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.