Straight facts on tenure and layoff

Dear Colleagues,As we already noted in the Strike FAQ, faculty should be prepared for administration tactics designed to divide and conquer. On October 4, we all received an email from Chancellor Cheng twisting the facts concerning tenure and layoffs and the proposals made at the bargaining table. The reduction in force article, the language regarding layoff and tenure, is indeed currently being bargained. Faculty unity has brought these issues back to the table and we must remain united in order to secure a contract that protects tenure. We must not allow administration tactics to diminish the strength we have gained in unity.Layoff and tenure are certainly some of the important issues in this round of negotiations, although not the only ones. Let’s take a look at the Chancellor’s so-called “Facts” about faculty tenure.

“Fact” 1:  Tenured faculty cannot be laid off unless the Board of Trustees declares a state of financial exigency or in the event of program elimination.  (SIU Board of Trustees 2 Policies C.1.e-i).  This Policy has been in place since 1984 with a revision adopted in 2003.

No, that is not what Board of Trustees (BOT) Policy says (look for yourself). BOT policy does not refer to “layoff” specifically, but does mention “mandatory leaves without pay” in cases of the vaguely defined “fiscal emergency.” The inadequate protections provided in BOT Policy prompted discussions over these issues in past negotiations and that is why we finally settled on no-layoff side letters for the 2002-2006 and 2006-2010 contracts. It is the contractually binding side letters that have protected faculty against layoff.

“Fact” 2:  The Administration provided a proposal to the Faculty Association bargaining team on Friday, September 30, 2011 which specifically states that tenured and tenure-track faculty may only be laid off as a result of financial exigency declared by the Board of Trustees. Further, this proposal indicates that any declaration of financial exigency will be in accordance with the Board of Trustees Policy as it existed on July 1, 2011.

While the Board team did provide a proposal on September 30, the Chancellor’s paraphrase of the Board’s proposal is inaccurate. The Board’s language does NOT state that the layoff of tenured and tenure track faculty may only occur when financial exigency is declared. Most of the problematic terms from the Board’s past proposal remain (e.g., “partial” layoffs, 30 day notices to lay off a faculty member, limited recall rights expiring after two years). The Faculty Association Bargaining Team finds the Board’s proposal unacceptable. The FA team has provided a detailed proposal that clearly restricts the layoff of faculty to periods when a state of bona fide and legitimate financial exigency exists and provides for transparency and accountability in the determination of financial exigency. As another option, the team has also renewed its offer to replace the entire article with a side letter containing a no-layoff clause as we have had in past contracts.

“Fact” 3:  The Board policy contains specific requirements that must be met prior to the Board considering a declaration of financial exigency.

BOT policy provides no criteria for determining whether a declaration of financial exigency is justified. The requirements are procedural and the definition of financial exigency is vague and circular: “A long-term fiscal emergency is the condition of financial exigency, which results when an imminent financial crisis will require long-term programmatic reductions and termination of tenured faculty.” (SIU Board of Trustees 2 Policies C.1.e.2.b.) The FA proposes that criteria for determining whether financial exigency exists be spelled out in our contract and that disputes of over such determinations be submitted to a neutral third party for resolution.

“Fact” 4:  Current Board policy regarding financial exigency guarantees that faculty, through their official constituency body will be continuously involved in the DECISION of whether to recommend to the BOT that a declaration of financial exigency occur.

“Official constituency body” was probably intended to mean the Faculty Senate in this case, and the involvement is in the decision of whether to RECOMMEND to the BOT and NOT in the DECISION of the BOT. Reduction in force is a mandatory subject of bargaining and state law requires the Board to bargain this with the recognized bargaining representative. For tenured and tenure-track faculty, the Faculty Association is the exclusive bargaining representative. The Collective Bargaining Agreement is decided by the Board of Trustees and the Faculty Association, together, and supersedes Board Policy. Whether or not constituency involvement has ever been relevant to Administrative decisions, it is the terms of our contract that matter.

“Fact” 5:  In the event that a financial exigency is declared, the BOT would still be required to bargain with the Faculty Association over any proposed reductions in force of tenure track or tenured Faculty.

The Board’s proposal is to limit the role of the Faculty Association to mid-term and impact bargaining after a proposed implementation of layoffs, but we do not agree to this limitation. There must be accountability for the decisions to declare financial exigency and the determinations of how layoffs will be implemented. We demand that rules and criteria regarding these important aspects of reduction in force and financial exigency be bargained now as part of a just and comprehensive contract settlement.

United We Bargain! Divided We Beg!

In solidarity,
Randy Hughes

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