off tenure-track and tenured faculty. The imposed terms were silent on what conditions would have to be met to allow for such layoffs. The Chancellor repeatedly said that SIUC was not attacking tenure and would only layoff tenured faculty in the case of financial exigency. But it took months and considerable pressure from the FA for her bargaining team to come close (close) to saying as much in contractual language, rather than leaving any such protections buried in BOT policies that the board can change at its discretion.

As far as I can tell, the administration's policy has changed little since the Chancellor's last email, at which point her bargaining team had agreed to contractualize board policy as of July of 2011. This was a meaningful move on their part--though it is fair, I think, to point out that this was mainly a case of the administration's bargaining position starting to catch up to the Chancellor's public statements. The administration's position here is relatively little changed, I believe, since September 30, when Randy Hughes sent out this bargaining update in response to an email from the Chancellor I quote and attack here.

The FA's interest here is in ensuring that SIUC has a transparent and accountable process for handling financial exigency. The FA is open to any process which meets this interest, and after the break I'll explain the evolution of our bargaining supposals on this. Now rational people can debate how best to make this process transparent and accountable, and can also name other interests (to be effective, for example, a financial exigency process would have to enable SIUC to make deep enough cuts to survive).
But let's just pause briefly to ask ourselves this. When should SIUC figure out this process? Should we allow ourselves to operate under the murky and confusing current SIUC policy (which more or less remains that I outlined in my earlier post on tenure)? That's apparently the administration's position. But if we encounter a bona fide financial crisis worthy of the term "financial exigency", we're going to need all the transparency and accountability we can get. Otherwise the moral damage to the institution will be even greater than the mere financial damage. Indeed, it seems to me that we risk fatal damage to trust and morale should a financial exigency be handled badly, as one following the current murky process could well be. The damage done in 1973-74 lasted for years, after all (and may perhaps not yet have been entirely healed), and back then there was no real financial crisis to manage.

Many folks have spoken strongly about the damage a strike could do to SIUC. A strike is a serious matter, but were the FA to strike, one thing it would likely be striking for would be a decent, mutually acceptable financial exigency policy. In my view the risk we face through badly handled financial exigency far outweighs the risk of a strike.

The FA's original supposal on RIF  attempted to clearly define a bona fide financial exigency, and called for a joint administration-faculty commission to determine whether SIUC's financial state met the conditions outlined in that definition. In the course of negotiations the FA has modified this supposal in at least two important ways.

Definition.  This reflects our interest in transparency. Current board policy defines financial exigency as a long-term financial emergency serious enough to justify laying off tenured faculty. Save for the phrase "long term", this definition is circular. How serious is the crisis? Serious enough to fire you. What's your justification for firing me? The crisis is serious enough to fire you.

The FA's original supposal specifies "long term",  the one definable element in the BOT policy, as a crisis lasting at least four years. In response to board resistance to this, we have suggested three years instead. Three years does not strike me as an unreasonable definition of "long term". The FA's supposals, in keeping with BOT policy (at least before the introduction of the novel category of "unpaid administrative closure days), allows for other means for dealing with short term crises--temporary cuts in pay.

The FA supposal also makes it clear that a bona fide financial exigency must threaten the survival of SIU (language close to that of the AAUP: an “imminent financial crisis which threatens the survival of the institution as a whole"), and that faculty can only be fired in a financial exigency once all other legal alternatives that do not impact the academic mission of the university have been exhausted. Such alternatives would include cuts to non-academic areas, including athletics; sale of real estate; voluntary retirements, etc. Financial exigency is supposed to be a dire state of affairs, one stop short of bankruptcy.

To date, to the best of my understanding, the administration has been unwilling to define "financial exigency" behind the largely circular definition in current board policy.

Process. The administration has insisted that the board alone has the power to declare a state of financial exigency, and that it is unwilling to delegate this power to a joint commission. The FA has therefore suggested another alternative, that the BOT indeed be empowered to declare a financial exigency, but that its decision, which would have to meet the conditions outlined in a clear definition of financial exigency, could be appealed to an outside arbitrator. The FA is thus willing, rather than itself appointing half the members of a financial commission, to achieve its interest in accountability via a neutral third party.

