Friday, August 12, 2011

From furloughs to fair share

This post started as a response to an anonymous comment (henceforth referred to as "Anonymous 10:31") made to the prior post.  Because I got so long winded I thought I'd go ahead and promote my comment to a new post here, to call this debate to the attention of readers not obsessive enough to be following the lengthy comment stream from the prior post.  This ramble will culminate in a paradoxical claim: that the moderate and consistent position is for the faculty to stop arguing about whether the FA represents us or not and decide once and for all whether we want a union to represent us. My guess is that the majority of the faculty has yet to make up its mind on that rather crucial issue.  It's time to do so, folks.

Anonymous 10:31 argued that the FA was willing to "throw faculty under the bus" by allowing layoffs. The FA opposed both furloughs and layoffs because neither was required, in our judgment (I helped form it), by the fiscal situation; either, in other words, would be an administrative decision to shift money from faculty to other priorities (Saluki Way, "professional non-faculty" staffers, etc.--check out the FA White Papers). So this wasn't the only move possible to balance the budget—which is how it was presented to us. The FA thus rejects the premise 10:31 relies on.  Whether furloughs or layoffs were necessary because the administration was going to get them come hell or high water is of course another issue--which the level of faculty support for the FA will largely determine. If you think the administration should be allowed to determine what is necessary, including shifting resources from academics to other things, without negotiating with the faculty, then the FA is indeed not for you. 

In other words, we're trying to stop the damn bus, rather than urging everyone to jump in front of it in the hopes that all of us will escape with only a broken limb or two. 

To the argument that the FA only represents a vocal few.  Would the FA be stronger with more support?  You betcha. Is a volunteer organization (which one must in fact pay significant dues to join at all) going to be led by a fairly small group of people dedicated to its principles (i.e., committed to unions and what they stand for, or at least zealots for robust shared governance)?  Yesiree. 

Perhaps I'm becoming too hardened in my position on this, but it seems to me that we need to make a choice. I suspect the majority of the faculty are trying to maintain two inconsistent desires (this doesn't necessarily include Anonymous 10:31, who may be a more consistent opponent of the faculty union). They are glad to have a faculty union on campus, as they don't trust the administration, but they aren't willing to join the union, as they don't fully trust it, either (and may well not be terribly eager to pay dues).  Then, when things heat up, their response is "a plague on both your houses".  That's my guess as to the reasoning of the "silent majority"--the majority who are indeed pretty silent. 

Well, we're all in the same house, whether we want to be or not. I think we'd be better off if we faculty decided whether we wanted a union or not.  If we want a union, we should join it.  If we don't, we should push decertification.  Trying to have it both ways guarantees that we will have a union that will be both less moderate and weaker than it would be if all faculty belonged (or all besides a few conscientious objectors to unionization).  The administration then concludes it can paint the union as extreme and weak, and pushes its own agenda at the risk of provoking a strike and with the certainty of causing turmoil and strife on campus.

I suppose the logic of my argument would require a vote by all faculty along these lines: decertify the union or retain it, with fair share.  I don't claim to have a good read on how that vote would go.  But I suspect neither the union leadership nor the administration would be eager for such a vote.  If faculty are unwilling not only to vote for but to pay for the union, that would be the end of the union.  The administration would fear having to deal with a strong & representative union, rather than one it can pretend doesn't exist, or only represents a few radicals. Our bizarre situation, in which faculty have a union but don't have to pay for it, and therefore can say it doesn't represent them, strikes me as a compromise that serves nobody well. So in my view forcing faculty to choose one side or the other is the true moderate position.  Holding inconsistent positions doesn't make you moderate. It just makes you confused. 


