Friday, November 11, 2011

Sign the petition, sign up to prolong the crisis

Jon Bean has posted an interesting exchange between Mike Eichholz, founder of the FSN, and Deborah Seltzer-Kelly, who is no fan of the FA but also opposes the FSN petition in its current form. Eichholz here more clearly explains himself than he has done elsewhere, which I find helpful. I think Seltzer-Kelly also hits on the main problem with the FSN approach: Eichholz is effectively asking faculty to sign a petition in favor of an option that no one can understand at this point, because it is an imaginary construct--and may in fact prove to be an impossibility.

Some initial thoughts on the strike

It's too early to fully digest what's just happened. And as I've yet to fully shed my spokesperson Dave persona, I'm not going to try to step back and try anything like a full analysis. But here are a few things that I think are pretty clearly true--though I'm sure many comments will dispute the significance of these things and suggest other truths.

1.  Whatever its earlier intentions may have been, by the day of the strike deadline the administration had decided that it was in its best interest to have the FA strike. By handing out major concessions to the other three unions, the administration guaranteed that those locals would settle. The administration offered the FA absolutely nothing on Wednesday of last week. It made not even the slightest superficial concession to provide the FA with a fig leaf to allow it to call off the strike, had it wished to do so. The FA was thus left with the option of abandoning the strike, which would have meant showing the strike to be a bluff, forever removing the tool of a credible strike threat and probably dooming the FA to oblivion, or striking.  So we went on strike. The administration then waited 48 hours to see if the FA could pull off a strike. We could. So they called us to resume negotiations.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pension crisis

The following came my way from Leslie Duram, chair of Geography. 

The IL House Pensions and Personnel Committee DID pass SB512 House Amendment #2 with a 5 - 4 vote yesterday.  The full House might vote on it soon, or maybe next session. In any case, we need to call Bost and others now.  This website tells more: 
This is really scary! Here is the message I sent to inform people:

I just called Bost's office at 217-782-0387 and they're taking a tally of people opposed to this draconian House Amendment 2 to Senate Bill 512 to destroy our pensions. It might come up soon for vote so I urge you to call and make it flood of opposition.
Basically they are proposing to increase our contributions from 8 to 17% and then reduce our defined benefit to the MINIMUM Social Security payment!  So instead of the 80% of our final salary, which we've always had, we'll get about 20% and have to pay the whole amount (no employer contribution).  Please inform others and let your voice be heard!  
Here's the IEA webpage on this issue, with further details, and more instructions on who we can help defeat this unjust and unconstitutional measure together. 

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

I am up early and off to a committee meeting (The Sustainability Council).  I would prefer to hibernate or just go in to teach today, but I take my work very seriously and I know it extends well beyond the classroom.

After the break, I'll offer a few post-strike observations.  I am sure the days and weeks to come will provide continued opportunities to hash and rehash what we did or didn't accomplish with this labor action.  I have no illusions that our most fervent critics will ever grant us any accomplishments.  Nonetheless, I return to my regular work both weary and energized -- and I know I am not alone.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Strike Ends

In the unlikely event any of you haven't heard, the strike is over.  Below the break, a press release sent out about 9:30 on Wednesday, 11/9. 

Take Heed of Ohio, BOT

We've known all along that the real impetus behind the delay tactics of our contract negotiations was an attempt to bust or cripple the unions.  The Administration was counting on an anti-union wave that seemed to be sweeping the country a year ago.  They banked (and by "banked," I mean invested a LOT of money that we apparently cannot afford) on that sentiment being enough to continue their centralization of power and denial of collective bargaining.  Let's pause to contemplate these bad investments after the break...

Qualified Substitute Instructors

Many students have feared that the promised qualified substitutes will turn out to be yet another err... lie. Wrong! These pictures prove the opposite. Some subs might look very young, some too canine, some do not seem to feel well, but they are here!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Where we (the FA) stand

This is a statement emailed to the FA bargaining unit early this (Tuesday). With luck we'll have a happier announcement soon. 

