Thursday, July 14, 2016

I think it's time to put this blog to bed again. Indeed, I drafted this ten days ago, before a recent trip, and have left it sitting unpublished for that long, so this is really just a case of waking up only to go to sleep again. As the old hospital joke goes: wake up, it's time to take your sleeping pill.

As I remarked in a little colloquy on a previous post with Tony Williams, commentator extraordinaire, this is a tougher crisis to deal with. Last time around we had targets ready to hand. I'm reminded, perhaps unjustifiably, of the poem by Cavafy which ends

And now, what’s going to happen to us without barbarians?
They were, those people, a kind of solution.

This isn't to deny that Cheng was a horrible Chancellor, nor is it to say that Rauner and Madigan aren't barbarous in their way, only that the larger context that's made it possible for folks like them to do this much damage strikes me as the real problem.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Update on Higher Ed in stopgap from UPI

After the break an update, which I've lifted from the EIU union's facebook page, on higher ed's status in the latest stopgap funding negotiations. John Miller is president of the statewide UPI (the AFT unions representing EIU, WIU, CSU, NEIU, and UIC--and I may have missed others). Apologies if formatting has been lost in the cut and paste process. A quick summary: if the current bill passes, this would keep the doors open through the fall but won't do any more than that. Lack of full MAP funding and a full year's budget will not do much to reverse the trend of Illinois students heading out of state.

Other stories on the apparent progress toward a stopgap budget can be found at the State Journal-Register and Southern.

Happy Ending for Illinois?

The Daily Show has broadcast a Guide to Success in Illinois, as part of its Happy Endings series. Check out this vital information here. (Not the best Daily Show segment, but it is topical.)

On the more serious side, it's possible, again, that the GA and Rauner may agree on something. Not an ending, but if it is not beginning of the end, perhaps it is the end of the beginning, as I believe may have been said before. Capitol Fax has this on the outline of a deal--a deal that would apparently mean some stopgap funding for universities. If things don't fall apart, again.

FA and SIU admin reach framework agreement on new contract

One of the advantages to having fewer readers this time around is that I don't have to worry too much about blabbing about what may in some sense be inside information. (And given that I myself seem to be losing interest in this blog, anyone still reading deserves some news.) So I'll report, briefly, what I learned from FA President Rachel Stocking this afternoon. She was briefing me because I'm to take over her job come fall.

The FA bargaining team and administration have reached a framework agreement on a new contract. Final language must still be drafted on many items, and once there's agreement on the language the contract will be submitted to the FA's DRC (Departmental Representative Council) and then (unless the DRC disagrees) to the full membership for a vote.

I'm not on the FA bargaining team, so I don't know every last detail of the negotiations, and I don't want to completely step on what I expect to be a more official announcement from the FA before too long. But here are the highlights that I'm aware of.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Southern covers SIUC report

Today's Southern has a pretty meaty summary of the recent Simon Public Policy Institute study on Illinois politics, including a link to the full study and a link to a related conversation on WDBX.

The most intriguing thing in the article, which arises from the WDBX conversation, is an effort to compare the gun violence/gun control impasse with that regarding the Illinois budget.

My initial reaction was to say that comparison isn't very telling. After all, one side, the NRA, is pretty much having its way by ensuring we all have the right to buy assault rifles, even if we are not allowed to get on an airplane because we're on a terrorist watch list. In Illinois, on the other hand, neither Rauner nor Madigan is getting what they want, at least if Madigan wants social services and education funded and Rauner wants pro-business reforms. But . . .

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Maker of racist video nabbed

The Southern reports that SIU police, working with FBI, have identified the guy who put out the racist video in the lead up to the May 2 "strike". He's from outside of Chicago, has no affiliation to the fraternity he tried to drag into things, and no affiliation to the groups that led the protests. So this is good news, it seems to me. It was just some jerk out there who wanted to make a splash. This doesn't mean there isn't racism on campus, of course, but let's count our blessings: this wasn't an SIU student, and thank goodness it wasn't a SIU fraternity.

I'd also count the continuing failure to nab the graffiti 'artists' who painted Faner as a blessing, to be frank. I would not have used paint where chalk (or washable paint) would do, or said something about a riot--but the crime here was pretty trivial, the bulk the message was worth spreading (student debt), and the zealous efforts to go after the perpetrators has always seemed a bit over the top to me.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Illinois Atlas of Austerity

UIUC geography student Melissa Heil has put together an impressive website offering graphics depicting the effects the budget impasse. The Champaign News-Gazette has a story given some background on her efforts.

I paste below what was one of her more striking graphics, one showing how many students eligible for state MAP grants did not get them even before the crisis. According to her figures, 125,000 students were funded on this program last year, but the state paid for less than half of those students with the stop-gap spending bill, with universities fronting the money otherwise (leaving it uncertain in some cases whether students will have to pay their MAP grants back as if they were loans).

Tastefully hidden after the break, a quick update on non-happenings in Springfield.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Program Prioritization

Here's my feedback on the draft report of the faculty Joint Task Force on Program Prioritization.

I do encourage comments, both on this blog and, rather more importantly directly to Mike Eichholz, the co-chair of the committee, who is soliciting comments. (Yes, that's the same Mike Eichholz familiar to old-time readers of this blog as the founder of the Faculty for Sensible Negotiations.) SIUC faculty received an email on this on June 2, including the document itself and a call for comments. My opening praise below wasn't meant as just fluff: this is a serious effort at a very difficult task. I am certainly full of trepidation about what 'prioritization' will result in here, but that's not so much because of this report but in spite of it.


Dear Mike,

First, thanks to you and your colleagues for all your hard work on this document. The result is pretty impressive as academic documents go: clearly written, balanced, intelligent. These comments aren't meant to be solely critical; to some extent they are just observations on things I found somewhat striking about the process as you all envisage it.

1. The plan may rank chairs rather than programs.
2. The plan suggests a partial and somewhat muddled vision for SIUC. 

3. The plan prioritizes quality over mission.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

"Higher Education in Illinois is Dying"

The NY Times published an op-ed on the plight of public universities in Illinois. Not much new or substantive to it, but every bit helps, and I suppose I can't quarrel with the headline.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Randy Dunn put out an update on the budgetary situation today. He gives a very full account of recent legislative moves--almost all of which have been abortive. Dunn suspects, in the end, that the state will come up with some sort of stopgap funding bill to see state government stays open through the election. Presumably, then, SIU is planning on that basis--the assumption we'll get some FY 17 funding from the state before too long, but no firm commitment for the whole year until after the election at the earliest.