  1. Dave,

    There's a lot to comment on in your post, but for now I will limit this to one fairly minor aspect. You mention the FA white papers on university finances. I am sure that you and those that prepared those documents were very proud of them, but I showed them to a financial professional (outside the university) and he described them as "laughable", "ridiculous", "amateurish". Well meaning as I am sure everyone involved in drafting those docs may be, few faculty I know took those analyses very seriously. Who should we rely on - financial professionals with relevant qualifications and years of experience, or a few amateurs with unrelated qualifications, little experience managing budgets more complex that their own checking accounts and (arguably) an axe to grind? Many faculty thought that whole exercise just made the FA look very foolish. If they had sprung for an independent analysis by qualified professionals that might have carried more weight, but it, (the IEA/FA) did not. The FA then stalled the whole process of discussing furloughs while the negotiating team tried to run out the clock on the fiscal year so that right or wrong they would win the issue of furloughs by default. The result was, (i) an impasse and (ii) as has been pointed out previously, the need to take a huge hit in one or two paychecks rather than spreading out the loss to make the effect more manageable. Not a great example of the FA looking out for our interests! Just a battle of wills with the administration - a power play that was doomed from the start, and we all suffered as a result.

    P.S. Splitting the thread here was a mistake since the context of the comments is now broken.

  2. True enough, those working on the White Papers certainly weren't financial professionals, though some of them had considerable experience pouring over the university's numbers. The comparison I'd prefer is looking at the presentations made by the Chancellor (who is something of a financial expert, or at least is supposed to be, not only because of her office but by her academic training). I thought we stacked up pretty well by that standard. Or, rather, I thought we completely demolished her position. Her final response, when being forced to confront the FY 2010 budget surplus, was that SIUC needed a vast new reserve fund no one had ever heard of before. Did you share Cheng's stuff with your outside experts?

    An outside report would have had advantages; it might have carried more weight. It would also have its limits: given how few faculty could be bothered to read our own reports, which did aim to be intelligible to non-accountants, can you imagine how many would have read one in proper financial financialese? But if you've got ideas about professionals without an ax to grind that we should contact, don't hesitate to send those ideas my way ( or to Randy Hughes ( Maybe we should ask the IEA to pony up for such a study--though time is growing short.

    For now, if you want to look at what professionals say about the budget, look at the FY 2010 audit and the university's own official internal report, which you can access via the FA's March newsletter: FA's March newsletter (scroll down to "SIUC finances"). We at least cited our sources.

    As for trying to run out the clock: the FA fully expected that if no contract was signed the administration would simply impose its terms one way or other, as it did. Our willingness to risk that may itself have been foolish or stubborn, from your point of view, but the idea that we somehow thought the administration would just allow faculty to escape cuts while others had to take the hit is absurd. We opposed furloughs for anybody. We tried to negotiate a contract, rather than simply surrendering to the administration's demands. The administration chose to play its trump card, imposed terms, rather than to negotiate. Let's hope they don't force us to try our trump card this fall.

  3. I don't understand the constant bloviating on Saluki Way. No "academic" money went to fund this project. Do you not understand that money from academics just can't be moved over to some other line item? The city, student fees, donations, etc, paid for the project. I think most people get this. I don't know why the FA, or anyone else for that matter, seems to believe otherwise.

    And what's with the "SIU wants to do away with tenure" stuff. I don't want to be rude, but who really thinks SIU is going to eliminate tenure? I mean really.

    The rhetoric in these areas is really over the top....and that gives the FA more than a minor credibility problem.

    Oh, and that tour video that was posted on-line...whoa, that didn't help the union's case either...shoot, even I was embarrassed for you guys.

  4. Very eloquent responses, Dave.

    The issue is heating up according to the number of posts made recently. But Cheng supporters need to confront certain problems.

    1. According to the Board of Trustee documents, SIUC had a surplus, not a deficit, and still it went ahead with furloughs.

    2. Unlike UIC, there was no bottom limit protecting lower paid workers from having furloughs imposed on them.

    3. Cheng supporters obviously approve of the way she has abolished tenure and imposed 30 day lay-off periods. In this manner, they are traitors to the whole idea of faculty having professional respect and status.

    4. Also, by supporting Cheng, they assent to her priorities of athletics being more important than academics.

    5. Outside financial consultants may be Poshard supporters as far as we know.So there is a need for an objective evaluation which the administration should pay for. They pay enough for outside consultants so the Faculty Union should have priority in selecting the firm in case it is another one of Rita's "pets."

    Thus, the issue is clear cut: a conflict between those who take their profession seriously and want to protect its status and those who merely wish to grovel before higher administration on this campus.

