Thursday, October 6, 2011

Faculty for No Negotiations

Faculty will have received an email (pasted below) from a wonderfully named group, "Faculty for Sensible Negotiations". I think at this point the main thing that needs to be said about this group is this: they are calling for no negotiations. That is what decertification would mean. To be blunt, whatever decent intentions members of this group may have, the name of this group is a lie.

SIUC faculty have the legal right to petition for a decertification vote, and on this blog I have several times volunteered that decertification is a legal and principled position to advance.  I congratulate Professor Eichholz for having the courage to put his name behind this effort, and for openly endorsing the position that is the logical conclusion, or implicit premise, behind many of the anonymous comments made on this blog. I also believe, of course, that decertification would amount to a nearly complete surrender of faculty rights and the loss of any meaningful shared governance on this campus.

While the email several times speaks of "replacing or decertifying" the FA, the email makes not the slightest effort to suggest what the FA should be replaced with. The AAUP? AFT? Teamsters? Of course not: the FA would be replaced with nothing. There would be no union on campus. What they are calling for is a straight decertification vote, as the close of the email makes clear enough:
What can you do?  First, you can reply to this email!  Opinions both supporting and opposing this effort are welcome.  Second, when you are notified that signatures are being collected, you can sign the petition calling for a formal vote of the faculty, and finally, when asked to do so you can vote to decertify the FA as the exclusive representative of the faculty at SIU.  
Voting to decertify the FA would mean the end of negotiation with the administration. It would mean the end of any contracts between faculty and administration--beyond whatever contract each of us signed as individuals when we were hired, or subsequently. The administration could continue to impose furlough days whenever it sees fit. It could redefine tenure policy as it sees fit. It could eliminate academic programs as it sees fit. It could then fire tenured faculty in keeping with its new tenure and program elimination policies. It could demand that faculty teach distance learning courses, whether they want to or not, and pay them whatever it wants to pay them. It could amend or ignore departmental operating papers as it wishes. And it could establish and amend its own grievance process to allow it to efficiently dispose of any complaints about university policies.

There would of course be some checks on administrative power. Federal and state law would of course apply, though we should not be too sanguine about the protections such laws offer to things like tenure (not to mention the law's delay). Obviously abusive moves would meet with public resistance. Decisions which dilute academic quality would eventually come to the attention of the wider academic community. There would presumably still be a faculty senate, though its advisory powers would increasingly resemble those of the senate under the Roman empire.

Pardon the classical allusion--or, rather, do not pardon it: what we are fighting for here bears a resemblance to what the enemies of Julius Caesar, and defenders of the Roman Republic, were fighting for:

L I B E R T A S 

Those noble Romans lost. We don't have to. But back from my classical reverie: Decertification would be a dream come true for the administration. It would be a nightmare for any faculty members who continue to believe that university faculty ought to have a meaningful say in how this university is run. That's why this new group will have great difficulty getting 30% of the faculty to sign a petition in favor of holding a vote. And that's why, even should they manage to get 30% to sign, they'd get little more than 30% for a decertification vote.

Here's the full email from "Faculty for Sensible Negotiations".

Dear fellow faculty members,

As you are aware, our university is at a crisis that threatens our reputation and possibly our future as a scholarly institution.  While we may not agree with the administration’s stance on some matters, we believe that the Faculty Association (FA) and its parent organization the Illinois Education Association (IEA) share responsibility for bringing us to this point.  We are currently working under an “agreement” that was imposed because of what we believe were unrealistic and unreasonable FA demands on many issues.  The IEA/FA and its supporters have consistently resorted to tactics that have created an openly hostile atmosphere on campus, including vilification of individual members of the administration and faculty members who do not share their positions.  This situation is an anathema to both the academic mission of the university and to a productive relationship between the faculty and the university’s leadership that is essential to the future success of our university.  Even when we disagree, we must all work together or together we will surely fail. 

Whether or not an agreement between the administration and the FA is reached in the near future, we feel that the culture of confrontation that typifies the manner in which the FA operates is no longer tolerable on campus.  The actions of the FA, with a membership of less than 40% of the faculty, reflect on the entire faculty body.  As members of that body, we no longer feel comfortable allowing our colleagues, the student body, the administration, and the local community to believe the FA represents our position. Several meetings between concerned faculty from various colleges across campus have already taken place throughout the summer to research and understand what our rights are in this situation. As a result, planning is in progress to petition to decertify or replace the FA.  To be clear, no one associated with the administration has participated in this process in any way.  This is a grass-roots action by concerned faculty members, all of whom are currently represented by the IEA/FA. 

We do not take this process lightly.  Even though the FA is a minority organization within the faculty, under the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act (IELRA), the 1996 vote that emplaced the FA grants it perpetual authority to represent the faculty regardless of the level of support it maintains among the faculty.  Since many current faculty members were not associated with the university at the time the FA was emplaced and since many who participated in that vote have since left the university, we feel the situation is both undemocratic and unjust.   The only manner in which the exclusive representation of the FA can be challenged is a decertification or replacement action.  While we would prefer to allow those faculty members who might wish to continue to be represented by the FA to do so, we insist that the rights of those faculty members who do not wish to be represented by the FA must also be respected. Under the IELRA as currently enacted the only way in which that can be achieved is via decertification or replacement of the FA.

This will be a two-step process.  Initially signatures will be collected to determine whether there is sufficient support for decertification or replacement among represented faculty.  If at least 30% of the faculty indicates that they support such action, then a formal vote of the faculty will be conducted.  At that time, if a majority of represented faculty vote to do so, the FA would then be decertified or replaced.

What can you do?  First, you can reply to this email!  Opinions both supporting and opposing this effort are welcome.  Second, when you are notified that signatures are being collected, you can sign the petition calling for a formal vote of the faculty, and finally, when asked to do so you can vote to decertify the FA as the exclusive representative of the faculty at SIU.  Additional information will follow in the near future.

The Faculty for Sensible Negotiations

158 comments:

  1. I too appreciate Professor Eichholtz signing his name to this call for decertification. I am wondering if he or others in support of this move can respond to Dave's, mine, and others' reflections. First off, it seems like the petition misunderstands the nature of democratic discourse and the history and role of unions more generally in effecting change and balancing power relations. The name-calling and bullying they claim to have witnessed (I myself have not seen much of those--perhaps some extra passion on this blog, to be sure) is to be expected in a contentious situation and it's, I agree, fairly uncomfortable, but this should not detract from the fact that bargaining on this campus, simply put, has been unproductive (at least until recently, I hope). Indeed it takes two to tango, but to put most or all of the blame on the party that ipso fact has less power is patently unfair. Why do I say the FA has less power? Because by definition it asking for concessions and protections from the body that controls the purse strings and does the hiring and firing. There is, of course, a role for managers who make tough calls, but these should be made with honest, transparency, and much debate about the unique mission of a college or university. This may be dreamy idealism to some, but that's where bargaining comes in. The administration must concede some points, discuss others, give a little, take a little; and it must recognize that the faculty and the students they teach are the backbone of the university. Otherwise, we have a situation that resembles, alas, our own U.S. government of late. In short, it simply doesn't make sense to blame unions for an impasse. Now there is another argument that goes something like this: "The chancellor is new, so give her a chance to make some tough calls during a time of fiscal constraint." But the important thing to realize is that the FA has always acknowledged and recognized that these are tough times. But it is precisely moments like this that demand sacrifice and give and take on all sides. In short, it seems to me that these petitioners find unions, by definition, unseemly, and I'd be eager to see if they have a vision of the workplace that might include them. Their concern over heated rhetoric and, admittedly, the real fear that an impasse will negatively affect enrollment, our reputation, etc should NOT lead them to simply to our calling off negotiations, keeping our heads down, and hoping for the best. It should, instead, lead them us all to examine their deeply-held real visions of how a university should look in the future and what the administration-faculty relationship should look like.

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  2. P.S. Sorry about the typos above...

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  3. With all respect to both Dave and the previous poster, I think you are both evading the real issues that Professor Eichholz--and others here--keep raising. Yes, indeed, it is very disturbing to think of creating a vacuum if the union is no longer there to represent the faculty in negotiations. Even if one believes the current administration about their own intentions, the actual policy language is--as Dave has pointed out--so vague and internally contradictory that it will inevitably lead to problems. So, to the question of whether there needs to representation, I believe the answer is yes, and I also believe that Professor Eichholz might agree (although I have no idea since I've never met him).

    The next question that arises is of whether the current leadership of the FA is, in fact, representing the faculty in a reasonable manner. As I think is becoming rather clear even here, there are some serious concerns about this. Despite repeated calls for a proposal from the FA that would reflect reality, the leadership persists in defending a Supposal that is patently ridiculous. It appears that they hope to be able to force another "no layoffs" side letter. If so, they have clearly lost touch with reality.

    Finally, and most disturbingly, the FA spokespersons have taken a "you're for us or you're against us" attitude toward faculty members. Questions about the current FA tactics are met with characterizations like Dave's: that clearly people are attempting to undercut the bargaining process and the union's entire presence on the campus. This attitude is insulting and disrespectful to a membership that has, rather reluctantly, voted to authorize a strike in the hope that the FA will negotiate in ways that actually protect their interests.Clearly, this hope is dimming for many of us.

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  4. Why is a "no layoffs" side letter so absurd and unrealistic?

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  5. The Faculty for Sensible Negotiations simply wants faculty members to be able to choose whether or not they are represented by the FA. Before Dave spins this into a boogeyman, please take a minute to consider whether or not you think we should all be forced to support the FA against our will. The stance represented in this letter is that the only way that we can get other options for faculty representation is to decertify the FA. Once that is done, my hope is that faculty members will have options. Those that choose to be represented by a union will be. Those who wish to have other representation or self-representation can also choose to do so. To me, this seems much more fair than the current system in which 30% of the faculty have the ability to control our fate.

    I also find it very interesting that past anti-FA comments on this blog have been met with a call to get involved by either joining the union and change it from within or by moving to decertify the FA, rather than standing on the sidelines and complaining. Now that the process is in motion, Dave's predictable response is to vilify the Faculty for Sensible Negotiations for doing what they can to take control of their future.

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  6. I don't think Dave begrudged people for getting involved in a different way, and I didn't read his opening comments as vilifying the FSN (if I may). Indeed he offered some praise. Rather, he simply pointed out what seems to be an emerging confusion: Are you calling for a different kind of negotiations or an abdication of negotiations through decertification? If the former, I am truly eager to see what a more reasonable form of negotiations would look like. Decertification or not, the FA leadership needs to hear it: what needs to happen at THIS bargaining table? I'd love alternative ideas.

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  7. Anonymous 12:11, what do you see as a faculty member's future without the FA?

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  8. There IS an alternative to NEA or no union. It is called "Local Only Teacher Unions" (LOTUs). I will be blogging about this soon. So the real choice is

    1. Keep the FA and "suck it up" if you don't like its actions (or aren't even a member)

    2. Decertify and have no union.

    3. Decertify and create a LOTU.

    I'll blog on this later but have work to do.

    FYI: See http://www.nrtw.org/en/d/decert.htm

    More later. BTW, I will also post a link to a union strike that ended up in decertification -- led by a former union militant.

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  9. Anonymous at 12:23 p.m. has just asked "...what needs to happen at THIS bargaining table? I'd love alternative ideas."

    Have you been following the comment threads here over the past couple of weeks? I, and others, have repeatedly posted concerns and links to documents at other universities that would offer robust alternative models to the FA's Supposal on financial exigency. (I am still using the pseudonym from an earlier thread.)

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  10. Oh, thank you for that link to the "National Right to Work legal Defense Foundation." This organization exists to kill off unions and make workers at will employees. So are you going to ask them for help to end union representation on campus?? Shame on you.

    Francis, Grad Assistant

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  11. 12:11 remains confused. My understanding--which I share with the email sent by the "FSN" and J. Bean--is that the faculty at SIUC must either be represented by a union or not. The FSN think we should not be represented by the FA/IEA, and propose no other alternative.

    The good Dr. Bean suggests, as one alternative, a "local only" outfit that would be unaffiliated with any larger group. A nice sounding idea, which avoids the NEA bogeyman argument, but thinking of how much extra volunteer labor that would require quickly convinces me that it is completely unworkable. Those who think that the NEA is pulling all the strings and that the FA isn't run by SIUC faculty have never been to an FA meeting. Faculty decide what issues matter. Faculty make the decisions about bargaining, strike preparations, grievances, etc. But without NEA office support (for things as banal as xeroxing and the like), legal and financial support (lawyers for grievances, ULP, funds for a strike HQ, no-interest loans, etc.), and advice from union professionals (esp. Jim Clark), the union would be dead in the water.

