Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Strike deductions under the radar

Jyotsna Kapur of C & P asked me to post the letter below, since the DE seems uninterested in printing it. I am happy to oblige.

February 2, 2012

An open letter to Chancellor Cheng

Dear Chancellor Cheng,

As expected, I noted along with others who had honored the strike, a cut in our February paychecks.  In my case, I expect another paycut next month.  What surprised me, however, was that the paycheck gave no reason for the cut—just a lower salary, that’s it.  Last time, you administered a cut in our salaries it was duly noted as the cost of administrative closure days.  I am sorry, I don’t have language suggestions for what you could call the strike days: dock days, fine for striking, ticket for loitering on campus, or simply--on strike.   But noting the reason for the salary reduction would be the transparent thing to do.

As far as money goes, there is little difference in the loss of pay between the furloughs you had imposed on us last year and the cost of going on strike this year.  But there is a world of difference in what it means for my self-respect as a faculty member.  The furlough days were imposed on us without negotiation and that is why the FA insisted on our right to challenge their legality in the current contract.  If we win, we will win back the loss of pay for all faculty and validate the principle of collective bargaining.  The cost for going on strike, on the other hand, was a price I agreed to pay.  So, I am not complaining about this cut, Chancellor but the discourtesy of not acknowledging the strike while making that cut.  Could you then please revise my salary statement for this month, noting the days I was on strike?  You may keep the money but I’d like to keep the record.

With best wishes for the New Year,

Jyotsna Kapur
Associate Professor, Cinema and Photography

Monday, February 27, 2012

Satan and Higher Education

Yes, that was the teaser headline over at Inside Higher Ed to an article on recent remarks by Rick Santorum, who has managed to lose the lead in Michigan over the past week by attacking contraception and higher education, the two pillars of our modern society. Of course the incumbent president has himself made some controversial remarks on higher education, essentially jumping on the performance based funding bandwagon. 

Dominus noster
Santorum's argument appears to be that (a) there are decent, hardworking people who can and should make fine lives for themselves and their families without going to college and (b) the arch-liberal, Satan, has taken over Higher Ed.

(a) isn't unreasonable, and all professors at places at SIUC have heard and made plenty of complaints about the strategy of making college accessible to all by letting everyone in to college only to have many of them fail. 12 years of decent education, culminating in a high-school education that goes beyond mere job training (but includes that), could well be enough. But I don't know if this ideal is still practicable given the increasingly high-tech workplace out there and the chronic problems facing our K-12 educational system.

(b) I can't comment on, as I, like many readers of this blog, have taken a blood vow to remain silent about my fealty to Our Great Master. But Santorum's remarks do lend a certain weight to those arguing that we ought to change the name of the College of Liberal Arts, lest it be taken for a College of the Dark Arts by a certain sector of the population.