  5. Yes, things do seem to be heating up. I find it interesting that if you don't agree with folks like Anonymous@2:24 you are automatically a "Cheng" supporter, or a "Poshard" supporter who "grovels before higher administration on this campus."

    Maybe some believe that your position, and your rhetoric, is kinda, well, mis-guided. I mean, in your point #3 you assert that Cheng has abolished tenure. C'mon. Really? You ain't gonna win many new supporters with that kind of blather. And I would posit that everyone who disagrees with you does not necessarily "assent to her priorities of athletics being more important than academics."

    You want everything to be black and/or white. That is really some limited thinking on your part. No disrespect intended.

  6. Here we go...

    More of the same ole crap. "You don't agree with me so you're a cringing sycophant and I have every right to spit at you". Pathetic! (And far from likely to sway anyone to the FA!!)

  7. Well, I am honored that I warranted a new post (I am Anonymous 10:31) but I have to agree with Anonymous 12:52 above that by doing so you have broken the chain of comments. As you did not address all of my earlier comments I will again post them here. I will also address your comments to me that did not truly address my concerns.

    I do not see how what the FA is doing is trying to stop the bus. You state different ways in which funding is being manipulated and you come back to the same old things that the FA has been saying over and over. I have looked at the FA White Papers and question the credibility of them. I also cannot understand how the FA keeps throwing Saluki Way into the mix as was so eloquently addressed by Anonymous 2:14 above. I also appreciate Anonymous 12:52 comments on the charade of a financial analysis that the FA performed on the budgets and totally agree with his outside experts evaluations.

    As for my position, I do see a place for unions but I do not think this is the place or the time. I do not see any oppressed here and really think that we all have it pretty good. Have you not even looked at those in the private sector who are being layed off or who do not have anywhere near the benefits that we have on this campus. I am embarrassed when people find out that I am on the faculty based on all of the nonsense that is being spouted by the FA. We have people in Southern Illinois and throughout the country who would love to be in our positions (job security, great pay, great benefits, flexibility, etc.) Sometimes, I just think that those who are not happy should look elsewhere, that is if they could find anything else (and I bet it would not be as good as they have it now).

    As you can read, I agree with your comment about voting on whether to keep the FA. As I see it, the FA wants to be management anyway. The Shared Governance that you mentioned does not mean that the faculty run the university. That is management's job. If the FA wants to make the decisions, then what need is there for management and, to continue the thought, what need would there be for a union. The FA cannot have it both ways!

    Speaking of Shared Governance, in my first post which is on a previous list, I asked how the FA claims to be representing their membership when they have not brought anything to the membership for a vote. Is this not counter to what the FA stands for? It appears that the FA leadership wants to make all of the decisions for the entire membership! Let your membership be heard - All of you membership, not just the leadership. I know that the local union rep has a lot to lose in this, but it would be nice to see how much support the leadership really does have.

    I hope that others will go back to the original postings to see the entirety of this discussion. It looks like, again in my opinion, that the majority of the comments are coming from the Silent Majority for a change!

  8. Absolutely! "the issue is clear cut: a conflict between those who take their profession seriously and want to protect its status...

    Beach parties and faux tourist parading around campus in front of visiting prospective students and their parents, THAT's taking our profession seriously and protecting its status!

  9. Y'all are right that the silent majority (as originally defined) seems to be speaking up. I do have a day job, so am going to stop blogging for the day, but will try four quick points.

    I agree that name calling and impugning of motives doesn't help anything. We've all seen that on both sides.

    Saluki Way was funded largely with student fees. Those fees could have gone to any other purpose, including staying with the students. I don't see the problem, then, with questioning the decision to spend that money on Saluki Way in the first place. Is it not allowable to question an administrative decision after it has been made?

    The FA and management. You raise a complicated point. Briefly: The FA doesn't have a role in deciding whether to fund physics or poetry. It does have some role in bargaining how much to spend on professors, which means not spending that money on Saluki Way, marketing, etc. And it can try to protect the role of campus institutions of shared governance by doing things like insisting the university abide by departmental operating papers.

