Saturday, May 14, 2011

IEA on the state budget struggle

I'm not up on all the details of the legislative process, but a quick glance at this IEA report shows that the union is indeed fighting to prevent the sort of pension troubles I mentioned in the last post.  My worry about the IEA's role was misplaced.

This is what happens when one posts in a great hurry--I'm hoping it's at least as much a reflection of the nature of blogging as of my sloppiness & ignorance.

Those of you who wonder about why we should have to pay union dues ought to check out the news on the IEA website.  If the IEA helps prevent (or at least alleviate) these massive cuts to our pensions, you'll have the IEA (and its dues-paying members) to thank. We won't agree with every position the IEA holds, or every tactical decision the union makes, but they are huge player in state politics, and state politics matters.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lobby Against SB 312

Details from Jonathan Bean, who argues that pending legislation could mean a massive pay cut in order to fund our pensions.

I'll quickly make one response to him here, though.  He asks where the FA is in response to this.  At graduation and grading exams. We don't have a full-time staffer on the pension front. That's because we don't have a full time (or part time) staffer. So, yes, our concerns tend to be local--though, hey, I'm trying, aren't I?

If the IEA is selling us down the river, though, that would be another story. In their potential defense, this may be the perennial debate between choosing to help improve a bad deal to make it slightly less bad and resolutely opposing a bad deal which doesn't get any better, and may well get passed despite one's opposition.

Lobby for HB 3700

A quick post to encourage one and all to follow Glen Poshard's advice that we lobby on behalf of HB (House Bill) 3700, which would cut state funding for SIUC only moderately.  The obvious argument to make is that state funding for higher education has been in decline for years, and that while the state's budget is troubled, higher education has already suffered more than its fair share of cuts.

Here's contact information for Mike Bost.

Here's contact information for David Luechtefeld.

Blogger out of order

Blogger (blogspot) was out of order during Thursday and Friday. One comment alludes to deleted comments: I hope all have now been restored, but the momentary loss of comments (and at least one post) was due to a technical glitch at Google, not anything we did.  We haven't deleted anything.  Let's hope Google has finally gotten things back running properly.

This is a major embarrassment for Google, especially since they have been claiming that publishing things "in the cloud" is safe & reliable.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

Major Ostrich Update

Light fare for exam week (a.k.a. more fun than grading my exams). A commenter (and those of you who dip into the comment stream will know I spend far too much time reading and responding to them--I've probably typed twice as many words in comments as posts) goaded me into undertaking some first class google research on struthio camelus. I was deeply disappointed to hear that they do not in fact bury their heads in the sand.  Rather, at least according to the San Diego zoo (from which I've obviously filched the photo below), when nesting and threatened they will stretch their heads out along the ground to lower their profile.

The source of this myth is, I'm happy to say, classical, as is true of most good myths. Pliny the Elder (the guy who died after sailing towards the erupting Mt. Vesuvius) is apparently the culprit.  Or at least so says Wikipedia.  And if you can't trust Wikipedia, who can you trust? Or whom?

[Don't tell anyone I mentioned Pliny the Elder. I think I'm supposed to be on furlough today, and that might count as working. Sorry.]

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Negotiations resume

Randy Auxier can correct me here if I'm wrong, as I'm mainly summarizing his report (together with his fellow bargaining team member Daren Callahan) at the FA meeting tonight (Tuesday). The FA bargaining team met this morning with their administrative counterparts for the first time since the administration's imposition of terms. The FA proposed a discussion of workload issues. I'm no expert on this topic, but such concerns are particularly pressing in CASA, where the disconnect between contact hours and credit hours has generated all sorts of problems not readily reducible to the 12 credit hour per semester rule. The administration suggested distance learning, and the FA team agreed--as one of the issues here is indeed how to manage workload and compensation issues. The discussion (more on it after the break) was positive in tone and content, as, at least on the level of general principles, little appears to separate the administration from the FA on this issue.

This is, Randy emphasized, precisely the sort of positive conversation that could have taken place months ago, had the administration team not been focused solely on seeking FA agreement to the four furlough days and, failing that, on getting to impasse. Distance education and workload were among the major items the two sides have never really had the chance to discuss earlier.

Where the money goes

A job posting sent my way by a reader has goaded me into commenting on one of the disagreements between the unions and the Chancellor. One of the lies spread by the unions, according to the Chancellor, is that SIUC has the money to pay its employees what it said it would pay them, despite the Chancellor's insistence on the contrary. We're implying, she says, that she's got a big sack of money hidden somewhere in her office, and is inflicting pain just for laughs.

I'm not going to go into the details about the budget surplus here: those interested can consult my masterpiece on the topic. Here's the basic disagreement, to my mind:

The Chancellor puts a lower priority on paying current faculty and staff their full salaries than on other campus needs

For all those "achievements" she outlined in her talk at the Town Hall Meeting--reducing the backlog of deferred maintenance, improving our distance learning efforts, better marketing and recruitment--they all cost money.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Stealth Wisconsin

The DE story on the infamous Town Hall Meeting features the poor prognosis for next year's budget, and all but promises six furlough days next year (perhaps a good interpretation of Cheng's remarks, though not something she made explicit herself). The Southern has a stub of a story on the budget as well.

SIUC, like all public universities (and perhaps a bit more so, thanks to our enrollment issues) does face real financial problems. But the administration's posture seems to be that they decide how to allocate the resources, then tell the unions what their people are going to be paid.  Telling the unions what their people are going to be paid, nicely, and perhaps allowing them to be not paid in half days of their own choosing, counts as "good faith bargaining".

This won't fly. That's not a contract: it's capitulation. It's stealth Wisconsin.*