FA News: BOT, stopgap, room changes (4/6)

Forgive the frequent messages but events are moving quickly, and I have some updates on announcements from yesterday.

1. BOT declines to authorize SIUC to borrow from SIUE

There was an unexpected development at the BOT meeting today. President Dunn’s plan to have SIUC borrow from SIUE was added late to the agenda. This meant that the board needed unanimous consent to consider the relevant motion. One trustee (Shirley Portwood, an alumna and emerita professor from SIUE) objected, so the motion was pulled. Another trustee (Amy Sholar, another SIUE alumna) said she would be a no vote on the motion. This is bad news for this campus.

In the public comment period, a number of people from SIUE had questioned the need or justification for the current loan program–which is rather open-ended. I have been in touch with union leaders there, and made the points that SIUC wasn’t exactly living high on the hog, and that the FA would do everything possible to ensure the cuts–and SIUC’s budget–were responsible. They seemed to like what I was saying, but this did not prevent their union president from coming out strongly against the loan.

I paste my own comments during this phase of the meeting at the end of this email. In those comments I attempted to shift some of the blame for the lack of deep, structural cuts at SIUC during the past two years from our “campus” (which is being blamed by SIUE, and to some extent by President Dunn) to the President and Board, and then called for protection of academic programs (rather than picking off of academic programs) in current planning for cuts. Anthony Travelstead, President of the SIUC Civil Service Council, did a nice job of presenting our campus’ viewpoint, and thanking colleagues at SIUE for being willing to consider helping us out. Shannon Lindsay of the NTT-FA made a concise, compelling case for preserving NTT faculty positions. I was, however, disappointed by the official campus presentation by Interim Chancellor Colwell, which consisted of a standard list of recent successes by students and faculty, and included absolutely nothing about the budget crisis. This was far from the only example during the meeting of a bizarre fixation on business as usual in the face of a financial storm, but it was a particularly unfortunate one. We must do better if we are to deserve the confidence of our colleagues in Edwardsville.

President Dunn said that there will probably be a special meeting of the board, perhaps also in conjunction with the naming of the new permanent Chancellor at SIUC, before their next scheduled meeting in July, at which this motion (perhaps in revised form) will be considered. It seems likely to me, for what this is worth, that loans will be approved, but that they may well be more limited in amount and duration than the scheme Dunn was proposing today.

In the press conference following the meeting, Dunn said that if no loan or stopgap is forthcoming, SIUC will probably need to dip into restricted funds in order to stay afloat through the end of the fiscal year. This would be a rather desperate step, as it entails breaking covenants with bond holders, etc. Apparently WIU, EIU, and CSU have already gone down this path. In recent days NEIU and NIU have also announced major cuts. One way or another, it looks like we are going to be joining the company of campuses which have had been forced to rather desperate measures to stay afloat during this crisis.

2. Stopgap for higher education moves from House committee

Democrats in the state house have passed a short-term stopgap bill for higher education and social services, but on party lines, and Governor Rauner has already come out against the proposal. This last weekend, however, in a town hall meeting in Carbondale, Republican State Senators Dale Fowler and Paul Schimpf said they would support a stopgap bill for higher education without the conditions that Rauner has said he wants to be attached. I urge you to call your state representatives to persuade them to support this stopgap for higher education (or any stopgap). One local number, will put you in touch with a staffer for Senator Schimpf and GOP State Representative Teri Bryant, who share a Murphysboro office: 684 1100.

If you are not sure who your state representatives are, this site will allow you to look them up in 30 seconds:

http://il–nea.capwiz.com/nea/il/directory/statedir.tt?state=IL&lvl=state

It took me two minutes to complete my call. A hundred phone calls could make a huge difference. And a stopgap could make a huge difference at SIUC.

3. DRC moved from Parkinson to Lawson 101.

The DRC meeting scheduled for next Wednesday (4/12) at 5pm will be held in Lawson Hall 101 rather than Parkinson 202.