To date, to the best of my understanding, the administration has rejected the FA's suggestion that accountability be achieved in this way.

We see thus that both in the case of credit hour equivalences and financial exigency the board has heretofore been unwilling either to reach an agreement with the FA or to submit our differences to a neutral third party for resolution.

46 comments:

  1. As I understand it, the BOT is legally responsible to the state (and various state and federal agencies) for fiscal management of the university. Certainly every state appropriation bill and every external grant received by the university specifies this.

    Please, you just don't seem to understand the legal accountability in play here. State funds appropriated to SIU are not appropriated to some nebulous entity, "the university", they are entrusted to the BOT for whatever purpose is specified in the particular appropriation.

    The BOT cannot delegate or negotiate this responsibility away. A “faculty commission” or third party arbitrator, for example, may decide that no exigency exists, but if the BOT feels that it does, then they are legally bound to act accordingly.

    If my understanding is correct, you CANNOT win on this issue because what you are asking, not matter how often you say it seems reasonable to you, or that this is "your interest", cannot be done. The only way for the BOT to surrender on this point is if the FA can convince the state legislature to shift fiscal responsibility from the BOT to some other entity, at least in the event that the BOT feels that an exigency situation exists. That is not inconceivable, but in that case you need to be talking to the governor and various state reps, not the BOT negotiating team, because such a change would involve new legislation.

    Possibly a better way to achieve your goal may be to ask the State to allow faculty to elect a member of the BOT. Students currently elect a representative, so perhaps faculty participation could also be considered?. This would raise lots of other issues since the faculty member elected could not be represented by the FA (circularity and CoI issues) but perhaps that's a way forward on this issue???

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  2. "Socrates Finger", I won't claim be a legal expert on these matters, but to the best of my knowledge the administration bargaining team has not employed this argument when rejecting our proposals. If it were as knock-down an argument as you imply, I'd have thought they would have tried it by now. The BOT delegates many of its powers--say that to award tenure--and could therefore delegate this one as well. Political bodies do this all the time, don't they? When is it illegal to delegate power? And certainly no one doubts that the FA has the legal right to bargain salaries; why wouldn't your argument also rule this out? Or would you argue that the BOT cannot be bound by any contract with the FA, as it has the sole power to handle SIUC finances?

    The FA has parallels for its suggested policies from other campuses. I believe the University of Cincinnati has a financial commission type thing. I don't have at hand details for parallels for the arbitration proposal.

    Your suggestion of having a faculty member on the BOT is an excellent one, though the issues you raise with it are also real.

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  3. The BOT can delegate many duties, but it cannot delegate specific responsibilities assigned to it by the state. Interestingly, the example you cite, awarding tenure, is a case in point. The BOT does not delegate that responsibility. They delegate the duties of recommending who should and should not receive tenure to the Provost, who establishes procedures, deadlines, etc but only the BOT can actually grant tenure and noone has tenure until the BOT awards it. The Provost's recommendation is just that, a recommendation. Certainly fiduciary responsibilities rest with the BOT just as they do with the Boards of Directors of for-profit entities like corporations, and it is my understanding that those responsibilities cannot be transferred. If you would accept a body with the power to recommend... the existing policies already have that in place. But the final responsibility rests with the BOT and the FA has made it clear that it will NOT accept advisory bodies. It wants to move the power to make an FE determination way from the BOT and IMO that is just not going to happen.

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  4. Here's the link to the joint commission at U of C:

    http://www.aaupuc.org/storage/contracts/1013contract.pdf

    Note that the commission is advisory. The BOT may accept or reject any or all of the majority or minority recommendations. The contract then refers to section 28.3 which is basically the order in which people are laid off. THAT seems to me to be something FA can negotiate.

    A "formula" for exigency is not something I think they can or will get. I agree with Socrates Finger - the buck stops with the BOT (note how the U of C contract distinguishes between the administration and the BOT. The admin. and union make recommendations to the Board).

