Friday, October 21, 2011

For Your Friday Reading Enjoyment

Okay, time to kick this thing off, I guess.  Thanks to Dave for the "Tonight Show" introduction, but I promise not to do a monologue. However, I cannot promise that I won't render some Carnac the Magnificent schtick before all this labor negotiation is over.  Given how often I've been asked to look into a crystal ball to predict what the outcome of a strike will be, I think it only appropriate.

I'd like to draw your attention to a couple of pieces of news.  First, the ACsE has taken its strike deadline vote and has set the date: November 3.  Read more about it here.  If you've been following the other unions' negotiation reports, you'll note some similarities and differences in what seems to be happening with the FA.  The strike votes certainly seem to have motivated the discussions at the negotiation table for all, but they are not reaching much meaningful agreement on the sticking points.  The difference, though, is that while the pace and amount of negotiation has increased for the FA, it does not seem to have done so as much for the other unions.  More is the pity.  For the ACsE, particularly, there are some pretty low (or no!) cost proposals that a trusting Administration could pretty easily agree to but still will not. 

And then this bit of national news from the Washington Monthly.  Okay, maybe this is news for the rest of the nation, but I think this is so day-to-day here at SIUC that we've pretty much taken it for granted.  More disturbing than the excellent analysis of administrative bloat is the hopelessness of the bodies identified to correct the problem:
On any given campus, the only institution with the actual power to halt the onward march of the all-administrative university is the board of trustees or regents— which, as we’ve seen, tend to be unprepared or disinclined to make waves. But they need to do so if their institutions are to be saved from sinking into the expanding swamp of administrative mediocrity.
It is not within the purview of our current labor negotiations to limit or reverse the growth of our already top-heavy administration.  Still, I doubt too many of us will hold our breath waiting for the BOT to do anything about it.  Ah well, at least misery loves company -- and we are so not alone in this predicament.

Answer: Transparency, accountability, and shared governance
Question: Name three things you won't find in Anthony Hall.


  1. Excellent Start Jonny.
    This administration does not understand the values of faculty and staff. Cheng thinks her administration can run the university without professors and staff, and BOT seems to agree with her. Very soon, Cheng will be teaching her barrage of administration how to create failed strategic plan, how to mess-up enrollment, how to mess-up employees morale, how to hire puppets who will always salute you and wag tails in front of you, how to fool BOTs, how to ….. well how to destroy a university.

    Just look around how many administrative searches (who get huge salaries) are in progress while faculty and staff are overworked and underpaid.

    Do you really want to bring SIUC back on track; start a no confidence against the chancellor and kick out the provost? You will save money from three positions; chancellor’s position, her clerk's position, and her husband’s position who doesn’t even know what is his role at SIUC but is drawing salary anyway. Shame!

  2. And now our regularly scheduled show is back: ad hominem attacks on Cheng and her husband. . .

  3. And justifiably so. She and her motley brood of over-paid and incompetent administrators have ruined SIUC.

  4. OK, so what did the husband do? I haven't noticed the FA rant about the rampant nepotism known as "spousal hiring" for faculty. That is illegal for the "little people" but faculty find excuses for hiring their relatives.

  5. I'd like to see the faculty via the FS and/or FA be more engaged with BOT members. Maybe we could have annual retreats where faculty members would lead discussions on the history and purpose of universities. And perhaps BOT members could lead discussions on the latest business practices that they find intriguing. We could invite some other state officials and regional business leaders as well. Any thoughts?

  6. Mike, I think that is a great idea! Anything that can help lessen the poisonous atmosphere around here would be a great thing, especially for those junior faculty like myself who generally like it here and only wish the hostility and mistrust between faculty and administration would diminish. I know very naive of me lol. Yet, in none of the four schools I adjuncted at before landing my first tenure-track job here was the atmosphere as bad as it is right now.

  7. Disgusted - I share your views completely. I have spoken with several very impressive young scholars on this campus who are seriously considering leaving for greener pastures. They are fed up with conditions on campus. They aren't happy with the FA and they aren't happy with the administration. They just want to get back to doing their work!

  8. Anon 7:19:
    This happens when you have incompetent and unqualified leaders. Our Deans, Chairs, and Professors have better academic and administrative credentials then our Provost and many others in Cheng’s administration. Let’s not fool ourselves. A person who never served as chair, never served as the Dean, never dealt with budget, never dealt with faculty, never…. is now telling everyone (including the Deans) what to do. Isn’t is shameful?

