Friday, April 29, 2011

UIC moves toward unionization; tenure at risk in Nevada

A couple of stories to help view our situation in its wider context.

UIC faculty are moving toward unionization though it has yet to be seen whether a majority of faculty support this. Here's the AFT story on the move, which claims this would be the first public research university in Illinois to unionize. Oops. (Already sent them a comment.)

An Inside Higher Ed story details how many faculty at state universities in Nevada view changes to the state's policy as an attack on tenure, though state education officials deny this.

"Unions announce intent to strike"

Just one quick clarification for any getting their news mainly from the DE. Today's DE story is rather confused on a number of counts, but while the headline (repeated above) is a forgivable abbreviation, the story proper ought to have more clearly distinguished between an intent to strike notice and the intent to strike. The awkwardly named notice merely gives the unions the right to strike after ten days. Votes by each local would be needed to authorize a strike. So saying the unions "intend to strike" now is a bit like saying the US intends to relect Obama (or elect Trump). The notices say, to my mind, that the unions are beginning to openly prepare for a strike should that become necessary. But the goal is a contract. A strike threat and, should it come to that, a strike, are means to that end. The intent, then, is to do whatever it takes, within our legal rights, to secure a fair contract.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

"When Bitter Bargaining Bleeds Over"

I stumbled upon something rather interesting in the automated feed of links I've set up down on the left side of the blog, a story in Inside Higher Ed about a no-confidence vote against the president of the University of New Hampshire, which is unionized. Negotiations there are stalled, and the state is talking about major budget cuts. I have no great insight into the New Hampshire no-confidence vote (which the president predictably wrote off as a bargaining tactic). But reading down the rather impressively detailed story brought up a gem I'll put after the break.

Unions file "Intent to Strike" notice

The IEA unions (FA, NTT-FA, ACsE, GA United) held a joint news conference today to announce that they had filed a "Intent to Strike" notice.

These notices will, once the ten day period called for by law passes, remove the last legal hurdle before a strike could be called. A democratic hurdle remains: votes of the membership of each local, and no such votes have been scheduled. As a matter of substance the filing isn't a surprise--anyone paying much attention would know that the unions were not going to simply keep quiet after the administration imposed its terms. The filing of this notice is really the least they could do to make their opposition to the administration's attempt to unilaterally dictate terms that should be negotiated and agreed to by both sides. But of course uttering the word "strike" in public raises the ante. Let us hope it leads the administration to start negotiating in earnest and work together with the unions resolve the outstanding issues sooner rather than later.

More information on this notice and the current state of negotiations (or rather the absence of negotiations, save for some nugatory talks with the GA union) will be available at the joint union meeting on Monday at 4:45 in Lawson 141. The FA will hold a general meeting of its own on Tuesday May 10 at 5:30 at the Carterville IEA office at 500 E. Plaza Dr. Directions to that office and the text of the announcement after the break.

Dean Search for College of Engineering "Compromised"

The following was issued yesterday afternoon by the Seach Committee for the College of Engineering Dean:

A majority of the College of Engineering Dean Search Committee has endorsed this statement: The College of Engineering Dean Search Committee, a committee with 22 members representing various constituencies within and outside of the College of Engineering, was formed last fall to review applications and make recommendations for interviews on campus with the goal of recruiting a Dean for the College of Engineering by July 1, 2011. The Committee received 34 applications. The Committee met numerous times and spent countless hours reviewing, discussing, and evaluating the candidates based on the criteria published in the job description (which had also been reviewed and agreed upon by the Committee). Following this exhaustive review of the candidates' credentials and experience, the Committee narrowed the pool and contacted references for written letters and verbal comments (over the telephone). Following our review of reference letters and telephone input we further narrowed the candidates to a finalist of 4 and made a recommendation to the Chancellor that these candidates be invited for interview. The Committee was asked to review 3 candidates again on Affirmative Action grounds. However, the committee found large differences in the credentials of these candidates and those recommended for interview. The upper administration then unilaterally added one of these 3 candidates to the interview pool and ignored concerns expressed by the committee. We therefore feel that the uniformity of the search process has been compromised.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cheng: Terms don't undermine tenure

Just as today's tornado warning expired, the Chancellor sent out an important email to faculty in which she "wish(es)to reassure you that the rights and protections of tenure as defined by the SIU Board of Trustees Policy (See SIU Board Policies, 2.C.e.2.b) have not changed". Perhaps hearing the contrary in the Chronicle of Higher Education precipitated her email. On her reading of the imposed terms, their only function is to:
stipulate the minimum amount of notice the University can provide to the Faculty Association and any affected faculty prior to a reduction in force and provide the structure for reductions in force in the event such a reduction in force becomes necessary (something we all hope will never come to pass)
Fuller analysis of the this will have to wait till later. After the break, my own quick first take, links to the relevant documents, and the full text of the Chancellor's email (in case you aren't on her faculty email list).

