Friday, April 20, 2012

Quinn's Pension Plan

It is, I am afraid, a typical Friday afternoon story: bad news.   A "choice" between losing state support for retiree healthcare and a 3% pay cut in the form of increased contributions to pensions. The choice is a ruse to avoid constitutional scrutiny. Plus, universities (and school districts) would be asked to pick up more of the tab--though the details there are unclear. The unions are naturally opposed to the plan.

Here are some early news stories: Fox ; Chicago Tribune.

I've cut off comments on this post, as I'm sick of having to read them to see if anyone has managed to be not only illiterate, mean-spirited, uninformed, baseless, and witless, but acutely offensive enough to be censored. Not to worry: I'll post something fairly soon that will provide a field day for the anonymouses. In the meantime, well, consider starting your own blog . . .  Cheers, Dave. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

More Golden Shovels

Groundbreaking for the new student services building took place yesterday, as the Southern reported. The aim is to put an end to the Woody Shuffle. Woody Hall is not an ideal structure for its current function (it was, I believe, originally a dormitory) and this building will no doubt be more functional and more attractive.

But anyone not brand new to this blog will know that I've become reflexively critical of new infrastructure on campus. As trustee Don Lowery rather sharply pointed out in his WSIU interview some time ago, SIUC has the infrastructure to support c. 18,000 undergraduates, though only 15,000 are on campus. So our priority is infrastructure? Paid for by student fees? As if the Woody Shuffle was due to the architectural shortcomings of Woody Hall, not to poorly functioning bureaucracy; as if that bureaucracy will automatically improve just because we've put it in a new building. We've lost hundreds (sic) of civil service positions over the last few years; would you rather go to bad old Woody with enough staff or the brand spanking new building with far too few staffers?  Thanks to the state's messing with pensions, and to low campus morale, the university will face something of a mass exodus of employees in all classifications in the near future. We will soon be coming up against our contractually mandated student-Faculty ratio of 26:1 (which the administration tried to raise both during and after negotiations). The answer? New construction!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Research space needed; books to return

The DE has an article on the return of books to Morris. This is good news. But missing from the article is the reason the books are coming back. It is not because they are valued, but because they are valued less than the McLafferty Annex itself, which is now coveted as a research space. The $1 million required to get the books back materialized once this became clear--or this at any rate is what I gather from comments by the Chancellor some time ago,* noting how many groups had expressed an interest in McLafferty. Of course research space is also a good thing, but this sequence of events seems to show how low a priority the library, and particularly its print collections, has around here. This is yet another reminder, for any needing one, that when an administrator says "we don't have the money to do x" it often means "I've decided to spend the money on y instead". 

The priority on getting the books out of McLafferty rather than in to Morris may help to explain the rather sketchy details in the story as to how exactly the books are going to get to Morris. From reading the story, one gets the impression that despite having had the books in McLafferty for three years, we have made no plan about how to get them back. But the confusion in the story may be as much journalistic as administrative: I welcome comments from readers with more insight into this. McLafferty itself is now closed to browsing, and its books lost in limbo during the transfer. Some such loss of access is necessary, but it will be interesting to see how long the limited access lasts.

* She made these comments at a Faculty Senate meeting, but I haven't been able to find them in the minutes.