    Which is what the FSN want. If that's what they want, they've got every right to push it and advocate for it, but let's not pretend that this is anything else than an attempt to make this a union-free campus.

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  12. If we had a different union it is likely the same people would be running it. Obviously the decertification drive people do not want a union.

    People who have ideas on what they would like to see in the contract should continue to post them, let their DRC reps know their views or write to the union leadership. If you don't have a DRC rep contact your college rep directly. If you don't agree with the tone of Randy's communications write him and make suggestions. The FA is a democratic organization and many different views are expressed within it and they do listen to views of non-members as well.

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  13. No longer "silent majority" but despite the new logo, these people are still SCABS. They have circulated this email at a strategic time when the final union has joined the rest of us and they have no concern for those existing under more dire conditions than the rest of us such as exploited graduate students. How can you have a "sensible negotiation" with a Chancellor who has removed tenure in the imposed contract and is undermining academic freedom? These people are little better than traitors to their colleagues and complicit in undermining what a university should be despite their genteel language and BRIDESHEAD REVISITED ideology. Yes, this is "heated rhetoric" and deservedly so!

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  14. Tony's post is confirmation of what this new group is saying.

    Scabs? Removed tenure? Undermining academic freedom? Traitors?

    Seems certain members of the FA are very adept at shooting themselves in the foot....on a regular basis.

    Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

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  15. To those who are trying to argue that those driving for decert. simply need to make their concerns to the FA: Where have you been? Look back through the archives of this blog. Bloggers have been pointing out for months the absurdity of some of the FA positions. Nothing has changed. And don't tell me that we should have gone through FA channels. We have all seen how those who do not agree with the FA are treated here, so why would anyone want to contact the FA in person and be branded as known "traitor"?

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  16. Actually, I HAVE contacted members of the FA directly, and with concrete suggestions. While I have chosen to remain anonymous here, those communications have not been anonymous. I have been systematically ignored. Rather, to borrow from Toulmin for a moment, what we get here and elsewhere are responses that belong to "what Paul Ricoeur calls the hermeneutics of suspicion: philosophical positions that attack the opposition by impugning their motives, not refuting their arguments." (Stephen Toulmin, Return to Reason, p. 95. Kindle Edition).

    I remain Anonymous 4:02--although from 4:02 on an earlier day.

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  17. The fact that the FA hasn't adopted your position doesn't mean it hasn't heard them. Failure to adopt positions voiced in comments here hardly shows the FA undemocratic. Failure to adopt positions voiced by the majority of the membership would--but last time I checked 92% of the membership supported the FA's current bargaining posture. Of course we won't all agree with all the positions of any conceivable union that represents us. If you are uncomfortable being represented by any conceivable union, then by all means join the movement to stop negotiations by decertifying the FA.

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  18. To anon 2:30. You almost have it right. They shoot us ALL in the foot! People outside of SIU judge us all by those sorts of comments. I for one am glad someone is finally seriously proposing decertification.

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  19. Do we really need such uncivil commentary? Do we really need to vilify fellow professors in an academic setting for holding principled positions that, perhaps, just perhaps, you disagree with?

    I am not in favor of decertification at this time. I believe that unions can play a constructive role in a university; that is why I joined the FA the moment I arrived on campus four years ago. I am waiting and seeing, though, whether THIS union, AT THIS TIME, can actually propose moderate solutions to the real challenges that this university faces. Insisting on the FA supposal is NOT a "moderate" solution IMHO. Neither is the terms and conditions of employment that were imposed last March by the BOT.

    When this is all over and done with, we all have to be able to pull together for the good of our students, and the good of this university. Villifying individuals is not at all conducive to this goal.

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  20. Dave, I believe your comment that 92% of the membership supports the FA's bargaining posture is not quite accurate. There was never a vote on the FA positions at all; the vote was to authorize the FA leadership to call a strike if it was unable to reach a reasonable contract through negotiation. We have heard here from a number of people who voted "yes" on the strike authorization that they did so in the hope and expectation that the FA would adopt a more moderate position on FE once negotiations resumed. I would propose, in fact, that it is the FA's failure to move toward a realistic position on FE that has precipitated this discussion of decertification.

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  21. My $.02 ...

    Please, do not go overboard with this new situation. These people have as much right to what theyre doing as we do to what we are. The last thing we want to do is demonize them. That would be playing right into their hands.

    Our detractors frequently try to portray us and wild eyed radicals who may go off at any moment like a bomb and start spewing hate speech at those who disagree with us. If we do that we play right into their hands.

    We have all the issues on our side; we are in the "right." As a result of that and the way we have conducted ourselves so far, at worst, we have neutral public opinion. But the second we start calling out these faculty, screaming "we're gonna shut this place down", or start wearing the Cheng equivalent of Wendler wigs and mustaches we're gonna lose.

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  22. I'll promise to shut up after this one for a bit. The FA has bargaining positions on RIF and the like. It's not demanding wholesale adoption of any of them. Members of the FA know this (which is why I typed "bargaining posture" rather than "bargaining positions" above). The only thing the FA demands is genuine negotiations on the topics raised by these positions. The FA is willing to engage in genuine negotiations itself--which means its positions may well change. It is not, however, willing to negotiate with itself--or with commentators on this blog. That's not a terribly good idea if one hopes to negotiate a deal one can live with. That doesn't mean your suggestions aren't heard, or that they might not have an impact on the sorts of solutions the FA decides it can live with in the end.

    Yeah, Tony Williams' rhetoric is fiery, but he knows as much, and he signs his own name. Tell him if you think he's crossed the line. But don't treat him as the face of the FA--I think it is fair to say that Tony Williams represents Tony Williams (and does so rather passionately indeed).

    Okay, let's all enjoy the sunshine as well as the electronic fireworks this afternoon.

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  23. Not-so-innocent bystanderOctober 6, 2011 at 4:20 PM

    Open letter to all faculty: First, allow me to echo what many have said, that we should all try for a little more civility and a little less name-calling and demonizing. Secondly, let me remind everyone that there are complex issues being fought over, and where people stand is greatly influenced by their social location, and it is possible for intelligent well-meaning people to disagree.
    That being said, I’ve heard from some people (faculty, instructors, & grad students) that they are concerned about the disruption to students that a strike will cause. Many are actually supportive of the unions position(s), while some sit squarely on the fence, but both groups are hesitant to support a strike out of a misguided belief that they would be negatively impacting the students. I say “misguided” because they are measuring “ impact” in the narrowest possible way, and only over the shortest of possible time periods. Supposing an individual chooses not to honor the picket lines (as is their right), then their students will have the benefit of their presence in the classroom and might not be impacted (for that one specific class). But looking at the larger picture, chances are that at least one of their professors will strike, so their students will be affected, even if they themselves do not strike. And even if none of their students are in a class with an instructor who strikes, there are still plenty of other students who will be impacted. And if you measure impact in terms of all students, in future semesters (instead of the narrow, one class, this semester only way), then you will realize that a strike will have enormous repercussions. So what to do? Well, if you really care about the students (and the university), and if there is a strike (it is still avoidable), then you should support it. If all people who are represented by the four unions support the strike, then it will be over in a matter of days. By choosing to cross the picket line, in an effort help your students, you will actually be subjecting them to greater disruption by helping to prolong the strike.
    The administration is following the union busting playbook, step by step (as is their right, and perhaps, duty?). Their greatest weapons are using the university resources (primarily email), and their sense of legitimacy (after all, they are the leaders of this institution), to spread fear. And to be honest, the recent email discussing lost health care benefits was pretty scary. But it is important that the faculty (and the other unions) use our greatest weapons: information and unity. We need to continue to spread our message (truth, NOT distortion), and we need to stand together. We can avoid a strike (and get a bargain we can live with) only by resisting the administrations divide-and-conquer tactics. And, in the event of a strike, we can end it quickly (and favorably) with our strength.

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  24. While I definitely agree that we need to stand together, I believe the FA needs to do something rather drastic very quickly if it is to have any hope of achieving a settlement in these negotiations. I do not disagree that there is, at least in part, an attempt at union-busting going on here. However, the positions the FA has currently on the table are so self-evidently ridiculous that they defy attempts by members of this community to spread a coherent and truthful message.

    I am a longtime NEA member who came here from another state, where I was trained in union advocacy. I can tell you from experience with some very nasty negotiations that positions grounded carefully in models from our peers and aspirational peers can be explained and justified publicly--at the local and statewide level. Proposals that are completely out of step with current educational realities only earn the FA incredulity and condemnation.

    If anyone here can explain to me why the FA is choosing to continue with its current advocacy rather than getting out in front with a realistic and defensible position, I will be delighted to listen. So far, all I am hearing is assertions that I just have to trust the FA leadership to act in the best interests of the membership--despite fairly widespread calls for explanation and justification. How is this different from the Chancellor's position?

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  25. Let's not debase Ricoeur by reiterating Toulmin's garishly inaccurate gloss: "hermeneutics of suspicion" have absolutely nothing to do with ad hominem attacks. Here's the primary citation: Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970), 30-35.

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  26. Disheartened SIUC StudentOctober 6, 2011 at 5:34 PM

    I don't know if this is an appropriate place to put this comment, however I feel the need to express my opinions on this matter. Before I begin I wish to inform you that I am mainly speaking about this blog and what a student reading it may take from it.

    I am posting to shed some light on a student's point of view,looking up at all of the chaos going on, with respect to the disagreement between the FA and the Administration. I understand that there is disagreement on what is right or wrong language in your contracts as faculty members. I also understand that there is a serious issue with respect to the possible loss of a certain level of tenure/job security that is generally accepted by professors. I hold the belief that the faculty should not simply accept that their tenure/job security may be in jeopardy.

    However, what I find very disheartening is that many of the faculty members that I see commenting on this blog have resulted to flat out child's play. What I mean by "child's play" is the childish attitudes that some have taken in responding to others comments. I will not start citing examples of this as I think it is rather obvious and it isn't proper to start pointing fingers. Seeing this type of behavior from our professors is not very comforting from a student's point of view.

    I understand that there is tension and differences between the faculty, but why is it resulting in such unprofessional behavior on the behalf of some professors? To be fair I cannot confirm that all of the posts are from professors or faculty, because either the name is anonymous or I simply do not know that professor, if they are one. However Some names I do know and it does not embrace my confidence in this university to see such childish comments towards others for their views. What level of professionalism would you, as professors, expect out of us as students, given a similar situation?

    When I think of professors, I like to think of them as being very knowledgeable and professional individuals, not unprofessional and childish. I guess what i'm trying to say is that I would have expected better cooperation from the Administration, the FA, and the faculty as a whole, whether in support of a strike or not. It still surprises me how this whole situation got so far out of hand, that it has come down to factionalism between the faculty members in support of the union and the strike and the faculty members that are not.

    I do not mean to take an offensive tone in this post. Rather my intentions are to relay my impression of the current events, as a student, with respect to a possible strike situation, and how the faculty members and the various faculty organizations are dealing with them. Are the faculty members and various organizations acting in the same professional manner that they would expect from it's students? Thank you for your time.

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  27. The timing of this decertification petition is, indeed, interesting. Do those involved truly imagine that the FA is dooming us through its actions? That an imposed contract, busted unions, and the continued erosion of shared governance are in the best interests of anyone? And while Dr. Bean has offered the possibility of "union" alternative, is developing such an organization for these negotiations practical? Does it address the logistical concerns articulated by Dr. Johnson?

    I hear and try to heed the call for civility. But I note that call as something applicable to all parties, especially in the realm of anonymous blog comments. Have the critics of FA tactics and positions really (really???) always been so civil? But then, I tend to think of striking or even threatening to strike as a kind of civil disobedience. Of necessity, it can become uncivil as those in the power-down position are forced to "act-up."

    I choose not to be an arm-chair quarterback of the negotiation process. If I wanted that role, I should have put myself forward as a negotiator. I did not. I refuse to believe, however, that in the week since the strike vote the FA negotiators are abusing a perceived advantage or mandate from that vote. How much harder it must be to do this work with so many clamoring from behind, "Don't be so aggressive with the queen; sacrifice another pawn!"

    So, if the FSN want to go through the disruptive but likely harmless performance of proving they lack a sufficient majority to offer a non-alternative to the FA, let's roll up our sleeves and add this to the unsavory mix of this already difficult semester. We will all learn something from this, painfully.

    In the process, though, don't expect me to hobble myself in explaining in no uncertain terms why I think this decertification petition is poorly timed, pointless, and wrong. I wonder if its supporters, anonymously and otherwise, will be able to recognize this discourse is not a one-sided collapse of civility...as they respond in kind.

