Saturday, October 29, 2011

On Reporting Negotiation Updates

I tread into this post with trepidation.  In general, I have been critical of too much armchair quarterbacking about negotiation, and I don't want to encourage it.  But I also recognize a significant concern among FA members that they are not getting sufficient updates online about the negotiations.  I think it is accurate that the other IEA/NEA unions have been doing a better job about posting helpful if not too detailed on-line updates of the bargaining process.  This point has been recently raised at the DRC (by me and others), and I believe there will information forthcoming.  In a previous comments thread, Dave Johnson has promised an email summarizing bargaining today.  I will share that email here when it comes out. After the break, I will do my best to summarize my understanding of what has been said this week about bargaining.

If I haven't disclaimed enough already, let me add three more.  First, "Deo Volente" is an opinion blog and not in any way an official information outlet of the FA.  When Dave was running it, we may have received the benefit of insider knowledge from his position as chair of the FA's DRC.  I do not have or claim to have such access.  Second, although it is largely fictional at this point for both sides, part of the negotiation agreement is that we not negotiate in the media.  For a variety of reasons, the negotiating team must, well, negotiate sometimes conflicting imperatives to (a) inform its membership and (b) remain diplomatic and strategic at the negotiating table.  Finally, the negotiations are moving at a rapid pace of back and forth exchanges.  What I have very recently learned is probably already out of date. 

For these reasons, this unofficial report of bargaining is presented with admittedly broad strokes. There has been some progress, but not so much on the major sticking points. 

  • There has been a Tentative Agreement (TA) on student-to-faculty ratio, keeping that at 26:1.  I was not clear whether that includes Distance Learning (DL) students or not. (In the past, it has not.)
  • There has been some movement (but no TA yet) on clarifying the process by which program changes will occur and some movement on defining a process for ensuring changes to Operating Papers do not linger indefinitely on administrators' desks.  There is a proposal currently being discussed on a process for determining contact hour vs. credit hour equivalencies in Operating Paper disputes.
  • There remain major sticking points on Workload, including an administrator's ability to require  instructors to teach their classes using DL, requiring off-campus teaching, and determining overload pay.  
  • There is no resolution on sexual harassment or conflict of interest policies/procedures.
  • The Reduction in Force (RIF) language still is marked by the same problems as before. The FA team and the Administration team have been trading proposals, but there is not much significant change in the Administration team's proposals.... except that now, if you get laid off, your theoretical 'tenure' would still be good for three years, rather than two.
  • The Administration team rejected an FA proposal of a side letter agreeing to no furloughs for the length of the contract.
  • The Administration has put a salary offer in writing, but the FA team is not willing to do a TA on any salary until it means something.  The FA logic is that there is no use signing when we could get a 1% raise this year, but get cut 2% again through furloughs.  The Financial Exigency (FE) issue must be somehow resolved before any salary TA is meaningful.  The FA is seeking wage reduction language and processes that are transparent and accountable, and the FA has suggested procedures for determining what counts as FE, but the Administration team resists all of these.
In general, all union teams reported a similar set of problems with negotiations. The Administration team tends to make package proposals and demand that the union team accept or reject the entire package.  They are, in the words of the NTTFA negotiator, solidly tied you black and white negotiation and unwilling either to compromise or engage in creative problem-solving.  This, by the way, is exactly what Interest Based Bargaining was supposed to help us avoid.  


  1. Thanks, Johnny! I think you are doing a fantastic job. Since you took over, this blog has become more intellectually alive and dynamic!

  2. An interesting article at on the current situation at UWM underscores now more than even the importance of strong collective bargaining. This article serves to provide a cautionary tale on the likely events to unfold in this state if the public employee unions (representing the last line of defense for working and middle class) become even further eviscerated by the conservative agenda of which, in the case of SIUC, top level administrators are aiding and abetting.

    On a local level the last part of the last paragraph in this article is particularly apropos regarding the direction SIUC needs to head in this current political climate:

    • “Devote yourself to spending the money you do have ethically and well. Find ways to limit administration salaries and the salaries of coaches. Don't let your university take on gratuitous projects designed to be a president's legacy. Devote yourself to figuring out how the campus is spending the money it has. Reach out and connect with your students and build coalitions around issues that matter. Just take back the campus."

    Strong unions can abate this runaway administration at SIUC and help insure a more positive direction ensues.

  3. Wow! Do you know that the track project being built near baseball field was not even part of the original Saluki Way? Cheng authorized this $5M project while cutting employees lively hood. University College was created by Cheng to establish her legacy. Cheng and Poshard are more worried about their legacies than SIUC. Message to everyone on this campus; open your eyes, don’t let the quality of education go down, send a strong message to BOT to fire this incompetent team (Poshard, Cheng, and Nicklow) before it is too late to reverse the damage they are creating.

  4. They replaced the basketball court in the Rec Center this summer and now have new weight machines.

  5. How do I apply for any of these substitute jobs that will open on Thursday when you guys go on strike?

    Do I approach Cheng or a department chair?

    Do I get to pick my classes to teach?

  6. "legacies" with no legs to stand on! That's Cheng, Poshard and Nikolow for you!
    Chen's so-called "University college" + 1 million dollar "logo" + 5 million dollar track field
    Porhard's "inadvertent plagiarism"
    Nikolow's declining enrollment
    No legs no brains!
    Just meaningless legacies!

  7. 26:1 is a major concession from the administration - from what I have been hearing from various sources, the administration had been pushing for 30:1 for some time now. If tenured and tenure-track faculty members who are represented by the bargaining unit are in the high 600 range at present, this would probably mean that the "hiring freeze" would have been ended next year to maintain 26:1. I am a member of a department that has lost nearly 20% of its tenured and tenure-track faculty over the past four years, while suffering under a prior dean of my college who thought that we were "the right size" and "doing just okay." I am also the last hired tenure track member of that department, and that was over four years ago - I go up for tenure review next fall. So, the 26:1 ratio is an important victory for our contract.