    I'm trying to imagine what the FA leaders meant by formula for exigency? In real life, there is a sudden crisis and companies that have lasted over 2 centuries suddenly are bankrupt. Even worse for SIUC, which doesn't have bankruptcy court as an avenue, is a state default on its obligations. You can't sue the state for rescinding money you were EXPECTING.

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  5. Here's the link to the joint commission at U of C:

    http://www.aaupuc.org/storage/contracts/1013contract.pdf

    Note that the commission is advisory. The BOT may accept or reject any or all of the majority or minority recommendations. The contract then refers to section 28.3 which is basically the order in which people are laid off. THAT seems to me to be something FA can negotiate.

    A "formula" for exigency is not something I think they can or will get. I agree with Socrates Finger - the buck stops with the BOT (note how the U of C contract distinguishes between the administration and the BOT. The admin. and union make recommendations to the Board).

    I'm trying to imagine what the FA leaders meant by formula for exigency? In real life, there is a sudden crisis and companies that have lasted over 2 centuries suddenly are bankrupt.

    Even worse for SIUC, which doesn't have bankruptcy court as an avenue, is a state default on its obligations. You can't sue the state for rescinding money you were EXPECTING.

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  6. Socrates Finger and Jonathan Bean both raise very good points here. When I say that I heard some intransigence on the bargaining team's behalf in their report on Thursday night, it is this issue that I am referring to. When I point out the lack of trust issue, I am talking about this. Either consciously or subconsciously, the FA seems (to me) to be trying to legislate something to prevent something like 1973 ever happening again.

    Fair enough. But in the end of the day, we aren't going to get joint declaration or anything more than an "advisory" role like what exists at the University of Connecticut. And it is because SIU and the BOT are creatures of the State of Illinois.

    What can we win here? Let's focus on figuring that out rather than tilting at windmills for something that we won't in the end achieve.

    I am willing to support my colleagues on other remaining differences if push came to shove and we had to go out on strike. On this issue I cannot.

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  7. The buck does not quite stop with the BOT. I agree only the BOT can declare an FE. (I'm not up on the law, but that sounds reasonable.) However, I would like some minimum criteria specified. It cannot be a formula. But we should be able to challenge an unreasonable declaration of FE in court.(*) If there is no criteria at all, there is no basis for a legal challenge. BTW, Companies don't just declare bankruptcy, do not they have to get a court to approve it?

    * I'm reading the UC contract JB posted and I'm trying to decide if their definition does this.

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  8. "Companies don't just declare bankruptcy, do not they have to get a court to approve it?"

    Of course but corporations don't carry around unique language specifying "bankruptcy will be invoked when . . . " That is left to the bankruptcy law in state and/or federal courts.

    Funny this reference comes up now because I'm leading a discussion in my business history course of the book _Born Losers: A History of Failure in America_. The author found rich source material in bankruptcy cases, credit reports -- even suicide notes. FE is NOT bankruptcy and let us hope the State of Illinois decides we need to be shut down and reorganized. ; - )

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  9. Thank you Jon B. for that. The problem as I see it, is that we are operating on worse-case scenario land. I would assume that FE would be a step that the BOT would be very, very reluctant to invoke unless it were truly bona fide. They would face a huge PR problem; skittish parents and students might leave as a result of them declaring it. I would assume, therefore, that they wouldn't do it unless it were truly occurring as a result of the State of Illinois suddenly deciding not to honor its monetary commitments to the university or some other fiscal emergency that prevented the university from paying its bills.

    If we operate instead from a more reasonable assumption that the BOT wishes for the normal operations of the university to continue and, thus, it wouldn't be in the BOT's interest to declare FE flippantly unless it were truly occurring, perhaps we could work out something more reasonable when it comes to the FE policy that goes into the contract? I will say it again: the fact that the BOT team is willing now to contractualize something relating to FE is an important concession. They can build on this of course, but to say that the FA has really conceded anything by going from 4 to 3 years before FE can be declared is not convincing to me.