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  28. Fair enough, Ryan--I happened to have that particular reference at hand and it seemed apt, but I won't argue with you about the wider context.

    I will, however, hold to the view that the rhetoric of these interactions--both as it appears in the official communications among the negotiators, and as it manifests here, deserves to be viewed with suspicion for all that it conceals, as well as for what it reveals. The pretense that one side is being entirely fair and transparent while the other side engages only in nefarious attempts to mislead is inane.

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  29. We need to decertify Cheng not FA. You will lot more votes for removing Cheng then decertifying FA. Don’t forget, she is the one who cut the SIUC employees salaries and gave the money to outside firm (her old friends) for the lousy logo. Her priorities are different. Faculty and staff are not going to sleep and let her do whatever she wants. Do you really think the certification effort is grass root faculty effort? Like the “silent majority,” this is Cheng’s plan. She is not going to give-up till she destroys SIUC. Wake up everyone!

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  30. Have you noticed how many administrative searches are going on while faculty and staff positions have been frozen? Every major search she has conducted resulted in serious questions. Cheng’s priorities are different. She does not care about students and quality of education. You do not need big stadiums, beautiful tracks, and fancy (or should I say awful) logo to provide quality education. What you need is quality faculty. Students are not kids. They understand the situation very well.
    We made a mistake in hiring the Chancellor. Let’s admit. Do a no confidence vote against her and start a new chapter.

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  31. My, oh, my. I posted the link to the NRTW because they have the most information on decertfication and support it. My Lord, if you want to defeat your "enemy" you have to understand him/her/It. I doubt I'll find a decert. page at NEA!

    Not that I'm calling the NRTW the "enemy...."

    (I'm probably the rare union member who has also contributed to NRTW because I support their campaign to aid non-union voters in getting back fair share fees unrelated to local expenses. I'm also opposed to "fair" share/agency fee on principle but that's for another day.

    One recent faculty strike resulted in decertification and that was before the 2008 meltdown. Yes, it can happen here -- FA represents a minority of faculty, right?

    As for this constant banter about FA being a "democratic organization," we rarely vote on anything and even the strike authorization was an up and down vote. Several "yes" voters said "well, the FA won't go on strike if they don't have the support of the rank and file after there is movement on negotiations." My response: "They don't need the rank and file. They got a blank check to act on their own and you gave it to them!"

    Perhaps this decert. group ought to take up the Bush-hater mantra of "He's not MY president" to "It's not MY union!" lol

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  32. Anonymous 4:02 said...

    "Actually, I HAVE contacted members of the FA directly, and with concrete suggestions. While I have chosen to remain anonymous here, those communications have not been anonymous. I have been systematically ignored."

    First I am glad you have done that. If you have not gotten the response you wanted I suggest you sit down and talk with your college rep. But remember your views may have been considered you are just in the minority.

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  33. "We are currently working under an “agreement” that was imposed because of what we believe were unrealistic and unreasonable FA demands on many issues."

    The content of that "agreement" was determined by the university administration. The administration could have imposed other terms, but they chose not to. The administration could have imposed just the furlough days but included nothing about reduction in force. That would have left reduction in force to Board and university policy. Instead, they decided that furloughs and policy weren't enough and decided to impose more.

    The FA (and the IEA/NEA) did not choose the content of the imposed terms, the administration did.

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  34. I am in total agreement with paranoid. The language in the imposed terms is chosen by Cheng not FA. You must be sleeping if you cannot understand Cheng’s intentions. She has no respect for faculty and staff. She does not know how to lead and build consensus. It is shameful that the Board is letting SIUC die slowly.
    I agree with the previous anonymous’ comments that the root of the problem is Cheng and BOT not FA. Cheng is going leave soon; all of us will still be here. This is our university. We have put many more hours to build it than any of the current administrators. Don’t let them destroy it. Let’s show the administration and Jonathan Bean that our vote was not a threat for strike. We are serious. We are willing to sacrifice to take our university back. A lot of people, who fight for right things, never get to enjoy for which they were fighting. Let’s not be selfish. Everyone is enjoying the benefits of FA’s hard labor in previous contracts. Thank FA that you still have jobs. Otherwise, Cheng would have fired you or your brother or sister sitting next door by now. Recognize the benefits you have received because of FA and support your colleagues who are fighting on your behalf.
    This is a wake-up call.

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  35. Dave:
    I just submitted a comment. It showed up in the blog and then disappeared. Would you please look into the problem.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Just cleared the spam filter. I've heard a couple say they've had trouble posting comments at all, but I haven't been able to figure out the problem--obviously lots of comments are getting through. I suppose the usual sorts of layperson's advice apply: try a different search engine or a different computer or a different location.

    ReplyDelete
  37. A comment to "Disheartened student": I too have shared your reaction at times, especially as I've read every last comment on this blog--currently 1,434 and counting. If you compare our comment stream to other *unmoderated* ones on other blogs, I think you'll likely conclude this one is fairly civil and substantive. Professors do at least tend to write long comments--that's no surprise! And, believe it or not, there's only been one case of coarse language I've had to remove (and that one was accidental).

    We are, however, people too, and we get overheated, type comments in haste, etc. There's been a pretty constant stream not only of overheated rhetoric but of comments criticizing such rhetoric--making the comment stream self-policing in some sense. Most students, at any rate, are lucky enough never to see more than one of us at a time; those with more experience know that we disagree more often than not.

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  38. Anonymous 7:16, "We" did not hire Cheng. That was done by Poshard and the BOT who obviously plan to make this university a corporate business with submissive employees that the FNN certainly embody. "We" lost our chance when faculty, Senate, and graduate Council did not conduct an outside assessment of the plagiarist himself and allowed him to remain. He got away with murder and employed somebody who is murdering this university. As for civility, many of us are justifiably angry not just at Cheng but her supporters who are little better than those Vichy Regime collaborators in Occupied France who show no concern for the less fortunate members of this community such as NTT Faculty, Graduate Students, and Civil service Workers. Expect more administrative hires as long as this regime continues, with the lucky winners from the FNN itself.

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  39. While I'm not big fan of the current administration, 10:33 does strike me as the sort of anti-administration rhetoric that strengthens the arguments of those who believe the faculty (and FA) are lunatics who can't be allowed to run the asylum (or even negotiate with the management on something like an equal footing).

    Does comparison with Vichy qualify for Godwin's law? I suppose my comparison to Roman politics (tragically unappreciated in the comment thread) may be equally extreme, but at least Julius Caesar has his fans, and at least in my historical analogy there are two sides, a "senate", etc.

    At any rate, especially after trying to reassure our Disheartened Student, I feel I should say that in my view neither Chancellor Cheng nor President Poshard resembles Marshal Petain, nor can I readily identify the mysterious figure they are collaborating with who would have to play Herr Hitler. Murder seems a bit much, and I don't see NTTs, GAs, or ACsE heading for death camps. Does claiming someone else broke Godwin's law qualify as a Godwin's law violation? Good enough for me.

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  40. "I am in total agreement with paranoid. The language in the imposed terms is chosen by Cheng not FA. You must be sleeping if you cannot understand Cheng’s intentions."

    Cheng, Cheng, Cheng. If you think you are building support for your cause by focusing on Cheng, you are deluded.

    As for "show the administration and Jonathan Bean..." Ha, ha. How many times have I criticized administration policies? Not only on free speech issues but I also joined the FA for pay equity. FA got it for me (during the Poshard honeymoon). Kudos but I didn't sell my soul (or mind) to the company store or the union bossman.

    Decertification calls typically come at this point in negotiations that have dragged on. I'm still a union member but I wonder about the "my union, right or wrong, we voted so now-you-shut-up mindset" I hear on this blog.

    Of course, you ASSUME I am "Jonathan Bean" when I could really be that Evil Cheng. Brahahaha.

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  41. BOT member Sanders, pushed for her appointment. Like many other searches being conducted at SIUC, BOT already knew who they want to hire. Cheng herself has said several times that she did not want to apply but Sanders called her multiple times and begged her to apply (SIUC’s bad luck). There are no fair administrative searches at SIUC. Provost was hired not for his credentials (because he has none) but because he is a loyal lapdog who will wag his tail behind Cheng. When you have people like Cheng and Nicklow sitting at the top, drawing huge salaries they do not deserve, have no leadership qualities, there is no doubt that SIUC’s future is bleak at best. Unless we all stand together to take back our university, we will continue to be treated like dirt. We should not be looking for shared governance. Our motto should be “Faculty Governance.”

    ReplyDelete
  42. Forgot to post some quick links to decertification and LOTUs:

    http://goo.gl/pbf5T

    See the followup post on the latest move for pension cuts (for younger workers under 50): http://goo.gl/wYPmo

    ReplyDelete
  43. Forgot to post some quick links to decertification and LOTUs:

    http://goo.gl/pbf5T

    See the followup post on the latest move for pension cuts (for younger workers under 50): http://goo.gl/wYPmo

    ReplyDelete
  44. Thank you for Godwin's Law. It made my day. And reminds those who forget that faculty are, first and foremost, human beings with all the foibles of the rest of humanity.

    On another topic - I'm struck by the absence of discussion of the civil service worker's union. They also voted to strike, and even more than faculty can actually bring the university to a grinding halt if they all walk of the job. What are their demands? What's clogging up those negotiations? What percentage of their unit actually belongs to the union? Unlike faculty, most civil service workers earn well below median incomes and have seen their workloads increase considerably with administrative "efficiencies" as well as non-replacement of open positions. What's their situation?

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  45. Cheng isn't even the true issue here.

    It's Glenn Poshard. If anyone thinks Rita is doing anything else than the bidding of the Emperor (Poshard) then they aren't really in tune with what's happening. The arguments about Saluki Way have nothing to do with this strike debate. That funding came from separate sources and poses separate issues. I think it was a mistake but let's not get it twisted. The funding for faculty comes from tuition and state allocations. Those funding sources are down.

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  46. Furthermore, I think you have comments like Tony's which are as inflammatory as Cheng's. What needs to happen is a compromise. Funny the SIU FA demonized Wendler yet took his comparitvely fair offers compared to what Rita has tossed out there. Both sides need to chill. Maybe, just maybe, the threat of decertification can do that.

    Peace.

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  47. Anonymous (2:09 AM):

    See the ACsE Web site, particularly Strike Watches #2, 4, 5, and 7 for details about their situation. A few AScE members follow this blog and can give you more details, but you have the main idea correct. They want the university to stop piling more work on them or replacing decent jobs with crumby extra help positions every time someone leaves. They want protection from arbitrary layoffs. They want a few vacation days changed to personal days that they can take to handle household emergencies without advance approval from a supervisor.

    As for what the holdup is, I don't know, but I've been told by an ACsE insider that the administration bargaining team does not share your opinion of how important ACsE employees are to the functioning of the university.

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  48. The continued vilification of the administration on this thread aptly demonstrates part of the FSN cause. Rita Cheng is not going anywhere in the near term and neither and neither are John Nicklow and Glenn Poshard. The focus needs to be on the issues at hand. Our image is being tarnished more each day that this nonsense continues.

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  49. I agree the that vilification of the administration and of colleagues is unseemly, in some cases unfair, and most likely counterproductive. But my hunch is that the FSN folks would be against this or perhaps any other campus union even without the ad hominem attacks. I and many others are truly trying to be civil and to understand the issues, and in this anonymous format (I plead guilty to hiding my name), we'll never know if its only 1 or 2 people spouting the extra vitriol. That being said, I do encourage the FSN people to remind themselves that this is par for the course. The FA didn't event "scab" language and the heated talk is part of the story, like it or not. We hope that cools heads prevail at the bargaining table. This not mean that being called a scab is a quaint, minor thing. I'm sure if there is a strike, the language will be out there in full force. But the bigger point for the FSN is to explain how the university might work without a union. The reason people organized in the 1990s is not because busy scholars and teachers had dreamed of being scrappy activists since they were a kid. It is because they envisioned making the university better and righting the imbalance between the admin and the faculty. While it is true that many (indeed most) colleges don't have unions, this university cried out for one. Please remember, too, that in 2002/3 many people were vehemently anti-union and then they came to enjoy the fruits of a very decent contract. I only ask that the FSN--all of us--consider the bigger picture: what unions get workers when the management is used to having all the cards.

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  50. Is there any precedent for protecting people from retaliation? Let's say an assistant prof. is coming up for tenure. Perhaps her union activity could affect the provost's perception of her file. Or let's say she crosses the picket line. If her chair or members of the college committee agree with the 'fiery' slurs of Tony Williams, what's to stop them from scuttling her career anonymously?