There isn't much news in his update. For Carbondale, though, there is a little something . . .
While the School of Medicine and SIUE have identified and are operationalizing the level of reductions necessary to carry them well into FY17, the Carbondale campus is now finalizing recurring reductions - beyond that first round of about $13.5 million in cuts put in place a year ago to get through FY16 (or so we hoped at the time). Any additional reductions for SIUC heading into the new school year will be announced at the campus level once decisions are reached.
These are presumably the cuts planned for in the various college level plans to cut something like 12.5% from budgets. Then there's this:
As has become our mantra across the system at this point, the goal of "protecting the core" or "holding the center" of 1) viable academic degree and academic support programs, 2) critical student services, 3) essential clinical and outreach efforts, and 4) campus asset preservation will remain paramount as we go into these uncharted budgetary waters in the months ahead.
"Viable" is nice--of course a fairly large proportion of our programs won't be viable, by a number of definitions, given years of cuts. At any rate, look for news on SIUC cuts fairly soon, I would think. Those cuts will presumably be based largely on who can be cut in a hurry without declaring financial exigency--at this point, that would mean lots of NTT cuts. Those cuts will impact programs (and people) inequitably. Strong program, weak program, essential program, inessential program--no matter, all that would matter is how many NTT you have. Not the smartest way to run a university, even within the constraints imposed by the chaos in Springfield. Let me hasten to add that I have no inside information on this . . . 

Presumably the prioritization plan will come into play at some point here, but there are weeks (if not months) to go before it would take effect, as it should be reviewed by Faculty Senate and Grad Council, in addition to the open comment period by faculty announced in the email about it we received earlier this week. Then it will take a good deal of time to compile the data and reports called for in the plan--a massive undertaking requiring unprecedented levels of detailed data on research and creative work--quite substantial written reports from chairs, etc.

More on that plan fairly soon, if anyone's out there . . .

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Overspending the problem? Not so fast.

A smart, fact-based opinion piece from Eric Zorn at the Tribune showing that Rauner's diagnosis of Illinois' ills ("the Democrats have spent our state into the toilet for 30 years") is crap.

Illinois state taxes and state spending are in the middle of the pack. Local taxes may be high, thanks in some part to our ridiculous overabundance of separate governmental units, that's not the fault of Democrats—or Republicans—in Springfield.

What our state politicians have done, on a bipartisan basis, is utterly fail to put enough money toward pensions for state workers. Years of reckless irresponsibility there have left state government without enough money to both fund pensions and fund social services and education.
Insert comment about perspective here.

The Chronicle on the plight of Illinois public universities

The Chronicle has a story today on how Illinois public universities are managing as the state continues to fail to fund them.

After the break, the relevant stuff for SIU. (The full story linked to above is restricted to subscribers, but anyone with SIUC credentials can get access via Morris. I'm not sure, though, if my link will work if you aren't signed in or reading on campus.)

I highlight one sentence from Dunn in the story: he expects some degree programs to be shut down. SIUC faculty just received an email with a draft of the report by the dreaded "Joint Taskforce on Program Prioritization". I'll read and respond to that soon.

Breakdown in Springfield

Pretty much everything broke down in Springfield as the official spring session ended on May 31. Not only did the Democrats fight with Rauner, but Democrats fought with each other, and Republicans turned on Rauner.

Some GOP legislators bucked Rauner to override one of his vetoes, and allowed Chicago to refinance some of its pension obligations.

The State Senate, with its Democratic majority, soundly defeated the budget proposal passed by the Democratic House.

The Democratic House soundly defeated a K-12 spending bill passed by the Democratic Senate.

Rauner, who had opposed a stop-gap budget, suddenly flipped and proposed a "bridge plan" to tide the state over until after the November election on the last day of the session. Democrats argued that it was not constitutionally possible to pass this bill within one day, and said that it torpedoed bipartisan negotiations underway in one of the working groups. So they refused to bring it up for a vote.

Rauner is now on a downstate campaign trip calling for passage of his stop-gap budget and railing against bills that would have "bailed out" Chicago; his attacks on Chicago have been called "racially tinged."

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

House fails to override Rauner veto of arbitration bill, will veto House democratic budget

Well, we seem to be back at full impasse in Springfield.

The Democratic House "supermajority" failed to override a veto of the AFSCME arbitation bill, which would have made an arbitrator the final decision maker, outlawing strikes by AFSCME or imposed terms by Rauner. Instead we await the ILRB decision as to whether negotiations have reached an impasse, as Rauner claims. If Rauner wins, he imposes terms, doubling our healthcare costs (if we do not choose reduced benefits), with AFSCME's only alternative being a strike.

Rauner also vowed, predictably, to veto the budget the Democratic House is sending his way. He has the constitutional ability to veto the bill as a whole or in part--but the only part he might let through would be K-12 funding. He has yet even to sign the social services spending bill passed on a bipartisan basis, utilizing "special funds" and thus "paid for" via the GOP calculus. The Southern has a persuasive editorial on that topic.

It sure seems as if Madigan and Rauner have both dug in their heels, meaning there will be little or no Higher Education funding until after the election. And there seems little reason to expect the election will change things much, unless the Democrats can pick up enough seats in the House to make their supposed "supermajority" (veto proof majority) actually stick--and have the moral courage to pass budgets with spending cuts and tax increases without Republican support. Rauner will pour millions into GOP campaigns, however, and the Democrats would have to win in Republican-leaning districts (like that of Terri Bryant) to pick up seats. If he picks up a few seats, though, that would not change anything as far as I can see: Rauner would still need Democratic votes to pass anything.

I'm off for a few days for a little conference and will try to forget about Illinois politics for a while.

Details of House Democratic plan emerge

Things are coming to a head at Springfield as the state comes up against the May 31 deadline to pass a FY 17 budget with a bare majority.

The House Democratic leadership (i.e., Madigan) has a scheme that basically calls for spending at the levels they approved (but were never enacted) for FY16. This is a 6.5% cut for higher education from FY15 levels. Here's their full plan; here's just the two pages on higher education, which include some specifics for SIU.

Alas, this plan is probably going nowhere. The state GOP has called it "the phoniest of phony budgets"; as it includes no new revenues, the plan doesn't balance the budget. It very strangely assumes that much of Illinois government will continue to be funded by court orders--i.e., it assumes that no overall budget will pass, which would remove the need for those court orders. There is, in short, some sort of political gamemanship going on--perhaps an effort to force Rauner to veto something that looks good, or at least contains funding that Democrats can tout to constituents. Here's an analysis from Greg Hinz at Crain's that points out that the plan contains K-12 funding--thereby linking it to everything else, rather than keeping K-12 separate, which would allow Rauner to support K-12 while vetoing everything else, as he did last year.

I bother posting the details only because they show what House Democrats would like to do for higher education. But it's less clear that they—or anyone else—is more interested in doing something for higher education, or the state as a whole, than they are interested in 'winning' the grand battle between Rauner and Madigan. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Chronicle article on regional universities

The Chronicle (access available via Morris library for SIUC folks) has a lengthy, balanced article on the plight of regional universities, centered on Western Illinois, and the decisions underway there about what programs to cut. Among the possible casualties at Western are philosophy, religious studies, geography, African-American studies, women's studies, music (BA), musical theater, bilingual education, and health sciences.

