Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cheng on WSIU (2): Budget, Athletics, and the Golden Fleece

Let me start out with what I consider the Chancellor's most significant mispresentation of the facts. I will mark it with our first ever Golden Fleece designation.  (I am a classicist, after all, though this usage mangles the classical reference).  Jennifer Fuller did a rather good job of asking the Chancellor some challenging questions.  The Chancellor's responses, were, in some cases, truth-challenged.

Golden Fleece #1.  Fuller noted our observation that SIUC actually received more money in tuition and fees last year than the year before (this at about 14:00 into the interview).  Cheng responded that that's a good thing, because faculty got $500,000 in promotional raises last year.  What she didn't mention was that, even including these raises (earned fairly by promotions to associate and full professor, as the Chancellor noted), SIUC spent approximately $1.8 million less on Faculty in FY 2011 than FY  2010 (as so many Faculty lines have been left empty).  Oh, and add the $1 million extra they sliced off via furlough days.  So let's check the figures . . .

The Chancellor said that SIUC spent $500,000 more on faculty last year.

In fact, SIUC spent $2,800,000 less on faculty last year.

1.  Athletics.  In my radio interview, I noted that SIUC had doubled athletics spending, in addition to lavishing funding on Saluki Way. The Chancellor's response was that athletics makes up only a very small part of the budget, a budget she nicely stretched by including the school of medicine in Springfield--a part of the budget the administration usually doesn't include as, say, when furloughing faculty and staff.  Perhaps the Med School should get its own sports teams?  But I digress.  Yes, our $23 million athletics operating (not capital) budget is small amount of our overall budget. It is also well more than the "structural deficit" the Chancellor talked about (a figure the FA has found less than credible, especially given the surplus in FY 2010).  She did not explain why SIUC must spend $5 million more on sports than any other school in the MVC.  She did not defend SIUC's decision to double spending on athletics during the last five years. She did not, in fact, defend spending any money on intercollegiate athletics at all--the silence from the administration on this point is rather astonishing, to my mind. I do not expect SIUC to cancel its athletics programs, of course, but as their relevance to our stated mission is far from clear, some attempt to defend their purpose seems called for. Students at SIUC, undergraduate and graduate alike, currently pay $292 per semester for intercollegiate athletics. Why should they?  (Students at SIUE pay $160 a semester).

2.  Saluki Way. The Chancellor noted that Saluki Way was (a) conceived under "completely different economic circumstance" and (b) represents a 1 in 50 year stadium rebuilding project.  The first response comes close to admitting the project was ill-advised, given the economic downturn, but of course the project continues to this day, with the new Track and Field complex and Student Services and Alumni buildings.  The second (b) is true enough, as far as it goes: the arena was nearly 50 years old (1964) and McAndrew far older.  But the project was not only aimed at bringing the aging buildings up to code but at producing top of the line facilities.

3. Construction.  The Chancellor argued that much work on campus is aimed at promoting academics, not athletics.  She named a number of current projects, including upgrades to 20 classrooms in Faner, and the overhaul of the Ag building.  The rest of her list was rather less inspiring: work on the woods around the lake (which so far, at least to my untrained eye, has done more damage than the derecho itself); reparing the Shryock steps (surely a mult-million dollar project), the library (progress here consists in waiting for money from the state to "bring the books back", as the Chancellor aptly put it); parking lots (this work necessitated by the new Student Services building).  The Chancellor made no effort to defend either the new Student Services Building or the Alumni Building.  Neither is a horrible idea, of course, on its face. While the new Alumni Building will essentially house our fund-raising apparatus, we do need to raise funds, and Woody is obviously aged and less than ideal. I have characterized both as "administrative buildings", which I believe is fair enough.  Both represent the administrative viewpoint from which building new facilities for administrative functions takes priority over either revamping aging academic facilities or paying the civil service staff who would work in the administrative buildings.

Those looking for a snapshot of current campus construction projects should surf their way to here:  One interesting thing you will learn is that while Saluki Way has preceded on pace, spending on infrasture and academic buildings is often marked "on hold".  The renovation plan for Faner Hall, for example, calls for my part of the building to be overhauled by August 2010.  As of August 2011, one year after this completion date, this overhaul is far from complete.

