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."