It's hard to imagine that we're not headed in the same direction: toward more unambiguous status as a "regional university" and toward program cuts. Unfortunately we can't expect any more stability as a regional university—even if we gutted research and increased teaching loads—than we have presently in our current status as a second-class research university. I'm frankly not sure of the best response for SIUC, but it's hard to imagine us flourishing if we are simply the SIU regional unit at Carbondale rather than Edwardsville. SIUE is already cleaning our clock in enrollment--are we really going to be able to attract students without the research mission? We are in a lovely part of the state--but it is also distant from all population centers, sparsely populated, and impoverished.

Perhaps the answer, inasmuch as there is any answer if the state continues to abandon us, is to cut non-instructional costs (something the otherwise thorough article ignores), and some academic programs, while retaining a research identify for (most of) the programs that remain.  A leaner, meaner (less ambitious, less well-rounded) research university--but still a research university.

Enrollment worries, indefinite impasse, etc.

The Southern ran an AP story on fears for enrollments at Illinois public universities next fall. Nothing terribly new or specific here, just confirmation of what we've been fearing/expecting.

Rich Miller of Capitol Fax made the following comment after linking to the same story:
Meanwhile, the governor has said he’s not too worried because universities have “other funding sources that are very, very significant.”  This is some seriously wrong-headed thinking.
Miller's weekly column paints a bleak outcast for budget progress, noting that both sides seem to be waiting for November, while there's little chance the election results will change the balance of power enough to break the impasse.

The Southern also reports that the Governor seems to be sticking to his guns, still calling for changes in workers' compensation and bargaining rights as the price for any increase in taxes to help craft a budget compromise. Madigan for his part seemed to be buoyed by the big union rally last week, and is no more compromise-minded than Rauner is.

The changing consensus views of where the state is or isn't headed remind me of nothing so much as teenage mood-swings. Some hope for progress a few weeks ago, now back to the two sides sulking in their corners. While social services and state universities rot.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

State GOP rejects gay marriage

Not a university issue per se, but still striking: Delegates at the state GOP convention have overwhelmingly defeated a compromise plank that would remove language in favor of a US constitutional amendment to define marriage as being between one man and one woman. They are thus still in favor of a constitutional amendment which would overturn the 2015 Supreme Court decision making gay marriage legal in all 50 states, not to mention the 2013 law that made gay marriage legal in Illinois. Even the compromise proposal they rejected would have retained "religious freedom" language of the sort used to justify businesses in denying service to gay couples.

Capitol Fax notes that Terri Bryant (as tweeted by WBEZ reporter Tony Arnold) spoke in opposition to a move to change the platform: "How will I win reelection if there is no difference between the Democrats and me?" Congressman Mike Bost also spoke out against the compromise proposal, which had been favored by some in the party leadership. All told, 782 of the 978 GOP delegates rejected the compromise proposal. The Illinois Review has a detailed story on the vote (from its conservative perspective).

If Terri Bryant thinks that gay marriage is the only difference between the state GOP and Democrats, she hasn't been paying attention. There was a time when I think we could have considered the Illinois Republicans Party moderate, by and large. That time has passed, if ever it was.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

MAP grants bill to Rauner; plights of EIU, CSU

The State Senate had joined the House in approving additional MAP grant funding. Alas, this bill is probably going nowhere as Republicans have been condemning it for failing to identify a funding source. Creative use of unspent money in a "special account" allowed everyone to get on board with the prior stopgap funding bill, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards this time around. So Rauner will likely veto the bill (after letting it languish on his desk for 60 days as he did with the AFSCME arbitration bill).

A rather pointed letter from EIU President David Glassman has been getting some play in state media. Glassman notes than in his 10 months on the job he's already reduced staffing at EIU by 22.6%. The stopgap funding bill will not avert further layoffs, he warns, which will come as soon as late July unless his school gets more funding. And as you might imagine, with over 20% of the staff laid off, remaining staffers are trying to do the work once done by others. Long-term results from this sort of sudden slashing in employee numbers are likely to be dismal.

Two funnies

[Aristotle] On trolling. (Rather more funny if you've read Aristotle. This morning I am filled with self-loathing after getting into a little troll fight with the person who posted this on FB in a comment stream that followed the posting. What self-awareness!).

Academic title generator.   Sorry, administrative titles only.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

8000 union activists march in Springfield

The SJR estimates that some 8000 folks marched in Springfield today to protest Governor Rauner's anti-union policies.

A highlight of the day was normally taciturn House Speaker Mike Madigan leading the crowd in some call & response questions. After the break, Madigan's speech as transcribed by Capitol Fax. I support the union cause; I also worry that this show of strength will encourage Madigan to resist any appearance of compromise with Rauner, and leave us all in limbo until November at the earliest. 

State inaction and local effects

Lot's of "news" coming out of Springfield, but very little action, and the mood seems to be turning less optimistic.

On Monday Governor Rauner, as expected, vetoed a bill that would have mandated arbitration in the event negotiations between AFSCME and the State (i.e., Rauner) break down. He provides his reasons in a letter to state employees--one sent via the media. Rauner would rather impose terms himself, as he's arguing that negotiations have in fact reached an impasse, something AFSCME denies. If the ILRB (Illinois Labor Review Board) rules in Rauner's favor, he'll be able to impose terms on AFSCME, which will give SIU employees a choice between reduced health benefits or a doubling of insurance premiums.

A meeting on Tuesday between Rauner and the four legislative leaders appeared to produce some movement, with House Speaker Madigan agreeing to at least appoint folks to serve on a committee discussing Rauner's reform agenda. Rauner has consistently said that he will support a budget compromise with new revenues (which all seem to agree is the only way to balance the budget) only if some such reforms are passed. But subsequent statements by Madigan show little wiggle room. Madigan for his part got the House to pass funding for MAP grants, but Republicans reject the measure because it does not identify a funding source.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Proof that rallies matter

Capitol Fax has coverage of an attempt by the Rauner administration to prevent unions from publicizing the May 18 at Springfield by posting fliers on union bulletin boards at state work sites. An officious memo was sent out claiming this was a violation of the Ethics Act. I'm not lawyer enough to parse that act authoritatively, but the claim looks pretty bogus. "Political activity" is pretty narrowly defined by the act to apply to elections, and what are union bulletin boards for, anyway?

More interesting, perhaps, is the obvious sensitivity among some in the Rauner camp about this rally. When you stretch the law to censor publicity about something, that shows you're worried. SIUC  veterans will remember the outcry when the SIU administration censored the SIUC Facebook page during the strike. I suppose the quick action by SIUC to paint over the graffiti on Faner recently is somewhat similar case, though removing graffiti isn't  censorship.

Some wag quickly adopted a rally flier to reflect the latest developments . . .

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Budget plan presented to GA leadership, governor

A bi-partisan group of legislators has shared a plan to balance the state budget with combination of budget cuts and tax hikes. Here stories from the State-Journal Register (Springfield) and Politico .