4. Capital versus operating budgets.  The Chancellor both defended some projects as using no state funds and defended others because they used state funds that came with strings attached.  This is an eye-glazing topic, but let me quickly state my take on it.  Here's what administrators are alluding to, for the most part, when they say things like "that money comes from a different pot, so we can't pay you with it".

A.  Some funds do come from donors or from the state with strings attached.  For example, a private donor paid for much or all of the Trout-Whitman training center for athletics; state capital funds are paying for all or much of the transportation center.

B. Once money is designated for a certain purpose, it often cannot be redirected. If you've signed a contract with a contractor to build the football stadium, those funds can't normally be redirected.  Once you’ve decided to devote student fees to Saluki Way (say via a bond issue), it will be difficult or impossible to redirect them.

Too often administrators blur the difference between (B) and (A).  Citing (B) amounts to the following argument: I don't have the money to pay you because I've already decided to spend that money on something else.  Not very convincing, is it?  Even (A) is, ultimately, less convincing than it sounds: often--though of course not always--we could have asked the donor for something else, or asked the state for something else. If you've already asked and gotten a contribution for Saluki Way from a donor, that donor is rather less likely to be receptive for a request for money for academics.  And if your fund-raisers are raising money for Saluki Way, they are not raising money for other projects.

5. Overall budget.  Jennifer Fuller asked the Chancellor (15:15 into the interview) whether the overall SIUC budget has gone up or down.  Her response: "the decrease in state funding is greater than the truth in tuition impact (= tuition increase), so the overall budget has gone down."  Her premise, if we are comparing FY 2010 to FY 2011 (the last fiscal year), is correct.  Her conclusion is, I suspect, incorrect.  State funding did indeed go down by roughly $7 million, due to the loss of federal stimulus funding; and the increase in tuition and fees amounted to roughly $3 million.  But other areas of the budget more than compensated.  According to the 2011 budget book (page 32), SIUC's revenues were, after taking into account the reduction in state funds, budgeted to be $5 million higher in FY 2011 than in FY 2010. I cannot readily find more up to date figures for 2011 than these projections. But when it comes to this year, given the very small reduction in state funding (around $1 million), and the increase in tuition and fees, unless enrollment falls of the cliff SIUC's revenues will certainly be far higher this fiscal year (FY 2012) than last. And given the savings through the hiring freeze and the 2.2% cut across campus, SIUC's administration will have enough money to spend on its priorities for campus.


  1. Cheng is publicizing nominal raises given to faculty every chance she gets. She never talks about the hefty raises given to her puppets. Just look at the last BOT meeting agenda. Raise given to 4-5 administrators is more than 100K. Nicklow got over $80,000 raise in one year. Faculty gets promotional raise after years of demonstrated hard work while undeserving administrators get money even if they are unqualified for the job. More than money, it is the lack of respect for the faculty and staff, and now the BOT.

  2. No, really, if you hate it here so much, float your resume and see what you are worth somewhere else to someone else.

  3. To anonymous 9:29AM:

    Personally, I love it here. I love Carbondale and I love SIUC. I think it's a really good school. But I think it could be a GREAT school -- and one of the stumbling blocks on the way to that designation seems to be an administration that only cares about the dollars students/donors/the state bring in and not the quality education faculty, staff, and graduate assistants are doing their best to provide. That's why I'm working with the union -- and I suspect Dave puts so much of his time and energy into this for similar reasons.

  4. Dear Kristi,

    I would agree that comments like that posted by anonymous 9:29 are foolish (comparable to those who have tried to argue that those that do not support the union should return raises etc etc). But it is also true that there are many among the faculty who would use your same words but add a different conclusion. For example

    "I love it here. I love Carbondale and I love SIUC. I think it's a really good school. But I think it could be a GREAT school -- and one of the stumbling blocks on the way to that designation seems to be"... the endlessly confrontational tactics and unreasonablness of the FA... Or some similar words to that effect. Love of SIU/Carbondale is not limited to those that share your views and those that do not share your views are not automatically villains and rogues to be dismissed. One of the most common complaints heard among faculty not aligned with the FA is that its supporters are intolerant of anyone who does not support the union.

