The Chancellor’s Friday Night Special

When you attempt to distract people from the real issues by trotting out legalisms, it’s best to get them right.

The Chancellor sent out an email at 5:30 Friday night claiming that SIUC unions had been misleading people by saying that they’d been working without a contract. (The full text of the email can be found at the end of this posting.) The most important point here is that the Chancellor is attempting to avoid the substance of the disagreements between her administration and the unions–the matters being negotiated at the bargaining table–by making irrelevant and misleading legalistic attacks. I’ll attempt below the break to explain just why the Chancellor’s email is misleading.

I think the only part of her email worth responding to above the fold is this.  The Chancellor once again chides the unions for failing to submit her imposed terms to votes by their membership. The elected representatives of those unions decided in the spring that no such vote was necessary, as the terms were clearly unacceptable. This fall, however, all four locals did hold votes. These votes did not only reject the Chancellor’s proposed agreement, but authorized a strike to contest them. That’s a pretty strong vote of support for their unions–and rejection of the Chancellor’s proposals. In case she’s forgotten, here’s how those votes turned out:

NTT FA: 83% in favor of strike authorization.
GA United: 97% in favor of strike authorization.
FA:  92% in favor of strike authorization.
ACsE: 80% in favor of strike authorization.

Perhaps the elected representatives of the unions understood the wishes of their constituents a bit better than the Chancellor does.

Continue reading

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 463

There’s another call to action around pension reform going out through the IEA as they gear up for what’s likely to be a very interesting veto session in a few weeks. You can read the flier that came through here.

Also from the IEA is a request to fill out a budget survey. This is one of your chances to let the big organization know where you’d like your dues dollars to go — so I urge IEA members to take the time!

The DE reports that recruitment hasn’t been hurt by the labor dispute, mostly because the recruiters haven’t actually been telling prospective students there’s a labor dispute. Seems like another tactic to show that the university is “business as usual.”

Frankly, the university hasn’t been running as “business as usual” since the university called an impasse in bargaining for ACsE, FA, and NTTFA and imposed their terms and conditions on those bargaining units. The only way to get the university back to “business as usual” — for real — is to settle the contracts.

Have you contacted the Board, the President, and the Chancellor yet?

Ms. Misty Whittington
Executive Secretary of the Board
Office of the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees
(618) 536-3357

Rita Cheng: rcheng@siu.edu
SIUC Chancellor
(618) 453-2341

Glenn Poshard: poshard@siu.edu
SIU President
(618) 536-3357

Upcoming Events:
SIUC Tuesday Work-ins (GAs + Allies)
Wednesday October 12, 4:30pm, Anthony Hall: PROTEST & PRESS CONFERENCE: Student Solidarity with Faculty, GAs & Staff

Administrative Spin, Informal Polling, and Student Movements

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 456

Today Chancellor Cheng gave her “2011 State of the University” address to a pretty packed house. I meant to take pictures but things moved too quickly before she started and as people shuffled out (sorry!). Forgive any errors as I was taking notes on the fly while the Chancellor talked:

Cheng began with introductions of various administrators and community members and then moved into a discussion of the labor situation. She repeated that she is “extremely disappointed” and thinks agreements are possible if we take the time and realistic looks at the issues. She reiterated the “availability” of board teams and emphasized she “remains committed to fiscally responsible solutions.” Cheng mentioned a post on her website as a response to questions that were being asked (possibly this one: http://chancellor.siuc.edu/labor/ despite the lack of information?). Then she moved onto the deficit and how the deficit was taken care of, projecting this year as having a balanced budget. She addressed the declines in state budgets and anxiety over higher tuition and fees. She mentioned that the administration and Poshard are watching the pension debate. Cheng moved onto how performance funding is coming and the metrics are focused on completion and retention (still no specifics). She addressed the changing federal funding landscape for education and research. Cheng then moved onto breaking down the impact report that went out earlier this semester on how much SIUC contributes to the Illinois economy. She then moved to our “successes,” such as our ranking moving up in US News & World Report ranking, high percentage of full time faculty, graduation and retention rates going up, high volunteerism, and so forth. After a long iteration of accomplishments, she snuck in a mention of a task force to assess and make sure programs are meeting goals. Then came the distance ed notes – basically it’s here, growing, and “making a positive influence in the lives of out students.” Next came the discussion of the Center for Teaching and Learning Assistance, University College, the new student convocation (though no mention of the fee assessed to students for that), and Saluki Start-Up. Then came deferred maintainance and how we need to be “very strategic on how we allocate resources.” She gave us a timeline on the new student sevices building (spring 2012), a new housing plan which will be available toward the end of the semester. She moved onto the enrollment change and claimed we “are turning the corner.” Then Cheng moved onto the marketing initiative and how “it was more then the new logo.” She said it was “time to change the story” – and that is what the branding is supposed to do. Next came the Strategic Planning (not the announcement of one, but the announcement of completing one). She finished with an emphasis on how the “we,” SHARED GOVERNANCE, will keep us a quality university.