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  51. Someone ought to have a word with the folks over at the GAU. They're calling for some sort of well populated and loud demonstration in front of Anthony Hall next week and have enlisted the aid of "Occupy Carbondale." While I'm all in favor of free speech and allowing the free exchange of ideas I'm not so sure that this will be to anyone's benefit, much less the union's. Seems that they're trying to bring a whole host of issues that have nothing to do with the negotation of a new contract. My $.02.

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  52. Anonymous 10/7 8:27 stated "But the bigger point for the FSN is to explain how the university might work without a union." Somewhat similarly, I asked the question roughly 24 hours ago, "what do you see as a faculty member's future without the FA". Having read all the comments, I've seen nothing that has really addressed either my question or 10/7 8:27 statement. Might someone who supports the FSN provide a manifesto or something more than the synopsis(?) provided my Mike E's email? Thank you in advance.

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  53. To my knowledge, the student protest is not coordinated or encouraged by any of the unions. The Occupy Carbondale people have expressed sympathy with Labor in the contract negotiation, the close the coal plant movement, and a host of other progressive initiatives on campus.

    Personally, I sympathize with students eager to have a voice and to speak it loudly in what they see as a pattern of problems across the nation. Whether or not the SIUC Administration should be the target of their ire is certainly debatable. But I submit that the Administration's problem in these negotiations is, in part, not having a clear sense of perceptions in the community and the ways in which their behaviors in (not) negotiating contracts and managing the university (financially and otherwise) are all too easily linked to other growing community concerns.

    Much as the Administration finds (often problematic) allies in folks who are against all unions anywhere, the SIUC unions have vocal supporters over whom they have little or no control. If the Administration wanted to avoid this situation blowing up and including a host of issues and people not related to the on-going negotiation, they should have negotiated in good faith sooner. Blaming the unions for any of this is to give the Administration a pass on their botched and bad faith negotiation to date.

    463 days without a contract and counting!

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  54. "I'm sure if there is a strike, the language [scab!] will be out there in full force."

    In the one half of the university where there are no union members, I don't think there will be much "sting" to this knuckle-dragging union slur. As for departments or colleges where the union is strong, the anonymous person who worried about retaliation by the administration or union members is right but I think they have more to fear from the union. I haven't heard administrators shouting at people who disagree with them or telling people "there will be consequences." If I were in Anthony Hall, I'd be amused at the antics of demonstrations. It's such old hat.

    Most union members are reasonable, mature people but unions bring out the worst in Group Think and hatred of "The Other."

    Even worse, we are professors. Yes, we have a right to unionize and strike but we tarnish our reputation by acting like some union thugs out of an old movie....

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  55. Dr. Bean I beg to differ where you say the administration is not warning "there will be consequences." You should check your inbox for the email the Chancellor sent this morning.

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  56. "I think you have comments like Tony's which are as inflammatory as Cheng's"

    I'm sorry, I must have missed that. Can you please give examples of when the chancellor has used rhetoric like that you were comparing to? I do not mean statements that you disagree with, I mean the same type of inflammatory invective.

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  57. In situations like these, there is plenty of misinformation on both sides. The difference between the rhetoric from the FA and administration is that FA is representing me. I can't change the administrations tactics, but I can certainly voice my opinion that I don't want to be represented in such a way.

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  58. All state four-year institutions of higher education are in a financial bind as the proportion of state revenue going to them declines. This is simply a reflection of how state elected governors and legislators judge---and correctly so---public opinion. Voters believe their universities---as opposed to the community colleges---are failing them. The unions, particularly the one representing tenured faculty, at SIUC are reinforcing that opinion.

    In Southern Illinois unemployment is effectively 20 percent. Profits of small businesses have fallen. Those with jobs are working fewer hours and are paying more for health insurance if they are fortunate enough to have it. Retirees see their retirement income down due to low interest rates and the stock market decline.

    Tenured and tenure track faculty members live in a bubble. Given their own cuts in income, members of the public don't look kindly on faculty complaints about furloughs. Those who are paying taxes to support faculty salaries think faculty members can absorb a little pain.

    SIUC is in financial trouble. Union statements to the contrary are nonsense. Efforts to offset relative state appropriation declines with tuition increases simply result in enrollment declines.

    Union strike threats will result in more enrollment losses. SIUC"s brand is tarnished. Faculty members seem dedicated to further tainting the brand.

    One wonders at union disconnects with reality. There is no danger tenured faculty will lose their jobs. They enjoy privilege few have. Their demands that they have a veto over when SIUC has a financial emergency is not credible. What they are demanding is that trustees abandon their statutory duties.

    Probably the best resolution of the current situation is decertification of the faculty union. That would regain some respect from the public.

    ReplyDelete
  59. Off topic I suppose but related to the most recent email from the chancellor.

    The email says that, as far as distance education goes, faculty have the right of first refusal for courses they develop. I honestly, to this point, have not seen the fuss about DE like others aside from some of the kinks related to integrity of assignments. What I would like to know is this. If I teach a distance education course, prepare it, my materials, create a blackboard course (or whatever), online quizzes, etc., but then decide after a few semesters I'd rather teach in the classroom, can someone else can teach my the online class (no big deal) with my materials (big deal)? For face-to-face classes, we don't force people to give up all of their materials when they transition out of a course though they might share materials in the spirit of collegiality. With DE, is the argument that the first person who develops the course is developing it for anyone to teach at any time (affording me the option of first refusal)? I am okay with DE but it seems unreasonable if one person is building a collection of courses that will last until someone decides to revise them.

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  60. 11:42,

    You are in your own bubble. Illinois is not an anti-union state. The public will likely blame both sides if a strike happens.

    A strike now, if we have one, won't likely impact enrollment next year. Other universities have survived strikes. People applying to colleges now know this will all be over by next year.

    The imposed terms allow for furlough days and partial layoffs at will. You are naive to think they won't happen. The Chancellor has already agreed to some wording changes, but only after the strike vote.

    Don't be a wimp. We'll get through this.

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  61. I strongly believe the faculty is very willing to take pay cuts and to pitch in more time to help our students get the quality of education they are paying for. However, as a faculty, I am not willing to take pay cut or work longer hours as long as administration’s priorities don’t align with the mission of the university and these administrators stop siphoning the money towards their pet projects. Just a few examples: look at administrators’ salaries, hiring more administrators, wasting money for lousy logo, building stadiums, building a track field…. Don’t give me the BS that the pots of money are different. Students are forced to pay for these facilities. If our priorities are right, their fees can easily be used for academics.

    Any student reading this blog, I think time has come. Make your voice heard. Start a movement on your facebook or twiter. Tell them you are here for education. You are here because of the excellent and caring professors. University can survive without stadiums and even administrators. However, there will not be any education without professors. Don’t let your professors go down because of unfair policies of these highly paid and incompetent administrators.

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  62. "The email says that, as far as distance education goes, faculty have the right of first refusal for courses they develop."

    Can someone else take your course? Short answer: No.

    (I'll save a long answer because I'm so tired of talking about DE over the past two years as I sat on Chancellor's committee and met with various people on upgrading, blah, blah...

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  63. With apologies to A.H. Clough but none to the FSN who don't give a damn about the other, less fortunate peopleon this campus.

    "I drive through the streets and I care not a damn,
    The people they stare and ask who I am;
    And if I should chance to exploit civil servant, NTT, and graduate student,
    I'm All Right, Jack,I'm not so badly off.
    So pleasant it is to have a high salary, heigh ho!
    How pleasant it is to side with Rita, ho, ho"

    ReplyDelete
  64. The person who mention something to the effect of no support for unions in southern Illinois, must be polling the wrong sector. There are many unions active in this area: pipefitters, coal miners, carpenters, etc. You must have not noticed the huge labor event held a the SIU Arena last fall. It seemed a bit of an insult that President Poshard sent Chancellor Cheng to speak at that labor event rather than be there himself (schedule conflict?) in that Glenn Poshard owed a goodly portion of his political success to labor union support.

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  65. Anyone who wants to decertify the unions should be ashamed of himself or herself. If they really believe union is to blame for SIUC’s problems, they should have declined to get raises and job security they got because of the hard work of Union leaders. If they are so comfortable with Cheng’s proposals, they should sign a letter stating if the RIF clause needs to be enacted they are willing to forgo their jobs first, they must sign a letter that they are willing to teach extra courses before passing on the workload to others, they must sign a letter that are willing to lose their academic freedom first…. I know doing what you are doing will get you in good books with Cheng and hopefully some pay raise or admin position in the future, but have some decency and don’t hurt the efforts of others to fight for their rights.

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  66. Paranoid 3:29AM said:
    See the ACsE Web site, particularly Strike Watches #2, 4, 5, and 7 for details about their situation. A few AScE members follow this blog and can give you more details, but you have the main idea correct. They want the university to stop piling more work on them or replacing decent jobs with crumby extra help positions every time someone leaves. They want protection from arbitrary layoffs. They want a few vacation days changed to personal days that they can take to handle household emergencies without advance approval from a supervisor.

    As for what the holdup is, I don't know, but I've been told by an ACsE insider that the administration bargaining team does not share your opinion of how important ACsE employees are to the functioning of the university.
    -------------------------------------
    As a 21+ year employee at SIUC (and former student) I can say without a doubt that the vast majority of administrators at this university respect and value the civil service employees.

    In this tough economy we are all being asked to do more with less. However, the employees represented by ACsE are eligible for overtime pay. If they are having enormous amounts of work dumped on them, then they must be getting paid a lot of O.T. If they are getting all this extra work done in the regular 7.5 hour day for which they are paid, then maybe they weren't busy enough to begin with. Typically, it is the employees who are not eligible for O.T. that are required to perform extra work with no extra compensation.

    As for the "personal leave" days issue, this sounds a lot like an IEA issue carried over from the K-12 school districts where teachers don't get vacation days. SIUC employees get more vacation time that most folks in the private sector. Plus, in my 20+ years here, I have never known of a supervisor that refused to let an employee use vacation time for a bona fide emergency situation.

    As far as "arbitrary layoffs", when the administration held discussions last year with ACsE regarding the 4 unpaid days, I understand that the ACsE leadership said they would rather have their least senior folks laid off than have all of their members take the 4 unpaid days. Sounds like they arbitrarily threw their own people under the bus.....

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  67. The latest email suggest using the faculty senate as the representative (or at least individuals appointed by the faculty senate). As has been said before on this blog, the senate is comprised of people outside of the bargaining unit. At some point, unit determination established tenure and tenure track faculty as comprising the unit. How would a more inclusive group represent the faculty's interests? What if I had a grievance against my chair? I would be following procedures contractualized in an agreement reached between the BOT and, among others, the very chairs I am grieving against. This would seem like a clear conflict of interest.

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  68. Faculty Senate is a joke. People get elected on senate with a vote of only 10 percent of faculty in the college. I do not feel comfortable giving any control of working conditions and salary to faculty senate. Many senators are administrators while others are looking for personal gains and wag their tail in front of chancellor.

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  69. Anonymous 8:40 - You could always get yourself elected and change the senate from the inside. This is the what the FA has been asking those of us in the bargaining unit that do not pay dues to the FA to do.

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  70. Do you know faculty senate has no power? Senate’s funding comes from chancellor. As long as faculty senate’s decisions are not binding on the administration, senate has no value. Do you know even the JRB decisions are not binding on chancellor? It will be foolish for the faculty to give power to the senate in its current form. Make faculty senate true representative of the faculty by kicking all administrators out of senate, make faculty senate an independent governing body (i.e, not under chancellor), and make every decision of the senate binding on the administration. I will be the first one to vote to decertify the union.

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  71. I think it is time that all negotiations that the various unions have with the administration be out in the open. Let them be videorecorded and broadcast live so we can see what really is going on. Is Madam Cheng really telling the truth? Or is there much stalling and lack of serious negotiation (coupled with much disrespect of all the "workers" (facuty, GAs, Civil service employees)? Will Madam Cheng agree to this? Let this entire community see what is really happening at these bargaining sessions? What is the administration's team consisting of Cheng's lackeys doing? Are they really doing their job? Who is on the administration bargaining team?

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  72. There is a slightly hysterical tone creeping into the posts that are appearing here at present, so why don’t we try to act a little more like scholars and a little less like proselytes, eh?

    First, the Senate is not filled with “administrators”. The list of sitting senators is freely available on SIUC website, so why not simply look up the facts before making statements that are demonstrably untrue. There are a couple of people on the Senate who have AP appointments (I have no idea what %), but those people were elected by the faculty of their colleges – sounds like democracy at work to me.