    The campus tour was supposed to be satirical. I suppose it was my attempt to play a campus Stephen Colbert. I'm not as good as Colbert, of course. But if you didn't recognize that it was satire, your criticisms will be off base. If you reject satire as a mode of communication, I feel for you (given that it is the one form of political communication in good order in this country of ours, IMHO).

  10. Dave, "I agree that name calling and impugning of motives doesn't help anything. We've all seen that on both sides."

    Really, "both sides". Are you trying to imply that disrespectful rhetoric has been evenly distributed around here? You must be joking! I don't recall anyone from the silent majority side calling any FA supporter an "asslicker" , but perhaps you could post a list of examples and someone from the now-not-so-silent-majority could do the same?? Might be just a tad embarrassing I would think!

  11. Oh for goodness sake. It takes YEARS to implement a new student fee. The fees that go towards Saluki Way were put in place **LONG** before the current administration took up the reins (I think, but am not sure, that they were first proposed under Walter Wendler). It is disingenuous to argue that the current administration is responsible for misdirecting priorities related to those fees or that they had any choice regarding where money collected through those fees goes.

    Could they cancel those fees? Probably yes, but then the money to pay for the Saluki Way projects that are already committed would just have to come from somewhere else.

  12. I agree with Anonymous 4:23 that its pretty rich for you to issue a call for civility Dave. You have been perfectly tolerant of the worst sort of abuse when its been coming FROM FA supporters and directed AT those who do not support the FA. As a teacher of Classics I know you understand hypocritical....

  13. To 5:48. I have never removed a single comment from this blog. That strikes me as even handed. It was precisely to avoid making judgements about what counted as civil, judgements difficult to keep unbiased, that I've avoided doing so. You may well be right that more of the venom has come from the left than from the right--as have most of the comments, period, until the last week. You have, however, just done your part to help right that venom gap. Congratulations. Defending civility by calling me a hypocrite is a nifty trick.

  14. On the tenure issue, enough material is around to acquaint people with the facts. You are not a first year freshman needing to be fed facts so just do your homework. Also anybody who supports the current administration's dictatorial mandates involving 30 day lay-offs and furloughs when the Board of Trustee reports showed that SIUC was not in the red, deserves all the criticism they get.

  15. To anonymous 4:33 PM:

    As a student who is paying a pretty hefty fee for Saluki Way facilities (the second highest fee and nearly $300) that I don't use, don't go to games, or interact with athletics outside of teaching athletes in my classroom... I appreciate hearing the objections. Yes, these plans were laid out a long time ago -- before I even started. I missed the chance to object and protest and say "Are you CRAZY?" like plenty of other people DID do when Saluki Way was first proposed. Yet, I'm still paying for it and as much as I understand the reality of 'it's already done' that doesn't mean I like it, that it was a good fiscal decision (or a good decision more generally), or that I don't deserve the chance to complain. Graduate education isn't cheap and that's if I'm just paying for education and not perks for (mostly) undergraduates that have absolutely nothing to do with learning whatsoever.

  16. To anonymous 4:33 PM:

    Saluki Way is just part of the misspending. If you want to set it aside, that still leaves millions of dollars in non-capital money that are going to increased athletics spending that could be moved around.

  17. OK, that's fine. You can legitimately make that argument (if you give some details etc and can show that whatever spending you are referring to spending was put in place by the current administration). My post made one point only: stop throwing Saluiki Way out as "evidence" of misplaced spending priorities of the current administration.

    You can think what you want about the present Chancellor, but you can't hold her responsible for actions taken years before she took office by previous Chancellors. She has no choice but to honor the financial obligations that the university was committed to when she took office. They may well have been unwise, (especially in hindsight) but the fault is not hers.

  18. Venom, distain, contempt vitriol, abuse... these should have no place here, from either side of the discussion.

    IMHO the greatest threat to SIU is not the tension between the FA and the administration, it is the polarization of the faculty. Universities are supposed to be places were difference of opinion and new ideas are welcome. Where such ideas can be tested, distilled and refined in an open minded atmosphere. If we cannot sustain that, then we are doomed, and we deserve to be.

  19. Chancellor Cheng is indeed not responsible for the prior stages of Saluki Way. She has however approved the next phases, the new Track and Field complex (at least $4 million), the new Student Services Building ($34.5 million), which will replace Woody, and the SIU Foundation/Alumni Services Building ($30 million).

