Budgets and negotiations

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 483

Kristi has at last managed to recruit some help on this blog, and I’ve chosen to inaugurate my new helping role here by (a) posting one day later than promised and (b) tooting my own horn.  I’ve stepped back from my more independent voice over at deo volente (where Jonny Gray is now doing a great job as lead blogger) as I’ve been named a spokesperson for the FA (as Kristi has been named one for GA United).

I appeared on WSIU’s “morning conversation” show this morning and discussed bargaining issues related to the FA. Jennifer Fuller is a great interviewer, and is up on campus issues, but even she bought into one false premise about campus finances, the notion that SIUC has less money to spend this year than last. The loss of 100 students did indeed cost us some revenue in tuition and fees, but the overall amount of tuition and fees will rise, thanks to the increased amount students are being asked to pay. And this increase in revenue will more than offset the 1% decline in funding from the state this year.

The DE ran a story today on the backlog of payments owed SIUC and other state universities. President Poshard noted the particularly dire scenario that would face us if the state decided that it was not merely going to delay payments but cut payments drastically. It’s no surprise, as negotiations come down to the wire, that the administration is emphasizing the financial side of things, by stressing how bad the present budgetary situation is and by vividly portraying how bad it could become. We all know that the economy is in tough shape, that state faces a steep budget deficit, and that the state’s troubles have impacted SIUC. But the unions aren’t only, or even mainly, looking for financial gains.

Rather, union proposals are designed to help SIUC meet a future financial crisis. Our goal is to bargain a transparent and accountable process that will allow SIUC to adjust to meet such a genuine crisis (I am thinking particularly of the FA’s proposals, with which I am most familiar, but I think similar thinking applies pretty much across the board). We will be far better off if we have a policy in place that unions and administration agree on. If we fail to have such a policy in place, and a genuine financial crisis hits us, the damage to SIUC won’t only be financial, but could result in a truly dire hit to campus morale. The administration, on the other hand, seems to expect that unions will simply cede to them the power to impose cuts in salaries and jobs as they see fit. That would result in controversy, tension, and morale cuts that would make those of last spring seem minor in comparison.

Missing from the DE story is the next step in the analysis.  All state universities are facing cuts in state appropriations. But some are doing rather better than others when it comes to adapting to those cuts. How can SIUC be more like the successful state universities and less like the unsuccessful ones?  Illinois State, for example, managed to offer faculty raises averaging 3% for FY 2012, and to raise departmental budgets by 2%–rather than cutting such budgets, as SIUC has done.  I don’t have any inside scoop as to how ISU has managed to weather this storm so much better than we have (but it’s not thanks to a huge increase in enrollment: their enrollment has been essentially flat in recent years), nor do I have the time to fully study how other Illinois universities are dealing with this difficult situation. Our sister campus, SIUE, managed to offer faculty and staff a 2.5% raise in FY 2011–the very year SIUC cut salaries via “unpaid administrative closures”. SIUC, like all other Illinois public universities, faces a difficult state budget. But that doesn’t require us to move resources out of academics–away from faculty, staff, and GAs–and into other areas.

Upcoming events

Thursday October 27, 10am-4pm: Tabling in the Student Center
Thursday October 27, 5-6pm, Student Center Ballroom A: Open Meeting for International Graduate Assistants
Thursday November 3rd, 12:01am: Strike Date for the Association of Civil Service Employees, Faculty Association, Graduate Assistants United, and Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association

 

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