Early Morning Edition

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 436

I am a morning person — just not usually this early!

Yesterday’s Board meeting saw dissent again, according to the Daily Egyptian. Lowery and Mannering, two of the trustees who voted no to raises at SIUC also voted no yesterday when the Board considered SIUE raises: “Lowery said he could not approve the changes in faculty and administrative payrolls while union members at SIUC are still without contracts.” Lowery explained his no vote fairly succinctly: “As I stated in the July meeting, until we have reached an accord with all our constituents, I must oppose all further promotional or pay increases and all new hires.”

This shows our actions at Board meetings have been working and should continue as much as possible. The Board is a pressure point for getting things done — name getting a fair contract that makes everyone happy and addresses the legitimate needs of employees.

Coupled with that is a nice editorial in the Southern about the logo: “Logo change a poor decision.” The final editorial, “Money should go to education,” is about K-12 educational funding priorities… but it applies just as much to the decisions the SIUC administration has been making.

Upcoming Events:
Struggles in Steel: The Fight for Equal Opportunity, over 70 African-American steel workers speak about their struggles for fair treatment during both their 125-year industry as well as after shutdown
A part of the labor film series sponsored by the SIUC Labor Coalition
Sunday September 18, 2pm
Admission is free and family is welcome!

Playing Catch-Up

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 427

I feel like I’m playing catch-up a little because I spent the last two days blogging about events, rather than news, and now there’s plenty of news to choose from!

If you haven’t already, you might want to go over to Deo volente, where Dave Johnson blogs about Poshard’s morning conversation with Jennifer Fuller yesterday. He actually has two posts about what Poshard says but I find the post on Poshard’s comments about performance-based funding more interesting. Poshard basically admitted performance funding will create more paperwork (and, while he didn’t say this, I’m betting even more administrative positions) and possibly cutting inefficient classes. Exactly what counts as “inefficient,” particularly within the Core, is something I’d like to know. Low enrollments? Not meeting the learning goals?

It’s the second one I worry about more. I’ve taught 200-level diversity core classes. The learning goals for those are pretty easy to teach to because they’re all testable. The 300-level core class I’m teaching this semester, however, has a goal about developing cooperation through group work and a goal about developing public speaking skills through presentations. My assessment pre/post test definitely doesn’t cover what I’m doing in class to develop those goals. Does that mean when the class is looked at, because I can’t test for those goals, I’m only meeting 2 of 4 and thus an inefficient teacher?

I doubt we’ll get more specifics on metrics and contingencies anytime soon but Sheila Simon is scheduled to talk on WSIU this morning as part of a morning conversation. According to the WSIU calender, she’s scheduled to talk more about performance funding. If I get a chance, I plan on tuning in (or listening to the podcast later, when I have time). I’ll link it up in tomorrow’s post, as well.

The Semester Begins

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 418
DAYS UNTIL THE START OF THE ACADEMIC YEAR: 0

One part of the countdown goes away but the other, perhaps even more important countdown, will stay. Also, this semester I’m teaching an 8am class, so three days a week my usual 7am post will probably be delayed.

As it is the beginning of the semester, I wanted to link up a few items that highlight student concerns. Some of these I’ve written about before but some of this is new information:

Beginning July 1, 2012, there will be no more subsidized loans for graduate students. Subsidized loans are ones in which the government pays the interest on the loan during the time we are in school. All graduate students will be eligible for after July 1st are unsubsidized loans, where interest is charged during the time we are in school. The money the government saves from this will be mostly put into funding Pell Grants, which graduate students are generally ineligible for. Here are three informational links you may want to check out for more information:

Students to feel pinch in debt deal [CNN]
A Graduate Student Burden [Inside Higher Ed]
Chart of the Day: Student Loans Have Grown 511% Since 1999 [The Atlantic]

