FA News: 9/28/2016

Dear colleagues,

An announcement and then some observations on recent developments on campus.

Announcement: First DRC Meeting

The FA’s Departmental Representative Council (DRC) will hold its first meeting of the fall semester tomorrow evening, Thursday (9/29) at 5:00 in Parkinson 202. At the meeting we will elect new officers for the DRC, get an update on bargaining, and discuss the state of the University and the role the Faculty Association can play in addressing the challenges we face. All members of the FA are welcome to attend.

State of the University

We learned just this morning that SIUC is making plans to cut a further $34 million from its budget, including another 10% from academic affairs. Today’s DE has a fine, in-depth story on cuts already made to academic positions, above all to GA positions. A cut of an additional 10% to academic affairs could result in many additional cuts to graduate assistantships and NTT faculty. And TT faculty are hardly immune: today’s DE reports that SIU has 173 fewer TT faculty than we had ten years ago, and that, according to Interim Vice Chancellor for Research Jim Garvey, cuts to GAs will leave TT faculty teaching more classes, cutting into research.

In his State of the University speech last week, Interim Chancellor Colwell noted the need to reduce administrative costs. We commend him for addressing this issue. Chancellor Colwell noted that $5 million of the $21 million in cuts made in July came in administration. While he did not provide full figures to allow us to judge what percentage of administrative expenses were trimmed, preliminary analysis of the cuts announced in July suggests that administration was cut as much as academics–no more, no less, so on the order of 10%.

And layoffs, non-renewals, and other cuts to personnel were overwhelmingly made in academic areas. Chancellor Colwell called for an additional 5% cut in administrative spending; we commend this initiative as well, but it will need to be judged in terms of cuts made to academic areas. A plan for an additional 5% cut in administration does not seem very steep when we are talking about another 10% cut to academic affairs.

As a target for administrative savings, the Chancellor suggests merging academic units. This, however, would target only a relatively small number of administrative positions. Department chairs make up only a quarter of Executive/Administrative/Managerial positions on this campus (roughly 50 of 200), so departmental mergers will not cut many of those positions. We therefore urge the administration to apply the sort of scrutiny and energy it is giving to cuts in academic areas to cuts in central administrative expenses and in other non-academic areas.

Academic Program Prioritization

We would like to call attention to two vital points made in the report of the Joint Task Force (JTF) on Academic Program Prioritization released last week (attached). The first is that any responsible effort to rank academic programs must rest on analysis of a far wider range of data than is currently available. Here is a passage put in bold in the report itself.

Thus, the JTF believes strongly that this document should not be used as a basis for either short- or long-term program prioritization or modifications until all data for all criteria identified in the document are available.

Sound analysis requires us to count what we believe should count, not just what we can easily count, or what the IBHE tells us to count.

Our colleagues on the JTF also observe that work on non-academic program prioritization has lagged behind work on prioritization among academic programs. Their report closes with the following sentence, which we heartily endorse.

It is the strong recommendation of the JTF that non-academic units be reviewed first, and that they should be the focus of proposed budget cuts (both immediate and long-term) first in order to do the absolute best we can to preserve the academic mission of the University under admittedly difficult circumstances.

SIU must act decisively to face the current crisis, but teaching and research must be the last place we look to make cuts, not the first one.

In solidarity,

Dave Johnson
President, SIUC-FA

jtf-on-academic-prioritization-final-report

About Dave Johnson
I'm an Associate Professor in Classics and currently (fall 2016) President of the SIUC Faculty Association.

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