Thursday, March 24, 2016

Dunn hints at financial exigency

The Southern has posted its story on the BOT meeting ending today (Thursday). The headline is the 3% tuition hike. But some language in the Southern article suggests the scariest phrase for any T/TT faculty member: financial exigency. That means layoffs of T/TT faculty. Of course many others on campus are already facing possible layoffs, but Dunn's statement could be the harbinger of even more widespread pain for staff and deeper cuts to our core academic mission. The FA went on strike, after all, to protect tenure and prevent the administration from laying off tenured faculty absent a dire crisis ("financial exigency").

Here's the vital language from the story, especially in the paraphrase of President Dunn. 
“While we haven’t started flipping all of the switches for each one of those listed cuts, … everything’s kind of put in place to move with those,” he said.

In a more dire, “perfect storm” scenario, in which no spending bill is approved for the current fiscal year and no budget is in place for FY17 by mid- to late-June, Dunn said the board may have to consider declaring a fiscal emergency in order to make more significant changes.
"Financial exigency", as many of us will remember from 2011, is the declaration needed to lay off tenured faculty. The words were not a direct quote, and I'm not sure whether Dunn meant to imply that was going on, but no "declaration of fiscal emergency" short of declaring financial exigency gives the board any special powers.

A declaration of financial exigency is covered by Article 19 of the FA contract. The contract language we secured in 2011 is pretty firm, which will provide considerable protection (this is essentially what we went on strike for). But ultimately the university would have the authority to lay tenured faculty members off under financial exigency, so long as it follows the rules laid out there. You can find the contract here.

Normally in lay language "declare financial emergency" translates to "declare financial exigency" in contractual language. But maybe all Dunn meant was that the board would say we were facing a "financial crisis", which is the verbiage used in Article 18 to justify furloughs. The contractual language around furloughs is much looser than that about financial exigency, though it does at least limit furloughs to six days in any academic year.

This is serious enough of a matter that I'm going to try sending off an email to Dunn and am asking my union contacts if they know anything about this. For some context, Chicago State has declared financial exigency, but I don't believe anyone else has yet. Yet.

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