    When priority for an administration is not excellence, when administration treats students no more than a source of income, when administration has no respect for its employees, and when administration thinks university education is a meal ticket to only middle class, the institution is bound to go downhill. Blaming faculty, FA or FS is not going to take us anywhere. It is the responsibility of the administration to bring positive atmosphere. If they do not know how to do this, they should be fired. It seems like BOT members are sleeping and allowing SIUC to die slowly. WTH we are not hearing anything from them?

  9. If anyone believes that faculty shares responsibility for bringing positive atmosphere, then we should demand for shared responsibility to run this university. Whatever has happened in the last one year, there is no way I can trust Cheng’s administration. Therefore, it has to be in a legally binding contract.

  10. Mike, it certainly couldn't hurt. I imagine that such a retreat would also include members of the Administration like the Chancellor. Cynics might doubt any meaningful outcome would come from such a meeting, that its purpose is primarily optics. My take at this point, though, is that even the mere appearance of collaboration and dialogue would be an improvement.

    The "take away" for me from the Ginsberg article is that the problems we face at SIUC are not isolated here. I've been looking for those "Greener Pastures" for several years and keep discovering they all have the same manure, but in slightly different configurations. In these online discussion forums plenty have suggested that the disgruntled should go elsewhere. That is always an option. But there is, to me, value in working to change what you don't like where you live -- even if that work is difficult.

    Difficult work of change can seem poisonous; the charge of "poisonous" is itself poisonous when it is primarily directed at others. Indeed, the difference between medicine and poison is not so distinct as one might suppose, but I'll resist diving into Derrida's discussion of "Plato's Pharmakon" on this point.

  11. Mike and Jonny,
    You can invite anyone to any meeting. Cheng will happily come to your meeting. She even accepted to speak at a meeting called by other unions where a lot for faculty members chanted “union buster”. Unless there is trust, there is no point of more meetings. The only way to build trust is through openness, transparency, respect, and shared governance. To me, none of these very simple and key elements of building trust currently exist at SIUC. We need actions not sugar coated words and appearances by well dressed leaders.

  12. "A person who never served as chair, never served as the Dean, never dealt with budget, never dealt with faculty, never…. is now telling everyone (including the Deans) what to do. Isn’t is shameful?"

    Have you ever studied corporate boards (and nonprofit boards)?? Al Gore and other ex-congressman are on the boards of companies that are very successful. Gore, et al. had no background to "qualify" them for the board of Apple. How is Apple doing BTW? lol

  13. Read over the posts in recent threads (including this one) then ask yourself: Why would anyone in the administration or even faculty who do not support the FA want to ever be in the same room as FA supporters?

    Those bridges are well and truly, completely, utterly and irrecoverably burned.

    You don't get to spend years attacking and insulting everyone who opposes you then turn round and say, "we wish you would work and play well with us". The FA has made its own bed, now it is going to have to lay in it.

  14. Anonymous (10:25 AM):

    Invitation and coming are two different things. When the chancellor started at SIU, she planned meetings with all of the faculty from each college at the beginning of the school year. My college's meeting was delayed to a month later and then was delayed indefinitely.

  15. 10:25 AM,

    In the short term I see what you are saying. Right now we need to focus on getting a contract and that means applying pressure. My idea is more in the long run. Also, it might be better if it did not include administrators. It would be a chance for building direct bridges - a meeting of the minds. There might be too much posturing with admins there. Retreats would not deal with specific issues on campus, but broader themes, like "What Good are the Humanities?" How many BOT members could answer that? Anyway, it is an idea to kick around after the dust settles - and things will settle down in awhile. I'd be willing to work on organizing it if the FS wanted to sponsor it. Does anyone know if anything like this has been tried elsewhere?

    11:46 AM,

    Things aren't that bad. And these people, BOT members and administrators, are pretty thick skinned. They know better than to take things personally. I used to on the FS and one day I'd get in a shouting match with the Provost about one issue and the next day I'd be working with him on something different. Despite appearances, we are adults.