What are these loans paying for? For graduate students more generally: tuition, fees, books, living expenses, supplies. For graduate assistants, a large bulk of those loans go to cover fees. Fees have tripled over the last ten years and are still rising dramatically. Unfortunately, our stipends have not been keeping pace with these changes so that we end up losing money. Right now, an average doctoral student working twenty hours a week is working for nine months — but only getting paid for seven. The rest of that money is paid back to the university in fees. You can actually see a chart, made by History graduate assistant Andy Barbero, that tracks — adjusted for inflation — exactly how much fees at SIUC have gone up:

Fees Adjusted for Inflation

Fees Adjusted for Inflation

It’s a pretty scary spike there at the end and doesn’t look like it’s going to go down anytime soon.

And speaking of fees, the convocation the Southern speaks highly of is funded by fees to incoming students.

What Is A Union?

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 400
DAYS UNTIL THE START OF THE ACADEMIC YEAR: 15

A lot of things going on today; I almost don’t know where to start (other than boggling a little at 400 days)! I suppose I’ll start internal and work my way out.

One of the new changes at SIUC that has students a little riled seems to be the installment plan to pay for tuition and fees. The plan includes a $30 processing fee and some of the initial negative reaction seemed to be over confusion whether this program was mandatory or not (it’s not). What the program does is “Nelnet, an outside corporation, will pay the full amount (essentially giving the student a short term loan) that must be repaid in four months. This means the university gets their money, and if a student defaults, the outside corporation will operate as a debt collection agency to get their money back from the student. The university is also now charging a 1.5% interest/service fee on tuition/fees each month it is unpaid” (from Carl Bloom, GPSC President) — unless you are enrolled in the program.

So, despite the “voluntary” nature of the payment plan, SIUC is doing its best to make the installment option the best (and only) financially feasible option.

Also speaking of students and student debt, Students to feel pinch in debt deal [CNN]. Beginning July 1, 2012, there will be no more subsidized loans for graduate students (making me wish I’d elected to finish in three years instead of four). About the only good thing about this change is the money gained by this change will be going to Pell Grants, so even though they’re basically taking money from graduate students to pay for undergraduate education (only a small number of teacher certification/credentialing programs and eligible for Pell Grants at the graduate level), the money is at least staying in education and not going to pay for something else entirely.

But as an Inside Higher Ed report shows, the U.S. is number one for cost internationally. This, combined with the lack of good financial aid and scholarships, makes it hard to compete in the international arena for students.

Perhaps the lack of decent financial aid is because some colleges and universities are burdened by the need to fill “golden parachutes” for administration? Another report on Inside Higher Ed looks at the “golden parachute” phenomenon, where administrative appointments have (some may say overly) generous leaving packages:

including large salaries, extended time off, light workloads, and the right to tenure. While the necessity of these deals is the major question at a lot of institutions, they also raise philosophical concerns, such as why a traditional faculty position — often viewed as a fairly well-paying and flexible job by the public — just isn’t good enough for former administrators.

Speaking of benefits, Appellate court upholds ruling on new state employee health contracts [State Journal-Register]:

The 4th District Appellate Court decision means the temporary three-month contracts worked out after Sangamon County Associate Judge Brian Otwell’s ruling won’t be replaced — at least for now — by the original long-term contracts awarded by the state this spring.

You can also read The Southern’s take on the court decision.

And finally, there’s a very nice letter to the editor in the Southern today which calls out the July 17th editorial. I’m still waiting to see my letter to the editor about this editorial from the 27th. I think if I don’t see it show up soon (especially since the Southern called to verify I wrote it over a week ago), I may just go ahead and post it here. Today’s letter, though, says:

What do these union brothers and sisters want?

Among other things, they want their collective bargaining rights fully recognized and contracts honored. They want the administration to respect tenure – in a factory and other work places it’s called seniority. And they want the administration to comply with the law regarding health care for all employees.

Sounds like the rest of us, wanting to do our jobs under fair working conditions and maybe make a decent living in the process.

