Saturday, August 6, 2011

Weekend update

Two things I promised to look into.

1.  The FA does indeed propose a detailed procedure for dealing with cases of sexual harassment. You cand find the full procedure spelled out in an appendix to the FA's "supposal for mediation". I don't know the ins and outs of the history of this proposed policy, other than that it has been in the works for years. Two obvious differences are that the FA policy would provide for a clear, in-house way of dealing with complaints that wouldn't bounce up all the way to the Chancellor at once (or require use of a $12,000 outside investigation). The policy would protect the confidentiality of the parties involved, but the added transparency provided by the policy, which outlines procedures and would assign university personnel to judge and revolve complaints, could well result in university investigations having more credibility, and hence being less likely to be appealed to federal agencies and the like.

2. I spoke briefly with Randy Hughes about local expenditures from union dues. He tells me that only $20 of each members' fees come back directly to the SIUC local, though the local is able to get the IEA to pay for many local expenses (food at meetings, printing and duplication, etc.).  One local expense I hadn't ever imagined was reimbursing the student center for rent of rooms for bargaining, which Randy said had cost the FA several thousand dollars during the current round of negotiations. Thus items I linked to in earlier comments, the "Hudson Packet" which gives audited expenses for the IEA, and the more intelligible but less official report put together by our local NEA contact, Jim Clark, ought to give a pretty full picture of what dues are spent on.

Friday, August 5, 2011

NEA Unions to Host "Labor School"

The same activists who've been working hard all summer producing events like the protest at the BOT meeting and the satirical campus tour are preparing a more substantive event on August 20, the Saturday before the first day of classes. Check out the embedded flier for more details--and I'll hope to see you there.

[As what appears to be an informed comment notes, this event is for union members only--members of any of the IEA locals--and as seating is limited an RSVP is in order.]

FAFlyer Labor School

Performance Based Funding

Sheila Simon has an op-ed in the Southern extolling the virtues of Performance Based Funding.

There are lots of reasons to be skeptical and worried about this initiative, it seems to me; they are spelled out better than I can do so here by Ryan Netzley in a posting he did some time ago.  Illinois taxpayers certainly have a right to make sure that SIUC is not squandering their money. But it is particularly rich that the legislature is meddling more in university affairs while state funding levels, as a proportion of overall spending, have been in steep decline for years. It is also the case that outsiders' analysis of SIUC "performance" will increase the power of the bean counters on campus, with their relentless emphasis on recruitment and retention.

While Simon emphasizes that many different measures of performance will be used, I have a sneaking suspicion that the ones that carry the most weight will not be the qualitative measures faculty employ internally in assigning grades (the analogy she uses), but measures that are easily quantifiable by outsiders, and quantifiable in terms of money: retention rates, graduation rates, in short how many students you are giving degrees to and at what expense. Programs are measured solely by their credit hour production, or the number of majors they produce, rather than on their overall contribution to the intellectual climate on campus, and their intrinsic importance to a university education.

Athletics complaint to go forward

The Southern reports that Carbondale attorney Shari Rhode is taking complaints about the treatment of women in the SIUC athletics department to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. The larger issue here, as raised by our beloved commentator 'paranoid', is whether SIUC is well served to limit its investigation of such matters to a small circle of administrators, supported by a $12,000 outside investigation, whose results are not even fully shared with the lawyer representing those filing the complaint.  I frankly am not up on the FA position on such things, but will look into this.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Investigation into hostile work environment for women in SIUC athletics ends

Here's the lede from the Southern:
SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng said appropriate action has been taken and there have been no suspensions or disciplinary action from reports of a hostile work environment or intimidation of female employees in the athletic department.
However should one translate that?  Cheng said that she could have no comment, as "the information is being held confidential to protect both parties". No disciplinary action, but no defense or endorsement of Mario Moccia, head of our athletic program, either. I can only guess that the Chancellor decided that there was something to the charges, but not enough to warrant formal disciplinary action.