  5. Dave,

    Do yo have a link for where we can verify your $1.8 million figure? I'm not real up on how to navigate the budget.

  6. On #5, the data on page 32 says:

    FY 2010: $432,269,644
    FY 2011: $437,363,950

    That's a 1% increase. But the inflation rate is over 1%, so the budget in real dollars is a bit smaller.

  7. To anonymous 11:22am:

    That's certainly true. For me, the union is a vehicle for creating change on campus and making things better. For others, their choice may be organizations like Faculty Senate or GPSC, or community groups like Peace Coalition (or any others). The truth is, though, I devote my time to the union because it is legally the bargaining representative and that provides weight and protections that may not be available to other groups. I also think unions should be democratic organizations and truly try to represent what the represented employees want/need. But for that to work, it has to be a two way communication street; the union has to make an effort to hear what the represented employees want -- but the employees have to be ready to actually talk to the union about their wishes. You don't have to like the union (or unions) to be represented by one and the best way to change what the union is doing is to speak up or get involved or otherwise help create the change you want to see.

  8. I think FA supporters are (quite rightfully) angry at those financially privileged faculty members who were silent (the "silent majority"?) when lower paid staff were forced to take furloughs and not given the $30,000 and below bar that the University of Chicago did in its furlough. We now know from the BOT's financial report that SIUC did not have a deficit but a surplus last year. Many are also angry at those who blissfully ignore the waste of money that is going towards sports as well as the employment of an outside consultancy firm that has had connections with Rita for nearly 13 years. Why were not the Art and Design and Marketing people involved in the promotion at an early stage and why was the University Communications Department closed down? An outside firm that charges a million or so has no real connections with a local community but is out to increase its profits. Finally, Kristi, you make some very good points that will probably fall on the deaf ears of those who prefer to be accessories to dubious activities.

  9. Anonymous (12:33 PM):

    I expected the chancellor to say exactly that during the interview. Her lead-in about all the expenses that are going up even implied that it was what she was about to say. It was not what she said, though.

    The only thing I can figure to make what she said factual would be to include the School of Medicine in her statement.

    My income from SIU for FY2011, on the other hand, does not require an adjustment for inflation. Whatever way you look at it, before taxes or after, adjusting for inflation or not, it went down.

  10. Inflation is now running 3.6%. 3-4% here, 3-4% there and pretty soon you are talking real money -- and big cuts (to steal a phrase from Everett Dirksen).

    I'm not sure what the charges are about faculty who were "accessories" to the crime of not exempting those below 30K. I think it was clear the admin. was going to do whatever it wanted, regardless of its impact. As I recall, the FA called for what you propose (I could be wrong) but admin. didn't go along. No sense in dividing faculty over something over which they had no control. IMHO

  11. They did not speak out against it therefore they were complicit in Cheng's actions. The fact that she intended to do it anyway has nothing to do with it, merely the fact that these well-paid people remained "silent." However, they are not the "majority" on this campus in terms of the many civil service workers and others who had to bear the cost of this appalling action.

  12. In an effort to introduce levity into what has been a serious series of posts, consider this list from the Chronicle of Higher Education about the mindset of 2011 faculty (similar to the annual Beloit college list of freshman mindset):

  13. I don't have a ready link to the $1.8 million figure; the figure comes to me via Randy Hughes, who was provided a head count and salary figures for the FA by the administration. The FA and administration share such figures as part of the procedure for determining things like equity pay. (Yes, we do share some figures!) I'll ask him to provide some more detail--and check my notes for more specificity. But I don't think there's an online source you could check yourself.

    I think the figure is pretty intelligible in terms of unfilled positions. This is entirely off the top of my head, but I think the bargaining unit was about 30 members fewer in FY 2011 (ending last June) than in FY 2010. 30 times my salary (60k)--a pretty conservative guess for the salaries of those departing--is $1.8 million.

