Saturday, October 22, 2011

Reactions to the Strike Deadline Vote on WSIL-TV

Thought you might enjoy this local news clip.  There's something here for everyone: good union representation, thoughtful feedback from students, and at the end someone even manages to silence Dave Johnson.

Friday, October 21, 2011

For Your Friday Reading Enjoyment

Okay, time to kick this thing off, I guess.  Thanks to Dave for the "Tonight Show" introduction, but I promise not to do a monologue. However, I cannot promise that I won't render some Carnac the Magnificent schtick before all this labor negotiation is over.  Given how often I've been asked to look into a crystal ball to predict what the outcome of a strike will be, I think it only appropriate.

I'd like to draw your attention to a couple of pieces of news.  First, the ACsE has taken its strike deadline vote and has set the date: November 3.  Read more about it here.  If you've been following the other unions' negotiation reports, you'll note some similarities and differences in what seems to be happening with the FA.  The strike votes certainly seem to have motivated the discussions at the negotiation table for all, but they are not reaching much meaningful agreement on the sticking points.  The difference, though, is that while the pace and amount of negotiation has increased for the FA, it does not seem to have done so as much for the other unions.  More is the pity.  For the ACsE, particularly, there are some pretty low (or no!) cost proposals that a trusting Administration could pretty easily agree to but still will not. 

And then this bit of national news from the Washington Monthly.  Okay, maybe this is news for the rest of the nation, but I think this is so day-to-day here at SIUC that we've pretty much taken it for granted.  More disturbing than the excellent analysis of administrative bloat is the hopelessness of the bodies identified to correct the problem:
On any given campus, the only institution with the actual power to halt the onward march of the all-administrative university is the board of trustees or regents— which, as we’ve seen, tend to be unprepared or disinclined to make waves. But they need to do so if their institutions are to be saved from sinking into the expanding swamp of administrative mediocrity.
It is not within the purview of our current labor negotiations to limit or reverse the growth of our already top-heavy administration.  Still, I doubt too many of us will hold our breath waiting for the BOT to do anything about it.  Ah well, at least misery loves company -- and we are so not alone in this predicament.

Answer: Transparency, accountability, and shared governance
Question: Name three things you won't find in Anthony Hall.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Deo volente transition

The last post has brought us to a new phase in things, and my status in the FA has also changed. I'm now officially the FA spokesperson. We'll see how much speaking I do, but this new role makes maintaining my beloved identity as Blogger Dave unsustainable for the time being. That stay on message thing and all.

Luckily, Jonny Gray of Speech Communications, who's been writing lots of splendid comments of late and who knows Blogger inside and out, has agreed to take over lead blogging duties until such time as I can shed my Spokesman Dave role. I will certainly comment now and then, but I will do so in my official capacity, and do my best to only and always represent the FA position. In the meantime, the blog will be in good hands. Let's hope that Spokesman Dave has a short lifespan (and not only in order for me to return to obsessive work on the blog).

This isn't a true valedictory message, as I'll be back some day, but I did want to pause and thank those who have read this blog and posted so many fine comments (and so few foul ones) for thinking this blog worth their time. As I write this, we've had some 80,000 "pageviews", and almost 1900 comments. That is certainly more than I ever dreamed of (especially back in the early days when clicking on "don't count your own page views" halved the number of daily hits). I've learned a great deal from blogging here, and I hope the discussion this blog has fostered will prove not only to have helped people get informed about the current crisis, but to have a laid a foundation for more discussion between faculty across campus, and across disciplinary and ideological divides, once the current crisis ends. For this crisis shall end, and in all likelihood it will end before very long. 

Until then: Here's . . . . . Jonny! Nothing like a splendid joke to leave your audience eager for more as you step off stage.

DRC Votes for November 3 Deadline

The FA's DRC voted 29-1 tonight to set a strike deadline for 11/3.  Details beneath the break.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Agreement between FA and FS

I've received a request to post the "Principles of Agreement" (a.k.a. "Memo of Understanding") between the FA and the FS. It's embedded below. This memo dates to the origin of the Faculty Association in 1996.

Principles of Agreement

The Silence of the Faculty Senate

The Faculty Senate this afternoon passed a resolution calling upon the IEA unions and the SIUC administration to "resolve their differences in good faith and with haste in order to protect the immediate and long-term interests of the university’s academic community." It did so without any debate, and without anyone mentioning the faculty group calling for the Faculty Senate to usurp the role of the FA and take control of negotiations with the administration (Faculty for Sensible Negotiations--FSN). I think what the Faculty Senate didn't say is the real story here. 

The executive committee of the Senate had spent over three hours hammering out the draft resolution, which is modeled on the very similar resolution passed during the 2002-2003 crisis. And the president of the Senate, Bill Recktenwald, was clearly worried that the debate might be heated; he limited debate to 30 minutes, and each speaker to two minutes. Instead there was all of one comment--noting the absence of the NTT union from the 1996 Memorandum of Understanding the motion began with. The motion then passed unanimously.

