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.