That’s exactly right. We want fair work places that compensate quality employees for their good work, where collective bargaining and employee voice is honored. And right now — we want settled contracts.

Still At the SLA

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 392
DAYS UNTIL THE START OF THE ACADEMIC YEAR: 23

I’m still in Bloomington and learning a lot. Today I think I’ll probably take some pictures of the Bone Student Center, where the SLA classes are being held. It’s very nice. I linked up a report a few days ago that ISU seems to be doing well enough for the President here to approve raises. The attractiveness of the Bone Center is definitely another indicator of university health — and so are the various students I see using it.

Morris Library is a very attractive building now, at least on the floors that are open (does anyone know what’s actually up on the sixth and seventh floors? Or are they completely empty?). However, when I go to Morris I don’t see students using it as a library to get books. Why? The books aren’t there. They use it as a computer lab, a coffee shop/food area, a study area, and a site of social gatherings.

If I understand the purpose of the building — that’s what a student center should be doing. In fact, every time I’m in our student center that is exactly what I see students doing. So… where’s the place of the library in this?

Don’t get me wrong, I actually quite like Morris Library. Most of the things I need for my own research are digital so I can access it anywhere. However, what I need for teaching is often not nor does the library have the books I assign. I often have to purchase extra copies of texts and put those on reserve for my students because many of them can’t afford to buy books. Of course, you can’t have such a nice building on campus if you can’t pay for it and we apparently can’t pay to have books in the library.

The Daily Egyptian has two stories in today’s edition that are telling: Fee increase draws from students’ wallets and BOT approves money to build parking lot. There’s a couple of nice quotes from students regarding the rising costs and what the university seems to be spending its money on:

Debbie O’Neill, a graduate student in speech communication and women studies from Washington, said she doesn’t understand why over $1 million is spent on parking lots when the university’s academics are suffering from the budget crisis.

“I’m adamantly against spending that kind of money,” she said. “They’re going to spend $1 million on parking? That’s ludicrous. They need to put that money back into education.”

That’s a pretty good question to be asking. Do we need books or do we need parking? But an even better statement was made by Marcus King, former USG president:

“With all the auxiliaries like housing … when you complain and they raise fees, challenge these people,” he said.

King said he believes SIUC is an institution that should cater to the blue-collar working class and first-generation college students. He said he believes administration is forgetting that piece of the mission statement.

“What people in these positions have to realize is that if not for the students attending the university they wouldn’t have jobs, at least not in the educational industry and certainly not at this university,” he said.

It really has become increasingly obvious that the administration is not focused on the students. They’re focused on the money students bring in. So who cares about the students? The faculty, the staff (i.e., the people who actually have constant contact with students), and the students themselves. For me, that says a lot and it’s a message we should be delivering to the administration. We care about education and you should too.

Athletics in the News (Again), Bargained Raises for State Employees

The Daily Egyptian seems to have caught on to the increases in athletic spending at SIUC and a report showed up in the sports section yesterday, including mentions of the 120 percent increase in spending and that 71 percent of the funding for Saluki Way comes from student fees and institutional support. My personal favorite bit is a quote from Mario Moccia, director of intercollegiate athletics:

“Here’s the catch. (New) facilities don’t guarantee winners,” Moccia said.  “The reality of it is (the project) had its time and place to be vetted.”

To me that reads as “This is happening whether we have good teams or bad teams and you all lost your chance to object.” Though, if I understand correctly, there actually was a lot of controversy, as this IBHE PDF compilation of various news reports about higher education from February 2006 when the decision was announced will show.

I’m personally wondering if new facilities also guarantee enrollment increases to go along with the tuition and fee increases. Given that enrollment has been dropping overall… I’m guessing not.