As the Senate's secretary, Jonathan Wiesen, suggested as he introduced the motion, its main purpose was to show the relevance of the Senate, the only body to represent the "academic concerns" of all faculty at SIUC. Silence on the part of the Senate during the current crisis would risk labeling the Senate irrelevant. As there was no debate in the Senate about the resolution, readers will have to determine its meaning for themselves. After the break, I'll discuss what the resolution means to me--and what the silence in today's meeting said about the FSN, the Faculty Senate, and the FA.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Zombie special

I spoke too soon: we do have a Sunday cartoon--perfect for after sunset.

New Faculty Group Formed

In lieu of a Sunday cartoon, I offer the following news item.

Word has reached me that a new faculty group has been formed, Concerned Faculty for a Living Motto (CFFALM). These concerned faculty have come to the conclusion that SIUC can no longer afford a Latin motto, especially one that has degraded civility and comity on campus by allowing a disgruntled faculty blogger to mock the University President for his failure to know that the university he leads happens to have a Latin motto. To bring SIU into a new era, they have suggested that we modernize and try a cheaper language, like Spanish. To avoid having to outsource this work to an outside firm, they passed around a hat at a wiener roast, allowing them to raise the funding necessary to produce the  logo cum motto posted after the break.

Bargaining Report 2: Financial Exigency

The sticking point here is what is technically called "RIF", i.e., Reduction in Force. As all will likely know, the administration's imposed terms outlined a procedure for laying off tenure-track and tenured faculty. The imposed terms were silent on what conditions would have to be met to allow for such layoffs. The Chancellor repeatedly said that SIUC was not attacking tenure and would only layoff tenured faculty in the case of financial exigency. But it took months and considerable pressure from the FA for her bargaining team to come close (close) to saying as much in contractual language, rather than leaving any such protections buried in BOT policies that the board can change at its discretion.

As far as I can tell, the administration's policy has changed little since the Chancellor's last email, at which point her bargaining team had agreed to contractualize board policy as of July of 2011. This was a meaningful move on their part--though it is fair, I think, to point out that this was mainly a case of the administration's bargaining position starting to catch up to the Chancellor's public statements. The administration's position here is relatively little changed, I believe, since September 30, when Randy Hughes sent out this bargaining update in response to an email from the Chancellor I quote and attack here.

The FA's interest here is in ensuring that SIUC has a transparent and accountable process for handling financial exigency. The FA is open to any process which meets this interest, and after the break I'll explain the evolution of our bargaining supposals on this. Now rational people can debate how best to make this process transparent and accountable, and can also name other interests (to be effective, for example, a financial exigency process would have to enable SIUC to make deep enough cuts to survive).
But let's just pause briefly to ask ourselves this. When should SIUC figure out this process? Should we allow ourselves to operate under the murky and confusing current SIUC policy (which more or less remains that I outlined in my earlier post on tenure)? That's apparently the administration's position. But if we encounter a bona fide financial crisis worthy of the term "financial exigency", we're going to need all the transparency and accountability we can get. Otherwise the moral damage to the institution will be even greater than the mere financial damage. Indeed, it seems to me that we risk fatal damage to trust and morale should a financial exigency be handled badly, as one following the current murky process could well be. The damage done in 1973-74 lasted for years, after all (and may perhaps not yet have been entirely healed), and back then there was no real financial crisis to manage.

Many folks have spoken strongly about the damage a strike could do to SIUC. A strike is a serious matter, but were the FA to strike, one thing it would likely be striking for would be a decent, mutually acceptable financial exigency policy. In my view the risk we face through badly handled financial exigency far outweighs the risk of a strike.

Overload update: The FS and the FA on the same page

Vero Maisier of the FA bargaining team notes that SIUC has a new overload policy. And one of our more indefatigable commentators, "paranoid", has well noted that the Faculty Senate proposed changes very close to the bargaining position of the FA, and even linked to the relevant FS minutes for December 14, 2010.  Scroll down to the Faculty Status and Welfare committee, and click on the pdf attached there for details. 

If one studies the pdf, which shows the original proposed policy and suggested changes, and compares and the overload policy now posted on the SIUC website, one can see that the administration did indeed respond to some of the concerns raised by the FS. It did not, however, alter its original compensation proposal (half to one month's salary). Among the many other changes the administration did not accept were proposals by the FS to change various clauses indicated that overload compensation "may" be paid to clauses saying that overload compensation "will" be paid.

1. The FS and the FA both take seriously their roles of representing faculty. The position of the two bodies here is essentially the same (whether through coordination or not I frankly don't know). It is not necessary to play one body off of the other, as some on both side too often do (FA members characterizing the FS as a group of lackeys, and Professor Eichholz of the "Faculty for Sensible Negotiations" characterizing the FA as a bunch of uncivil louts).

2. The FS can only advise. The administration, to its credit, did make some changes in its original policy. But on the bottom line issue of funding, it gave no ground. Without the collective bargaining rights of the FA, that would be the end of the story. Unless or until the Sensibles call for converting the Faculty Senate into a faculty union, that is all the FS will be able to do. This advisory role is important, but it is obviously limited.