Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Message from the Chancellor: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

...unless you are in the vast super majority not supporting the strike, in which case would you please sign up to help us break these unions.

The Chancellor continues the Administration media blitz with a radio interview:

And emails:

[Click to Enlarge]

I'll offer a few comments after the break, but really the Chancellor's comments in both venues are pretty much "business of usual" if you are in the business of "threaten" and "mischaracterize."

First, we truly are down to a game of saying it makes it so.  On the one hand, the Chancellor denies that the Administration team says "no" to proposals and has "given, given, given" -- but then much of the rest of the interview suggests otherwise.  What else is a "non-starter" but a firm "no"?  There may necessarily be"non-starters" in any negotiation process on either side, but this use of "non-starter" reveals a contradiction in the Chancellor's defense of the Administration always being willing to negotiate.

All four unions report the Administration's negotiating tactics as extremely yes/no, with the typical strategy of presenting package deals and demanding an "accept" or "deny" of the entire package.  The Administration resists creative problem solving and compromise. 

And of course, the Chancellor continues to frame the issues with each union as only ones of money, money, money -- so much so that in some cases she grossly misrepresents the unions' positions.  This happens for all four unions, but most egregiously with ACsE.  I'm sorry, Chancellor, but your gloss on our clerical staff's very legitimate concerns was grossly inaccurate and offensive.  They may have initially suggested that it is a problem for poorly paid staff to have to pay for parking for the privilege of working here, but that is not a major concern in negotiations and not what they are striking over.  Likewise ludicrous and patently false claims about "signing bonuses"!

As always, note what the Chancellor doesn't say.  Last Friday, she posted an email that petulantly denies claims by the unions that we have been working without a contract for 490 days now.  That argument goes away.  Perhaps because she finally sees it was foolish?  One can always hope.  Or maybe she finally realizes that referencing referenda in the unions is a bad argument for the Administration to make at this time.

The real give-away comes at the end of the interview when the Chancellor acknowledges that she received the questions in advance of the interview.  I thought there was a palpable difference between this interview and the grilling Dave got last week or the agitation in President Poshard's on Monday.  Perhaps now we know why.

As for the more recent email, yes Chancellor, we are aware of the consequences of a strike, especially for those colleagues not in the unions.  Thank-you for the reminder.  Please note, then, when any of these folks do honor the picket line, that they are expressing an extreme dissatisfaction with your leadership and vision for the future of this institution.  We'll see if the turn-out and disruption are as minimal as you predict, although we understand why you must make these predictions the way you do.


  1. For once, I saw this email as rather boilerplate stuff, unlike her earlier obnoxious efforts to divide the faculty and staff on this campus.

  2. I was curious about her comment regarding faculty who choose to hold their classes off campus being considered "on strike." If they are doing their jobs and holding classes - even off site - how can they be considered as striking?

  3. I imagine they wish you to physically cross the picket line tomorrow....

    I would recommend those individuals choosing to go on strike NOT to check their school emails. I would think that would be one of the spot checks the administration will use to ascertain whether we are striking or not.

  4. What about today's DE where the chancellor basically linked tuition increases to union demands (raises are going to require 7% tuition increases)?

    Also curious that during the past week, the DE has kept a 2010 article listing faculty salaries on the front page of the website while all other stories get cycled through daily.

    Why has this turned to a money issue?

  5. Yes, it is so very aggressive to state that if you do not have the right to strike you will be expected to show up to work as usual.

    anonymous 10:14, If you plan to "honor" the strike then do so. You are not striking if you hold your class elsewhere else. The FA FAQ on their official blog says as much. If your concern for the strike doesn't outweigh your concern for teaching your class, perhaps you need to decide whether you actually believe the strike is warranted.

    I know this is an ugly and uncomfortable situation, but regardless of where you stand, each of us must clearly make that decision for ourselves. It is a little like pregnancy, you can't be a little bit striking.