    Now, let’s consider the idea itself. The FSN are proposing that the senate would appoint a committee to serve as our bargaining unit. The Faculty would define how that committee was constituted and appointed, and they mention the operating paper so that suggests that those procedures would be (a) codified, and (b) approved by the faculty. If the faculty wanted for example to specify that no-one holding an AP appointment of greater than x% would be eligible to serve on that committee, sobeit. If we decide that no one represented by another bargaining unit would be eligible to serve, sobeit. Etc. The faculty, the entire faculty would be empowered to set the rules. So far, I am liking this idea.

    One poster made the point that FS members are elected with low voter turnout. Well, that sounds like a lot of elections and the solution to that is … vote! That’s easily fixed and frankly if every faculty member had a personal vested interest in ensuring a strong senate, I think that problem would evaporate pretty quickly anyway.

    Obviously Dave and other the FA die-hards will oppose anything the FSN proposes because they perceive that a group that claims to have received support from 140 faculty in less than two days is a threat to the FA – which it apparently is. But the ultimate goal here is the best system that represents the interests of the faculty and serves the interests of the university, our students, community and State. This idea has merit and is worth consideration.

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  73. Socrates Finger,
    You are missing the most important points. Faculty senate has no teeth. If you want to make faculty senate representative of the faculty for everything, including working conditions, academic freedom, and salary, first thing you need to do is to make it an independent body with a signed agreement that every decision by the faculty senate will be binding on the administration. Only then move to any further discussion. Other points you have made in your post are minor and can be fixed. Ask the BOT if they are willing to accept the first two conditions (independent body and binding decisions). I can bet you the answer is No.

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  74. Unless there is legally binding contract (whether with FS or FA), it will be foolish for faculty to trust this administration.

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  75. Anon 8:58. Actually, I have been looking into this and that is not entirely true.

    There are a couple of possible scenarios that could be considered here and which are worth discussing.

    The FA is a recognized labor organization under the IERLA. That both gives it certain powers and also ties its hands. As such, the FA cannot take certain actions, such as work slowdowns, those are illegal (for the FA). The FA only real “teeth” is a strike (or the threat of one). Basically, it’s the nuclear option or none.

    The proposal of the FSN is to empower the senate to negotiate for faculty. That raises at least two possibilities (maybe others can add more?). (1) Register a local only union (as suggested by JB) and recognize the senate as its governing body, or (2) simply do not register as a union at all. The latter means that a strike option is off the table, (true), but it puts back onto the table options like work slowdowns. Imagine the effect on the university if all faculty, for example refused to perform the numerous service functions or respond to administrative requests. True, that would not shut the university down, but it sure would disrupt operations. The best analogy I can think of is civil disobedience vs civil war. Slower, yes, but history has proven such tactics are effective in the long run (and the FA’s tactics have not exactly been setting any speed records, in case you have not noticed). **We could still serve our students**, which we all want and avoid the negative publicity that damages us all (see this morning’s editorial in the SI?) by simply not serving/supporting the administration if it were acting in a manner that we did not approve of (we being the entire faculty). And over all of this is the fact that the entire faculty would have a voice, not just a minority group that is (arguably) influenced by outside factors driven by the agenda of the IEA/NEA.

    So it’s not true that the FSN model is entirely toothless, they are just different teeth. The FSN model would also help to avoid some of the divisiveness that the FA’s positions (and their supporters) have contributed to on campus, since every member of the faculty would automatically have an equal voice. Of course there would still be differences of opinion, but the perception of pay-to-play politics that clouds the FA would be lifted.

    The more I look, the more I am liking this idea.

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  76. This issue is not about trusting *this* administration. Administrations come and go every few years. This is about how faculty interact with *the* administration. The FA has been around for about 15 years and has had the same type of in-your-face confrontational relationship with every administration. That hurts us all. Its time for a change!

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  77. Sorry, FA’s presence has not hurt me at all. I am so grateful for what FA has done for me. I know 100s more who really appreciate FA’s service. Only those who are administration’s puppets feel that FA is hurting all. So, stop this nonsense. Yes, administrations come and go and that is exactly why you need a contract so that all administrators follow the agreed terms. Unfortunately the current administration is not at all trustworthy; worst than any other we had in the past. Yes, even worse than Wendler’s administration. Read Keith’s comments under “Distance Learning” post.

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  78. Is it really so hard for FA supporters to comment without resorting to name-calling and slurs? Intelligent people can disagree, and not sharing your point of view does not make me anyone's puppet.

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  79. Does the FSN have a website yet where we can review their proposals and offer feedback? Who is operating as their legal counsel as they plan to enter into the serious work of contract negotiation? Do they have an office yet with resources available to members? If not, how soon will they have these things?

    As some become enamored of the "possibilities" of the FSN proposal(s), please remember there is actual organizational work to be done. Please use this as an opportunity to appreciate in a phenomenological sense the work others are already doing in negotiating contracts. And above all else, as you encounter difficulties in collective organization and rampant criticism and devaluation of the work you do on a volunteer basis, remain at all times civil.

    Because, at the end if the day, it is most important that we maintain a polite and always respectful facade, even in anonymous comments on blogs. Because it is our discourse that divides us, not the material conditions and inequities on the campus. Because our administration has given us no cause for concern.


    Shall we meet in the salon over tea and scones and form a committee to discuss a more civil era of trust in our leadership? We could send them scented thank you notes for inviting us to the coronation. Oh yes, darlings, let's shall!

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  80. "Neither irony or sarcasm is argument."
    (Samuel Butler.)

    "Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit"
    (Variously attributed to Oscar Wilde, Chaucer and others)

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  81. The Faculty Senate has no power to ensure the decisions they make are enforced. This is what has stalled the sexual harassment issue, a convenient mechanism for firing faculty without due process. What makes you think that a body allied with this training ground for future administrators will make any difference? The FSN know this and they are really another version of Rita's craven "pets" on this campus.

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  82. I don't agree with what the FSN is proposing. But can we not dismiss them as "pets" and "puppets"?

    FSN: The FS cannot bargain contracts. First off we would have to have it represent only the bargaining unit. No dept chairs, no Law or Medical School faculty, and no NTT faculty. Then it would need to hire lawyers and accountants. So, it would need to access dues. Sounds like fair share ah?

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  83. There are literally thousands of colleges around the country without unions negotiating for faculty. They work fine, educate students and fulfill their missions. Some of them include our peers and aspirational peers. Their faculty are not destitute administrative slaves. There are other models besides the FA that are worth discussing given the current mess, **for which the FA shares responsibility**. The FA is not the only option, and certainly it is not necessarily the best, (despite the willingness of the faithful to attack anyone who says otherwise). Nor are those who oppose the FA and its tactics necessarily Administration supporters

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  84. 10:57 said: "There are literally thousands of colleges around the country without unions negotiating for faculty. They work fine, educate students and fulfill their missions."

    Very true. But we were not one of those. That is why the tenure track faculty, and more recently the non-tenure track faculty, voted to unionize.

    10:57 also said: "Nor are those who oppose the FA and its tactics necessarily Administration supporters."

    I agree. and I do wish you were treated with greater civility. But I think you are being naive about what conditions here would be like without the FA. I encourage you to be critical of any tactics you don't agree with and make constructive suggestions.

    Some progress is being made on the financial exigency wording (I think, I do not know the details). This is good. What suggestions would you make on the DL language? Many faculty are concerned about this. You and I might not share all their concerns, but the FA cannot just ignore these concerns. So, how would you address these? (Feel free to reply on the thread on DL instead of here.)

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  85. Grass always appears greener in the neighbor’s yard. There are presidents and chancellors in Illinois who are meaningfully recognizing the faculty’s contribution, offering raises even in this difficult economic situation, not trying to snatch tenure and academic freedom, not wasting money on stupid stadiums and tracks…. And we have SIUC’s incompetent administration who has no respect for faculty and staff, is willing to cut salaries and pay millions for stupid logo, willing to fire faculty just before Christmas, ….. We have to deal with what we have at SIUC not what is happening at other universities. FA and other unions exist at SIUC for a reason because that is the model for SIUC.

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  86. The reason why the FA has been in conflict with administration over the past 15 years is the SIUC culture that regards the university as an "administrator's university." SIUC has witnessed a succession of bad administrators over the past three decades. One former Chair (along with others) actually was given a pep talk by a former Dean here about treating the faculty with contempt since that was the way the University operated. This occurred some thirty years ago and, as we see today, the situation has not changed. Illinois State University believes in shared governance, has awarded its faculty a raise, and has a much more positive administrator-faculty relationship that SIUC. Also, its President was the only one to speak out against the ethics test imposed by a former Governor now facing a jail sentence while Poshard gave it full support. Things can be different at SIUC and working towards shared governance and the removal of bad Chancellors and Presidents is one way towards this, not slavishly submitting to their dictates.

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  87. "Neither irony or sarcasm is argument." Tell that to Jonathan Swift. By the way, neither is dodging an argument with quotations.

    "Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit" Attributed to Oscar Wilde, yes, but certainly no evidence exists that he said it. Nor, unfortunately, can it be demonstrated that he said the longer version: "Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but the highest form of intelligence." Alas.

    But since we seem interested in educating each other with Bartlett's not so familiar quotations, let's all learn a little something about "Kidding on the Square." (http://www.allwords.com/word-kid+on+the+square.html)

    I know, I know. Who let the riffraff into our sensible conversation? I sense Her Majesty does not approve.

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  88. Could the poster please source that Samuel Butler quotation, while we're at it? Which Butler? The Butler of Hudibras or of Erewhon? Neither seems particularly likely since both of those works are satire.

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  89. The repeated assertion that the FA is representing the best interests of its membership, and/or doing the will of it, is completely unproven in the absence of any effort to forge consensus. Sessions have been information, and the strike vote was up or down. While many of the public statements sound entirely reasonable, and have drawn widespread approval, those of us who have read the actual Supposals carefully realize that they go far beyond the public explanations of the FA position, and that the problem in these negotiations is not entirely the fault of the administrative team.

    Unfortunately, too, the FA bylaws very effectively prevent the membership from changing things between elections. Even if every member of the FSN were to join the FA, and even if 15% of the FA membership then forced a meeting, the only real change that could be made is to de-authorize the strike. The leadership of the FA cannot be voted out, and the negotiating team is entirely appointed. Is this the direction the FA members and defenders here would prefer to see, though--a de-authorization of the strike vote? And would this force a change in negotiating posture?

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  90. If there are really so many faculty who oppose the bargaining positions of the FA, then they should become members and voice their concerns at FA meetings, instead of acting like concern trolls on this blog.

    I have 3 degrees from SIU-C and am working on a 4th. When my first three diplomas were issued, they were worth something.

    If Cheng succeeds in killing tenure, no decent scholar will want to come to teach and do research at SIU-C, and academic freedom as it was once known will disappear.

    If she succeeds in commercializing classes for sale on the Internet, my diplomas will be worth next to nothing.

    I strongly approve the actions and bargaining stance thus far of the FA.

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  91. So, Tenney, you've actually read the Supposals in detail and compared them to those at other institutions? And you believe that these are reasonable positions? Or are you responding to the positions the FA has taken in public statements? These are not identical.

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  92. I'd be curious to hear just which differences between the supposals and the FA's public positions you (6:23 pm) have in mind. Obviously it would not be terribly clever of the FA to allow much distance between the two, as it has made its supposals public. A public presentation will need to simplify complicated contract language, of course, but if it contracts that language then that's a problem.

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  93. Dave, the FA's news releases have focused upon the threat to tenure--which, I agree, is entirely accurate. They have not, however, accurately framed the FA's proposal for financial exigency, as has been rather extensively discussed on other threads here. The FA's proposals are truly extreme by comparison to any other institution. There are certainly some faculty members who are terribly concerned about the imposed terms, and about the Chancellor's intentions overall, but who are also unable to stand behind the FA's actual bargaining postures.

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  94. I am writing this comment to support the efforts of FSN. Let them take a vote of all Faculty to decertify FA. In fact, at the end we will end-up with recertification of FA. I strongly believe FA will come out stronger.

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  95. Still waiting for citations for that Butler quotation. Surely, said anonym wouldn’t have just searched an online quotation dictionary and then passed such shoddy scholarship off as accurate sourcing, let alone a witty rejoinder to Jonathan Gray’s comment, right? Surely said anonym is away on fall break, or diligently perusing her copies of Hudibras and Erewhon for line or page numbers? Surely said anonym isn’t going to make us go through the rigmarole of hacking into the tubes and figuring out who she is so that we can know who would pass off such internet hackery as a rejoinder to Jonathan’s thoughtful satire, right? Come on now, just a simple citation. You can do it. You were so quick to post the quotations as rebuttals. Only twenty minutes according to the blog’s clock. You surely have them at the ready.