This could be a big deal. Details from the plan are sketchy. It does not contain any of the items from Rauner's Turnaround Agenda, but also apparently does not include things like K-12 funding or any effort to address the long-term pension crisis. The only detail in either story on higher ed funding is a requirement for universities to pick up pension costs for employees making more than $180,000.

In less happy news, Capitol Fax notes that Mike Madigan issuing an uncompromising statement on his goals for this session; an informal survey of readers on that blog shows a slight majority coming down in opposition to what blogmaster Rich Miller called "reasonable compromise" on Madigan's part.

There's also a lawsuit against the Independent Map proposal to change the way Illinois draws legislative districts. Reboot Illinois has a story on the lawsuit, including speculation on whether Madigan is behind it. A group affiliated with Madigan successfully blocked a similar proposal last year.  Reboot also reposts this cartoon from the Tribune, which attacked Madigan for attempting to stop redistricting reform in an editorial today.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

DE won't print this summer

The DE announced today that it won't be putting out a hard copy newspaper this summer. The reasons were lack of relevant on-campus classes, which means fewer staffers will be on campus, and problems finding a printer now that the university has cut the amount it is willing to pay for printing. These aren't positive developments, obviously enough, and they reflect budget cuts (and, for summer classes, declining enrollment).

Gus BodeThe DE says they will be publishing something virtually, but as there won't be much of a staff on-campus, one doesn't imagine their online presence will be particularly robust, either; certainly reporters won't be here to interview people, take pictures, etc.

This summer could be eventful for SIUC, and not in a good way--particularly if we don't see a state budget anytime soon. I'm not cynical enough to believe that the administration has starved the DE of funding in order to help limit media coverage of possible cuts on campus, but that could be an effect, intended or not.

The DE often does excellent work. DE coverage is vital not only for campus issues but some local ones--like their work on the Tim Beaty killing in Carbondale. Other student papers are cutting back print editions as well, but it looks like the DE is cutting back, period, this summer.

Health insurance premiums could double

If your eyes glaze over when reading news of the AFSCME negotiations with Governor Rauner, consider this bit from the info on our Benefit Choice Information regarding our health care.
CMS has indicated that employee and dependent premiums could potentially double. 
 AFCSME negotiations are currently on hold, as Rauner claims they are at an impasse, which would allow him to impose his terms--including that doubling in premiums. AFSCME says Rauner has not been negotiating in good faith. These are precisely the charges we saw at this campus, though Rauner is seeking a ruling from the labor board before imposing terms. Democrats in the Assembly have been pushing a measure to require binding arbitration to settle such disputes; the On Labor website has a good summary of what such a bill would mean.

Capitol Fax has a he-said she-said version of negotiations. AFSCME is planning a rally on May 18 in Springfield to protest against Rauner.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Optimism of a sort

Progress Illinois has a good story on a presentation today by legislators who are members of the self-styled group of "budgeteers". Legislators from both sides of the aisle are quoted as being cautiously optimistic about progress. Here's a memorable bit from two Democratic Senators, Andy Manar and Daniel Biss, calling out GOP talk about reform.
Biss commented on the Illinois GOP's calls for "structural reforms."

"I think we need to be a little bit careful about the unicorn -- that it's attractive to talk about reform when we mean cut," Biss said. "Just saying reform, instead of saying cut, doesn't necessarily mean that we're achieving a magical resolution that allows us to spend less without hurting people." . . .

Manar predicted that a potential budget agreement could mirror the spending plan Democrats passed last year. Rauner vetoed most of that Democrat-backed budget, citing its $4 billion shortfall.

"That was a bare-bones budget that was passed by the majority," Manar said.

The state senator added: "I would echo Daniel's sentiments that if there was a magic unicorn running through the Capitol, somebody would have caught it by now and would have put it into a bill, and we would have passed it and the governor would have signed it. There are no easy choices."

Bryant, Rauner losing support in Southern Illinois

Rich Miller reports findings from a new PPP poll showing that Terri Bryant is losing support rapidly.

In August Bryant had a 50-27% positive approval rating; she's now at 42% approve and 43% disapprove.

Rauner himself carried Bryant's district 60-33, but now 57% of voters disapprove of how he's handling his job, as opposed to 33% approving.

The only head to head poll I can find  dates back to February, when it was reported by the Illinois Observer; it showed Bryant ahead of her democratic opponent, Marsha Griffin.

As Rauner's victory margin shows, Bryant's district (which includes the western half of Carbondale) leans Republican, but her race certainly looks competitive at this point.

Griffin will appear at the FA event this Wednesday from 5-7 at Evergreen Park, together with Illinois Senate candidate Sheila Simon. FA organizers are also promising good food and drink. I would assume there will also be a report on progress (or the lack thereof) in bargaining. So come out and vote in the FA election, meet local General Assembly candidates, and celebrate the end of the semester.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

State updates

News from Springfield is coming more slowly after the flurry occasioned by the return of the legislature.

The State-Journal Register has a story updating the progress on negotiations on the budget. The process is driven now by two bipartisan groups of legislators, neither consisting of leaders in either house, though one of the groups is working with aides from leaders and the governor. Moderate optimism seems the tone here, but no agreements have yet been reached by either group of legislators, and once they do reach agreement they will almost certainly need agreement of the leadership before putting measures to a vote.

The SJR /AP also reports that the Independent Map group delivered some 550,000 signatures on petitions to put their proposal on the ballot in November. It would replace the current system, whereby the Legislature (i.e., the majority party in the legislature) draws political districts with an independent commission. The drive will face two challenges: while they have almost twice as many signatures as required to put an initiative on the ballot, many by prove invalid; and there may be legal challenges on other grounds. Last time the group tried this, Mike Madigan had lawyers mount and win a court challenge ruling the proposal was unconstitutional.

Redistricting petitions arrive in Springfield
I've not picked up on any news on the prospects of the latest university stop-gap spending bill, the one that passed the Senate last week and would bring university funding up to 60% of 2015 levels. The House could pick up that bill when it returns to session on Tuesday. Fingers crossed.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

More higher ed funding en route?

The State Senate passed a measure which would see all public and universities brought up to 60% of their 2015 budgets, doubling the amount of state funding approved in the recent stop-gap bill (for all save CSU, which is already at 60%). Here are stories from the Southern (i.e., Lee Newspapers) and the AP. Neither mentions the House (where Madigan reigns) but you'd think the large bipartisan vote in the Senate augurs well. A non-committal quote from Rauner in the AP story suggests he wouldn't veto the measure. It looks like it is funded largely by an accounting gimmick, but one one which was enough to give Senate Republicans cover (they have refused to back past measures by saying that "the money isn't there").

This would be good news, but even if it goes through, we're hardly out of the woods. We'd still be facing a 40% budget cut. And the cut was done in the most chaotic possible way, one that drained confidence in the financial status of Illinois public universities, thus leading many students to look elsewhere for higher education--or stop looking altogether.