    A note on anger and animosity. Anonymous blog comments are an all too easy place to vent one's anger at the other side, and there's been plenty of that here. But there's been some moderation, too. One friend and colleague of mine who is not in the union (despite my best efforts) just told me of another colleague, a guy I know fairly well who is a member of the silent majority (i.e. a signee of that letter), was hesitant to join an informal reading group I'm setting up, though the group is on a topic close to his heart (and has absolutely nothing to do with faculty/administration issues). That's too bad: I'm going to try to convince him to join us. I can disagree with him about the FA while wanting to talk to him, and learn from him, about other things.

    A strike, of course, would make these divisions deeper. We'd all have to deal with such issues, and such relationships, ourselves, but I would like to think that most of us could heal any harm done to those relationships by a strike. A strike would force everyone to choose sides; but just as I think I could work with administrators after a strike, I think I can work with, and even remain friends with, faculty who don't strike after a strike. There would be people I think better of, and people I think worse of, after a strike; even thus far along, my ties with some people in the union have grown, while ties with others have come under stress. But neither a strike nor FA/administration relations are the only venue in which we interact with one another, or judge, or befriend, one another.

  14. Regarding lost positions or left unfilled, ACsE has lost 72 positions and over $1.9 million dollars since January of 2010.
    Anonymous 9:07- THANK YOU for the Chronicle link! I was especially fond of: [ 17. Faculty members born before 1980 remember when the word "chancellor" referred to a short German person with a mustache. (In a way, it usually still does.) ] hehe

  15. Funny that you singled out that one. That was the one I thought detracted most from the post. Some of the rest were clever to varying degrees, but that was just a cheap shot. As usual, compare those that don't like to Nazis. Its a familiar theme...

  16. An administrator who is a dictator and out to bust unions, as the "short German person with a mustache" did, deserves such a comparison.

  17. Dave,

    When you read the preceding post, and others like it, can you understand why I greet your comments above regarding anger and animosity, and our ability to disagree and still work together, with more than a little skepticism? You yourself have attacked non union supporters en-mass in the past.

    I have children who will soon be of college age and I probably will not send them here to SIU. I have spoken out in opposition to the union and where my identity to become known, I cannot be assured that individuals like the poster above would not retaliate against me by sabotaging my children's education. No, I am not saying every union supporter would act thus, but when I read things like that posted above; so extreme, so unreasonable, so ridiculous; I can not exclude that some would, and it would only take one. Who would take such a chance?

  18. I, as the one who posted the chronicle link, would also not have done so had I known the response. It was merely an attempt to add a bit of humor (yes, I still think most of the essay was witty) to the discussion particularly since Beloit College released their freshman mindset list today.

  19. I think we all need to just take a deep breath and make some effort neither to say inflammatory things (at least until we've thought long and hard about starting a fire) nor to make too much of it when anonymous comments on a blog are inflammatory.

    Compared to most comment streams on the web, ours are fairly tame. We need to keep the genre in mind. Would I prefer to avoid the reduction ad Hilterum argument--or even joke? Yes. Is censorship ("moderating") worth it? No, not to my mind--not at least so far. May airing our dirty laundry potentially drive off a student or parent or two? Perhaps. But that argument, of course, would muzzle any public debate about the future of a public university.

    As someone else may have noted before, politics ain't beanbag; and satire is going to have an edge; and people in a debate are in it to win. Yes, of course I wanted to make the Chancellor look bad by awarding her a silly "golden fleece" for what I thought was her cheap shot at faculty salaries. Winning a debate means scoring points, points scored not only with facts and argument but with rhetoric. And there is a fine line, which we'll all cross from time to time, between making your opponent's fallacies, misstatements, etc. as clear as possible to one and all (including those not paying careful attention) and creating and attacking a straw man. Or woman. Grown up debaters can respect their opponents--especially opponents who don't routinely cross that line--as I hope we can respect each other.

    Retaliation, of course, can happen on either side, and those telling pro-union folks like me that we should stop whining and get a job elsewhere are at least as good candidates for retaliators as for retaliatees. My guess is that the wackos (some of whom may well be decent people too caught up in the moment to avoiding blurting out something wacky they only half mean) are in enough of a minority that few of us on either side face much of a risk of retaliation. And I think an open debate, ideally with names available in the clear, is well worth that risk. I mean, it's not like I'm throwing rocks at tanks--nor would named pro-administrative voices on this website (if there were any such names--I don't think we've had one for a while) qualify for that badge of courage.