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  96. 10:07, help me figure out how the FA has mischaracterized its financial exigency position. You are right that the FA supposal would give faculty more say than they have at many other institutions (and, at least at the declaration phase of the process, more say even than the AAUP guidelines call for). But have they/we ever implied anything else? Again, it's one thing to criticize the position, another to say its backers have mischaracterized it. I am told that the University of Cincinnati, of all places, has a financial commission along the lines of that the FA proposed. With my peculiar sensitivities, I prefer an accurately characterized "extreme" position to a phony moderation any day. Given the legacy of 1973, and the administrative end-run of the current financial emergency policy via administrative closures, it seems to me that the FA would have been foolish to begin negotiation on this matter at anyplace other than the pro-faculty extreme.

    At any rate, both sides have been modifying their financial exigency positions in negotiations to at least some extent. Let's wait and see where they end up. If we're lucky, they'll even end up at the same place.

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  97. SIUC is not like any other university. Don’t forget what happened in 1973. Don’t forget what happened last year when SIUC had surplus but Cheng still imposed pay cuts and paid millions to outside firm for stupid logo. Open your eyes. If our administrators are as sensible as at other institutions, we do not need FA or operating papers. The problem we have is unique to SIUC. We need a unique solution here. I support the strongest language possible for not only financial exigency but every aspect of faculty working conditions, academic freedom, and salaries.

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  98. "Surely said anonym isn’t going to make us go through the rigmarole of hacking into the tubes and figuring out who she is"

    Is that a threat, Dr Netzley, that the operators of this blog would hack through the veil of anonymity they offer to identify individual bloggers? Or is this an admission that you are aware that your colleagues are doing so already?

    Either would be _grossly_ unethical, but since you have raised that specter, all must now consider this before posting. Congratulations on your furtherance of unfettered dialogue.

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  99. Dave, since you have indicated in other threads that this is essentially your blog, I think that this requires your response.

    The posted instructions with this blog offer bloggers anonymity. Others have posted elsewhere excellent summations of the justifications for anonymity, and I concur that there are good reasons for anonymity in these forums.

    Have you, or to your knowledge has anyone else, used any means not available to casual readers of this blog to attempt to identify individual bloggers? This question applies to any past such efforts and any present efforts to circumvent the anonymity of any individual blogger? Can/Will you give an assurance regarding future protection of anonymity?

    I do not mean to impute your integrity and I do not intend to give offense! But Dr Netzley's post above does appear to imply such efforts, or at least that he and others have access to means to conduct such activities ("... make *us* go through the rigmarole of hacking into the tubes and figuring out who she is...")[emphasis added], and that is a very serious matter. That calls into question the integrity of this blog and of consequence, the integrity of those associated with offering and operating it. Please respond asap.

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  100. I did not think Ryan Netzley's threat was meant to be taken seriously, but it would be good for this to be clarified.

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  101. I do not know the identities of anyone posting anonymously on this blog, and have taken no steps to trace identities and will take no such steps in the future. (Okay, I did ask paranoid via email, but s/he wouldn't tell me!) I can't trace IP addresses via blogger, as far as I can tell, and am glad I can't. (Some blogging sites do allow this.) I don't know why Ryan said what he said; I think he was being flippant, and alluding to the power of computer hackers to figure out anything. I wish he hadn't said it. I'll say I have no idea who any of the anonymouses are.

    If you are curious as to the powers granted me by blogger you should be able to trace them readily enough on the web by going to their help site.

    In the interest of full disclosure I'll flip a switch to review the statistics I do get to see (though before I do this I can't say whether blogger will show you all I see). They don't, as far as I can tell, allow me to track identities--save in one case where a professor (Mike Sullivan, who identifies himself in any event) comes to this site via a server with his name on it.

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  102. The "stats" gadget just shows you total page views. That's no help--it just looks like self-promotion, so I won't turn it on. My stats show me "referring urls" (most this blog's url--which refers one to other pages--then google, the the 4 local site, and so on, including one URL with Mike Sullivan's name in the url!); "referring sites" (google, facebook, etc.); and search keywords ("deo volente siuc", etc.). I also get "audience" figures, which tell me that 66,945 pageviews have come from the US, and 38 from Latvia (sic!); that most come from Firefox; and that 60% come from Windows, 30% from Macintosh, etc.

    Again, as far as I can tell, there is no way for someone with my limited computer skills to figure out who you are, unless I knew you were on sabbatical in Latvia, or that you used the NS8 browser (whatever that is), etc. I think google is erring on the side or privacy here, rather than on giving me all sorts information that could potentially allow me to intrude on your privacy. Anyone who doubts me can look into blogger's powers for themselves--but please don't tell me how to check identities, if there is some hack available on the web. I'd rather not know . . .

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  103. Typically, Anon at 6:23 (Oct. 8) completely avoids the problems I pointed to in my post at 5:24 and just changes the subject.

    I reiterate: if Cheng's contract language is used, no decent scholar will come to teach or do research at SIU-C, and SIU-C will become a diploma mill.

    I strongly support a strike if she will not move away from such a horrendous position.

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  104. Tenney is correct about Anon. 6:23 and the recent issue about identifying various Anons is irrelevant. For example, Ken is now using Anon. and his posts are so obvious in terms of the language used. Who cares, anyway?

    However, Tenney is right to be concerned about the devaluation of qualifications if Cheng gets her way. Two decades ago one Dean unilaterally attempted to destroy a department. The graduate students voiced concerns to me that if this happened their degrees would become worthless outside. By forcing DL. on this campus, Cheng is trying to make this place an online, for-profit university making SIU resemble "Podunk University." Also, why have there been no comments about the recent higher administrative positions advertised that will surely add to SIUC's budget? Hiring the lucky candidates on six-figure salaries when others have been hit economically will surely create the conditions for "financial exigency" allowing Cheng to fire faculty and staff and hire more administrators especially those from the ranks of the FSN whose "majority" again appear conspicuously "silent" about this issue..

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  105. Tenney, I am Anon 6:23 from 10/8, and I assure you I was not ignoring your post. First, you said, "If Cheng succeeds in killing tenure, no decent scholar will want to come to teach and do research at SIU-C, and academic freedom as it was once known will disappear."

    I absolutely agree that if SIUC's new faculty contract does not protect tenure in ways that are comparable to the protections at other universities then decent scholars will not wish to come here, and anyone already here who has a choice will go elsewhere.

    My point is that, while the FA is saying that are are working to protect tenure, the actual language of the Supposal that is the primary means of doing so--that on financial exigency-- is so outrageously beyond anything that exists elsewhere that it becomes clear that comparable status for tenure is not the actual goal here. Further, the procedures it would require are so extensive and so time-consuming that the BOT would literally be derelict in their fiduciary duty to even consider it.

    Others here are complaining that the Chancellor is creating massive numbers of new administrative positions--and again I agree that this is a huge issue. However, while other institutions have contract language that preserves the ratio of administrative to faculty positions, the FA language does nothing on this; it works only to protect faculty (those already here and those to be hired). In fact, I would argue that the FA's version of a contract, if enacted, creates a very substantial disincentive for any future TT and tenured hires. In other words, it encourages the administration to massively scale up nonTT hiring.

    "If she succeeds in commercializing classes for sale on the Internet, my diplomas will be worth next to nothing."

    I agree that this is an issue as well--as it is for many universities these days, including some that think of themselves as pretty eminent. The thing is, the FA Supposal does nothing to prevent large-scale distance education, or to give the faculty a voice in its overall development; it just protects tenured and TT faculty from having to teach distance ed courses. There is nothing to prevent the administration from staffing up a massive distance ed effort through NTT hires, using continuing and contingent faculty hired explicitly to teach online.

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  106. SIU Alum 21:

    Just because the majority of administrators respect ACsE employees does not mean they all do. When one of them who thinks, "We don't need you," is on the bargaining team for the administration, that lack of respect holds more influence than the opinions of other administrators.

    A similar pattern holds for taking vacation to handle household emergencies. Just because most supervisors are compassionate doesn't mean they all are. The ACsEs employees aren't asking for more vacation, just for a way to deal with the supervisors who treat every leave request with suspicion.

    Did you read all of the notices on the ACsE's Web site telling people not to work through the lunch hour? As much as you might believe people are getting all kinds of overtime, it looks like employees represented by ACsE are unsustainably (and illegally) working off the books to try to cover for the missing employees. Also, my original post mentioned the other thing that the university is doing -- replacing decent, if low-paying ACsE jobs, with low paying, no benefit extra help jobs.

    Regarding the layoffs vs. furloughs question, as I stated originally, I'm not part of ACsE, so I don't know much of what happened in bargaining beyond what I've seen on the Web and the "We don't need you" comment that had my acquaintance in ACsE steamed. ACsE readers of this blog, where are you?

    Finally, your comment has me impressed with how you simultaneously managed to say how important and valuable ACsE employees are while suggesting that they are lazy and don't have enough work to do.

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  107. I think that 6:23 hits the nail on the head. I feel many of us fear the details of what the FA proposes as much as we fear the doomsday rhetoric detailing the administrations intentions. In reading the FAs language on financial exigency I get the impression that the faculty wish to retain status quo even while the University might crumble around them. Do I think the FA really feels this way? No. Do I think the relationship between the FA and the administration is so dysfunctional that both sides are behaving irrationally? Maybe. Do I have hope for something better? Yes. In fact, in between the unsubstantiated propaganda and hyperbole posted here I find hope of movement forward. Let us all hope that cooler head and logic prevail.

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  108. Dear anon at 6:23,

    I agree with most everything you have written, but there is one thing that may have been overlooked, depending on your point of view.

    In my opinion, Cheng has chosen an extreme bargaining position. If the FA is to have any chance of meeting in the middle, it too must come to the table with an equally extreme position.

    Also, you are more than correct that Cheng's creation of two more unnecessary high-salaried positions is fairly inexplicable to most reasonable persons.

    What are her motivations for doing so? Because, of course, she has her motives.

    From a distance, it appears that she wishes to create a loyal cadre as a buffer between her and the rest of us.

    Also, please note that corporatization of learning is a stated goal of ALEC.

    I would also point out that inserting phrases in a sleight of hand manner into contract paragraphs that affect other paragraphs in said contract is not an indication that said party is bargaining in good faith, nor is the hiring of union-busting legal counsel, nor is offering mere crumbs once a strike vote is overwhelmingly in favor of a strike.

    Such crumbs are merely a delaying tactic meant to eat away at the resolve of those who voted to strike.

    So, for all their various faults, I still strongly the FA.

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  109. Sorry:


    "...I still strongly support the FA."

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  110. Anon at 6:23 here again:

    Tenney, you say, "In my opinion, Cheng has chosen an extreme bargaining position. If the FA is to have any chance of meeting in the middle, it too must come to the table with an equally extreme position."

    Yes, but--the labeling of Cheng's proposal as extreme ignores the realities in academia these days. Cheng's proposals are actually not that far outside of the norm. As discussed on a prior thread, there are several of our peers and aspirational peers--including KSU and LSU--where the language on financial exigency and faculty layoffs is very close to what the Chancellor says she wants (presuming for a moment that the clarifying language on the 30-day layoffs has really been added as she indicated). In other words, she has begun with a position that is at the far end of the spectrum, but at least it's ON the spectrum!

    The FA, by contrast, has begun bargaining from a position so extreme that it cannot possibly be defended by similar reference to the real world--the other institutions with whom we are competitive in terms of recruitment of faculty and/or students. (In fact, I would be willing to bet that the requirements for a declaration of FE are completely out of line with any institution anywhere.) The FA leadership seems to believe this extremism is justified by the behavior of the administration, but I would argue that if they are going to have any hope of prevailing--and especially of garnering support from the faculty and the public--they ought to be taking a position that is both as favorable as possible for the faculty, and also somewhere within the realm of reality (see Texas Tech's policy for financial exigency for a nice example, or that at Mizzou).

    I cannot answer for the people involved in the FSN, but I can assure you that there are many of us out there who are terribly unhappy with the FA, and who are also most definitely not fans of current administrative policies!

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  111. The FA may be "extreme" over FE but they are dealing with a Chancellor who is an extremist. Also, those other institutions you cite were the subject of a negative article in INSIDE HIGHER EDUCATION with blog comments against what was happening there.They are extremely "outside the norm" if you look at the majority of universities. Although Cheng may be following the lead of those reactionary higher administrators this does not mean we should. Also, this time we have other unions in alliance (all of whom have more exploited members whom we should support). Giving up now in support of the dubious "moderation" voiced by one character in AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE means giving up the fight. If Cheng wins, we all lose - even her FSN supporters. She has caused this situation ever since she arrived at SIUC and most of us here believe in standing up to a bully.