Where we stand.  7 November 2011

Thanks to the resolve and hard work of faculty at the picket line and in the bargaining room, and with the help of numerous supporters from our sister locals and hundreds of SIUC undergraduates, we have made considerable progress over the last few days, but major differences remain between our proposals and those of the Board of Trustees team. The administration left us no alternative to a strike in order to achieve the progress we have made so far.  With continued resolve and support we shall secure enough progress to reach a tentative agreement and end this strike.

At 5:17 pm on Monday, November 7, the BOT team presented a set of proposals that responded to FA proposals that had been sent to the BOT team at 11:30 am.  After a brief conversation, the board team informed the FA bargaining team that they were leaving for the evening and would resume negotiations at 9:30 am on Tuesday. The FA team will resume bargaining with the Board team then.  The FA team had been prepared to continue bargaining in an effort to reach an agreement Monday night.  But by breaking off negotiations on Monday night, the board team ensured that a strike would continue for at least one more day.  In subsequent comments in an email and to the press the Chancellor indicated that her team was ready to meet again this evening, but that statement contradicts what the Board bargaining team said in direct communication with the FA bargaining team.

At 8:00 pm the FA’s Departmental Representatives Council received a detailed report from the bargaining team on the course of negotiations and the current positions of the board and FA.  At the end of that meeting the DRC voted unanimously to support their bargaining team, calling for them to return to the bargaining table and seek an equitable resolution of the remaining issues that divide the two sides.  The major items where the BOT and FA remain divided are the following:

Furloughs. The BOT proposal lacks clear standards and a clear process for determining when the financial situation justifies furloughs, and provides for no accountability that would allow a grievance or other appeal in the event the FA believes those standards have not been met.  The BOT proposal offers toothless midterm bargaining which could not reverse an unjustified imposition of furloughs. The BOT proposal would thus undermine our collective bargaining rights by failing to guarantee that salaries are determined by mutual agreement and cannot be arbitrarily and unilaterally reduced by the Board.  Because the BOT proposal lacks transparency and accountability, it provides no safeguard against the risk that savings from furloughs would be used not to safeguard our academic mission, but instead to fund other administrative priorities.  Finally, the Board’s proposal would limit our recourse to the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board to settle our dispute over the legality of the BOT’s imposition of four furlough days in FY 2011. The FA has proposed multiple options for meeting our interest in transparency and accountability on this issue.

Back to work agreement. The Board’s punitive back to work proposal is an insult to the faculty exercising their legal right to strike under Illinois law. Particularly insulting are the Board’s broad implications that faculty have been engaging in threats and misconduct during the course of the strike.  Inflammatory language will only inflame tensions on campus. The FA believes that an important goal for a back to work agreement is to build a better relationship between the faculty and the administration.

Fair share.  The administration continues to refuse to offer us fair share provisions similar to those offered to other IEA locals.

Areas of agreement. The FA team has worked creatively to secure our basic interest in transparency and accountability on Reduction in Force (layoffs) by contractualizing a definition of financial exigency and gaining the power to strike in the event we wish to challenge a BOT declaration of financial exigency, though we would have preferred the less disruptive alternatives of a binding outside panel or binding arbitration.  On overload pay, we secured full pay for all face to face overload courses, but would allow the BOT to offer 0.5-1.0 month’s for distance learning courses, in order to meet their interest in ensuring that such courses are profitable.  This last provision is explicitly limited to the current contract, and a cost study analysis done by the provost’s office will help determine whether the university can afford full pay for DL courses moving forward.  We have also reached an agreement to put off final decisions on sexual harassment and conflict of interest procedures, but with a schedule to resolve these matters.

Back on the Line for Another Day

The Chancellor's stunt last night -- and it was certainly a stunt -- has assured another day of picketing, another day of missed classes, when there could so easily not have been one.  The Administration has made a "final" offer that "addresses" all of the faculty concerns (much in the same way a bully's taunt  "stop hitting yourself" addresses violence).  After putting this offer on the table, the BOT team went home and the Chancellor used a press conference to announce that the Administration was done for the night.