  6. Anonymous 11:08, I have no intention to hold my classes off site, but I know people who do plan to do that. I was simply curious as to how the Chancellor can conclude that someone is striking if they are still performing their job. But thanks for the lecture anyway.

  7. Striking isn't like pregnancy (though I get the analogy) It's like war. You can't go halfway into a war. And once it starts, you can't end it unless you call a complete truce.

  8. I would think hold class somewhere off campus would put the faculty member at risk in the event something might happen. The faculty member could be liable rather than the university.

  9. Anonymous (10:23 AM):

    The DE had the salaries up on the home page for a long time last spring and into the summer. The salaries came down for a couple months when they redesigned the site this fall. I don't think THIS is part of an administrative conspiracy to make it all about money.

  10. Disgusted,

    At least one dean has asked faculty members to submit planned schedules for the next month. In a separate "procedure" announcement, the dean indicated that faculty members should sign in at the dean's office when they arrive for their "shifts". Also, the associate deans will be checking offices periodically to ascertain which faculty members are present.

    No need to snoop in emails here!

  11. My morning class is right next to the Dean's office. Oh well!

  12. As an person outside the "academy, I hope that there is a strike and that those FA members who strike are eventually fired. Try for a second taking your "talents" to the private sector and seeking a guaranteed lifetime job to do what you please (and call it academic freedom). And lest you complain otherwise, you truly do not care about the students. They have paid their money to be taught a particular subject. You strikers are simply refusing to teach them the material for which they have already paid. What if the strike lasts for the rest of the semester? Does a student still get to graduate if they were on schedule to graduate this December? Do you tell the student, "so sorry," but we're concerned about our lifetime tenure and our academic freedom, and the student's education is simply a casualty of our irrational requests.

    Please go on strike! You will find that you can be easily replaced.

  13. 1:45

    Let's see. Doctors, lawyers, accountants and others all desire to make partner in their respective practices in the private sector. Why? In part, the job security that it brings as well as other benefits.

    What links these jobs with academia? They are all professions. They all require professional expertise. They all require a significant amount of training beyond high school or even a college degree (4+ years beyond a B.A. in some cases), an investment few in society would be willing to make if there was no reasonable protection. They are all professions where judgment, rather than directives from superiors play a significant role (shared governance?).

    Please do not say that academics are unique from the private sector. It is disingenuous to handpick jobs as inappropriate comparisons.

  14. To continue my previous post, I do not find it appropriate for you to make me feel bad about my career choice to become a university professor. I do not think anyone here would criticize you for whatever path you chose and, if it ever comes to it, sticking up for your workplace rights.

  15. Anonymous 1:45 I have had my points of disagreement with my fellow FA members on many things, but on this my disgust runs entirely toward your narrow-minded comment. Not anybody can teach an advanced undergraduate course in British history, or quantum physics, or Victorian literature - in recognition of this SIUC made as a mandatory prerequisite that I hold the most advanced terminal degree in my discipline - in most of our cases including mine a Ph.D. And that Ph.D. took 8 years beyond my B.A. to achieve.

    Indeed, each of our disciplines has sub-fields for which we hire experts with the appropriate expertise. It is highly dubious at best that even a non-striking colleague in my discipline (say an administrator) would have the appropriate expertise to teach my classes come Friday if I am still out on strike.

  16. Anonymous at 1:54 - there is a difference between doctors, lawyers, etc., and professors. Lawyers don't go on strike and leave their clients hanging in the wind. Doctors don't go on strike and leave the patient on the gurney. Professors go on strike, and the students.....

  17. Anon 1:45

    Please be advised that the FA folks will not be the only people on the line. Your argument might hold some weight if there were one union striking, but there are FOUR!

    I have spoken with several colleagues not in unions but represented by the NTTFA and FA who have confirmed that, thanks in no small part to the Chancellor's recent emails, they will be honoring the strike and in some cases joining the picket line. So...thanks for the assist, Chancellor. Really, we couldn't (and well, wouldn't) do this without you.