At today's BOT meeting SIUE gave preliminary figures suggesting a 4% decline in enrollment there. SIUC administrators declined to provide any figures. Given their uncanny ability to cherry-pick promising seeming numbers even when the data looks bleak, this suggests a very substantial drop in enrollment is expected. More on rumors driving student flight after the break.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Redistricting meets the "criss-cross"

The State-Journal Register reports that efforts to put a redistricting amendment to the Illinois constitution on the ballot in November via the legislate route have failed. There is independent effort to collect enough petitions to get on the ballot, fitting called the Independent Map Amendment. They seem to have collected many more signatures than they need, but because many signatures get thrown out, the amendment could be stricken from the ballot, as a similar effort was in 2014, thanks largely to Mike Madigan.

Independent Map Amendment
After the break: how the criss-cross works to prevent reform.

Dunn responds to crises by discussing daughter's wedding

I usually like Randy Dunn's biweekly "System Connection" messages. They are written in an endearingly informal style, and often address substantive matters in what certainly appears to be a frank way. He doesn't write in the bureaucratic language many in administration fall back on for want of confidence in their own voice.

But this week's column was a disgrace. After a few trite words about the "special feeling in the air" at the end of the semester, Dunn spends the bulk of his column writing about his daughter's wedding. He does then turn to the budget. It would be bad enough if he spent eight paragraphs on his daughter's wedding before telling us what the budget news means for us. Worse still, the "special feeling in the air" at Carbondale right now has nothing to do with finals and graduation, and everything to do with the slew of issues championed by the May 2 group, and above all with the issue of race.

Dunn is writing for the system, not just SIUC. But surely diversity is an issue at SIUE as well. And to go on for eight paragraphs about how his daughter's wedding brought on intimations of mortality two days after the largest protest at SIUC in years is outrageously self-centered and self-indulgent. It shows a system President dangerously out of touch with major events on the SIUC campus--his home campus. If I were Brad Colwell, I'd be livid. Yesterday Colwell pushed out an email outlining a bullet-point laden action plan: say what you will of it (and I may), he made a real effort to begin to address issues around diversity on campus.  All Dunn had to do (in addition to not talking about his daughter's wedding) was to piggyback on that message. He did nothing--he did worse than nothing. I'm sure any student protesters who bother to read his column will be livid as well.

The budget news--and there is substantial news there--after the break.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

May 2 coda

Took the photo leaving campus yesterday (May 2).

May 2 coverage in Southern, and in the DE.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Movement in Springfield?

An article in Politico (brought to my attention, as most such things are, by Capitol Fax) suggests that various rank & file groups of legislators are making progress in coming up with longer-term fixes to the Illinois budget crisis. These plans apparently include real concessions from both sides, movement on worker's compensation on the one hand and on tax increases on the other.

A Chicago Tribune article from today gives a take more or less in synch with the Politico article, albeit focusing on the governor's role--or rather lack of one--in ongoing negotiations.

The "stop-gap bill" for Higher Education came about like this--not through some deal struck by Madigan and Rauner, who appear incapable of making a deal, but through members of the GA presenting Madigan and Rauner with a deal they couldn't refuse (though Madigan briefly delayed it). The stakes are larger here--a real budget for this year and the next--but  the Springfield consensus seems to be that there's a decent chance of this happening by the end of May. Starting June 1, a 3/5 majority is required to pass anything.

May 2 Events--2:30

The May 2 stuff seems to be winding down. There was a pretty large rally around the fountain east of Faner--several hundred folks I'd say. Speaking there were some of the same people who spoke at the "listening session" last week, and I'm told that the Provost, Susan Ford, was there listening (apparently unnoticed in the crowd). I panned her performance at the official listening session last week, but good for her for attending this rally.  The closest thing to trouble I observed was a someone holding up a Trump sign, who was shouted at until those leading the event worked to calm down the crowd. The Trump sign hoister was surrounded and no doubt got an ear full, but I think that was it.

I shuttled between this rally and the faculty teach-in, spending more of my time chatting with folks at the latter. The teach-in did not generate much interest--as was fitting enough, given that a student-led rally was going on nearby. Given the unpredictability of today's events, it was impossible to avoid this sort of overlap. It's well and good that the student event preempted faculty; and it was a positive thing that faculty were at hand and ready to provide a positive message.

As far as I know at this hour, then, the day has passed without violence or any other significant problems. This is confirmed by the only press report I've seen so far.

May 2 at 10:45

A few pictures from the May 2 "Student Strike". My guesstimate is about 150 marchers, though it is difficult to distinguish lily-livered "participant observers" like me from those more committed to the cause. Nothing at all violent or threatening, though the rhetoric is disruptive. "Chop from the top" was the chant in Anthony Hall, for example.

The core group who began the march on Poplar were perhaps 30 of graduate student age, presumably the May 2 Committee and their closer allies. On campus they were joined by a more diverse group.

Campus otherwise seems pretty normal--a fair amount of foot-traffic, cars in lots, etc., though I haven't spoken to people about what attendance in classes is like.

I don't believe any of the uppity ups were in the Chancellor's suite when the group arrived, though I bumped into a Vice-Provost in the hall.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A view from CSU to SIU

I learned from the Facebook feed from the EIU faculty union of CSU Faculty Voice, a faculty blog for CSU. The blog features a post giving  an insider's point of view on the recent mass layoffs--and how poorly they were handled by the administration there.

It's not happy reading. The administration basically has a  "don't call us, we'll call you" policy--for current staff. If you don't get a recall notice, the implicit message is that you're not needed, at least for now. Or maybe your notice will come Sunday. Or maybe later. So no one getting laid off is receiving the fundamental courtesy of being informed of their status. The lucky survivors are recalled, bit by bit, to report to work.

Twenty years ago I was an inside candidate on a tenure track search on another campus. I didn't get the job (and perhaps shouldn't have). But I still remember and resent the fact that my boss (who had earlier told me, irresponsibly and falsely, that the job was "mine to lose") didn't have the moral courage to tell me this herself.  Instead I got a mysterious summons to the college presidents' office. One remembers such things. Even if CSU recalls more staff, it has damaged its relationship with them forever.

More details on troubles at CSU, with my traditional effort to draw local lessons, after the break.

Friday, April 29, 2016

CSU layoffs; Rauner's optimistic spin; swastikas at U of I.

The Tribune and Sun-Times are reporting that Chicago State has laid off 1/3 of its staff, about 300 people; no faculty have been laid off, but almost 50% of the rest of the staff are now gone. Faculty are expected to finish CSU's semester off, and are thus technically on contract through May 15, but it is unclear how many will be back in the fall. CSU in effect laid off everyone, and issued 'recalls' to those who still have jobs. They will be reviewing academic programs this summer (with no faculty around) in order to decide what will stay and what will go given the budgetary situation.

CSU got a higher percentage of its state allocation through the recent stopgap funding bill than any other school (about 60%), but it was still too little, too late. The school will attempt to limp through the summer in hopes of surviving for the fall.