  20. Dave,

    I think it is probably naive to believe that if there is a strike, those on the picket and those that cross it will simply shake hands and respect the others point of view when the dust settles. The history of labor disputes shows it just does not work that way. (Ever hear why Williamson county is known as "Bloody Williamson"?

    Before your post today, I see little taste for tolerance among the pro-union bloggers. I see less intolerance among those bloggers not aligned with the union (but until recently there have simply been fewer of them). Several recent threads have included calls for less venom and some of those have been trashed.

    IMHO a strike will split the faculty. Those calling for such action should consider that cost in their calculations.

  21. Anon at 12:27....

    Way to hit Godwin's Law:

  22. What more the strike is going to do to split than what we have today. We have very stressful relationship with the administration, we have “silent majority” who are willing to harm other faculty for personal gains (majority of them are either administrators or getting benefits for being with administration, i.e., summer salaries and benefits), we have administration who is willing take money and respect from faculty and staff and pay to outside firm for a lousy logo (without even informing BOT), we have administration filling its own pockets by taking big raises…... Well you get an idea. To the anonymous who would not send his/her kids to SIUC, just think a little harder and determine who has created this kind of negative atmosphere. It is not faculty and staff; it is Cheng’s administration. What was the reason to add a language about firing faculty and removing tenure in the imposed terms; knowing very well that they are not going to do it in FY2011. Do you think language was added to create positive atmosphere at SIUC campus? If we really want SIUC to move forward, Cheng’s administration has to go down. She does not respect faculty, staff, and even BOT. Strike, if organized carefully, is the only way a clear message can be sent. Believe me, public in Southern Illinois is with the faculty. They also feel this administration’s arrogance.

  23. Anoym 8:49.

    Thanks! That is a hoot! I enjoyed the link to Formosa's law, as well :-)

  24. For the record and for the benefit of anyone not directly involved with this debate who happens to stumble across this thread, the anonymous allegation posted above that some SIU faculty (referred to as the "silent majority") are receiving financial kick backs is baseless and false.

  25. Here! Here! Obviously the craven blowhard posting anonymously as August 24, 2011 9:18 AM understands the meaning of libel and/or slander because s/he wisely decided not to post their name!

  26. As a member of the silent majority I agree with 7:53 AM. There is a fine line between open an honest debate about genuine issues and differences of opinion, and deliberate slander. Awarding or accepting of financial kick backs is illegal in Illinois for State agencies and State employees. If the August 24, 2011 9:18 AM has specific and credible evidence to back up their allegation they should immediately contact the Ombudsman or the inspector general, in fact if I recall my ethics training, they have an obligation to do so.

    Dave, I like very much that you are providing a forum for genuine discussion and open and honest debate here. But you also have to recognize that you are also providing a forum for the lunatic fringe, and that by allowing anonymous postings of absurd allegations of illegal activity you share a degree of responsibility for their posts.

  27. I also think the Anonymous 9:18 comment on benefits to the silent majority was over the top. But why is this commenter, and many other employees on this campus, so upset? Why are the faculty so divided? What is the new element on campus?

  28. I've just commented on commenting over in the next thread , where I criticize a pro-union source for badgering an anti-administration anonymous. Suffice it to say that 9:18's vague doubly anonymous accusation wasn't something I'm happy about, but was hardly something I think we need to get all bent out of shape about. Those suggesting I go into the censorship business are welcome to comb through this thread and send me an email suggesting which posts to cut: compile the various suggestions, and what's left will be a few incoherent fragments.

    If someone is out of line, I try to call them on it: usually other comments beat me to it, which is healthy. This is vastly preferable to my mind than me sitting as judge on comments. I view this blog, and particularly its comments, as a more or less public space; the goal was supposedly to promote discussion. If I censor, it becomes my blog, my rules, my responsibility. The result would be both less valuable and too much damn work & responsibility for me.


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.