    Perhaps I am wet between my ears being a junior faculty member who has only been here four years. But I do not want to dwell in conspiracy land where I assume, a priori, that the BOT would do something irrational simply "to get" back at faculty. Declaring FE when no such thing actually exists would be very irrational indeed, especially when all we hear from administrators and board members (correctly I might add) is how we have to turn around enrollment here at SIUC.

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  10. I would further add that when there was suddenly a cash-flow crisis two winters ago here at this university, the university did a lot to ensure that we continue to be paid on time. The library, after all, halted purchasing books for a while and trips (even for the athletic program) were halted or minimized for a while. I know this for a fact because that semester I had two students working as basketball managers who reported to me that very thing.

    As one who was worrying a lot at the time whether I would be paid next month, I appreciate the steps taken then to manage a very severe cash-flow crisis. Perhaps things aren't as dire now as then, but doesn't the state still owe the university something like $100M?

    So, let's get realistic about FE, declare victory that it's contractualized, and at some point move on to the other issues still to be settled.

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  11. A few counters to the last few comments:

    1. The BOT did an end-run around the then current financial emergency policy when introducing a new category, "unpaid closure days" in order to dock our pay. This to my mind shows a certain untrustworthiness, a desire to try to have one's cake (by not declaring a financial emergency, as the prior policy required) and eating it too (by cutting salaries, something possible before only after such a declaration).

    Contractualization of the FE policy will prevent this precise sort of end run--so is a step forward--but if the policy that has gained contractual status is as vague as current BOT policy, that won't help much. A FE policy that defines financial exigency as "bad enough to fire you" isn't much protection. The current BOT language doesn't even make it clear that faculty can be fired for financial reasons only in the event of a FE.

    2. The SIUC BOT did precisely what several comments here say they would never do back in 1973.

    3. Finally, a question for you all. You've suggested that we can't get what the FA wants--that may or may not be true. It could also be true that we may not be able to get something along these lines without a strike, and I can certainly imagine someone arguing that this position (as most any other) isn't worth striking for. We've also had some legal arguments (which I'm trying to get some more informed legal comment on).

    Lacking is much comment that what the FA is asking for wouldn't be in the best interest not only of the faculty but of SIUC. What damage would it do to allow a neutral outsider to rule on whether the BOT's declaration is legit or not? What harm would it do to agree on some non-circular definition of financial exigency?

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  12. I am not against that Dave, I just don't think we will get it because as Socrates Finger and others rightly point out, the BOT has a legal mandate given to it by the State of Illinois that joint declaration on FE, for example, would partly abrogate. And I just don't see them willing to give in on that. So, the question then becomes: are we willing to strike over this? I am not sold that I am. I am indeed more likely to support a strike over continued bad faith in negotiations over workload than over this.

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  13. Disguisted:

    But the administration isn't even willing to give on getting a non-circular definition of exigency.

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  14. I grant that, but perhaps the reason is that it ties the hands of the BOT's legal mandate from Illinois as Socrates Finger and Jon B. point to?

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  15. Use a search engine and look for financial exigency state university or for financial exigency and the name of your favorite state university in Illinois other than SIU. You'll find all kinds of definitions of financial exigency that are more rigorous than ours.

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  16. "What damage would it do to allow a neutral outsider to rule on whether the BOT's declaration is legit or not? What harm would it do to agree on some non-circular definition of financial exigency?"

    When the corporate shit hits the fan, it is better to act swiftly than wait around a year or more and only compound the injury to an institution that might turn itself around if it took action promptly.

    Binding arbitration works in normal times, not in financial exigencies. Should we remember 1973? Perhaps but FA leaders sound like the generals fighting the last war.

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  17. Better to fight the last war than not to fight at all. I'll also admit to finding the phrase "corporate shit" somewhat intriguing in this context.

    Keep in mind that the appeal to an arbitrator isn't mandatory; the FA would only appeal if it believed that the financial exigency was bogus. Just as the administration would be under pressure to declare FE only in a legitimate crisis, so too the FA would be under pressure to appeal only if the crisis were indeed largely imaginary. The more rigorous and transparent a definition of financial exigency we get, the less likely it is we'll have a phony declaration of FE or an appeal.

