FA News (1/18/2018): Make your vote count

Dear colleagues,

Welcome back for the spring semester. Let me start this message by thanking Debbie Bruns, who has volunteered to serve as FA Secretary for the remainder of Rachel Stocking’s term (Rachel retired in December). The FA depends on work by faculty volunteers, and we’re most thankful to Debbie for her willingness to serve in this important role.

Grievance update

Our grievances about the chancellor’s implementation of Article 9 will be heard soon on the campus level and then move on, if there is no settlement, to an arbitrator. But despite the ongoing grievances, we encourage faculty to continue to to be engaged in the restructuring process, by debating, revising, and voting on the current proposals, and working on proposals of their own. It is never prudent to count on a grievance being successful, and even if these grievances do result in a settlement or ruling in the FA’s favor, this would not prevent the administration from restarting the restructuring process. Thus work done now will likely pay off later even if an arbitrator finds that the administration has indeed violated the contract.

Make your vote count

It remains vital for faculty to share their views with members of the community and the board of trustees. One opportunity is an event the Green Party is sponsoring at 6:30 on January 23 at the Varsity Center for the Arts (a flyer is attached); the board of trustees next meets in Edwardsville on February 7th and 8th. There is also still time to take the survey sponsored by the CCC group, which will share its findings with the board and others. But we are now approaching the time when faculty will start to cast vitally important votes as part of the Article 9 process. The FA bargained hard to get faculty these votes, and they give us real influence over this restructuring process. It is essential that we make these votes count.

In the end, faculty should vote for the school proposal the chancellor has drawn up for them, if they are convinced that it will make a positive difference for them, their programs, and their students. And they should vote against it if they think otherwise. This seems obvious enough, but in the current climate there are clear temptations to vote for other reasons. That would, in our view, be a mistake.

The process thus far has already been exhausting, so there is a natural temptation to go along with the chancellor’s plan and vote yes just to get this all over with. But “this” would not be over if the new proposals were approved. The chancellor has himself said that the “heavy lifting” would begin once the new schools were formed and faculty have to write new operating papers, and decide which school program would be a “top ten” program—which of course means that other programs would lose resources or be eliminated. Regardless of what happens, we must work together to address the challenges SIUC faces. So the question is whether we will start out by turning the place inside out, or can build on our current structures, where faculty believe that is wiser, and move forward in a more orderly, consensual manner. The best way to get “this” over with—to put an end to the exhausting, chaotic effort to turn campus inside out—is to vote against the chancellor’s plan.

I’ve talked to faculty who are see no great harm with the new arrangement, save for the elimination of department chairs. But elimination of departments, and hence of department chairs, is the centerpiece of the chancellor’s plan. If his plan has any merit, it is precisely because it eliminates disciplinary departments and department chairs. Voting for the plan means voting to eliminate your chair and your department.

We all recognize the need to do something to address the enrollment and fiscal crises. But there’s no evidence that the chancellor’s plan will help with either. The chancellor himself has admitted that restructuring will not in itself help enrollment. And the supposed savings from his plan are undocumented, and undermined by his concession that some division coordinators would require summer pay. Even if we take his $2.3 million figure on faith, it amounts to a mere 1.3% of our state budget—and little more than half of the annual deficit of our athletics program. We do need to do something, but this proposal does little or nothing to directly address the problems before us.

Finally, the chancellor is not the sole decision maker for SIU. The Faculty Senate and Graduate Council, and undergraduate and graduate student government, have all voted, by large margins, to oppose his unilateral decision to eliminate all academic departments. And the SIU System Office, the SIU Board of Trustees, and the Illinois Board of Higher Education have yet to weigh in. As faculty, our expertise, experience, and long-term commitment to SIUC ought to guide decisions about the future of SIUC. We can do so by making our votes count.

In solidarity,

Dave Johnson

About Dave Johnson
I'm an Associate Professor in Classics at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Among other things.

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