  16. The "poisonous atmosphere" has been created by this current administration and their faculty supporters. How can you respect people who knowingly find no problem with the erasure of their rights under AAUP guidelines? The same goes for the loss of democratic freedom for faculty to teach classes in their manner they believe they should. Those supporters of Cheng are little better than corporate lackeys and their servility will not save them. Apparently, from a meeting by the bargaining team, they heard that the administration is thinking of combining classes and teaching students in the Arena! If these people want to teach 1,000 plus classes then they are welcome to this "Brave New World" goal of Poshard and Cheng.

  17. 11:14 AM & 8:54 AM,

    BOT members should come from diverse backgrounds. I had no problem with Poshard being on the BOT. That's where prominent alumni can do much good. But administrative positions are different. There experience in higher ed matters. Poshard, although well intentioned, never should have become President.

    It is very clear that one of SIUC's major long term problems is finding administrative talent. This goes back (at least) to the firing of Argersinger and has been made worse by Poshard's presence. I think he is good at legislative relations, but he could do that as a the BOT chair.

    As to the current Provost, I am concerned about his lack of administrative experience and his relatively thin research record. I have however heard he is doing some real good things around recruitment. He is a very high energy, "let's get it done" type person. I have heard he was an excellent teacher. In any case, he is the guy we have to work WITH.

  18. 11:14 and 11:46,
    Go to the corporate world if you like the corporate model. This is an institution of higher learning. Al Gore or Steve Jobs are not fit to lead institutions of higher learning. You do not seem to understand the difference. This administration is treating students as money making machine and faculty as low paying workers (a corporate like model) which you seem to like. People working at higher learning institutions are intellectual who value scholarship which our administrators lack. If scholarship, value of experience working with faculty, and budget are not important to you, you are at a wrong place.

  19. To the supports of Poshard and Cheng,
    Be careful when you support politicians like Poshard and dictators like Cheng. They are extremely good at using you to get their dirty work done and dropping you out of their pond like a dead fish. Your brothers and sisters will always be with you, will always be there when you need a shoulder to cry on, and will always be there to save you when you are flopping outside their pond. Don’t let your brothers and sisters suffer in a false hope of achieving some personal gains by supporting them.

  20. Actually corporate leaders have to deal with unions quite often. If we adopted the corporate model, the rational for having a union would increase.

  21. The zealots have now put themselves in a position where they cannot win. Only faculty who are blinded by self-importance can think they can win a strike when they are a disaffected minority. Insulting ad hominen comments on this blog are not substitutes for deep pockets and support from colleagues and the public.

  22. The only faculty "blinded by self-importance" are those who support the dismantling of tenure guarantees in the AAUP sense and think that Rita and Poshard will reward them if a strike fails. They will be the first ones targeted by the RIF provision and forced to teach distance learning whether they like it or not.What other union in the outside world would wait nearly 500 days before reluctantly taking this final step? As for support from certain "colleagues and the public" - With support from the FSN and Gary Metro's groupies, you don't need enemies."

  23. IF that were true, Anon 3:39, then we were never in a position where we could "win." Which means we have (and apparently always have had) nothing to lose in trying. (Before anyone casts me as too cavalier in this assertion, please read my use of boldface as an expression of doubt in the conditional clause.)

    The pro-FA comments on this blog clearly have no monopoly on ad hominem comments. At some point (soon!) I hope we will finally tire of this endless circle of "No, YOU are!"

    And if the heretofore still unproved "majority" anti-FA folks have such deep pockets on their side, it is good to have confirmation that the Administration's claims for dire finances are overstated. That there is money to support Administration union-busting but not, say, the actual functioning of the university only seems to support Ginsberg's claims about an all-administrative university in the article linked above.

  24. This pointless bickering just makes the entire faculty look like fools. Obviously, the faculty are deeply divided. Obviously that cannot be sustained. One side or the other will prevail and the other will not. The only real question is how will we be able to work together when the? dust settles

  25. 4:19, I think you are misinterpreting 3:39. As I read it, the point about deep pockets was not meant to convey that opponents of the FA have deep pockets; it was meant to convey that petty nastiness and personal attacks will not deepen the pockets of FA supporters as they walk the picket with no income.

  26. Mike said: "Things aren't that bad. And these people, BOT members and administrators, are pretty thick skinned. They know better than to take things personally."

    Your post sounds like a sad rationalization for bad behavior. "It does not matter if I behave badly because those I hurt do not mind."