In news from a day or two earlier in the week the Tribune reports that Rauner has put on his happy face and suggested a grand bargain on the budget was possible by the end of May, and the SJR reports that he may dip into his own private fortune to pay for a special session and that he wanted more money for higher education budget in FY 16 (i.e., the current fiscal year, the one for which we've gotten only 30% of our state funding). The Tribune story on Rauner's optimism  includes the following bit of analysis.
By broadcasting he's open to a deal, Rauner is seeking to avoid blame as an obstructionist should an agreement remain elusive. It’s not the first time Rauner has declared he’s “cautiously optimistic” about a pending deal. He said as much nearly a year ago, though those talks quickly fell apart. His optimism has since wavered depending on whether he’s in attack mode.
In other news, swastikas drawn on campus buildings at the U of I are leading administrators there to call for tolerance; in the same announcement, the U of I administration noted that an employee had been fired for leaving a noose on a table in a work area. 

We live in interesting times.

An administrative listening session

I managed to catch about 45 minutes of  Thursday's "listening session" with Provost Susan Ford and the deans of campus colleges. This seems to have been a largely different group of administrators from that at an earlier such session. I think it's fair to say that the part of the session I saw was not a great success.

For me the most telling moment was when the assembled administrators were asked if they could define "diversity" or "inclusivity". The questioner noted SIUC's various mission statements fail to do so. Susan Ford responded with generalities about how many people worked on those mission statements, and how hard they are to write. That did not help. Nor did any of the deans and others on the stage made any effort to answer the question directly. That's pretty outrageous, come to think of it. Here was a moment to make a statement--which every one of them should have prepared for this meeting--about why diversity and inclusion matter, and what diversity means for them. At other moments during the event some of the deans showed some awareness of this, but none seized this moment, or indeed seized any moment.

This reminded me vividly of the meeting of the Faculty Senate four years ago at which it was revealed that no one in the room could define the term "Inclusive Excellence", a key item in the lousy strategic plan we were discussing. The people who were hawking the plan were only slightly embarrassed by this; and the senators' reactions (including mine) were more cynical than outraged. This is precisely the sort of lazy complacency that culminates in a meeting at which a dozen administrators from dean on up can't answer the most basic question about a crisis riling the campus. If you can't answer this basic question, if you can't show that you get it, that you understand that "diversity" and "inclusivity" aren't just buzz words, or nice ways of talking about increasing enrollment of minority students (= tuition $$$), you don't belong on that stage.

Now it would not be fair to say, after I'd attended only half of a single meeting, that none of these high administrators get it. But they certainly weren't showing much evidence of this during the 45 minutes I was there. Of course when questioned directly about a policy, or presented with a demand to take quick actions, the administrators had to respond to these questions. But I would think that the first goal of their remarks ought to have been to show that they hear the students, that they understand where they are coming from. They didn't meet this goal, or make much of an effort to meet it--not at least during the time I was there.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

May 2 schedule and updates

The anonymous "May 2 Strike Committee" has only one 'official' event, a 10:00 am rally by the fountain in front of Faner Hall. In a DE article published today, they say that they now hope May 2 events will focus on racial justice.

Various faculty are also planning May 2 events on campus, open to all. Info on the following can be found on the Facebook site for Teach in for Social Justice.
  • 12-2 pm, Faner Breezeway. Open Forum with presentations, discussion, screen printing, music, film, other activitie.
  • 2 pm, Library 752/54. Screening/discussion of Strange Fruit, a 2003 documentary about the famous Billie Holliday song, the Jewish teacher who wrote it, and the shameful history of lynching in America that inspired it.
  • 4 pm, Faner Hall Humanities Lounge (Faner 2302). Open Mic Reading for Social Justice (featuring SIU creative writers, among others). 
I think this can still be a very positive day, despite the vile racist video, the latest video provocation today, and some administrative overreaction. More after the break.

NTT faculty on strike at U of I

NTT faculty at the U of I are now on what they've announced as a five day strike.

The NTT union at Illinois is new (their TT are not unionized); they are affiliated with the AFT (UPI). They are trying to get something that NTT faculty here at SIUC do not have: the right to multiyear contracts after years of service. Unionized NTT faculty at UIC did successfully win this right: after five years NTT at UIC get two year contracts; after ten years they get three year contracts.

The U of I administration position seems to be that departments should be allowed to offer such long-term contracts, but they do not want to guarantee such contracts in the current budgetary situation. That position sounds reasonable at first glance, but in an acute financial crisis even faculty with multi-year contracts can be furloughed or laid off, as can tenure-track and tenured faculty. So I don't think that's much of an argument.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

May 2 links

I've been slow to post the last few days not because nothing is going on but because too much is.

Website for the May 2 Student Strike.

May 2 Student Strike video. (NOT the racist video which made use of the same imagery but substituted vile racist language, defended Hitler, and called for use of baseball bat and lynching against blacks. I believe that video is no longer easily accessible online.)

Latest DE coverage of racist video.

Philosophy students continue sit-in demanding reinstatement of hire in Africana/African-American philosophy.

The May 2 student strikers are very articulate, and I am sympathetic to most of their points. They are certainly not wrong, in my view, to suggest that tactics beyond polite conversation with administrators and others in power may be required to shake up the status quo in higher education--which is more a slippery slope toward complete denial of access to the poor and minorities than a stable situation in any event.

I watched the racist video. It is astoundingly, openly, vilely racist. There's no coded language or argumentation--no  rhetoric about special treatment of minorities, affirmative action hurting whites, police being handcuffed by post-Ferguson worries, etc. It's  just an open call for violence against blacks in defense of white supremacy. I have to believe that it is more a sick effort to grab attention than a representation of any view with any significant hold on campus or the broader community. This does not mean it shouldn't be loudly condemned. I condemn it, and plan to be part of a anti-racism teach-in currently being planned for May 2.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

90 minutes with Senator David Luechtefeld

Now with Luechtefeld spelled correctly! And a note re K-12.

State Senator David Luechtefeld (R-Okawville) is nearing the end of a 21 year career in Springfield (one that followed a career in secondary education). I was one of a group of IEA activists that met with him for 90 minutes on lobby day in Springfield on Wednesday--just a couple of days before the legislature acted to provide stop-gap funding for SIU. As we spoke, Luechtefeld was guardedly optimistic about stop-gap funding coming through. He voted for the eventual bill--as did everyone else in the Illinois Senate (there were a couple of dissenting votes in the House). We spoke to Luechtefeld essentially because others were speaking to other legislatures, and while Luechtefeld is nearing retirement he's respected by others in the local GOP caucus, so is influential.