    I know we have a lot of other issues to resolve. Like Mike, I, too, have signed up to be on a picket squad if, come Thursday, that proves necessary. But isn't the 26:1 ratio an important concession and perhaps evidence that the BOT is moving into more reasonable territory? Or am I reading too hopefully into that?

    The goal here needs to be to reach a fair contract, not shut this place down out of anger and bitterness. It occurs to me that Cheng wants us to be enraged and wants to bait us with her snarkiness into overreacting. Don't let her succeed. I echo Mike in disavowing incivility from both an ethical and a pragmatical sense that such behavior does the FA's cause little good in the end.

  8. That is just a minor crumb. Other important issues remain unresolved. Cheng is playing brinkmanship. We must all remain firm in the hope that pressure might be put on her to be reasonable or act as a united body for the strike nobody wants (except perhaps Poshard and the BOT?)

  9. So far only the FA wants a strike. Nothing the BOT, president or chancellor has done reflect efforts other than to create conditions to deal rationally with lower state aid, lower enrollment, and a lousy economy. The intransigent attitude of the FA leadership suggests it irrationally thinks it can win a strike.

  10. Anonymous 10:40 I don't agree with you. Rather, I think fault should be spread more widely. Chancellor Cheng deserves a good deal of the blame the past year for her over-centralized management style and utter lack of people skills. For someone to run a major university without people skills and the ability to build consensus among the faculty for her policies is quite alarming for the health of this institution.

    At the same time, the FA has at times had its head buried in the sand regarding the stark economic realities, including the bloggers of this website. The more that I discuss this with people on this blog and elsewhere, though, the more it appears to me that this is symptomatic of the lack of general trust between faculty and administration that perhaps ebbs and flows depending on the chancellor of the day, but goes back really to the 1970s, if not before then under Delyte Morris. As a young faculty member on this campus, until this year I had other things to keep me busy (like getting a book published so I could be viable for tenure). Thus, I am only now realizing the problem of this campus represented by a lack of trust on both sides. I do not know the solution to it but by continuing to ignore it, or accuse those who acknowledge the giant elephant in the room of being administration lackeys - or, dare I say it, mentally deranged - individuals who do this only compound the problem, IMHO. We need to get this place back on track.

    But, faculty also need to be treated with respect, and I for one, share the feelings of probably the majority of fellow FA members in believing that I haven't been by Chancellor Cheng since her tenure began. The morale around here right now really stinks. Perhaps it will get better with a new contract, but this is something that administrators really have to do a lot to mend. That is, if they really care about SIU's future. Unlike some naysayers, I am willing to give administrators the benefit of the doubt on this one but they need to convince me with actions, not words.

  11. Anonymous 10:06 Some "tiny crumb" that may require the university to hire upwards of 150-200 new tenure-track faculty next year if rumors of record numbers of retirements this academic year are true. Remember: SURS changes its pension formula from 73% to 65% on July 1, 2012.

    So, with respect, you are dismissing something quite significant actually. There are still issues left unresolved that I am willing to strike over, come Thursday, if they are still unresolved. But on this issue, we ought to be celebrating a major victory for our students and for our departments' continued viability.

  12. Very good story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

  13. Disgusted:
    You are missing a big picture. It is not even a ‘tiny crumb’. Even though Administration may have to hire 150-200 new faculty members, it is going to save a ton of money for the administration. They are not going to hire faculty members at the same level as the retirees. Cheng must be very happy because she does not care about the quality and experience of faculty. She only cares about money.

  14. 9:05 is correct. They'll just hire term and adjunct faculty to fill the vast majority of those spots left by retiring faculty. Further, they are still holding firm on the distance ed requirement. My belief is that stand is part of a larger strategy to impose heavier teaching assignments, thus making current faculty teach more classes. Faculty/student ratio stays the same. More work for existing faculty. Few new hires.

  15. Just thought I'd post these two limmericks that I recently heard, which has been making the rounds. The second one seems to say it all, what's in store for siuc.

    There once was a Chancellor called Cheng
    Who came to our school with a bang
    She laid off some folk
    Then had to revoke
    when the faculty told her "go hang!"

    There once was a feller called Glenn
    Whose tongue outsmarted his pen
    He threw up his hatchet
    So Rita could catch it
    Now it's only a matter of when!

  16. Anonymous 10:02 Um... that would be illegal according to the contract. Correct me if I am wrong, but since the 2002 contract, the 26:1 ratio applies to the members of the FA's bargaining unit (e.g., tenure and tenure-track professors).

    Anonymous 9:05 Must we whine about this? Obviously, administrators are going to hire at the assistant level most of the time. And, yes, SIUC is likely going to achieve budgetary savings out of this. That was going to happen regardless. Instead of seeing the glass perpetually half-empty (or actually 95% empty), I would rather see this as further stabilizing SIUC's financial situation. Remember, we live in a deadbeat state whose politicians, when they aren't being indicted and jailed for selling U.S. Senate seats or drivers' licenses live in la-la land regarding budgeting.

  17. To further finish my point: financial stabilization greatly increases the likelihood that advanced assistant professors such as myself - the least senior continuing appointment in my department - will never be confronted with potential layoff. I am sorry, but I would really like my union to protect my job at all costs, thank you very much. By insisting on the 26:1 ratio, and achieving this, they have done just that, and thus I am congratulating the team on their hard efforts.


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.