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  112. Yes, but we also have to live in the real world. I agree that Cheng's people skills, to put it charitably, leave a lot to be desired. But I also think that her job must be hell right now; dealing with the budgetary uncertainties regarding Springfield and knowing when we will be paid what they owe us must not be any fun right now. (Plus, in previous years there has been this nasty reality called "recissions" whereby appropriations are summarily reduced later on).

    Yes, the state only funds about 25% of SIUC's operating expenses, but the state appropriation every year directly pays my salary as faculty. Yes, SIUC could always raise tuition and/or find other "local sources" of funding to make up for what we lose from Springfield. Except we really cannot do much of that either, if we want to solve our enrollment crisis, especially when SIUE and SEMU, to name just two local institutions with whom we compete for students, are cheaper for in-state residents to attend than SIUC.

    Perhaps administrators have themselves to blame for boxing themselves into the corner that they are now in. Perhaps. Blame games are never really helpful; we have to address the realities that we face. And in the midst of a severe recession, in a state with one of the worst budget messes in the nation, I think we all have to be living in the real world here. I fail to see how presenting supposals on financial exigency that are not like those found in most other universities in the country, including our aspirational peers win us much public support. Of course, I am open to be persuaded differently on Thursday.

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  113. I would add that Capitol Fax.com is an excellent source for information of what occurs in Springfield. I would recommend that individuals who wish to be better aware of what Springfield is doing (and how it might affect SIUC) subscribe to this website.

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  114. Disgusted, Well, in that case, why is Cheng pushing new,six-figure administrative hires, in view of that situation? Tenured faculty face an imposed contract where they could be fired with 30 days notice. It all makes absolute sense, doesn't it? Why not start from the top, fire some higher administrators, and reduce the salaries of the rest to $90,000 p.a. to reflect the economic conditions of the "real world." We will then have people who come to the job with dedication and not for the golden parachute they will get on retirement as is the case with two people hired for their expertise in Anthropology but soon went into higher administration to make big bucks.

    Cheng was not charitable to the 93 NTT faculty she attempted to fire so why should we absolve her from blame for the damage she has caused since her appointment.

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  115. I understand and sympathize with your criticisms of Cheng, I really do. My basic point was different, though. We win ourselves little sympathy from the public when we put forth supposals that are not even in keeping in the mainstream of what other universities do when they face the (very rare) situation of financial exigency. I would rather we fight Cheng and other administrators with a more rational approach, that is geared toward winning a good contract and, in worse-case scenario, to garning actual support from the community in the event of a strike.

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  116. "to garnering actual support from the community in the event of a strike."

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  117. I don't see much evidence that the FA's position is getting support out there in the local community. Among students the reaction (at least as judged by letters to the DE and such) has been mixed; even in my own classes it has been mixed. And among faculty there is a robust debate about the policies the FA has been pursuing.

    Now, I voted yes to authorize a strike should it become absolutely necessary. I also do not believe in crossing picket lines, so I will honor a strike if one is unfortunately called. But the FA needs to get serious, and needs to join the real world; we live in a state right now that is going through major budgetary problems. That doesn't absolve Cheng of any blame for her shortcomings as chancellor; nor does it absolve Poshard either. To confuse my nuanced perspective with a blanket statement that implies that I am sympathetic to Cheng is to see the world in precisely the "us versus them, black vs. white" mentality that is not (IMHO) conducive right now toward getting a settlement and then moving on to repairing the damage that has already been caused.

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  118. Think carefully before you ask FA to change their proposals. If both sides put forth realistic proposals, I agree with your thought. Administration is putting harsh (scary) and unrealistic proposals and you are asking FA to be realistic. If one side (FA only) put a very realistic proposal and does not budge on it, don’t you think administration will make public statements saying, we are making concessions but FA is not willing to budge. Has any one of you asking FA to put forth realistic proposals ever sat in negotiations? If not, then don’t blame those who have years of experience. Negotiation is give and take. When Administration will put forth something reasonable and realistic, I have no doubt that the FA proposal will be equally reasonable. The members of the FA team have nothing personal to gain. They all are tenured senior faculty members. They are fighting for you and me who may have to go first if the lay-offs happen. Support them. Don’t make comments to discourage them and to dilute their efforts. They are putting numerous hours in these negotiations for you. They are taking time away from their families for you.

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  119. I accept your point, 12:34. I guess we will all learn more Thursday about what is "really going on" right now. I would say this, though. It would be far easier for me to advocate the FA's proposal on FE were it more in line with what other universities' policies are. So long as the FA's team is not rigid and is creative enough, I am okay. If we ever got rigid about maintaining the FA's supposal from last March, I would not be. But as I said, I am eagerly awaiting the report to the FA membership on Thursday.

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  120. I really must respectfully disagree, though, with your calls for there to be no criticism whatever. That is not democratic. There ought to be a healthy give and take.

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  121. If you need to criticize, criticize our administration. How many examples of their mismanagement do you need to determine that our administration is made-up of incompetent people? By criticizing FA, which is fighting for your rights, you are not shooting yourself in the foot; you are shooting in your head.

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  122. The FA's positions and tactics are just as open to criticism and question as those of the administration.

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  123. Anonymous 8:23, clearly you haven't noticed the many times I have criticized the administration! Chancellor Cheng has little or no people skills; I am offended at times when I read her emails even when I do try not to demonize her.

    All arguments and positions, regardless of who makes them, ought to be held to the strictest scrutiny and criticized if non-sensical. Or at the very least, questioned, so that better rationales can be articulated for them. I believe that mine and other questioning has brought this about; therefore I will continue to exercise my democratic right as a member of the union to raise such concerns.

    In a marketplace of free ideas that a university is supposed to be, let the best ideas rise to the top. As trained scholars, I would think that this is pretty commonsensical. Apparently not.

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  124. Disgusted, This is not a university seminar system but a conflict that has been caused by a Chancellor who has set out to be aggressive and stubborn from the very moment of her appointment backed by Poshard. This is not an even debate between individuals in a tutorial but a battle between the "haves" (huge, salaries, abusive power) and "have nots" (everyone who does not have this power). Has the FA ever threatened to fire anybody with an imposed contract or attempted to limit academic freedom? Has the FA ever threatened to removed graduate student health insurance if they go on strike? They have not so the mind-set of a "trained scholar" is irrelevant to this particular system. Cheng is certainly not into the "marketplace of free ideas" but seeking to impose her rule in a highly dictatorial manner. Thus solidarity is crucial at a time like this.

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  125. By making such arguments you play directly into the hands of those who wish to decertify the union.

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  126. Well, these are the facts despite the denial syndrome infecting the FSN. I guess that you must support the threats she made in her notorious email to graduate students?

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  127. No. And nor do I support (at this moment) the decertification efforts. I reject seeing the world in such black and white terms.

    What I DO support is a rational discussion of the issues. Since this is a forum for this, I will continue to express my opinion and not shut up in the interest of "solidarity."

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  128. Disgusted, I share your disgust and I wish this university recognized its local brainpower long enough to actually use it. Although this is not my blog, I believe you are welcome to share your, well, disgust here along with everyone else.

    That said, whether or not you want to participate in solidarity, or whether you write from a place suspicious of the short step from solidarity to group-think, you have to concede that these negotiations are not a seminar nor are they a conversation between parties with equal power.

    This is a part of the FSN appeal that troubles me the most. They write from a place critical of the FA almost exclusively. They make no mention of the history of this particular place that led to the need for an FA. They make no mention of the th Administration's heavy hand in these negotiations: saying no to interest based bargaining, stymying a federal mediator, imposing contract language (rather than just extending the previous contract), etc. All of this is, apparently, the fault of divisive FA rhetoric and unreasonable contract demands.

    As if!

    So yes, this is a good place to express opinions, offer negotiation strategy, and generally vent about our collective frustrations with the messy business of collective action. Has the FSN, which possesses enough savvy to produce an email list of T/TT faculty, yet provided such a venue? If so, I hope someone will share a URL soon. But if not, is that, well, sensible?

    I have multiple concerns about FSN. They (and too many of their supporters) gloss over or erase the power differentials at the negotiation table. The offer little clarification of how they will offer necessary logistics and support as an alternative to the FA, nor how the material costs of that support will be covered.

    I want a less contentious climate on campus. I want a campus where civil intellectuals participate in rational disputes. But I also want a campus where tenure, academic freedom, sound pedagogy, and shared governance are rigorously defended. I don't want to have to choose, but if I do, I choose the latter over a better campus climate and civility. Every time.

    It frustrates me (even disgusts me) that I have to choose. But I don't place the blame on the FA for making me choose. That, frankly, would not be sensible.

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  129. Well-said Dr. Gray! I, too, share many of your concerns about the FSN. I understand their frustration at the lack of civility on this campus but think they are being overly naive in their proposal of remedy for it.

    I grant your premise that negotiations aren't seminar rooms but there is no reason why this forum cannot be. Yet whenever I (and others) try to ask questions or present ideas, there seems to be a fair number of posters who wish us to shut up in the interest of "solidarity." It shouldn't be this way; we are all highly trained professional researchers and teachers - a little more civility would go a long way. I understand everyone, myself included, are operated under a tremendous amount of stress at the moment, but we should still try to remain calm and rational. So I appreciate your efforts to do just that.

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  130. Disgusted, I fear that that which is laudable about the FA and it's supporters (namely, the open discussion on blogs like this) is also a potential liability at the negotiating table. The BOT bargaining team has no public forum where we can witness their deliberation over strategies at the negotiation table. Mores the pity. But the Administration clearly monitors and likely participates in the comments section of this and other blogs.

    Without overstating the case, I do believe these signs of discord have an effect on the negotiations. Not as much, perhaps, as an organized move by some to decertify the union, but still an effect. Simply put, our conversations here sometimes can be a bit like looking over the shoulders of your poker players at a high stakes game and opining, "Is that bluff wise?" This, unfortunately, is a question that answers itself and renders moot the tactic.

    But this also is the price we pay for having an open and only lightly moderated forum in which to discuss these matters. I hope it is not too dear a price, but iit certainly represents the core values of the FA and most faculty to promote the frequently messy business of shared governance.

    Some may resist answering your questions or suggest that you be quiet in the interest of not giving too much away in what has become (and not by FA design, alone or initially) an adversarial process of contract negotiation. I only ask that we remember the difficult work our negotiators are engaged in while we enact our abilities at critique and rational discussion. It is, indeed, not a zero-sum (black and white, if you prefer) decision between demonstrating our principles as academic professionals and preserving what little leverage we have at the negotiating table; nonetheless, it is a dialectic tension we must remain constantly aware of.

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  131. Disgusted, Nobody is asking you to "shut up" here or not contribute to the forum but to think the real issues out clearly. This is the first time four unions have acted together and three of them represent the most exploited, low-paid members of SIUC who have been forced via furloughs to contrubute to Rita's Chicago PR firm who designed a logo that a 3rd grade student would be ashamed of. It is important that we help others less fortunate than ourselves in rhis struggle againt authoritarian over-paid administraors. Thus consider csrefully what you are doing since your actions might aid the enemy and result in economic devastation for this area. Remember Rita can always go elsewhere if she wins - back to Scott Walker's Wisconsin. A local earning $12, ooo p.a or a graduate student struggling with health issues can not so fortunate as you and Rita.

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  132. "not so fortunate as you and Rita" pu-leezze! Believe me, I resent very much the fact that furlough days were jammed down my throat last spring like the rest of you. I swear sometimes the rhetoric on this blog gives those of us who are trying to be rational a splitting headache.

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  133. Then if you resent it you should join the FA and stop it happening again. Rita planned more furloughs this year. It is only the united opposition of all four unions that prevented it happening. If the FSN has its way, expect more of the same.

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  134. Um, I am a member of the FA and have been since I came to this campus....

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  135. Then show more solidarity and support to the other campus unions whose members are much worse off than we are.

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  136. Anonymous 10:22, how should the FA show more solidarity with the other campus unions?

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  137. Anonymous 10:22 I will show more solidarity when people like yourself stop being so intolerant. Deal?

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  138. No, it is not being intolerant but criticizing you for your selfishness in not realizing that there are other people much worse off than yourself and not giving them a helping hand. So why not just join the FSN where you will find yourself in good company with the rest of the reactionaries on this campus.

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  139. Well, that was predicable. SOP: vilify anyone who does not agree with your position...

