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.

I've been making some effort to follow events at Chicago State via the CSU Faculty Voice blog. That blog rather conclusively makes the case for epic mismanagement at CSU thanks to the lingering effects of deposed President Wayne Watson, who remains on the CSU payroll, and many of whose appointees remain in office. The Chicago Tribune ran an editorial recently calling for Rauner to choose skilled "turnaround experts" when he appoints four new trustees in January, as a last-ditch effort to turn the place around. CSU Faculty Voice responded by a detailed account of CSU's travails over recent years (be sure also to read the comments if you are interested in the gory details). CSU's leaders are appointed by the state: so the Tribune's rather broad-based attack on everybody--Illinois politicians, CSU leadership, etc.--fails to focus on the true culprits, ex-president Watson and the politicians who backed him, together with the media that underreported troubles at CSU. The CSU board recently reduced the power of their new President (Thomas Calhoun) as part of their declaration of financial exigency: the new scheme gives a four person committee final say over major decisions. At least according the the CSU Faculty Voice, this decision, which gave two Watson-era appointees effective veto power over CSU policy, was in keeping with the board's sweetheart deal that saw Watson continue as a CSU employee making $200,000 a year despite his disastrous time in office.

So, the bottom line is that while all Illinois universities are facing a crisis, some, like CSU, are adding  self-inflicted wounds to their troubles. EIU and WIU, as far as I can tell, are acting relatively prudently, working together with campus unions to cut spending while advocating for more state funding.

Here at SIUC, there's been rather little in the way of obvious cuts—save through attrition, and cancelling searches, including the controversial decision to cancel the search in African/Africana Philosophy. That's in part because we're somewhat better off than EIU and WIU and rather better off than CSU. SIUE, however, which is probably better off than we are, has made more cuts, most notably by dropping men's tennis and women's golf--though this is only a small part of a 9% cut the campus put into effect this year. That is, SIUC's relative inaction thus far is not due solely to our somewhat sounder finances, but to a decision not to act more decisively--or perhaps a reluctance to do so. The danger with waiting, of course, is that it may at some date not long in the future become necessary to act swiftly, and those actions will have to come without much in the way of public deliberation or input from anyone other than those in the upper administration. That could make a bad crisis worse.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I will review and post comments as quickly as I can. Comments that are substantive and not vicious will be posted promptly, including critical ones. "Substantive" here means that your comment needs to be more than a simple expression of approval or disapproval. "Vicious" refers to personal attacks, vile rhetoric, and anything else I end up deeming too nasty to post.