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  18. Perhaps, but with the level of distrust and mistrust swirling around this place as of late, one wonders....

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  19. FYI: Faculty Fears in Washington
    October 17, 2011

    It just got easier to lay off full-time faculty members in Washington State, thanks to a declaration of financial emergency last month by the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges. But some faculty leaders say the board’s move is more about a power grab than saving money.

    http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2011/10/17/financial_emergency_in_washington_state_could_lead_to_layoffs_of_tenured_faculty

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  20. There are a couple of points in the posts above that don’t ring entirely true and are worth discussing.

    The discussion of the expression “long term” and the “concession” made by the FA in reducing its requirement that dire financial conditions exist for three years rather than four ignores the fundamental problem in the original supposal. Conditions that result in an exigency situation may arise quickly (in fact they are likely to do so) and still be a long term issue GOING FORWARD. The FA position is entirely backward-looking in its approach. Negative financials for four (now three) consecutive years then you can declare an FE (hold your own for any year and the clock restarts). If, for example, the state cut appropriations by 50% today and told us that that is the new status quo, that money is not coming back, then we have a long term financial crisis. It just started, but it’s still a long term crisis. The absurdity of the FA’s position in this regard has been batted around here often enough that the really disturbing thing is that the FA has chosen to hang on to this issue.

    “The current BOT language doesn't even make it clear that faculty can be fired for financial reasons only in the event of a FE.”

    I don’t see how you can claim that. Current policy (http://policies.siuc.edu/policies/tenure.html) states “Termination of the appointment of a tenured faculty member may take place only for 1) adequate cause; 2) discontinuance of programs; or 3) bona fide financial exigency.“

    Existing policies (http://bot.siu.edu/leg/policies.html) also state that :

    “The Board must be satisfied that all reasonably possible economic measures have been taken before authorizing a reduction in personnel services.”

    The Board will authorize procedures commensurate with the magnitude of the fiscal emergency. Such procedures may include but are not limited to …[fuloughs in the event of financial **necessity**]… long-term programmatic reductions requiring termination of appointment for employees with and without tenure in a DECLARED FINANCIAL EXIGENCY situation. Such procedures will be open to review and comment by administration and constituency bodies. (emphasis added) Note that different standards are specified for different levels of action and that termination of faculty specifically requires a declared financial exigency.

    “In my view the risk we face through badly handled financial exigency far outweighs the risk of a strike.”

    Eh? The likelihood of getting into a financial exigency is remote. The consequences if it were to occur are indeed dire for all concerned and the BOT is not likely to declare such a situation lightly. I have argued elsewhere (http://siucfaculty.blogspot.com/2011/10/chancellors-latest-email-on-tenure.html#comments) that if we do reach that situation, the focus must be on stabilizing the institution and ensuring its ability to fulfill its mission rather than protecting any particular group of employees, (fail to accomplish that and when the dust settles, SIU will not exist at all). But a strike has serious consequences too, both in the short and long term. Calling a strike over procedures for handling an unlikely event ensures those ill effects. So you seem to me to be arguing that it is better to accept the certainty of immediate negative consequences rather than risk something worse later in the event that an unlikely event occurs. You can make that argument, but it’s a funny sort of gamble.

    Finally, I too am highly skeptical of your last claim that the FA would only appeal a declaration of an FE situation if it felt the declaration was not legitimate. My take, given the history here (both recent history and in the longer term) is that the FA will oppose anything the administration does that has even the potential to impact faculty and hence that they would challenge the legitimacy of any/every FE declaration.

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  21. "My take, given the history here (both recent history and in the longer term) is that the FA will oppose anything the administration does that has even the potential to impact faculty and hence that they would challenge the legitimacy of any/every FE declaration."

    Bingo! Just like I attended an FA workshop some 19-20 months ago when the presenters were claiming that SIUC was just fine fiscally. That, after the state owed us over $100M at that point and Poshard had to suspend or curtail all unnecessary expenditures so to ensure that paychecks continued without interruption.