I thought this should be flagged, but I don't particularly want to wade into it. We've had plenty of trouble on this campus with charges of sexual harassment; both accused and accuser have rights that need to be respected, and too often rumor and innuendo is all most of us have to go on. But a column in the sports pages by Pete Spitler argues that the charges by former SIUC golf coach Diane Daugherty are serious. Confidentiality may serve genuine privacy interests of the accused and accuser, but a vague informal 'resolution' like this also protects SIUC's reputation.  That's not an unreasonable concern to have, but let's just hope that whatever "appropriate action" was taken will also be enough to protect women employees in our athletics program.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cheng on WSIU: Marketing to the rescue

Chancellor Cheng was on WSIU's "morning conversation" this morning. The most striking part of the interview, for me, was the failure by Jennifer Fuller to ask about negotiations with campus unions. There was nothing at all about these negotiations in the interview. As if the threat of a faculty & staff strike (whatever you think of that potentiality) wasn't one of the more important things facing SIUC this fall. Contrast last week's conversation with President Poshard, where Poshard went out of his way to say things helpful to the administration side in those negotiations (SIU is broke; the faculty got big raises).  WSIU isn't always deaf to union issues, however: you will hear more about those negotiations next week, when a certain blogger will put on his union spokesperson cap and see how well he fares live on the radio. Yikes. At least I can still wear my pajamas on the radio.

I was also struck by a series of questions Fuller had obviously arranged in advance with the Chancellor, who had precise numbers at the ready (this pre-arrangement became clear later in the interview, when Fuller apologized for asking an unscripted question about what percentage of SIUC classrooms were smart rooms and the Chancellor didn't have a number handy). I didn't jot down the numbers fast enough myself, but that's not the point (or at least not my point). The questions were about how enrollment affects SIUC finances. The $1 million cut in state finances equals this many students; this many students would undo our "structural deficit". And we wouldn't spend a dime more to educate any of these students? Yes, enrollment does obviously impact our budget, and, yes, we need to turn around the decline in enrollment, though I think we need to have a conversation about how many students we ought to aim to serve: more isn't always better. But equating students with cash this blatantly struck me as crass. Our students are more than cash cows. Which brings us to marketing, after the break.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Saluki Way Donations Almost on Schedule

Today's Southern reports that administrators in athletics are confident that donations to Saluki Way are coming in more or less on schedule, despite rumors to the contrary (the story is on the front page of the print edition--but I had to do a search to find the article online).  The story gives a figure for such donations: $9.7 million. It does not note that this represents only a small share of the project's (conservatively estimated) $76 million cost or that the majority of the funding is coming from student fees. President Poshard is quoted saying that McAndrew stadium needed to be fixed. I bet that could have been done for a bit less than $76 million.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Union Membership and Union Support

The Southern ran a balanced or even pro-union story on membership this morning, under the headline "SIUC Unions: Support is Strong". One could readily imagine the story being spun the other way, as membership levels reported are all at or below 33%. But probably Codell Rodriguez didn't find anyone to spin it that way on the record, so he played it straight. While it is entirely possible that an administration source gave him the numbers (which aren't a state secret, by the way, so this would just be normal story seeding, not anything unethical), no administration source was apparently available to opine that membership levels showed weak support for the unions. So the story consists largely of union presidents saying their unions are strong (though Anita Stoner is a bit more balanced in her analysis of things regarding the NTT).  Despite their rabidly anti-union editorial stance, the Southern's reporting is fairly even handed, for which they deserve credit.

The comparison Randy Hughes made to cultural organizations--who enjoy the informal and non-financial support of many but financial and time contributions from few--helps explain low membership. Union membership drives are a bit like NPR pledge drives. The problem is that everyone benefits from the union, whether or not they pay dues. And union dues are rather higher than my NPR membership.  My own ramblings on the overall impact of the membership issue, likely to infuriate many readers (as if there were many readers out there to infuriate), after the break.