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.

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