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  22. Seems to me that after students, faculty & staff are the University's most valuable asset. Why does the Administration treat both parties with contempt?

    Here's a couple of questions to ponder:
    1) Can the University meet its mission without faculty & staff?
    I think not......

    2) Can the University meet it's mission without administrators?
    I think so.....

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  23. In the event of a catastrophe resulting in an FE situation the university will undoubtedly shrink, but it is naive to imagine a functional university with only teaching staff. Universities are complex organizations and any complex organization with significant physical assets needs a mixture of staff to function. Obviously teaching staff, including faculty will be core, but some level of administration to manage students issues and financial issues, (including, for example, staff to handle collecting tuition and issuing payroll), and some level of physical plant services to keep the lights turned on etc will all be necessary. All will of necessity be smaller and the proportions would likely be very different than they are currently, but all will be required. Just like a ship’s crew requires many skills - from the captain to the cook to the engineers. Put everyone on a smaller ship and you will not need as many of each, but you still need all the necessary skills to make even the smaller ship functional.

    If you imagine that everyone except tenured faculty should be fired first, you only condemn us to total collapse. The university cannot function with only faculty and none of the other supporting staff. In an FE, you cant save everyone so we should focus on a sustainable, stable, smaller university. The Faculty last model sounds nice until you think through all the details and realize it is unworkable. That model protects no one.

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  24. Yes, but there are some around here that think all administrators are evil or useless... (Rolling my eyes)

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  25. Yes there are, and they are wrong on both counts.

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  26. It may be that there are stronger definitions of financial exigency out there, but there are also weaker examples from closely comparable universities. Consider this from the NIU board of Trustees Regulations:

    “FINANCIAL EXIGENCY
    For the purpose of this Regulation, financial exigency shall be defined as follows:
    A financial exigency is a condition affecting a whole university. It will be considered to exist when (1) the State operating appropriation for Northern Illinois University, adjusted for any mandated salary increments and for the impact of inflation on nonpersonal service costs and excluding retirement, is expected to be less than that of the previous year or when the funds made available to operate the university are reduced in the course of a fiscal year below the level of the appropriation authorized by the Governor and General Assembly, and (2) when either type of reduction if evaluated in relation to the major program and service commitments of the university can be expected to require a reduction in the number of authorized faculty positions and the emergency layoff of tenure-track or tenured faculty. ”

    This provision requires only that state operating appropriation is less than for the previous year, AFTER, adjusting for increased costs!

    The full text and additional info is posted at: http://www.niu.edu/board/regs/sectionII.shtml

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  27. Isn't that a reasonable definition-- a 50% cut or a rescission? It would be absurd to think that something like a 50% cut wouldn't warrant some kind of adjustments without waiting an additional 2-3 years like Socrates Finger pointed out. As for a rescission, this might be more of a concern, given that the amount rescinded could vary. However, isn't it reasonable again to state that some language could be crafted about the proportion of appropriation rescinded for declaration of exigency? An organization cannot be paralyzed in the face of uncertainty, financial or otherwise.

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  28. Socrates Finger makes a lot of sense.

    Great alias too. LOL

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  29. Let's come up with a reasonable definition of exigency without tying the administration in knots with waiting 2-3 years and so forth, declare victory that we have this contractualized, and move on! I swear, I am sick and tired of this issue.

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  30. Here is a reasonable proposal:

    If a ‘financial exigency’ is truly warranted and declared by the BOT this should require the University President, Chancellor, Provosts, and their other top associates to personally take a 25% pay cut as part of any FE authorization before any other actions are taken.

    That would certainly provide a personal incentive for the ‘leadership’ to declare an FE only if indeed it was truly legitimate. Certainly the case can be made if an FE is truly legitimate then their extravagant salaries are not justified.

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  31. That does indeed sound reasonable!

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  32. That's a non starter. The FA cannot negotiate any aspect of the terms and conditions of employment of anyone it does not represent. For the same reason I doubt that the FA is gong to be able to "win" regarding the order of layoffs in the event of a FE situation. Those types of stipulations would require agreement by the other employees affected and I very much doubt that every other union and non-union employee on campus is going to agree to giving the FA favored status.