    Tell that to Susan Logue. You may recall that October 11, 2011 7:17 PM post that was (eventually) removed, after waiting long enough to ensure that its target was sufficiently harmed. Susan resigned as lead negotiator for the administration immediately after that post. She is no longer participating in person in the negotiating process, which is no doubt hindering progress towards a settlement.

    Some have speculated that that post and the long delay in removing it were a deliberate attempt to undercut the bargaining process by ensuring that the atmosphere in the negotiating room was as tense as possible. I hope that is not true, but based on what I read here, I cannot rule out that possibility.

  27. Anon 4:30 PM,
    Ask the same question to Cheng. She is paid hefty salary to bring positive atmosphere and move the campus forward. Has she done that? She has failed to do her job and is now destroying SIUC. Don’t keep blaming employees. Cheng is the decision making authority. She needs to lead not divide and rule.

  28. Anonymous (6:38 PM):

    Even if the chancellor did a great job, she wouldn't be able to change everyone's personality to make everyone agreeable. And, despite some truly mean comments here, I don't think that it necessarily would be a good thing for everyone to be agreeable if we want to have vigorous intellectual debate on this campus.

    The best the chancellor could do would be to use her management authority, budgeting power, and bully pulpit to create a situation that would make it easier for both SIUC's students and its employees to excel.

    Regardless of the chancellor's (or the FA's or the FSN's or anyone else's) failings, we are still each responsible for our own behavior as individuals.

  29. 4:49 PM,

    I did not mean to justify insulting people. I was just trying to put things in prospective. Sticks and stones ... .

    I did not see the post about Susan and do not have any idea why she stepped aside from the bargaining team. I doubt the delay in removing it was intentional. I will say Susan has been helpful to me in the past is dealing with certain issues in my college and I wish her all the best.

    There was a personal attack here on D.V. against another member of the Bot team (L.A.) some time ago and I was vocal in refuting it.

  30. I was responding to this comment about the Board: "A person who never served as chair, never served as the Dean....telling everyone (including the Deans) what to do. Isn’t is shameful?"

    My response about non-specialists on Boards elicited this predictable:

    "Go to the corporate world if you like the corporate model. This is an institution of higher learning."

    Boards don't "tell everyone what to do" -- they are NOT the administration. They are oversight for the shareholders--in this case the taxpayers and students who pay our salaries.

    Part of the problem with administration is that it IS inbred. All the people you have bitched about over the years took the academic route up through administration. And you haven't liked a single one.

    The "corporate model" is just a know-nothing slur. It is good to discuss (as some have) the constitution of the board but it is appointed by the elected governor. You all are so big on "democracy" -- ha! You got it. Write your elected official.

  31. I never saw the comment in question, but this news does give me pause. I believe Dave has always acted with due speed to remove the few comments that have been inappropriate, but none of us live on the internet. I am checking in now for the first time in over 5 hours. Had something problematic been posted in that time, I would not be able to remove it until now. But that delay on my part would not be intentional or part of an organized smear campaign.

    The comments here can be pointless bickering between posters, some of whom are faculty and some of whom are not. They can also be substantive and helpful. I prefer the latter. I am prepared to tolerate the former as part of the heated landscape of our current a point.

    But I will, to the best of my ability, continue Dave's policy of actively discouraging excessive personal attacks and verbal taboo. I will also model the thick but not insensitive skin I think we all need to get through the next several weeks.

    We are a community in conflict. Conflict can be productive in addition to painful. But conflict avoidance is almost never the answer. I hope we can continue to use this site (among other venues) to productively explore our differences.

  32. Jonathan,

    I wish Dave the Blogger would get on here to explain, but he may be stopped by Dave the FA Spokesperson.

    In that comment stream, Dave wrote, "After hemming and hawing this evening (24 hours after it first appeared), I decided to remove what struck me as a gratuitously mean spirited comment posted at 7:17 pm on 10/11."

    The particular comment that was deleted was insulting to Susan Logue, but the second half of the comment suggested that the commenter had a personal ax to grind that had nothing to do with Susan Logue's work at SIU.

    Dave's tendency has been to leave up insulting comments that make the person leaving them look worse than the insult that is left, except when foul language is involved.

    My guess (waiting for Dave the Blogger to confirm or deny) is that because foul language wasn't involved, it took Dave a while to decide whether the insult "crossed the line" for him.


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.