FA News: 9/15/2016

Dear Colleagues,
Before we turn to enrollment and program cuts, an update on another issue. Our health benefits are set by the contract between AFSCME and the state. Governor Rauner has argued that negotiations are at an impasse, which would allow him to impose the state’s latest offer. This offer would require all state employees, including SIU faculty, to choose either to pay twice our current health care premiums or to select less robust health care coverage. A split decision by an administrative judge held that while the two sides were at impasse on some issues, they were not at impasse regarding health insurance. The final decision on this matter will, however, be made by the Illinois Labor Relations Board, whose members are appointed by the governor. More updates on government and politics, including IEA endorsements and ways to get involved in the political process, can be found on our Facebook page.

Last week SIUC released enrollment figures that must trouble all of us. Our overall enrollment was down 7.6%, with freshmen down a staggering 23.7%. It would be hard to exaggerate the crisis this university faces in the form of declining enrollment and uncertain state funding. The chaos in Springfield is hurting all public universities in Illinois, but Interim Chancellor Colwell was right to say that we at SIUC need to “own” our decline. For this year’s decline is far worse than the declines at most of our peer institutions, and is part of a long-term trend.

In his message to the campus community on September 6, Chancellor Colwell’s most significant response to the enrollment crisis was the following.

Most importantly, we need to make sure we are offering the right mix of strong programs. To do this, we need to eliminate those that are not attracting students, along the lines of a forthcoming review by the Illinois Board of Higher Education, in order to create resources for those in greater demand. We must take immediate steps to prioritize programs starting with the work of the Faculty Senate and Graduate Council program prioritization task force and taken forward under the leadership of our deans.

We do not deny that some reorganization of campus programs may be called for given the present crisis. But it is also undeniable that the elimination of programs will do absolutely nothing, in the short run, to increase enrollment.

Cutting programs will cut enrollment, as we turn away students from eliminated programs. Cutting programs leaves current and potential students uncertain of their program’s future, depressing recruitment and retention. Nor is a university just a collection of individual programs, which can be divided from campus to campus, with physics taught on one campus and poetry on another. To prosper and grow we must offer a comprehensive set of strong programs.

Program cuts could indeed allow resources to be redirected over the long term. But we need to spend our money on the right things. When Governor Rauner first proposed massive cuts in higher education funding, President Dunn developed the analogy of an onion, suggesting SIU should cut spending by peeling off less essential, outer layers in order to protect our core academic mission. Now that cuts are a reality, however, that metaphor has vanished, and cuts have basically been made across the board. In the cuts announced in July, all campus units lost from 9% to 13% of their funding. Academic programs were hardly shielded from cuts, and this resulted in painful cuts to academic staff.

SIU has formed a non-academic prioritization committee, but that committee’s task was not to study the balance of academic and non-academic spending, but to look for ways to make spending on the non-academic side more efficient. This is a worthy goal, but will not in itself make academic programs our first priority.

The latest available figures on staffing from SIU Institutional Research reveal something about SIUC’s priorities.

Enrollment & staffing changes, 2006-2015

Students -17.7%

TT Faculty -20.4%

Executive/Administrative/Professional: Unchanged

Professional Non-Faculty +6.5%

Figures for bargaining unit faculty (which do not include the law and medical schools) are actually down even further, by 23.2%. In short, as SIUC enrollment has declined, tenured and tenure-track faculty numbers have declined even more rapidly. But administrative numbers are steady or growing. These trends need to change.

We recognize the extent of the current budget crisis, and know that it will face us with difficult decisions. The administration has bargained with us in good faith to produce a new contract that assigns faculty a vital role in making those decisions. But our plan for facing the enrollment and fiscal crises should involve not only choices about what academic programs to cut, but a determination to preserve as many high quality academic programs as possible. In our view this is the best way to turn around the decline in enrollment, meet our fiscal challenges, and ensure a bright future for SIUC.

In solidarity,

Dave Johnson
President, SIUC-FA

FA News, 8/12/2016

Dear Colleagues,

Below you will find an important report from Rachel Stocking, head of the Faculty Association bargaining team. I’ll highlight just two things from her report. First, the conceptual agreement our team reached with the administration would strengthen provisions to ensure that faculty have the time and opportunity to be fully involved in deliberations about program mergers or eliminations. Faculty will not gain the right to veto program changes, but the agreement would guarantee that any changes are made following full consultation with faculty, and without undue haste. Program changes are of course a particularly acute concern given the ongoing budgetary crisis in the State of Illinois, and the likelihood of a substantial drop in enrollment this fall.

Second, while the conceptual agreement would hardly give faculty all we may have hoped for, it was reached through cordial and productive negotiations following the principles of interest-based bargaining, a more collaborative approach to bargaining that replaces a zero-sum emphasis on winners and losers. It is certainly my hope that the agreement to maintain and strengthen faculty involvement in decision-making, together with the positive way it was reached, augurs well for faculty-administration relations in the future.

Dave Johnson
President, SIUC-FA

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Dear Colleagues,

After 2 years of bargaining under very difficult circumstances (i.e., the budget crisis and its multiple levels of uncertainty), your FA Bargaining Team is happy to announce that we have reached conceptual agreement with the administration team on all the issues on the table.  The contract language, however, has not been finalized on many of the articles–we hope to have a tentative agreement on the whole contract during the Fall semester.  At that point, the tentative agreement will be delivered to the FA Department Representative Council (DRC) for a vote on referring the changes to the membership for ratification.  This final vote will be open to FA members only.