    But here's an idea: How about we don't do this? In the end, you will save so much more for the university by settling.

  18. "the dean indicated that faculty members should sign in at the dean's office when they arrive for their "shifts""

    That's funny. I probably can guess which one. But just how bone-headed is this dean to not know that he is imposing a new term and condition of employment that must be bargained? Yeesh.

  19. 2:31

    Maybe the difference is that they turn down treating broad classes of individuals (e.g., Medicare patients), types of cases (e.g., criminal), etc. Why? To try to compel others to reimburse at appropriate or reasonable rates and so on. Just because it is not a strike should not be taken as some indication that there is no concerted effort to protect their professional judgment (how to treatment patients).

  20. Maybe we should sign in for shifts.

    Don't have a labor union if you don't want to be treated like workers.

  21. Nice, Anon 3:05. With circular reasoning like that, you should write policy for the BOT.

  22. Why is that reasoning circular?

  23. ..."just how bone-headed is this dean to not know that he is imposing a new term and condition of employment that must be bargained?"

    Pardon me, but didn't the union(s) just officially certify that they were no longer working under the old contracts? (I don't know the legal term but you know what I am referring to, I hope). Doesn't that mean that this statement is incorrect and that if the dean wants to do so (for the present) that is within their power?

  24. MisterX: It's just a "temporary" "procedure". Nothing to see here....

    Anonymous 1:45: My skill set is in fairly high demand out in the public sector (even in this crappy economy), but, you know what? I'd rather work at a school like SIUC that's traditionally served mainly students from the middle and lower socioeconomic brackets. The tenure protections that the FA has been arguing for are pretty S.O.P. in academia and will make sure that SIUC students have access to the best professors that can be brought to southern Illinois.

    Whether you think that's fair or not, that's how this game called "academia" is played.

  25. Is the meeting tonight open to everyone, or only union members?

  26. I am sure its open to anyone who is supportive of a strike

    See :-)

  27. Anonymous 3:14 said...

    "Pardon me, but didn't the union(s) just officially certify that they were no longer working under the old contracts?"

    For clarity's sake, we are not talking about a "contract" in generic terms but a collective bargaining agreement with a specific legal status. Illinois law provides that while bargaining is taking place, even in the event of a strike, some provisions of an expired CBA, such as other than salary provisions, are still legally binding on both parties. The 10 day notice letter from each local was necessary to affirmatively void the no strike provision, but not the remaining language.

    Bottom line: even in our situation, and in the event of a strike, an employer can't change your conditions of employment. To lose those protections there would have to be a decertification vote and a choice of no representation. Hey wait - didn't I hear something about that recently?

  28. Anon 3:46: Tonight's meeting is open to all.

  29. Anon 3:09 -- "circular" because the one defines the other. Having a union is why we are treated like workers; we have a union because we are (treated like) workers.

    It reminded me of BOT policy on FE:

    You can only terminate lines if there is FE; FE is a condition so dire that you need to terminate lines.

  30. As an alumnus to the university and a GA at another campus, I support the 4 unions in their actions up to and including strike.
    However, I have to voice my concern for the impact this may have on the current semester. There is no doubting the strike could take time, but it could also be resolved by Monday. I simply hope that an agreement is arrived at so no students have to change their graduation or other plans because of it. (There will surely be those who use the labor strife as an excuse for not graduating on time, I mean, it wouldn't be them, after all).
    Striking is a part of the process when contract renewal takes as long as it has. It is a right of those in a union to exercise that right if deemed necessary (excluding certain professions of course). It is another way to play the game of collective bargaining.
    Best of luck to those bargaining so an agreement can be found.

  31. Breaking News: The Administration is censoring posts/comments on SIU facebook page right now!

  32. Scores of current and alumni students are having their posts deleted and then they are blocked from the page entirely. Their simple & respectful statement: "Please settle now."


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