Basically, this was nothing we haven’t seen before in the DE or The Southern.

There’s also been reports of informal polling happening across campus. So if someone in a supervisory or administrative position starts asking you questions like:

  • What does your job entail?
  • Can you train these people to do your job?
  • Is your syllabus available?
  • What hours are your classes?
  • When are you supposed to be in the lab?

CONTACT YOUR UNION. Even these questions (especially asking if you will train replacements) can be considered intimidation and interference — WHICH IS ILLEGAL. Please let us know if you are experiencing anything like this!

There’s also been some movement among the students regarding the labor crisis:
Strike Warning for SIUC Students – Facebook
SIUC Strike Warning – Twitter

Both sites include a call to action, asking people to contact the Board of the Trustees, President Poshard, and Chancellor Cheng and tell them to settle:

Ms. Misty Whittington
Executive Secretary of the Board
Office of the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees
(618) 536-3357

Rita Cheng: rcheng@siu.edu
SIUC Chancellor
(618) 453-2341

Glenn Poshard: poshard@siu.edu
SIU President
(618) 536-3357

Upcoming Events:
Friday September 30: GA United Strike Authorization Vote
Friday September 30: ACsE Nomination and Candidate Form Due
Friday September 30, 4:40-6pm, Blue Martin: NTTFA Informational Meeting
Wednesday October 5, 5pm: Informational Meeting for Students About Striking

Become Visible

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 449

I’m not going to spend too much time discussing the Chancellor’s email from yesterday, especially since Dave Johnson tackles it ably at Deo volente. There’s two things I want to discuss:

1. Congratulations to the SEIU workers who did manage to settle a contract. While the rest of Cheng’s email is questionable, I was actually very pleased that at least one union was able to settle their contract and gain modest raises (which are, if I remember correctly, better than any of the administration proposed raises I’ve seen to the FA, the NTT, and the ACsE units). That’s all we want as well — a good, settled contract. So I really am glad to see one local achieve that.

2. While I’m glad that the Chancellor is finally addressing the labor unrest and seems to have remembered that unions actually exist, this letter was insult added to injury. Not for all the problems Dave points out but because she completely ignores the three other IEA-NEA unions and the issues we have on the table. Perhaps because she doesn’t think she can spin those issues of job security, adequate health care, and having a living wage away? Or maybe she honestly believes that the more she emphasizes the tenured/tenure-track faculty, the more likely our coalition solidarity is to break? Or as obvious as it is she has little respect for the faculty and the FA, she has even less respect for civil service employees, non-tenure track faculty, and graduate assistants? I can only guess the Chancellor’s reasoning (or her staff’s, depending on where this really comes from), but her silence on the issues effecting other unions — or that other unions even exist — is truly off-putting and makes her seem even more out-of-touch with what’s going on than she did before (a real accomplishment in my eyes).

In other pension news, IEA’s Government Relations head, Jim Reed, sat down for an interview yesterday about the pension meetings. Apparently, it’s going slowly but he does say that the votes in the general assembly haven’t changed since the spring session (and we may have gained votes). They do say to contact your legislators as education about pensions, talk to coworkers about getting involved (and talking to legislators), and be ready for the veto session in October.