The Southern also has a news article today about the cancelled contractual raises for state employees: Pay raise issue could get legislative hearing next week. Essentially a legislative committee, the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules, which is empowered to act on all emergency rule changes filed by the governor and his agencies will be meeting to decide if the rule change the Governor requested so that he could cancel the bargained raises is valid. So the 30,000 or so employees the Governor broke contractual agreements with could potentially see relief if the committee stops his action.

And the Collective Bargaining Breakdown Begins

As we all know, yesterday was the beginning of the new fiscal year — and the beginning of the newly signed Illinois budget. There were some changes Governor Quinn wants to enforce, however:

Quinn: No raises for 30,000 state workers [Chicago Tribune]

Quinn takes on union over raises [The Southern]

Basically, the budget was short about $75 million dollars and Quinn decided to, unilaterally, break mutually agreed upon contracts and cancel raises for state employees in agencies such as Corrections, Historic Preservation, Human Services, Labor, Natural Resources, Public Health and Revenue. In case you missed it, the key words there were break mutually agreed upon contracts. Sound familiar? It should; contracts are the cornerstone of collective bargaining rights, the rights of employees to have a voice in their workplace, and what Quinn did here was was trample all over that. It’s particularly repugnant when the unions have already renegotiated these raises before and even deferred them [State Journal-Register] “three times in the last 18 months… and thousands have taken unpaid furlough days.” [CapitalFax, from the AFSCME press release]

Show Me the Money Tour

The show me the money tour went off successfully today. The tour stopped at campus highlights such as Morris Library, Woody Hall, Faber Hall, Anthony Hall, and the stadium formerly known as McAndrew. You can take a look at the tour map here:

SIUC Show Me the Money Map [PDF]

Dave Johnson, our tour guide, has also posted the text of his tour information on his blog so you can read that here!

SIUC Faculty Union Holds Walking Tour of Campus [WSIU]

Unions question campus spending choices [The Southern, includes counterpoint from Rita Cheng]

Administration claims protest to be uninformed [Daily Egyptian]

Tuition at SIUE, the DE Take on Health Care, and Massive Strikes and Pickets

Well, it seems our sister school in Edwardsville has made the “naughty” list for college affordability [Inside Higher Ed], rather than SIUC [Chronicle of Higher Education]. The Education Department released a list of the most and least priciest schools — tuition alone and net price (including tuition, fees, and in some instances room and board) — for undergraduate education, broken down by sector (e.g., four-year public, private, two-year private, etc.). SIUE makes the “naughty” list under net price, with a net cost of $16,278, a 59 percent increase since FY2006-2007 ($10,247).

The DE has a news article about the recent changes in state health care, which gives Representative Mike Bost’s take on the whole switch over. He seems to believe that the new adoption will likely fail and “the state will work to get existing contracts back.”

Finally, across the pond are some of the largest public strikes, pickets, and walkouts are happening today. According to the BBC:

40% of state schools in England and Wales have been closed or partially shut.

The Public and Commercial Services union, which includes police support and border staff, are also on strike.

You can follow “rolling coverage” across the U.K. of what’s going on on this website.

Morning Conversations with Rita Cheng

A little late, but on Tuesday, Chancellor Rita Cheng sat down with WSIU’s Jennifer Fuller for a morning conversation. You can listen to the podcast here. Some of the highlights:

  • Discussions of a “structural deficit”: which includes a “2.5 to 5% reduction across campus” to “rightsize the budget”; she also said publicly this should be done without furloughs or layoffs
  • Health care: she is “hopeful” the state-wide health care change can be resolved “quickly”; the university can’t change the student health care plan because GAs “are not considered employees” (this is true, as part of a state law, and not what GAU is asking for anyway)
  • Negotiations: her reaction to the filing of ULPs

    It’s definitely an enlightening discussion and in a lot of ways, at least from my experiences within GAU and our own fight, she seems misinformed about the real issues at stake for the unions — fairness, keeping quality employees, having a voice in our workplace, finding the best ways to support and help the students of SIUC. Dave Johnson, at Deo volente, also has a good write-up of her discussion.