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  33. I took 24 hours off of the comment stream, and will not try to respond to everything here. But I do have one important point to make, I think. The clear language about financial exigency Socrates Finger points to (at 10:21 am on 10/17) is found in an obscure document in SIUC policy, which is not, to the best of my knowledge, "incorporated" into the contract in the latest BOT proposal, which does this only for BOT policy. By obscure I mean, among other things, that one can only find it via google, not via a link. More importantly, SIUC policy can be changed by the chancellor and president, without BOT approval. It has a lesser status than BOT policy, and still lesser status than contract language.

    As I argued in a my splendid post from September 10, we'd get fairly close to AAUP standards if the BOT were to fully endorse the SIUC policy Socrates Finger cites, and bring the BOT policy and the contract language in line with that old policy (that of the 1996 employee's handbook)--rather than undermining that policy by promoting some somewhat contradictory 1996 employee handbook language (that on financial emergencies) to BOT status and then adding further uncoordinated revisions in the imposed terms.

    The FA supposal went a somewhat different route--arguing for faculty to be full partners in declaring financial exigency rather than focusing on the "primary responsibility" the AAUP calls for faculty to have in implementation of a financial exigency.

    I hold out hope that the FA and BOT can agree on a solid financial exigency policy that provides a non-circular definition of financial exigency, and proper checks and balances on the procedure, while allowing SIUC adequate flexibility to deal with a genuine crisis. The tenure status quo in 1996--adequately clarified and cleaned up--would provide one obvious place for a compromise between "we can fire you in 30 days" and "you can't fire us unless you've been broke for 4 years".

    The way to reach this sort of a compromise is by engaging with the details of the actual proposals--something hard for us to do outside the bargaining room--rather than either calling administrators names or surrendering all power to them based on abstract legal arguments or the untested belief that "we can't get that". I hope that this is what is happening at the bargaining table. But the administration only started to bargain on this issue once the FA neared a strike vote. So calls for the FA to back off & make nice wouldn't facilitate negotiations but stop them in their tracks.

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  34. Okay, Socrates Finger, it's time to come clean. I have two hypotheses for your name.

    The first is that it is based on an error, that you are referring to Plato's famous upward pointing finger in the painting by Raphael in the Vatican.

    The second is that you are referring to the finger, and that you would either give Socrates the finger or have Socrates give said finger to . . . whom? The FA? Of course this wouldn't be terribly civil, now, would it?

    As someone who was, before he was a blogger, and shall be once again, once the current crisis is over, a scholar studying Socrates, I am with child to know which of these hypotheses, if any, is correct--or to hear any other explanation you should offer. All in the interest of transparency.

    I fear, however, that you'll just say it sounded like a good name for a Rock & Roll band, but you hadn't managed to start up a band yet, so settled for the pseudonym. "Settled for the Pseudonym" would also be a good name for a band, come to think of it.

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  35. Settled for the PseudonymOctober 18, 2011 at 10:32 AM

    Damn! You beat us to the punch, Dave. We were all set to premier on the steps of Shryock next summer.

    CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS ROCK!!!!

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  36. It seems to me that an Administration that has allowed negotiations to stretch out over 460 days and who clearly demonstrates procedural abuses of non-decisions to support its positions and create a new status quo is clearly banking on the benefits of issue exhaustion. Beware of getting "sick and tired" and accepting anything to move on. I, for one, would rather not confirm the Administration's negotiation tactics of wait and wear down.

    We can armchair quarterback negotiations all we want. But in the end, I'll wait to see what the negotiation team brings us. And then decide.

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  37. I can see the headlines now...

    Dave Johnson, Professor of Foreign Languages & Literatures at SIUC announces that he "is with child".

    Faculty stunned.

