Saturday, October 1, 2011

Progress? Not that I've heard of.

A quick bit of rumor control. I've heard there's a rumor that's going round, a rumor that has even been sourced to me, saying that there's been some "progress" or "movement" at the bargaining table between the FA and the administration. To the best of my knowledge there has been no such progress--certainly the report from the FA bargaining team at the DRC meeting I attended on Thursday night indicated no such thing, and that's the latest news I've heard. Nor have I heard of any progress with any of the other IEA locals.

Southern Editorial and faculty salaries

Gary Metro, editor of the Southern Illinoisan, has an editorial out today that should help any readers in doubt as to the Southern's editorial stance figure out what we're up against there.

He starts by bashing Obama, irrelevantly. He then goes after the faculty union, arguing that regular working stiffs, whom he apparently represents, are "incensed and insulted" by our strike threat.

Because the economy is bad, he argues, unions cannot strike. A poor economy would thus appear to give employers carte blanche. The fact that many workers have been treated badly by this economy apparently proves to Mr. Metro that all workers should allow themselves to be treated badly by their employers.

Grad assistants vote to authorize strike

So far, each union local to vote has trumped the last in both turn-out and support for strike authorization. The latest is GAU, which had a 88% voter turnout (late on a Friday afternoon) and a 97% yes vote.  Kristi Brownfield, a GAU stalwart who deserves much of the credit for this vote, reports the details on Unions United. They also signed up 54 new members on Friday alone. I don't have total numbers for GAU membership (and will go ahead and agree that the unions ought to be less coy about this), but 54 new members in one day shows that there's considerable upside potential there.

I don't know about you, but I think that authorizing a strike takes a good deal of guts if you are a GA. GAs obviously depend on their stipends to put food on the table. And while the rest of us may have been in Southern Illinois long enough to develop networks of friends and family to help support us should we need to miss a paycheck, most GAs will not have done so.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

On Twisting Words

[See my comment thread below for a partial retraction. It now looks to me as if a paraphrase of Randy Hughes in the DE would indeed allow for the Chancellor's interpretation. I remain sure that Randy Hughes meant what I suggest below that he meant, but that is far from clear from the DE story itself. Whether or not she or her scribe knew better, the Chancellor's version is a plausible reading of the newspaper story itself. She is perhaps guilty of inadequate care in characterizing her opponent's position--particularly if she said, as I thought she did, that a FA leader had been "quoted" as saying this. But that's a more venal sin than that I attribute to her below. I've relegated the controversy I raised to below the break. ]

The Chancellor's rhetoric at her State of the University Speech today was pretty sly on the whole (which I, as a fan of rhetoric, can appreciate). She implied, without every quite explicitly saying as much, that all the unions wanted was more money, and that the only way to get them more money would be to gouge students by increasing tuition. She, on the other hand, had heroically saved jobs, 75 in fact, by cutting salaries, rather than, say, using the furlough money to pay for athletics, new construction on campus, marketing, new "non-faculty professionals" etc. But we've been down this path before, with administrators insisting that money cannot be moved from pot to pot, unless they move it from a bad pot (layoffs) to a less bad pot (furloughs), in which case they are happy to take credit.

Another cartoon

Rather busy around here, as you might guess, but to provide some new content I'll just post another of the cartoons by an anonymous faculty artist.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

92% of FA voters support strike authorization

Most of you will already have heard the news. Here's the official announcement from Randy Hughes, President of the Faculty Association:

Dear Colleagues,

The strike authorization vote by Faculty Association members has been completed. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of the voting members of the Faculty Association participated in the balloting. Of those voting, ninety-two percent (92%) voted yes to authorize the Departmental Representative Council (DRC) of the SIUC Faculty Association to initiate a strike.

It is my hope that the results of this vote will stimulate productive negotiations and that the SIUC Administration will address the issues at stake in a spirit of mutual give and take instead of unilateral imposition. Our goal, and the best outcome for our university, will be a collective bargaining agreement that is ratified because it meets the interests of both the faculty and the Board of Trustees.

In solidarity,
Randy Hughes

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

ACsE votes overwhelmingly in favor of authorizing a strike

I'm simply repeating what Kristi Brownfield says and links to over on Unions United, but this is worth a post: 80% of ACsE (Association of Civil Servcie Employees) members voting voted yes to authorize a strike, and 75% of those eligible to vote turned out to vote.

I find it most impressive that members of the union who are the most vulnerable to layoffs, the least well paid, and whose jobs have steadily been cut over years, were the first to vote on a strike, and have had the courage to support their leadership so strongly.

One Tuesday news item

Lot's of press coverage, letters to the editor, etc. leading up to the votes--too much for me to keep track of this morning, though I may return to this tonight.