Luechtefeld began smartly by saying that he recognized that SIUC was the 'most important institution' in his district, one he knew had been suffering for a long time from declining state funding, and declining enrollment, even before the current crisis. He noted the importance of SIUC to Carbondale in particular, describing the decline facing Carbondale in terms nearly as dire as those in my op-ed for the Southern the other day. Note his quote at the end of the Carbondale Times story on the stop-gap bill:
“Irreparable damage has been done to our universities and community colleges,” he said in a statement. “There are no real winners with today’s budget bill, only a sliver of relief is being provided. No one should applaud this solution or be running to take the credit.”
So Luechtefeld gets it--and he thus anticipated our main talking points. This is a good thing, of course. He could have mouthed some of the anti-higher ed rhetoric coming from the Governor's office, which essentially blames bloat, redundancy, and waste in higher ed for the state's failure to fund higher ed. But the fact that we all agreed on the problem made for a curious conversation . . .

Friday, April 22, 2016

Reprieve for Illinois Higher Education

Updated & revised at 4/22 at 9:00 pm following my being pointed to a fuller statement from President Dunn on the impact on SIU. 

Big news: the Illinois General Assembly has approved a stop-gap funding measure for public colleges and universities and MAP grants. Votes were all but unanimous in favor in both houses. Rauner will sign the bill.

Colleges and universities will get about 3o% of what the Democratic budget passed last year and vetoed by Rauner would have given them. MAP funding is at about 40%. CSU, the worst off of the universities, got 60%. And this funding should arrive soon.

A Carbondale Times story quotes Randy Dunn as follows:
“For SIU, this well appreciated stop-gap measure will give us the ability to operate into the remainder of the year without having to enact, at least for the next six months, the draconian layoffs and budget cuts I presented before the Board of Trustees last month. It also allows us to plan for operations with an uncertain level of funding now as well as for next year. It is by no means a final spending plan for this fiscal year — a fact acknowledged by almost every legislator who rose to speak on the bill’s behalf. We thank them for their acknowledgement that there is still work to be done and look forward to continuing our efforts with our campus and state-wide elected officials as they continue to fix this state budget and live up to the covenant the State of Illinois has with its public universities."
So it looks like Dunn is ruling out significant layoffs for the fall semester. That's important good news. Of course if the state doesn't provide a decent FY 17 budget, we may be right back in the same mess, but Dunn seems to think that this stop-gap will see us through the fall.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Higher ed funding tomorrow?

Update: WSIU carries a story on the last-minute failure of the bill on Thursday, including a quote from Randy Dunn. 
The Senate and the House are scheduled to adjourn for a week after Friday's session. There is great pressure on them to get something done for higher education, particularly given that Chicago State will apparently shut down by the end of the month absent state funding.

The result was a crazy day at the capitol. A bill that would have authorized $600 million for higher education (enough to pay something like 30% of the FY 2016 allocation, plus some MAP funding) seemed on the verge of passing, and had the approval of the governor's office. Details are murky, but it looks like a bipartisan compromise worked out by rank and file GA members was shot down by the Democratic leadership (Madigan), at least for the moment, because Madigan was (a) attempting to get more money from Rauner? (b) perfectly willing to prolong the crisis in order to do so?  (c) unwilling to support anything Rauner would sign? The compromise bill had better be reconsidered today--if it isn't, the closure of CSU and massive cuts at other universities will rest  squarely on the Democrats. You'd think that would be enough to pressure them to pass something after today's debacle.

There are fairly clear summaries of where we stand tonight in the Tribune and the Daily Herald. Capitol Fax had a story that was updated updated several times during the day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Lobby day in Springfield

A stub of a post on lobby day in Springfield, which I attended. More later. For now a picture showing one of the more effective visuals from the day: SIU medical school students wearing their lab coats. I took a picture of them myself but here steal the better one from the State Journal-Register.

The SJR story reveals the unfortunate fact that Karen Lewis, head of the Chicago Teachers Union, slandered Rauner by saying he is "the new ISIS recruit . . .  because the things he's doing looks [sic] like acts of terror on poor and working-class people."  Thanks, Karen, for making your reckless rhetoric one of the main talking points from the day. That sort of crazy talk makes Rauner's day, making him look like the grownup in this debate (which is no easy achievement).

Medical students from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine listen to speakers during a rally supporting increased funding to education held near the state Capitol complex in Springfield on Wednesday, April 20, 2016.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Western and its faculty union agree on pay deferral

Western Illinois University's faculty union (UPI, a.k.a. AFT, affiliated with AFL-CIO) and administration have reached a tentative agreement on two years of deferred pay for faculty. The agreement sets  guidelines for conditions under which pay would, or would not, be paid back. Assuming the union members vote in favor of the agreement, faculty would take 3% cuts (for now) for the next two fiscal years (FY 17 and FY 18), as well as foregoing a scheduled 1% pay hike (for now) for FY 17.

To the best of my knowledge no talks are under way at SIUC about this sort of thing, though of course the contract is being extensively discussed, and those negotiations may result in this sort of proposal being considered. At this point, though, discussions of cuts to college budgets, as far as I can tell, are not factoring in any wiggle room thanks to furloughs/deferred pay, meaning that tentative plans for cuts are almost entirely coming in the form of layoffs.

Local professor notes sky is falling

I just can't get enough of my own rhetoric on a mere blog.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Springfield update

A story in the Springfield State Journal-Register says the Rauner-Madigan rivalry is worsening and "leaving little hope that the state will have a spending plan any time soon".

Others however suggest what Rich Miller at Capitol Fax calls "green shoots". Despite the public sniping, there have been private meetings, both of the principals and their staffs. 

If private conversations don't produce anything productive, perhaps threats will. Miller notes the impact from a threat by Democratic Senate President John Cullerton, who has said he will hold back K-12 funding until the rest of state government gets a budget.

Finally, there's now a democratic proposal on the table for redistricting, a long-time desideratum of good government folks. That's also an item on Rauner's Turnaround Agenda. If passed, it could conceivably allow Rauner to declare victory and engage in real negotiations about the budget.

This all in addition to other pressures: the Comptroller's decision to put legislative salaries on the slow track, and the likely legal challenge from the Attorney General to question whether the state has the authority, absent a budget, to pay any employees. Not to mention angry and fearful constituents.

So after 10 months of chaos, the pressure starts to build. Those 10 months have already done great damage, and funding on the level the Governor has proposed--a 20% cut--would not turn things around: it would just slow our decline. We need a decent budget now. Every extra day means more students who go out of state or give up on college, and every dollar cut from the eventual budget undermines our potential to rebuild.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pay for legislature & top officials to be delayed

UPDATE: Politico predicts Illinois Comptroller race will be Rauner-Madigan proxy fight. 