Given the current financial situation, the team opted for a short term contract–this one will expire June 30, 2018.  Although we did not gain salary increases at this time, we have retained the right to return to salary negotiations if and when there is a non-“stopgap” budget in place. In response to the administration’s current planning for departmental mergers and program eliminations, we fought hard to achieve enhanced faculty participation in the decision-making process for program changes, as well as ensuring that significant changes cannot be rushed through in the name of expediency. We have also gained some limitations on increasing teaching loads and recognition of those loads in tenure, promotion, and merit decisions. Summer salary was a particularly difficult issue, but we achieved language that clarifies the process of establishing salaries and protects faculty interests in the cost-recovery model for summer classes.

Other accomplishments include: improved protection of faculty rights in the grievance and discipline procedures; the establishment of a committee to investigate paid parental leave; clarification and protection for faculty’s intellectual property rights to syllabi; and Fair Share for the FA when our membership reaches 50%.

In the context of the budget crisis, we were also glad to have maintained the protections in the furlough and “reduction in force” language that we won in 2012. On the other hand, in the interests of providing relief to the University, we also agreed to suspend enforcement of the 26 to 1 Faculty/student ratio for the life of the contract (i.e., until July, 2018). While this appears to be a concession, its effects will be limited, since student enrollment is expected to decline significantly in the coming year.

All in all, despite inevitable disagreements and disappointments, we were also able to maintain cordial and primarily productive relations with the administration’s team through the slow but productive process of interest-based bargaining.

In solidarity,

Your FA Bargaining Team

FA News: August 17, 2016

Dear Colleagues,

On behalf of the SIUC Faculty Association, welcome back for the fall semester. I write you in my new capacity as FA President. I round out the FA Executive Committee, whose other members are Vice President Aldo Migone, Secretary Rachel Stocking, Treasurer Joe Shapiro, and Dan Becque, Chair of the Departmental Representative Council. Many thanks to outgoing President Rachel Stocking for her four years of service in that post, and to Holly Hurlburt and David Anthony, who are stepping down from their roles as secretary and treasurer.

I begin by expressing our solidarity with all those impacted by recent cuts on campus. Two civil service employees and five continuing non-tenure track faculty members have been laid off. Many more non-tenure track faculty were not reappointed, or saw their positions cut back to part time. And SIU has also cut back significantly on graduate assistantships. All of these cuts hurt: they hurt individuals and families, and they hurt programs and the students they serve. We are enduring an unprecedented period of budget cuts and budgetary chaos. Union contracts and union activism cannot prevent all cuts, but we can and will raise our voice against budget cuts, note their cost to staff, students, and the university, and ensure that any cuts that do occur follow the procedures and protections laid out in our contracts.

We do have some good news from this summer: our bargaining team, after untold hours of negotiations, has reached a conceptual agreement with the administration for a successor contract. Final language for the contract is still being worked out, but we will provide a bargaining report in coming days with more details on the agreement.

The first step in the process to ratify a new contract will come at the Departmental Representative Council (DRC), the FA body with representatives from academic units on campus. We will be holding elections for open seats on the DRC early this semester. If the term of your unit’s representative is up, or your unit is not currently represented, do please consider volunteering. The DRC is the FA’s most important representative body, and will play an essential role discussing the new contract this fall; meetings are held roughly once per month. For more information, contact your College Representative:

Agriculture: Paul Henry (phenry@siu.edu)
CASA: Sam Pavel (spavel@siu.edu)
CoLA: Anne Fletcher (afletch@siu.edu)
Library: Phil Howze (phowze@siu.edu)
CoEHS: Laura Dreuth Zeman (dreuth@siu.edu)
MCMA: Rob Spahr (rspahr@siu.edu)
Engineering: Aslam Kassimali (aslam@siu.edu)
Science: Randy Hughes (hrhughes@math.siu.edu)

You should have a received an email from Randy Hughes on August 10th reporting on complications regarding summer payroll deductions for faculty who do not prorate their nine month contracts. We have learned that the deadline for prorating a nine-month salary is August 19th (rather than the 15th, as we reported last week). If you did not receive Randy’s email or want more details on this process, drop me a line.

Illinois Education Association (IEA) Members are invited to “WALK with IEA” in the Walk with Labor/Twilight Parade. We will join others in the labor movement in a parade to kick off the DuQuoin State Fair. Line up will be outside the American Legion building in DuQuoin at 5:00 pm on August 26th. We will walk from the American Legion to the Fairgrounds beginning at 6:00 pm. After the parade, there is a big, free picnic at one of the mansions in the middle of the fairground – so you eat under the lights. Stay and visit with friends, and/or enjoy the inspirational labor speakers.

As I’m new to this post I’ll note that I’d be happy to hear of your concerns, questions, or input. My office is in Faner 2037 (second floor, toward the student center end of the building), and you are most welcome to stop by. My office hours are Monday & Wednesday 10-12 and Thursday 1-3; while students have priority then, I’ll also hold “FA office hours” Tuesdays from 11-1, when colleagues will have first dibs, and I’d be happy to arrange another time to meet. I’d also be happy to come visit a formal or informal department meeting, should you and your colleagues be interested in that. And of course there is email. You can reach me at my siu address (mjohnson@siu.edu) or, for a smidgeon more of privacy, at my non-SIU address (dmj2@me.com).

Finally, a housekeeping note. I’ve recently updated the list of addresses on our listserv, making an effort to ensure all bargaining unit faculty are included. If you’re receiving this in error, getting multiple copies, would prefer we use another address, or would, heaven forbid, like this to be your last FA email, contact me at dmj2@me.com.

In solidarity,

Dave Johnson
President, SIUC-FA