One misleading summary of something FA President Randy Hughes in the DE this morning (unless Randy mispoke, which I rather doubt, on a matter of this importance) deserves quick correction. Here's the misleading bit:
Hughes said under the terms the administration imposed on the union in the spring, a faculty member could be laid off when deemed necessary if the university declared a state of financial exigency.
The last clause--if the university declared a state of financial exigency--is not in the imposed terms. All those terms say is that if Board deems fit (for whatever reason), it could lay off tenured faculty with 30 days notice (and, after a two year period of unpaid limbo, permanently terminate them). The Chancellor has insisted that the BOT would only do so in the case of financial exigency, but that's not in the imposed terms, and it needs to be clarified in contractual language. 

Again, the argument is not about whether the university can lay off faculty in the event of a bona fide financial exigency. Under the traditional understanding of tenure, as codified by the AAUP, universities do indeed have such a right, if they follow the proper procedures and allow for adequate faculty involvement in the process. The problem is that SIUC's current policy, even under a very charitable reading, fails to meet this standard. See my earlier post on SIUC tenure policy for the details. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Chancellor's false reassurance about tenure

I've just learned how something the Chancellor said in her email from last week is confusing some faculty.  The Chancellor made the following misleading comment in her email.
In fact, it is important to note that both bargaining teams tentatively agreed to the contract articles governing tenure and academic freedom last February. These articles remain virtually unchanged from the prior collective bargaining agreement. Based on these agreements, it is a little puzzling that these issues are still being raised in statements to the public.
Watch out whenever someone begins a sentence with "in fact".  I commented last week on the academic freedom issue: the Chancellor herself goes on to admit that there is disagreement about distance learning, but she failed to connect that issue with academic freedom, either through ignorance or in an attempt at misdirection.

Her comment about tenure is more seriously misleading--it is so divorced from reality that it didn't even register with me. The article agreed to spells out procedures for awarding tenure. Both sides have indeed agreed that those provisions need no substantial revision.  The disagreement, which is very real indeed, is about how to fire tenured faculty. I'd call this another golden fleece if I didn't feel that this statement, which is clearly intentionally disingenuous, and clearly meant to provide faculty with false assurance of the Chancellor's position and to falsely imply that the FA was lying about the very fact of disagreement, was too serious for that sort of cute moniker.

Unless the Chancellor truly finds it "a little puzzling" that faculty are concerned that her terms allow her to fire tenured faculty with 30 days notice, her statement here is the most irresponsible falsehood I've heard her utter so far.  It ought to at least be possible for the sides to accurately portray where the areas of disagreement lie. We expect both sides to make their own case and attack that of their opponents. Well and good. As I've noted elsewhere, SIUC tenure policy is a muddled mess, allowing rival interpretations. But denying that there is any disagreement about tenure is utterly irresponsible behavior that is unworthy of the leader of a university.

You should, in short, be reassured by the Chancellor's email only if you don't think being fired after you are tenured is something to worry about.

Deo volente

This story reached me via a reliable little bird.

So President Poshard is sitting at a table with some other Important People, and behind him there is a SIU seal. The seal, pictured above, includes (in addition to what in hindsight looks like a bit of smoke behind a burning Old Main), a Latin expression you may be familiar with:

D E O  V O L E N T E 

President Poshard apparently read the seal for the first time in his life. "So that's where they got that from!" says our President, who thereby showed that he had no clue what the motto of SIU was. Also that he was a reader of this blog, which we may want to count in his favor.

Perhaps, perhaps, as a Latin teacher, I am a bit sensitive here. But in my view if someone asks you why so many faculty here at SIUC are disgruntled, this little anecdote is one pretty efficient way to tell them. We have a university president who is too intellectually lazy to recognize the Latin motto of his university, a motto on a seal he has stood in front of dozens upon dozens of times.

If he asks you what the motto means, by the way, tell him "shared governance". God willing, he'll fall for it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why I Would Strike

To complement earlier testimonials from Suzanne Daughton and Natasha Zarestky, I'm finally getting around to posting my version, which was intended for the FA General Membership meeting back on 9/15. I didn't in fact deliver it there as we were running short on time. If it reads a bit like a speech, that's because that is what it was supposed to be.

My job here today is to say why, given the failure of bargaining to date, we should prepare ourselves to go on strike. The best way I've found to do this is to do it in the first person, to say why, if things do not change, I will go on strike.

I will go on strike if it is the only way to protect the values that led me to join the union in the first place. I believe that a strong faculty union is the only way to protect academic values on this campus, in this political climate, and with this administration. Only we the faculty can protect the principles we believe in: the idea that students are more than consumers in search of job training and more than sources of revenue; the idea that faculty must be free to teach their students, and to do their research in keeping with their own expert understanding of their academic responsibilities; the idea that shared governance must be more than a slogan, that it requires faculty to be true partners in shaping the future of this university. A faculty union cannot and should not do all of these things alone. But without the legal status and, yes, the power that only a union can wield, a power that rests, ultimately, on the willingness of its members to go on strike, only with a union do we stand a fighting chance of protecting the values we all believe in and making this a university that we can all be proud of.

A Sunday Cartoon

Another cartoon from our anonymous faculty cartoonist.