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  140. Yes, very predictable...

    By making such statements, Anonymous, you actually aid the FSN's position (naive as I think it is). There has to be room for disagreement within unions, otherwise the idea that they are "democratic" is a fallacy.

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  141. If vilifying those who disagree is SOP, it is SOP for all parties involved: Administration, FA, the vocal unaffiliated, and now FSN.

    If democracy is defined by the ability to disagree, it is also defined by the ability to express opinions. Expressing the opinion about what someone else should do (leave, join another group, go jump in a lake, run for office, etc.) does not challenge the democratic nature of a collective. Forcing someone to do any of those things would be undemocratic.

    Sniping at each other on a very lightly moderated blog is probably one of the more democratic things we get to do around here. More's the pity.

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  142. Jonathon,

    Would you please give examples of where either the administration or anyone associated with the FSN has resorted to personal attacks or the use of coarse language in responding to the FA? Its easy to make accusations that that type of behavior is practiced by both sides, but I would like to see concrete examples please.

    For instance, on this blog, FA supporters have variously referred to those in opposition to the FA as:
    scabs,
    traitors,
    arselickers,
    nazis (and variations including facists and Vichy),
    toadys,
    craven, etc etc.

    The list is long, diverse and unsavory. In some cases individuals have been named explicitly. Would you please provide similar examples of the use of similar invective used against FA officers or supporters? Thank you in advance.

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  143. 11:56: If we count comments on this blog, I think there may indeed have been more venom from the pro-union than anti-union side. One reason for that, however, is pretty clear: "those associated with the FSN" consist, currently, of Mike Eichholz, who has yet to post here (at least under his name). The sum total of public pronouncements by the FSN thus consist of his three emails. And administrators, for their part, usually are restrained in their speech, as this is what is (rightly) expected of them. The ostrich up on top right gives an example of what could arguably be considered uncivil commentary by the Chancellor, however, at least according to the more restrictive standards normally applied to someone in her position, which is why it's up there. (Click on the bird for details.)

    I've made some effort, I think most would agree, to criticize superheated rhetoric on both sides. But this use of the civility card by the party more closely allied with the powers that be is entirely predictable. Speech--free speech, vigorous, emotional, and sometimes heated speech--is the main weapon those with less power have, at least in a society which allows free speech. Hence those less reliant on mere speech--those with the power to do big things like impose terms, threaten layoffs, and require furlough days, not to mention petty little things like making it hard for the FA to even schedule a meeting on campus--those less reliant on speech have much to gain by treating any vigorous debate as uncivil.

    Something similar applies to the "trust card", though some have played it on the union's behalf as well. We don't worry about whether people without much power are trustworthy or not; and even organizations with some power, like the FA, invoke fewer trust issues when they are rather transparent and democratic. (If you doubt that the FA is transparent and democratic, consider the last time you were invited to hear a report from the administration bargaining team.)

    By the way, by speaking of a "civility card" or "trust card" (cf. the infamous "race card"), I don't mean to say that civility and trust aren't legitimate concerns (any more than to say that racism isn't a legitimate concern), but rather than some arguments gain "card" status because of their regular use as part of a rhetorical battle. Any debate between administrators and faculty will raise calls for greater civility and trust. Sometimes those calls will be justified, sometimes not.

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  144. "Disgusted" has obviously never been in a union in his entire life, except this one. I've been in two. Solidarity is crucial. I will refer you to one College representative who joined the NEA in an official position when it began and started criticizing it when he was still in office and began to undermine it. He left and is now one of the "silent majority." Since Disgusted was supposedly at last night's meeting, I failed to hear any of the objections he has voiced on this blog. Remember the NEA was formed when Ted Sanders attempted to do what Cheng is now doing. The positive vote took the administration by surprise. Now they know better and the BOT has appointed a more dangerous and ruthless person to carry out its agenda.

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  145. Anon 11:56, I believe Dave Johnson has provided a substantive response. I tend to agree with him.

    But let me add: my point was that vilification is the SOP of all of these organizations. I do not reduce, as you do, vilification to mere name-calling. It includes any argument that makes the other side a villain and claims the high moral ground for yourself.

    So, when FSN lays the current contentious climate on campus solely at the door of the FA, I think that is a vilifying move. They ignore other factors, including heavy-handed Administration tactics like mandated (and probably illegal) furloughs and the increasing centralization of power in Anthony Hall as contributing to that climate even a little bit. They cast the FA as villain in order to justify decertifying it and replacing it with...?

    When Chancellor Cheng falsely characterizes (i.e. lies about) FA positions (e.g. we "refused" to negotiate in the summer, we want to pay for extreme salary increases with additional student tuition increases, etc.), these too are acts of vilification.

    Along the lines of Dave's post above, if the FA is responsible for the rhetoric of some of its more agitated members and are called upon to rein in their terms and tone, then I call upon the FSN and the Administration to similarly publicly rebuke, say, Gary Metro who clearly vilifies any SIUC union member and infantilizes our "brainwashed" students. I won't hold my breath waiting for that to happen, though.

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  146. From the chancellor's section of the university Web site in the Strike FAQs for students(http://www.chancellor.siuc.edu/labor/faqstudents.html):

    "What should I do if I feel threatened or pressured by Faculty or any other University employee?

    In the event of an immediate physical threat, individuals should contact the SIUC Department of Public Safety, or call 911. In the event of a non-violent threat, please contact the Office of the Provost at (618) 453-5744."

    Is suggesting that your employees will physically threaten or attack your customers not vilification?

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  147. Oh, come on. That's a huge stretch Paranoid (a huge paranoid stretch?) and you know it.

    The Chancellor is providing a legitimate answer to a hypothetical. Labor disputes have a history of intimidation and even violence. That is not to say that it will happen here, but it is not impossible and for someone in her position, it would be derelict NOT to provide information to address that concern. She is not alleging that it has occurred or accusing anyone, and she is not using invective to convey the information.

    You can't seriously be comparing that to the invective directed here and elsewhere by FA supporters at her and faculty that do not support the FA. Keep it real.

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  148. Dave's argument re power rings hollow when considered in the light of the fact that much of the invective used on this blog has been directed by FA supporters at fellow faculty. From that perspective is is coming from those with power (the backing of the FA) at those with less power (those not supporting the FA) And don't tell me that all faculty are equally represented by the FA when those not supporting it are subject to abuse by those that do.

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  149. Anonymous (6:54 AM):

    The chancellor's FAQ already included the question, "How safe will the campus be during a strike?" The issue of violence in labor disputes could have been handled there without preemptive accusations against faculty or any other employees.

    The FAQ specifically suggested the idea of a faculty member threatening a student. My claim that the inclusion of that question in the student FAQ is vilification is not a stretch at all.

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  150. I'll say it again, there IS NO accusation in the comments on the Chancellors FAQ. There are appropriate instructions to the campus community conveying how to respond IF the situation arises. Th wording is as you posted:

    Q. "What should I do IF ..." [em add]
    A. "In the event of..."

    Nowhere in that is there an accusation that anything has already occurred and the concern that is it possible is not unreasonable. In fact, some faculty and/or students HAVE expressed this concern about various types of retaliation for crossing a potential picket, including posts on this blog and in other forums. There have also been posts here threatening to not count student work submitted during a strike to alternative instructors. (the legality of such has also be challenged here). So for the chancellor's site to include this information is fully appropriate.

    Your implicit comparison of this to the invective used by FA supporters in their attacks on the administration and fellow faculty that do not support the FA (whether or not they agree with the administration since those positions are not equivalent)is simply ludicrous.

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  151. Anonymous (Oct. 14 11:56 AM):

    It would be better to make an apples to apples comparison.

    It would be fair to compare the official statements in the Chancellor's emails and Web site, the FA's emails and Web site, and the FSN's emails to each other. In all of them, you find low-level sniping and vilification without personal attacks or coarse language.

    It would be fair to compare the anonymous pro-FA comments to the anonymous anti-FA comments. In either side, you find occasional personal attacks or coarse language. FA supporters or the FA itself have been called
    petulant children
    conspiratorial and illogical
    self-evidently ridiculous
    no credibility
    holding students hostage
    told that if they are so unhappy they should shut up or leave
    etc. etc. etc.

    You can argue that my list from anonymous isn't as bad as your list, but at least then we are arguing about the same thing. Comparing the Chancellor's messages to anonymous blog comments ignores the context of the messages and the roles that people are playing when writing them.

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  152. Actually, if anyone should be wary of violence in a strike it is those on the picket line. The term "strike buster" is not metaphorical in origin. While I don't think the Administration will be calling in Pinkertons to crack union skulls, if there is a tradition to acknowledge in labor disputes, it tends to place violence as much if not more in the hands of management and their tactics to preserve "business as usual."

    The highly speculative presupposition that FSN would have greater support if faculty weren't afraid of the (violent?) retribution of the FA and FA supporters is also a rhetorical tactic of vilification. One could just as easily argue that the FA would have a higher membership and (even) more vocal support but for fear retribution from anti-union colleagues and administrators with real capacity to do damage to one's position. Positing without any substantiating evidence that your opposition is significantly threatening you and your supporters is, itself, an act of vilification.

    And so on and so on...

    So maybe here's a first step to something other than endless tu quoque ("you do it too!") arguments: how about we hear and acknowledge the affective force of our positions? Many people on this campus (in unions and not) are angry, frustrated, fearful, disgusted, and desperate. You may dispute their reasons, but how about we start by acknowledging they perceive reasons to feel the way they do?

    I believe I share much with my administrative and FSN colleagues. I, too, am frustrated with the campus climate and fearful of the direction we appear to be going. I, also, am desperate to do something about that. I believe we all want to appeal to our "better angels" and use our considerable intellectual and compassionate resources to bring about positive change.

    We can jump quickly and heatedly past these shared experiences and concerns to diagnoses of cause and plans for treatment. We certainly will encounter differences on those fronts. But maybe the seeds of trust are planted in acknowledging what we share.

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  153. "We can jump quickly and heatedly past these shared experiences and concerns to diagnoses of cause and plans for treatment.".

    I agree. For example, concerned faculty could, at their own expense, organize and host a barbeque and invite all faculty to help to begin to rebuild collegiality...

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  154. Paranoid,

    Its funny (I mean that literally) that you include "self-evidently ridiculous" in your list. I used the search bar at right to find this phrase everywhere it occurs on this blog and found only one case. This thread, posted by an FA supporter/member to describe the bargaining position being defended by the FA. Are you arguing that dissent within the FA is vilification of the FA and that that counter-balances the long history of the FA's use of that tactic in its dealings with those that disagree with it?

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  155. Jonathon,

    Are you familiar with the term "bloody Williamson" and do you know the local history of that phrase?

    Its actually a fascinating read if you are not. Check out http://www.egyptianaaa.org/SI-HerrinMassacre.htm

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  156. One can see Poshard using muscular bodies from the Athletics Department as well as campus police with night sticks againstthose on the picket line to provoke violence and arrest the unfortunate with reliable testimony given by the FSN!

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  157. Anonymous (1:39 PM), with a bit to Anonymous (12:09 PM):

    I was responding to Anonymous 11:56 AM's request for invective or coarse language used against the FA. That the invective came from an FA member (though perhaps or perhaps not a supporter) doesn't make it less harsh.

    As I wrote earlier, the FA officially has limited itself to low-level sniping, as has the administration. If we call that vilification, so be it, but don't pretend it only comes from the FA.

    I, for one, am glad I did not respond to Mike Eicholz's collegial invitation to send an opinion opposing his message, as apparently that would be considered hate mail and would put Mike in a miserable position.

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  158. "For example, concerned faculty could, at their own expense, organize and host a barbeque and invite all faculty to help to begin to rebuild collegiality..."

    Potentially, yes. Especially if that is an open invitation to all faculty to share frustrations and collegiality. I am a little more suspicious of it if its stated purpose is to rally support for decertification of the union. It would seem to me that the more collegial meeting would encourage folks to share fears, frustration, joys and concerns. And then, explore options together for what we might do together, including possibly -- but not definitely and not limited to -- a decertification process.

    But I'm glad to hear that the picnic apparently welcomes FA members and supporters and encourages a collegial dialogue about our shared concerns. That wasn't clear to me before. If it truly is this open, I feel much more encouraged to attend and participate in a safe space of open dialogue.

    (On a completely unrelated note -- I think! -- I am aware of the history of "bloody Williamson." The lesson there, though, may be less about who started the violence than that once it begins, it spins out of control and touches all sides. I stll hope to avoid a strike; I most definitely want to avoid violence at all costs. I certainly trust this is something we all want to avoid.)

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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.