Why We Teach Part 3

Randall Auxier

This article originally appeared in The Carbondale Times, April 27-May 3, 2011, p. 5. This version contains corrections that arrived too late for the printed version.

In the past two weeks I have attempted to be civilly disobedient (a little more emphasis on the disobedience than the civility, in the opinion of some), but to little avail. My bosses were prepared for faculty members to schedule their “furlough days” on teaching days, and have bullied those who tried it. They threatened one colleague of mine with a charge of “insubordination” if he did not make up the classes that were sacrificed. But my bosses seem not to have been prepared for someone to designate furlough days on teaching days and then hold class in disobedience. I told them that is what I would do, but the silence from my superiors has been unbroken since I announced this as my intention. Maybe I’ll just go away, you know?

I’m sure the SIUC administration is content to view my furlough days as being “really” those days designated for me by my department chair, days that come after classes are finished. I have said that I will be in my office on those days, meeting students and grading papers, but on one of those designated days, May 13th, I will (disobediently) attend commencement. The following day, Saturday the 14th, which I suppose would not be classified as a “work day” by my bosses, I will show up to (disobediently?) hood three Ph.D.’s who finished dissertations under my direction this year. If I were in the place of the Chancellor, I would be concerned about what a disobedient faculty member might do or say in front of all those dignitaries and parents at commencement –especially since these ceremonies might include the requirement that she shake my hand.

Wednesday news roundup

Below the break, annotated links to stories in the DE and Southern. I've learned that posting them here can provide a forum for discussions in comments, even when most blog readers will have already caught the stories in their original venues.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

SIUC makes the Chronicle

We're back in the Chronicle of Higher Education, in a brief story from their "ticker" titled "Southern Illinois-Carbondale Moves to Subject Tenured Professors to Layoffs". The story is decidedly balanced, but does note importantly that the Board's "last, best, and final offer"
stands out from faculty contracts elsewhere in allowing the cash-strapped university to circumvent the usual requirement that a formal declaration of fiscal crisis precede any decision to lay off the tenured
The way things are headed, we'll get rather more play in the Chronicle before long.

Monday, April 25, 2011

FA: Imposed terms would destroy tenure

A new FA "Fact Sheet" makes the argument that the administration's imposed "Reduction in Force" language would essentially end tenure on this campus.

These terms would make for a radical change from the prior contract, which allowed for layoffs of tenured faculty only in the event of program elimination or "just cause" (i.e., serious misconduct). The last contract even included a side-letter saying that the administration would not lay off faculty on the grounds of financial exigency. Now they are claiming the authority to lay off faculty even without the messy PR and fiscal consequences of declaring a financial exigency. If you can be laid off at the sole discretion of the administration, your tenure isn't worth a damn.

Tenure is an essential part of academia as most faculty understand it. These terms, therefore, are poison. If not withdrawn or massively modified they will result in a strike. I think it's as simple as that.

Furlough Friday Event

Natasha Zaretsky et al are planing an event this Friday to celebrate our furloughs. Her flyer is below; after the break, her fuller announcement about the event.
Furlough Friday Flyer

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Point vs. Counterpoint

Dueling op-ed pieces in the Southern today, presented in "Point" vs. "Counter-point" format.

Ken Anderson on Discretion

Ken Anderson (of Geology) asked us to post this piece, and we're happy to oblige, even if we don't share all of Ken's sentiments (or at least I, Dave, don't--but that's for another post).

A request to those who consider posting here…

Dear all,

I have a request of those who consider posting (or commenting on another’s post) on this site. Please look at the URL of this site. It is a public site that can be, and will be, found by anyone with access to Google or other search engines and an interest in SIU. Access to this site is not limited to SIU faculty, nor can anything that is posted here ever be truly removed or withdrawn. It is ultimately inevitable that what is posted here may be read by potential students, their families, the general public, alumni, legislators and policy makers – people upon whose good will we all depend.

Even when we disagree, SIU is an institution in which we must all share, both in its triumphs and its tribulations. It is shared space; it is our mutual proverbial sand box. I ask that you please not piss in our sand box.