Thursday, September 16, 2010

CFA President Kathy Oberdeck's speech to the General Meeting of September 13, 2010

Thank all of you for attending today’s membership meeting and for supporting CFA. It’s an honor to serve this organization because Campus Faculty Association brings together teachers and scholars from all over campus, and I get to know the people who really make this place work
Reviewing the Past Year
For this meeting in particular we come together at a historical moment when these questions are more critical than ever. The University of Illinois has been through a year of crises and changes—crises over the integrity of leadership and the arrival of a new president, crises of academic labor relations in the form of the GEO strike, crises in budgetary shortfalls accompanied by rapid-fire administrative fixes. This made for a very busy year for the Campus Faculty Association. Over the last twelve months, our members helped draw attention to the need for new administrative leadership and for more democratic processes of decision making on campus. We have marched with the GEO to maintain the salary and tuition waiver support that compensate our excellent graduate students and make graduate degrees accessible to the wide diversity of students—from across a range of ethnic, gender and class backgrounds—whom a great public university should serve. We have responded to mandatory furloughs with teach ins, Senate resolutions, research, rallies and mass lobbying in Springfield. These actions demanded more transparency in budgetary decision making, and speaking out to the Legislature on what kind of funding is needed to keep quality education accessible to the citizens of Illinois. As importantly, they were aimed at enlarging our own membership to include more faculty from across our campus who are concerned about the conditions of their teaching, research, and service. They see the Campus Faculty Association as an important vehicle for making faculty voices heard in decisions that affect those conditions. Our membership grew by 40% through these important initiatives, through the work of members with academic organizing experience who helped some of us think more strategically about how to talk to members about organizing, and because many of you went out and talked to your colleagues, cross-disciplinary associates, friends and neighbors about your concerns about the University and how the CFA can help.
Toward the Future: Collective Bargaining and the CFA
For this year, it is our top priority to make the Campus Faculty Association visible and available to an ever wider circle of University of Illinois faculty of all descriptions—full and untenured, faculty from the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities, faculty of color, women faculty, single and partnered parents, senior faculty on the verge of retirement, to name just a few. As you’ll be hearing a little later from our organizing committee, we welcome and urge more and more members to have these conversations with colleagues, friends, neighbors and acquaintances about the CFA’s purposes. CFA will grow only through your efforts and it is vital that CFA grow.
We’re also here to discuss a revision of the statement of purpose contained in our Constitution, and also to be featured in our website and recruiting literature, that will help convey to more of our colleagues what we’re about. That statement of purpose restates principles the CFA has been committed to for decades: a democratic University in which faculty have a meaningful voice through shared governance; the defense especially of those who might experience discrimination because of race, gender, disability or sexual orientation bias, among others. It also poses an open process of collective bargaining to ensure our ability to defend faculty’s individual and collective welfare in the areas of economic compensation, academic freedom, the integrity of our teaching and research, the fairness of University policies as they apply to diverse faculty and students, and the capacity of this university to offer the quality higher education that we consider the foundation of a democratic society. This revised statement of purpose will signal to potential members our commitment to a strong faculty voice in University decision making, but can only be meaningful if we expand our membership to a proportion of the faculty that would make CFA representation of faculty interests a reasonable claim.
In addition to getting on your radar a number of events planned to expand our membership and familiarize faculty with some of the benefits of collective bargaining, we wanted to start the semester off with this meeting to talk face to face about what many of us might hope and fear about collective bargaining and why we need it. What do we mean by “an open process of collective bargaining”? To some, collective bargaining conjures unsavory images of self-serving union bureaucrats meeting in inaccessible chambers with top-level administrators to hammer out decisions on pay and conditions to which union members will be asked to conform. Certainly, this is hardly an attractive model for an organization that takes as its main rallying cry the democratization of university structures that make decision on increasingly corporate, hierarchical, and opaque models. But this image of collective bargaining it is not born out by the examples of collective bargaining closest to home—examples like the GEO, where a large negotiating committee represented union members in bargaining sessions with University administrators. It’s also an image of collective bargaining that’s inconsistent with our own view of the range of issues that could be bargainable—not just salaries and benefits, important as they are, but also issues of academic freedom, working conditions, and transparency.
Others worry that collective bargaining will commit them to a strike on questionable pretexts, potentially imperiling their sense of duty to their students. These are understandable concerns, fully congruent with our statement of purpose’s declarations of commitment to the quality education we believe this University should offer. But the collective actions that provide teeth to collective bargaining can take a variety of forms, and none of them would be approved without a vote of the membership.
Another pressing question is, WHY collective bargaining? Don’t we have shared governance? What about the Academic Senate, the stewarding excellence teams that involved faculty and administrators in reviewing possible budget streamlining, and our individual contributions to a host of departmental, college and campus level committees where we look after the curricular, research and service missions of the university, often at the expense of our own research and writing agendas? As a current or recent participant in all of them, I have great respect for these various venues for faculty involvement in making and executing University policies. But we can find a lot of evidence that they are not sufficient to secure University of Illinois faculty a voice in the decisions that affect our conditions of work and our commitment to the University’s core missions of teaching, research, and public service. I want to give a few examples from recent and ongoing CFA activities to illustrate this.
