“I think people that are critical either don’t know me, haven’t paid attention, or don’t really want anyone in the chancellor’s office to make the final decision,” Cheng said.One has to be careful about judging someone's attitude based on a single quote in a newspaper, but, that said, this quote is rather revelatory. The Chancellor did not (at least in this comment, or any from this article) take the obvious opportunity to suggest that she could be fallible, or even that there could be honest differences of opinion about the issues we face. President Poshard, to his credit, did note that there will be always be "contention" about shared government and academic freedom--though his wording implied that such contention, like the poor, will always be with us, and hence isn't something to take all that seriously.
But has Chancellor Cheng or anyone in her administration, ever apologized for the Facebook screw up--ever walked back from the initial false story that they were only censoring "inflammatory" postings? In the article even Mike Eichholz, bless his heart, characterizes some of the Chancellor's emails during the strike as "blunders." But there's no admission of any error, or that there may be honest disagreement, from the Chancellor's side. Criticism is instead due to the following factors:
- Critics don't know her. I take this to reflect the belief that anyone who disagrees with her must be doing so to "demonize" her (as she puts it in a quote later on), that is, they must believe (or at least be arguing) that her intentions are bad. Since the Chancellor believes that her own intentions are good (as the rest of us believe that ours are good), she concludes that her critics are simply misjudging her. This is a silly argument, and one that is particularly damning in someone in power. It is entirely possible to disagree with someone without doubting that their intentions are good. But it must also be said that those who do demonize her (as in comments on this blog) appear to lend weight to this argument of hers, enabling her, as it were, to dismiss all critics as personal enemies.*
- Critics haven't paid attention. This is the ostrich in the sand argument readers of this blog should be familiar with. Saying your opponents haven't paid attention, or have deliberately failed to confront reality, a là the proverbial ostrich, isn't much of an argument, is it? Whatever the FA was doing in writing all those White Papers, we were paying attention.
- Critics don't want her to be the decider. Here the Chancellor correctly identifies a criticism, though her wording implies that critics don't want SIUC to have a Chancellor at all, and hence that our criticism is completely unreasonable. But yes, we don't want her to make the final decisions about everything. We don't want her to have the unilateral power to disregard collective bargaining agreements. We don't want her to have the power to fire tenured and tenure-track faculty. Many of us, including her own ten-day provost, didn't want to see the University College model implemented without serious consultation. Many of us are concerned about the central administration seizing direct control over all hires. Many of us would like to see a marketing campaign built from the grass-roots up, utilizing internal resources whenever possible, rather than have the Chancellor unilaterally decide to outsource our identity to a Chicago marketing firm.
This is false. The Chancellor is responsible for the poor relations between administration and unions on this campus. As the story accurately puts it, the Chancellor "announced" that there would be four unpaid closure days; she announced, that is, that she was going to break the contracts with the unions (technically speaking, she was going to disregard contracts still in effect after their expiration dates). She did not go to the unions, attempt to persuade them that there was a deficit that required employees to give up salary dollars, and bargain with them about how the unions could do their fair share. Nor was she willing to offer the unions anything in return for the four furlough days she wanted (like job security of some sort). She simply announced what she was going to do, come hell or high water, and negotiations with the unions subsequently consisted of her teams telling us what we were going to do.
Now the Chancellor, and other critics, may well respond that the unions would never have agreed to any serious cuts in pay, that the administration would have had to impose terms even had the Chancellor made a more thorough attempt to bargain. But we'll never know the answer to this question, because the Cheng administration didn't try to negotiate. It instead announced the result of "negotiations" before starting to "negotiate".
If you insist on being the sole decider, you are going to have poor relations with unions. That's your decision, and you are responsible for the consequences.
* One logical response to this post will be to ask the unions to admit something they did wrong. Personal criticism of the Chancellor (though it came overwhelmingly from individual members rather than from "the leadership" ) is to my mind one poor tactic on the unions' part.