All that is clear in that "final" proposal is that we are close enough that a continued commitment to bargaining could have ended this thing in the late night or early morning hours. But the Administration would rather see the strike go on, would rather see students hoping to graduate soon face unqualified or no instructors in their upper level classes. 

Yesterday was the first day of classes since the Adinistration's census last week.  This was the day the Chancellor had to begin to deliver on her promise to provide "qualified substitute instructors" in those classes.  In some few cases, she may have delivered on this promise.  But in far too many cases, the substitutes were not present, were unable to do anything more than take attendance and hold the space, or just read from the texbook.  We are starting to hear these stories on the picket line from very frustrated students.  We are seeing them reported in the press.   Students are encouraged to share their experiences of the Chancellor's version of "business as usual" on the newly re-opened SIUC Facebook page...or even here. 

But maybe they already have made their presence known.  At the same time the Administration was devising its latest tactics in misdirection and abuse of process, hundreds of students formed a very large, very vocal crowd of supporters for the faculty on strike.  They marched from Anthony Hall to several of the picket locations then back to the Student Center and finally fully surrounded Anthony Hall. Their support for their faculty was truly inspiring. 

So, on a day when we might actually have gotten back to real "business as usual" the Administration has chosen to drag the process out, endure the likely continued growth of the student protest, avoid the accumulation of further evidence of their failure to provide qualified instruction in classes, and face the firm resolve of the Faculty on strike. Further evidence of their skewed priorities and short-sightedness.

The FA critics will enjoy something like free-rein on this site again today as most of the FA are either back at the bargaining table or back on the picket line.  These critics' chides, critiques, venom and "advice" are welcome -- we all need an outlet, after all.  Mine, today, is on the picket line where we are making a difference and will continue to do so.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Board ensures strike continues

Here's news release the FA has released this evening.  

Board departs negotiations after revising proposal

At 5:17 pm on Monday November 7, the SIUC administration's bargaining team presented the Faculty Association's negotiating team with a revised proposal on all remaining items at dispute.  The administration’s team then informed the FA team that they were departing for the evening and wished to resume negotiations Tuesday morning. The FA's bargaining team will return to bargaining with the administration team Tuesday.

The following statement may be attributed to FA spokesperson Dave Johnson.

"While we will seriously consider the board team's revised offer, we are extremely disappointed that they have broken off negotiations this evening.  Their premature departure ensures that the strike by faculty on the SIUC campus will continue at least one more day.  The faculty team will work through the evening to prepare for negotiations and be ready to meet with the BOT team Tuesday morning." 

Important Perspective on Faculty Participation in Determinations of Financial Exigency

Various remarks from our administration can leave one with the impression that there is no precedent for faculty participation in developing definitions of "financial exigency" and procedures for executing the difficult decisions that can stem from times of crisis. Whatever one might think of the current strike action, understanding the widely acknowledged importance of such participation is crucial in understanding our administration's claims.

In 2009 the American Council on Education issued a report entitled "Faculty in Times of Financial Distress: Examining Governance, Exigency, Layoffs, and Alternatives." Throughout the report, faculty participation in such decisions is described as crucial for the well-being of a university. While the entire report is compelling, the section specifically devoted to "Faculty Consultation in Times of Budget Crises" (which begins on page 16) should put to rest the claim that faculty have no interest in or historical right to participate in these important deliberations.

The report is available here.

Can You Trust the Press about this Strike?

After the Administration's terrible PR kerfuffle on the SIUC Facebook page, the DE now confirms what many of us suspected:  The Administration wasn't just interested in suppressing the freedom of speech, but also the freedom of the press.  I am very proud of the ways the DE has resisted this pressure; the DE is not, primarily, a recruitment tool -- except in the ways having an award-winning college newspaper, recognized for its investigative journalism, might attract quality students here.  Read the "Our Word" editorial here:

Meanwhile, our local media has been similarly silent, misinformed, our outright wrong about this strike.  Gary Metro at The Southern is of the opinion that, of all the passing cars at the pickets, "a larger group of motorists responded with silent stares or insulting hand gestures." This is not the experience of anyone actually on the picket line.  I also personally had to inform a SI reporter that not all folks honoring the strike were on the picket line -- it was news to him on day two that picketers were a subset of overall strikers.