Our State Comptroller, Republican Leslie Munger, announced today that she'll force Illinois' six "constitutional officers" (including herself) and all state legislators to get in line to get paid like state vendors, who currently wait at least two months to be paid.
Comptroller Leslie Munger

The (conservative) Chicago Tribune gives its interpretation of the story in the first word of its article:
Election-seeking Illinois Comptroller Leslie Geissler Munger plans to delay monthly paychecks for lawmakers and statewide officials, saying there isn't enough money to pay the state's bills and other services should go to the front of the line.
And here I was not realizing that "election-seeking" was an adjectival phrase in regular use! Munger is indeed up for election this fall, as she was appointed by Governor Rauner to fill the position left vacant by the death of Judy Baar Topinka, who was probably the most respected high office holder in Illinois of either party. Munger hopes her plan will push leaders (or at least their less wealthy followers in the General Assembly) to resolve the budget crisis sooner rather than later; she also no doubt doesn't mind getting her name out there as a do-gooder before running for election.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

April 20 Protest Day

A comment just made by Mike Sullivan reminds me that I should flag the April 20 rally in Springfield.
Here's the announcement, which came in a recent email from FA president Rachel Stocking:
The Faculty Association has already organized and/or participated in a number of budget actions over the last months.  On April 20, the FA (working with the Illinois Coalition to Invest in Higher Education and other unions across the state) will be taking people up to Springfield as part of a campaign to fund higher education in Illinois.
We will leave at 8:30am from the IEA office in Carterville.  We have a full day planned: IEA contingents will meet at 12:00 at the IEA headquarters, have an event with speakers, and then go speak with legislators in the capital.  Rides are open to people not represented by the FA as well, such as students, friends and family, etc. We want Springfield to know Southern Illinois is upset!

To RSVP call the IEA Carterville office - (618) 733-4472 and tell Linda or J’Neita.

WIU announces 110 more layoffs

Western Illinois University has announced 110 layoffs, bringing the total number there to 160. Western had also successfully encouraged 59 staff to retire early as of the end of 2015.

The university had hoped to achieve some $4 million in savings from furloughs negotiated with campus unions, but was unable to reach agreements with most of them. The head of the WIU faculty union was quoted as saying the following:
"By putting faculty and staff last on his list of priorities, President Thomas is shortchanging our students, who are already being shortchanged by our Governor, who refuses to fund their college dreams.”
I do not know the details of the failed negotiations at WIU. Contrast EIU, where the faculty union (from the same parent union, UPI/AFT) agreed on a deferred pay plan to save the university some $2 million.

Some remarks on our own situation after the break.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Enrollment in free-fall

Rich Miller at Capitol Fax collects a set of links to meaty but depressing stories about Illinois high school seniors making plans to attend college out of state or giving up on college altogether. May 1 is the traditional deadline for accepting college offers, and financial aid offers in Illinois this year come with an asterisk ("contingent on state funding"). Of course the quality of the education on offer, given the budget, is also asterisk worthy.

It's hard to judge the magnitude of the drain from anecdotes in stories, but there lots and lots of anecdotes. Randy Dunn is quoted saying that our rivals sense "blood in the water" and are actively poaching students.  One of the stories notes that FAFSA applications are down by 14% for MAP-eligible students. Many of those students will simply not attend college. Given how many higher-income students will choose to attend college elsewhere, I'd guess that 14% is a conservative estimate for how much public university enrollment will decline state wide.

We already lose more college students to other states than any state in the country other than New Jersey. Only four other states suffer from an "out-migration" in college students. In 2014, 16,623 more students left Illinois to attend college elsewhere than came to Illinois to attend college. That's the equivalent of the entire undergraduate enrollment at SIU.

A local angle after the break.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

SIU plans for cuts up to 18%

I've been told that deans at SIUC have been asked to make plans for cuts of up to 18%. I don't know the background for this stage in the planning process. My initial impression is this: so much for the onion.

Cuts to college budgets aren't to "outer layers of the onion", in Dunn's analogy from last summer. They aren't to regional services, student service, athletics, etc. Large cuts to college budgets would mean major cuts in instructional staff. Major cuts to instructional staff, at least if made quickly and legally, would have to be to NTT faculty (GA budgets have already been allocated, at least at a large extent, with some cuts included). Such cuts would be distributed not based on the results of some program prioritization scheme, but simply on which programs have lots of NTT faculty. Those programs face de facto elimination. So we would not just be lopping off selected parts of the university, but eliminating academic programs that happen to be NTT heavy.*
The university's lack of funds isn't an Anthony Hall crisis but a Springfield crisis. But if the administration doesn't do all it can to protect academics, and makes academic cuts in a  ham-handed manner, it will add an Anthony Hall crisis to the mix. We can't afford that.

More context and speculation after the break. I don't know all the details of administrative planning, of course, so my worries may prove unfounded. That would be a happy result. In the meantime, the worries can be taken as my sage advice on how to avoid making this an Anthony Hall crisis.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

State roundup

Capitol Fax concludes that it's now all but certain that Attorney General Lisa Madigan will indeed file a lawsuit arguing that the State of Illinois cannot legally pay state workers. (Previous coverage of that move can be found here.) The politics of this are mind-boggling. Democrats want a real shut-down to force the governor's hand, and to get the crisis resolved to benefit the 10% of state government that is already slowly shutting down. The governor responds with pious words about paying dedicated state employees--at least those not laid off yet, and attacking the Democrats for prolonging the crisis in order to push through a tax hike.  Assuming Madigan's legal reasoning is sound and supported by the courts, her move would result in a nearly complete shutdown of state government, which would presumably in result in some sort of resolution. But she hasn't filed her lawsuit yet, and it would obviously take time to get through the courts.

After the break: what Madigan is saying in the photo below, and an update on a bill that is intended to provide funding for universities and social services.

Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, says that compromise with Gov.
Madigan speaking to the GA on 4/12, via the State Journal-Register.

Pluses and minuses

Another non-budgetary story, this one perhaps a bit less contentious than the racism story (for which I got to write my first harsh anti-comment comment).

The Faculty Senate has voted to change SIU's grading scale to include pluses and minuses. Here's the DE lead-in story, here's their brief story with the results. Passage of this measure certainly reflects the view of the majority of faculty I've talked to about this. I'm less sure myself.

I worry about excessive reliance on extrinsic motivation. This may sound naive, but my understanding is that at least under certain conditions extrinsic motivation actually undermines intrinsic motivation. I know of one such study (and only one--to make my lack of expertise clear: I'm sure many social scientists on campus know of lots of studies on this topic). In it participants were given an impossible task to complete. Some were promised a reward for completing the task, others were not. Those not promised a reward worked on it considerably longer than those who were promised a reward. They came to view it as a challenge they had some investment in solving, not just a way to earn $25 or whatever the prize was.

I learned of this study from Ken Bain's What the Best College Teachers Do, which I found a very impressive book (though I don't necessarily follow all of his suggestions, since I'm not one of the best college teachers*). One thing Bain argues is that the best teachers promote intrinsic motivation in their students rather than relying on things like grades. Their assessments through the course of the semester are designed to help students improve, including in their understanding of their own progress, not to motivate them to turn in assignment X on date Y; they assign cumulative grades at the end of the semester based on their final judgment of students' overall progress, not how many hoops they've jumped through en route, or some average of how well students did on weekly assignments.