    For basic details on current construction on campus, check out this website:

    This website sometimes lists external funding sources. As none are listed for the buildings I just listed, my default assumption (which would require confirmation) is that these projects are being funded via SIUC funds that could go (could still go or at least could have gone) to other purposes. We can debate whether other priorities ought to outrank these new buildings. My view is that spending many millions on new construction for athletic facilities and administrative buildings while one threatens faculty and staff with layoffs is a bad idea.

  20. That's a better reasoned argument, although it does seem to muddle funding appropriated for specific capital projects (new buildings) which cannot be intermingled with operating funds (salaries etc).

    You're right that we need better information regarding funding sources. It was my understanding that the foundation/alumni building was being paid for by them, but I am not sure where I heard that and cannot confirm it independently. Of course fees collected for Saluki Way projects and funds from the city etc., cannot be redirected to any other purpose.

    There are a couple of questions that come to mind, such as: To what extent are those decisions made by the Chancellor, and to what extent by the President or BOT or (even the legislature)? We can debate the wisdom of specific projects I suppose. I assume that most would agree that some degree of continuous campus renewal is always necessary, but whether and when that means building new buildings as opposed to repairing/upgrading existing buildings and facilities is a matter of opinion. I guess that to form an informed opinion we would need info on the relative costs of repairs/upgrades vs replacement and frankly I don't WANT to get drawn into that level of detail. I am way too busy with other duties and that is why we appoint administrators to review that information and make those decisions. Obviously I would prefer the ancient facilities in my building had top priority, but I am fairly sure that many others could also make that claim/case.

  21. I'm not privy to the inner workings of Anthony Hall to know exactly what powers the chancellor has to alter spending decisions that had been laid out by her predecessors.

    What I heard from the FA is that much of their bargaining last year was spent asking for that information and waiting to get it. Without that information, you and I (and the administration and the FA) are mostly going to talk past one another because it's hard to objectively tell how much wiggle room the chancellor had to avoid furloughs.

    Nevertheless, here is some information for your consideration.

    As Dave pointed out toward the beginning of the Morning Conversation interview and here, there's a lot of room to cut on athletics operations without starving our teams for resources relative to our conference rivals.

    If you say that the growth in athletics spending was before Chancellor Cheng's time and that she can't drastically slash spending on any area, including athletics, in one year, that still leaves the FY2010 surplus. She could have used it to cover the FY2011 projected shortfall, to use it to pay for new initiatives that she wanted on campus, or to stow it away and try to pretend it didn't exist. She did a little bit of all three. As an employee, I want a better explanation of why she cut my pay to be able to do the third -- especially when the imposed terms say that she's free to cut my pay again or to lay me off in the future to do the same thing.

    Finally, even on Saluki Way, there could be wiggle room in the design of the facilities and in how much money goes to which projects. It might take some work on the chancellor's part to work with donors and other constituencies to make it happen. After she's asked me for a shared sacrifice and after the current president of the university has asked for my sales tax dollars, I don't think that would be expecting too much.

  22. Cheng had autonomy in imposing furloughs on all employees, threatening to fire 93 NTT faculty (many of whom have made great contributions to this university and students despite the lack of tenure, and ignoring reequests to resume collective bargaining. But it seems she has not the power to stop money going to athletics rather than academics stating that the current economio situation makes it important that sport is now a lower priority for a university that has education as its premium goal. Many would understand such a decision and the circumstances and the sports fans would realiae that they have to wait until the economy improves. However, she has not and the current wasteful expenditure of changing the logo and employing an outside marketing firm shows that she really does not care for the educational priorities of this university and may be looking for a return ticket to Wisconsin where Governor Scott Walker will welcome her with open arms. Poshard is also to blame for this dire situation.

  23. Way back,Anonymous August 12, 3:16 pm stated that the faculty have great benefits, great pay and job security. I wonder how Anonymous thinks these great things occurred. Does Anonymous think that the past administration simply gave them to the faculty out of the kindness of their hearts? These things were won through negotiations between the FA and the administrations. Cheng appears to want to stop the unions from negotiating. One has to ask why she has this attitude.


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.