Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Dunn responds to crises by discussing daughter's wedding

I usually like Randy Dunn's biweekly "System Connection" messages. They are written in an endearingly informal style, and often address substantive matters in what certainly appears to be a frank way. He doesn't write in the bureaucratic language many in administration fall back on for want of confidence in their own voice.

But this week's column was a disgrace. After a few trite words about the "special feeling in the air" at the end of the semester, Dunn spends the bulk of his column writing about his daughter's wedding. He does then turn to the budget. It would be bad enough if he spent eight paragraphs on his daughter's wedding before telling us what the budget news means for us. Worse still, the "special feeling in the air" at Carbondale right now has nothing to do with finals and graduation, and everything to do with the slew of issues championed by the May 2 group, and above all with the issue of race.

Dunn is writing for the system, not just SIUC. But surely diversity is an issue at SIUE as well. And to go on for eight paragraphs about how his daughter's wedding brought on intimations of mortality two days after the largest protest at SIUC in years is outrageously self-centered and self-indulgent. It shows a system President dangerously out of touch with major events on the SIUC campus--his home campus. If I were Brad Colwell, I'd be livid. Yesterday Colwell pushed out an email outlining a bullet-point laden action plan: say what you will of it (and I may), he made a real effort to begin to address issues around diversity on campus.  All Dunn had to do (in addition to not talking about his daughter's wedding) was to piggyback on that message. He did nothing--he did worse than nothing. I'm sure any student protesters who bother to read his column will be livid as well.

The budget news--and there is substantial news there--after the break.
 Dunn buries the lede. Here's his last paragraph; the italics are his.

However — and this may be the most compelling question on everyone’s mind right now — I no longer anticipate having to move forward anytime this summer with a declaration of financial emergency or exigency, whether it be for a single campus or the whole system. SB2059 has allowed us to take that consideration off the table temporarily. But we’ll have to be right back in Springfield to get the rest of the loaf, and that is my #1 intention all the way through to the scheduled end of session on May 31 … and beyond if need be. Even after the Connection is done publishing, I’ll make sure to keep you apprised as developments warrant.
Ah, so not everyone wanted to read eight paragraphs about your daughter's wedding? Apparently some people were more curious about how long they'd have a job?

When I asked some weeks back just what sort of financial situation Dunn was thinking of declaring, it looks like he had everything "on the table", at least for a single campus--and that would be us. "Financial exigency" is the emergency status that requires jumping through complex contractual hoops--and allows you to lay off tenured faculty. "Financial emergency" is rather more squishy; perhaps by that Dunn means furloughs or perhaps something that would allow SIU to promptly shed AP staff (who are normally given one-year of employment even after they are given a pink slip).

I do not doubt the severity of the budget crisis--even after the stopgap bill. But there is something cavalier in the way Dunn has tossed around various possible declarations, which he seems to believe he can just announce himself ex cathedra. A declaration of financial exigency (article 19 in the FA contract) requires thorough deliberation and negotiation over a period of weeks (60 days). Dunn must realize that he needs BOT approval for any significant declaration of this type; but he doesn't bother to mention that here, much less to mention contractual requirements on how such declarations are made and implemented.

Given his tone-deaf, self-centered story about his daughter's wedding—which would have been utterly out of place even if he were merely telling us that few of us are going to be laid off this summer, and not also neglecting to address May 2--there is reason to worry that despite his folksy tone, Dunn is thinking through the budget in isolation as well. Certainly no one in university communications with half a brain intact would have green-lighted today's message.

1 comment:

  1. So what else did you expect, Dave? This nothing other than the weekly spin-doctoring done by Glenn and (Glenda) Rita on Morning edition with Jennifer Fuller on WSIU. WDBX is much better and should receive the type of support our mediocre PBS does. Anyway, Dunn has spoken his version of Thunderclap Newman's "Something in the Air" and it is not "Revolution" but a self-indulgent fart!


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