Upcoming Events:
Friday September 23, 10-2: Informational Tabling in the Student Center
Monday September 26, 10-2: Informational Tabling in the Student Center
Tuesday September 27, 10-2: Informational Tabling in the Student Center
Wednesday September 28: Faculty Association Strike Authorization Vote
Friday September 30: GA United Strike Authorization Vote, Lawson 141, 3-7pm
Wednesday October 5, 5pm: Informational Meeting for Students About Striking

FAQs Have Arrived

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 441

Well, orange juice and lots of sleep seems to have fixed me right up (at least mostly)! So, we’ll be back to our regularly programmed blogging.

First of all, I’m pleased to announce a new link we have to a lot of information about why our unions are talking about a strike and what a strike might involve. Got questions about insurance? Want to know what picketing is like? This is the page to go to! Keep in mind, please, this is mostly a generalized FAQ, applicable to people represented by all four unions. If you have a question you want answered that are missing, or one you think might only apply to your union and not the others, leave a comment and let us know! I’ll try and get you an answer ASAP.

On other news, two interesting articles came out today:
New Approach to Cuts [Inside Higher Ed]
Apparently a new research report shows that the overall trend in the recession (through 2009) has been for colleges and universities has been to cut administration while increasing spending in instruction and student services.

Of course, that report also shows another side, which the Chronicle of Higher Education’s article highlights: the funding increases are coming from the highly increased student tuition and fees.

Speaking of funding, the Daily Egyptian has an article today about the changes performance funding are bringing, namely that each department/college is going to have to justify hiring. The underlying point that may be important here isn’t just the new policy of enrollment = hires but that the administration is further consolidating power and taking the faculty voice and vote out of the equation.

We do live in interesting times.

Upcoming Events:
A Meeting of the Faculty Association Membership has been scheduled for Thursday, September 15, 2011 from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m. in Lawson 171. The purpose of the Membership Meeting is to provide the latest information on bargaining, what is at stake in negotiations, the strike alternative, and strike readiness. Proposals that have been presented at the bargaining table and other information can be found now at the FA’s bargaining information site: http://siucfa.wordpress.com/bargaining-information/. More information about bargaining and strike actions will be sent over the next couple of days.

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!

Now the Hard Part Starts

DAYS WITHOUT A CONTRACT: 429

I said in the brief interview I gave with Codell Rodriguez of the Southern yesterday that I hope Anthony Hall was listening. The truth is — we knew they were listening even before we showed up outside.

How did we know?

Email announcements from Rita Cheng in two days: the first her report about the Higher Learning Commission Staff Analysis of Institutional Report and the Financial Progress Report for the Higher Learning Commission, both of which Dave Johnson has blogged about. Yesterday afternoon, the message from the Chancellor was about the economic impact SIUC has on the local economy. So, she’s responding, but her response seems to be the usual tactic of ‘pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!’ and other attempts of redirection and putting the best foot forward. It’s great that the university contributes so much to the economies around the Carbondale and Springfield campus… but these don’t address the real questions the unions are asking and make Cheng seem even more out of touch with reality. How does this create job security? Won’t spending drop for the non-tenure track faculty who are going from 9-month appointments to 4 and a half month appointments and are not sure if they’ll have a job in the spring? Isn’t there a negative impact when civil service employees are being laid off (I think the last number I remember hearing of ACsE jobs lost was around 90, though I hope someone better in the know will post the right number in a comment)? How does this create a good health care system? What’s the economic impact of a graduate assistant who is pregnant or has a pregnant partner? Is the money they’re paying out of pocket to the hospital (because maternity care is not provided by SIUC) counted as part of the local economy in this study? How does this create a good tenure system? What’s the economic impact of the dozens of faculty retirements as they looked at the changes to the pension system and what the SIUC administration had done in the imposed terms and conditions to their form of job security (tenure) and decided to get out while they still could?

I’m still waiting to hear those answers. Not just from President Poshard or Chancellor Cheng — though they’ve got to step up — but from all the employees at SIUC. We had 400 people at the rally yesterday. There were 3000 we didn’t. Some of them were likely there in spirit but had classes to teach or meetings to go to. Other obligations. But not everyone has that excuse. It’s time for those 3000 absent to start thinking — and answering — what do I really want? Do I want to keep my head down, continue to be afraid, and accept whatever the administration wants to dish out? Or am I ready to stand up and fight for what’s important to me?

The time when members are called upon to do just that is coming. And it’s coming soon.

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.