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  38. "I hold out hope that the FA and BOT can agree on a solid financial exigency policy that provides a non-circular definition of financial exigency, and proper checks and balances on the procedure, while allowing SIUC adequate flexibility to deal with a genuine crisis. The tenure status quo in 1996--adequately clarified and cleaned up--would provide one obvious place for a compromise between "we can fire you in 30 days" and "you can't fire us unless you've been broke for 4 years". "


    Until recently I was not sensing this was the position of the FA. What I was reading on this blog and hearing at the FA meeting last week was a rigidity in sticking to joint declaration and many years having to go by before FE would actually set in. So, I am glad that you are articulating something a lot more reasonable than what I heard last week. Now it is the administration's turn.

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  39. Disgusted: let me be a bit clearer. What I said in the quotation isn't, precisely speaking, the position of the FA. It was more or less the position implied by my earlier post on tenure. The FA's position is that its interest is in producing a "transparent and accountable" process for handling financial exigency, and that any set of procedures that would do that would be acceptable. As I noted in the full post from which you quote, the FA's current supposal focuses on the declaration of financial exigency rather than on its implementation, whereas the AAUP give the faculty a greater role in the latter part of the procedure. I bet there's good reason for the FA's position: I suspect the bargaining team doubts that faculty, via the faculty senate or any other mechanism, would be willing and able to assert "primary responsibility" over decisions about which faculty to fire during an FE, so proposed giving faculty a greater role earlier on. But "checks and balances" and "accountability" can come in different forms, and the FA has repeatedly & publicly suggested that it is open to any process meeting those interests. It *may* prove possible to do so by going back to the 1996 policy rather than forward to either the administration's imposed terms or the FA's supposal. That's just my thinking--Dave the blogger, not Dave the FA uppity-up.

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  40. I appreciate the further clarification. I agree, your proposal (speaking as Dave the Blogger) seems like a way out of the logjam we seem to be in (although without being in the bargaining room, who really knows?)

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  41. Well, Dave, I want to invoke being the original source (on this venerable blog) of the "obscure" link finding:

    http://siucfaculty.blogspot.com/2011/09/tenure-15.html

    From the Equally Obscure Bean

    :- )

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  42. LOL....


    Sorry to continue griping, but the Bean proposal is infinitely more reasonable sounding than continuing to stick to the FA supposal. Question is: can we put away the conspiracy theories about Cheng wishing to turn SIUC into another University of Phoenix, et cetera? Granted, it is in the faculty's interest to get as robust language as possible into the contract but at some point we have to settle this. And I will go back to my original supposal: that takes trust.

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  43. Jon Bean is absolutely correct. He was the first on this blog to cite the info I discussed above. I gave the original primary source rather than cite a blog post which cited the original source, but I did not mean to dis JB by doing so. My point was that this has been discussed before and is well known. That being the case why are people still making claims that are contradicted by the evidence that is freely available?

    Tip-o-the-hat to the inimitable Dr Bean

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  44. I can think of two reasons: #1 people have such distrust of the administration that they are willing to believe that Chancellor Cheng does, indeed, wish to diminish tenure protections. The 30-day RIF clause, indeed, is scary and spooked me for a while, until I thought that it really wouldn't be in the university's interest to proceed down this path: a) they would piss off any remaining moderate opinion on this campus; and b) they would not attract any future faculty to come.

    The New York exile in me cites a more cynical #2 - it is not in the union's best interest right now to back off of their heated rhetoric about tenure protection. A) It is jut not good for mobilization; and B) It may actually help attain more robust language in the contract.

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  45. Jon Bean found the policy online, but, to beat this dead horse, the policy is buried on an SIUC policy page and can be changed by the administration (Chancellor and/or President) without a BOT vote It is contradicted by language in the BOT policy and the imposed terms. The FA has not denied that there is language on financial exigency and tenure in BOT policy or SIUC policy, only that this language, when it can be changed by the BOT without faculty approval, provides inadequate protection to tenure. The BOT, to its credit, has essentially agreed with this argument, and is now willing to "incorporate" some of this language into the contract. The remaining problem is ensuring that the language incorporated provides a transparent and accountable process.

    Disgusted: I vote for B.

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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.