FA News: June 12, 2017

[Catching up on some old posts: sorry for the delay.]

Dear Colleagues,
I hope you are managing to do something other than obsess about the plight of our state and our university this summer, but here are some updates on what’s going on.

1. Chancellor search
The two additional external candidates for Chancellor will be on campus Tuesday 6/13 and Wednesday 6/14, with open public forums at 8:45 am in Guyon Auditorium in the library. If you are in town and available, please consider coming. These will be genuinely open forums, with questions from the audience, and there will once again be an online survey. Presentations will be taped and posted to allow you to weigh in if you can’t make it to campus. The survey must be completed promptly–by 1am on the night after the second visit–so be sure to completely it quickly if you want to express your views. Further information on the candidates can be found here.

Faculty feedback on these two candidates could make a big difference in the selection of our next chancellor, so please make this a priority if you can.

2. Credit downgrades
Moody’s has further downgraded the credit rating of seven public universities in Illinois. SIU is now deeper into junk bond status, together with Northern Illinois, Governor’s State, Northeastern Illinois, Western Illinois, and Eastern Illinois. ISU is on the brink of junk bond status; only the University of Illinois is still clearly “investment grade”.
Among those in junk bond status, we appear (by my very amateur reading of these things) to be in slightly better shape than NEIU, EIU, or WIU (which has not been rated recently by Moodys, but is deep in junk status according to S & P). We look to be in more or less the same status as Governor’s State and Northern Illinois.
“We” here, importantly, reflects the entire SIU system, not the Carbondale campus in particular. The Carbondale campus is clearly the part of the SIU system with the worst financial prospects, and by the end of the summer the system will have exhausted its ability to bail us out (via loans from the medical school and SIUE). At any rate, there is little reason to take comfort in being slightly less junky than some of one’s peers. We are all in this together.
The State of Illinois itself is already nearing junk bond status, with the worst bond rating every held by a US State, and will land in junk bond status if there’s no substantial budget deal by July 1st. As of now there’s little reason to expect any such deal.
3. Meeting with administration
We had what diplomats characterize as a “full and frank exchange of views” with administrative colleagues at a meeting last week. There were two topics: campus finances, and the latest steps in program prioritization.
On the financial front, we are striving to get information to fact check Interim Chancellor Colwell’s argument that the latest round of cuts was designed “to minimize the impact on our academic programs and our students.” At the meeting, administrative leaders promised us full disclosure of the relevant figures, and we eagerly await that disclosure. Our central question is whether cuts to state funds (which include tuition and state appropriation) were made in light of the very different levels of support various campus units have from non-state funds (foundation funds, fees, etc.). Athletics, to pick one easy example, receives most of its support from student fees, which are not part of the state budget, so a large percentage cut to its state budget represents a very small cut in its overall budget.
On the program prioritization front, we stressed our commitment to the contractual process for program changes (Article 9), a process both sides worked very hard on during the last round of negotiations. We intend to ensure that that process, which calls for careful deliberation before program changes, with adequate time for faculty to weigh in, drives program changes.
We of course recognize that the fiscal situation is dire and getting worse, and that SIUC needs to make cuts to ensure we live within our means. At the meeting, in fact, we pressed administrative leaders about their contingency plans in the event the state does not come up with a budget, only to find that such plans appear vague at best. Our point is not that cuts can be avoided, but that cuts and other changes necessary to keep SIUC afloat must be made wisely and with adequate faculty input, or the process of cutting will do unnecessary harm.
The new CBA can be found on our website (siucfa.org); it is pretty crucial reading given the serious crisis we find ourselves in now.
In solidarity,
Dave Johnson
President, SIUC-FA

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

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