4. General Faculty Meeting to be held in Law School Auditorium

The meeting sponsored by the FS, GC, and FA will be held in the Law School Auditorium (Room 120) on Thursday, April 13th, at 3:00.

5. FA promotion and tenure workshop

Finally, a final reminder that our P & T workshop will be held TOMORROW (4/7) at noon in Communications 1032. RSVPs to Jyotsna Kapur (jkapur@siu.edu) are appreciated but walk-ins are welcome. Lunch will be provided.

In solidarity,

Dave Johnson
President, SIUC-FA

—–

Comments by FA President Dave Johnson at BOT Meeting of 6 April 2017

My name is David Johnson. I am the President of the SIU Faculty Association, which represents roughly 500 tenured and tenure-track faculty—over 200 fewer faculty than we had ten years ago, by the way. The faculty at SIUC understand that this crisis is real, that it is severe, and that it must lead to major changes on this campus. We also understand the frustration and anger of our colleagues at SIUE, who are being asked to make sacrifices of their own while their campus is being called upon to subsidize SIUC. I am morally certain that if the shoe were on the other foot, and SIUC was called upon to support SIUE, there would angry voices raised in Carbondale.

I study ancient history in my day job: I find some recent history is helpful here. When the current crisis began, over two years ago, President Dunn—than also acting Chancellor of this campus—was in a difficult position. Forced to choose between painful cuts in Carbondale and betting that the state would eventually come to its senses and provide public universities with some decent amount of funding, he chose to bet. I’m just enough of a gambler to know that you don’t judge the wisdom of a bet solely by its outcome. No one could know, two years ago, what the state would do, or rather fail to do. So maybe it was a smart bet. My point today is that it was a bet made by President Dunn and the SIU System. He certainly didn’t consult the faculty association. Nor, to the best of my knowledge, were other constituent groups on campus consulted. The “governmental abomination” in Springfield, as President Dunn has well put it, means that we lost that bet. The state has not come to its senses. But SIU has to be sensible, and responsible. We regard it as responsible of you, therefore, the leaders of the SIU system, to be working creatively to find a way to help SIUC pay off the money this campus owes thanks to a bet made on our behalf, but without any choice on our part, by the SIU System.

I have another point to make, one about priorities. When this crisis began, President Dunn stressed that any cuts would be made in a way designed to protect our academic core. He used the homely metaphor of an onion, with its many layers. At the core lay our academic programs. These would be protected, he assured us, in every possible way. That plan pleased faculty on this campus—though we don’t deny that the outer layers of the onion have real value. President Dunn’s approach seemed to us to be a recognition that SIU isn’t, first and foremost, an economic engine: we’re an academic engine. We’re not just a random collection of reasonably high paying jobs in Southern Illinois: we are a national research university in Southern Illinois, and SIUC, and its role in the Southern Illinois economy, will rise and fall based on our success in teaching and research.

Alas, the onion metaphor has vanished. Today, we hear a great deal about academic program prioritization, i.e., about deciding what academic programs to cut; but we are hearing precious little about prioritizing academics. The current sketch of cuts on the Carbondale campus leaves it completely unclear how much academic programs will suffer, and makes no attempt to argue that academics are being protected. I don’t have time to go into details here. Let me just note that this morning this board approved, without debate, the purchase of 2.45 million dollars in Under Armour athletic apparel for SIUC, while a request for planes for the aviation program, costing half as much, proved controversial. This at a time when our athletics budget is running a deficit of over 2 million dollars per year.

My union has fought hard for contractual provisions that would require the administration to demonstrate that it has made all practicable cuts to non-academics before it turns to drastic steps like furloughs or layoffs of tenured or tenure-track faculty. We have shown that we are willing and able to ensure those provisions are enforced. We do not, however, want a fight with the administration. That is that last thing this campus needs. We want to be part of the solution, not the problem. So don’t  prioritize academics because you’re afraid of the unions. Do it because it’s the right thing for Southern Illinois, and for the staff, faculty, and students of Southern Illinois University.

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

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