If you get outside of the very local community, the media becomes a little more informed and a little more even-handed.  For example, check out the way the Chicago Tribune covered the first day of the strike:,0,5019450.story

But hey, it is good to know that in the wake of SIUC Facebook page censoring the Administration is figuring out a social media policy.  Let us hope it shows a balanced recognition of the need to be open and transparent rather than to use "image control" to justify censorship, false promises, and lies.

I'm back on the line again today.  I won't be checking back in here until this evening.  Other bloggers may post across the day.  For everyone's sake, let us hope this is the last day of this strike.

Infinitesimal Calculus

The letter published below was sent to SIU administrators by our colleague from the Department of Mathematics.

An infinitesimal amount of calculus was taught in this class...

An open letter to SIU President Glenn Poshard, SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng, and Dean of the College of Science Jay Means

November 5, 2011
President Poshard, Chancellor Cheng, and Dean Means,

Since you repeatedly claim that at SIUC is “business as usual” and that “classes are continuing with qualified instructors,” I want to call your attention to events in my Calculus class on November 3-4, 2011. Several students have sent me descriptions of that class, and I quote one of them:

“Yesterday (Thursday), the first day of the strike, was very awkward. The Math 150 class was staffed by the Assistant Dean of the College of Science, [name deleted by D.B.]. She is an economist who has a background in Calculus. Yesterday’s class lasted only 20 minutes with her giving us a brief lecture of the fundamentals behind integration. She then got uncomfortable to the point where she was literally copying the book. She also took attendance, by the way. As I said, she stopped after 20 minutes, assigned no homework and dismissed the class.

Today (Friday), was basically a repeat of yesterday. The class lasted 10 minutes and we pretty much reviewed what we went over yesterday!”

How dare you do this to my students? What you did is a disgrace to our University, to Academia and to knowledge. It is also a disgrace to Newton and Leibniz, who proved the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, one of the cornerstones of modern mathematics, the theorem that was supposed to be taught those two days in my Calculus class, the theorem that you ridiculed by the substitute you sent.

I am a scientist, and I always tell the truth. How about you?

Dubravka Ban
Associate Professor of Mathematics, SIUC
c.c. Math 150 Class

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sunday Cartoon

Meet Your "Qualified" Replacement

Some will probably find it unethical to share this screen capture (despite my efforts to blur all names and pictures of those not directly involved).  I, however, find it even more unethical to pass Dean Winters off as qualified for the role he now so proudly claims -- being a professor of history! I bear no ill-will for Dean Winters, nor do I doubt his expertise in Endocrine Biochemistry. I also believe he is probably a good dean.  But I don't think he is qualified for the role he is being asked (forced?) to take.

His LinkedIn profile notes, way down at the bottom, that he is interested in history (along with soccer, golf, and outdoor activities).  Is this really what the Administration thinks is a qualified substitute???

[Click image to enlarge.]

Negotiations Resume today at 3:00 with a Federal Mediator

News just in from Randy Hughes that negotiation will resume today at 3:00pm.  The all T/TT faculty meeting is still scheduled for 5:00pm today at the Carbondale Civic Center.  Faculty, please be there if you can.

And now your your viewing pleasure:

SIUC Faculty Association Strike - Day 2 from Faculty Association on Vimeo.

FA Bargaining Unit Meeting Tonight at 5:00

Just a post to flag the meeting at the civic center tonight (Sunday). All members of the FA bargaining unit are welcome to attend (members and non-members). The main order of business is to present where negotiations stood at midnight on Wednesday. We aim to provide detailed accounts of our final set of proposals, and the latest from the administration as of that date.  We'll have quick reports from leaders of other locals on their settlements, and a report on the strike so far.  There will also be an update on the progress of negotiations since. We expect to at least have a resumption date & time scheduled, and it's quite possible negotiations will have resumed by 5:00, in which case we'll try to provide some sort of update on what is going on at the table today. And there will be time for Q & A.