Much of our growth last year came because faculty were upset about a sudden and, upon inspection, rather ungrounded decision on mandatory furloughs. CFA actions on common Furlough days helped to raise important questions about what sort of funding the University has and where it is being spent. These efforts have matured into a report, currently on our website and reported to the press, of remarkable rises in the numbers of administrative positions and the salary figures devoted to them over the last six years. This is an important context for many recent concerns. The general trend toward administrative top-heaviness affects the way the university responds to problems like the budget crisis. They turn to furloughs instead of caps on runaway academic salaries. They offer a system of project teams to identify plans for streamlining that was overwhelmingly staffed by administrators rather than regular faculty. The University maintains structures of funding through the University of Illinois Foundation that can allow the continued financial connection between an off-campus academy ungoverned by ethics of open research and academic review AFTER the university had agreed with the Academic Senate to sever such ties. And Administration has also been able to pressure the Senate, with a few critical questions from CFA members, endorse the growing corporatization of the university by granting the President the title of CEO. Collective bargaining at other universities has managed to fight at least some initiatives that compromise faculty governance in these ways, and grievance procedures to address not only salary issues (many of us are not getting raises, which compounds the economic effect of fuurloughs while administrative salaries go up) but issues of academic freedom, governance, and working conditions.
In April many of us got on the bus to join more than ten thousand educators at all levels to lobby our legislative representatives in Springfield with respect to the funding that’s needed to provide quality public education at an affordable price. We invited administrators to join with us, but they seemed to prefer other channels of correspondence with legislators that they tell us are active but the substance of which we never hear. Faculty governance in a truly public university demands that FACULTY represent to the public the faculty missions of teaching and research we spend our days, and nights, undertaking, and their importance to the public. Collective bargaining agreements elsewhere have included effective legislative relations programs.
The GEO has for many of us been a model of effective and democratic academic organization, and also of the community outreach to make good on our institutional promise of teaching, research and service. Many CFA members walked with the GEO last November and learned a lot from their determination to maintain tuition waivers that enable many grad students from minority and working-class background to contribute to the mission of higher education and, as we know, enable us to attract the most talented and exciting graduate students from these and other backgrounds to maintain the fine reputation of both our graduate programs and the undergraduate teaching to which these students contribute. But now the waivers that were at the center of the GEO’s strike are under threat again, as cashed-strapped departments especially in the arts and humanities have resorted, with higher administration approval, to lowered base-rate waivers in order to keep their graduate programs afloat at all. This is a complex issue with many dimensions. It raises questions about the commitment of the University to attracting and keeping quality graduate students in the humanities and arts, it exposes the pressures on quality education in a variety of departments that find their teaching assistant budgets slashed while a variety of inticements to profit-generating graduate degrees and department funding tied to on-line course development are dangled before them. We also have growing numbers of non-tenure track faculty often entailed in these shifts, and their interests need attention and voice as well. Faculty need an independent organization that can assess and address these many transformations of the education we offer, and sustain the opportunity for education in the all-too-quickly disappearing capacities for critical thinking, civil discussion, and reasoned argument, made available to a wide public. We need the strength in numbers to be that organization.
We can do this with a purpose that invigorates our colleagues and a commitment to engaging them in that purposes that brings more members in. Before we break for some small group discussions about your views of how effectively our new statement of purpose supports those goals, I want to mention briefly some upcoming plans for this semester that are intended to help us move forward on this agenda, and some specific ways for some of you who want to get more involved. THIS FRIDAY, Sept. 17, our organizing committee is meeting to make plans for a fall organizing campaign, discuss communities of faculty to which we can most effectively direct our efforts. As Siobhan Somerville and Clarence Lang from the organizing committee are going to explain shortly—WE ARE ALL ORGANIZERS AND EVERYONE IS INVITED TO COME TO THIS MEETING. It will be held at noon, Friday Sept 17 in 210 Illini Union.
Organizing IS our main priority—but while I’m on the topic of things your CFA could use help with—we also have an communications committee, currently very snazzily headed up by Harriet Murav, that needs more help to get our messages out. And we have an open position of Equal Opportunity Officer for someone who wants to help organize our initiatives on issues of minority, gender, and sexual orientation discrimination and bias.
The next week, the BOT will be meeting on the Urbana campus at the I Hotel. The GEO is already planning a rally to tell them about our concerns about tuition waivers, salaries, and other issues they will be addressing. EVERYONE IS URGED TO ATTEND THIS RALLY, and let the BOT –to which the CFA continues its fight for faculty representation—know that the CFA is watching and listening.
OCTOBER 7 is a NATIONAL DAY of ACTION for education. The labor coalition of this campus is planning a public action for that day that you should keep your eyes out for our announcements of those events.
Finally, in NOVEMBER we will be having another CFA members event—to which interested potential members will also be welcome---on the benefits of collective bargaining, where we plan to have speakers from already organized Illinois campuses like SIU and EIU. We’re working on scheduling that around the schedules of the speakers we’re seeking, but we hope it will be an opportunity to further the discussions we come up with today about our new statement of purpose and its focus on collective bargaining.
So I’m going to turn things over for a few minutes to Siobhan and Clarence to talk about organizing, and then to small groups of you to talk about our statement of purpose. We’ll come back to have a presentation on the dues issue that you were notified about—obviously all this organizing and expansion takes resources, and you’ll hear about our own budgetary crisis in providing those. For now, though, let me turn things to Siobhan and Clarence. Thank you.

Pasted from

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

CFA Response to Ikenberry's Work Group Report

The CFA applauds efforts to streamline administration and procurement costs in order to commit shrinking university resources to core missions of teaching and research. But we also see much to give faculty pause in recent announcements about the report of President Ikenberry’s Administrative Review and Restructuring Work Group and impending plans to implement its recommendations.

• The centralizing of “human capital” strategic plans and monitoring procedures according to new business models engineered from above are of particular concern, especially as they will affect all academic personnel and staff and the vital educational missions they support.

• The focus of IT investment in on-line learning environments while classroom technologies in a number of sectors of the university continue to lag also needs faculty input.

• The coordination of Foundation and alumni fundraising relations with little mention of the importance of key faculty research objectives and departmental connections threatens to strangle communications to potential funding sources of the most important, ground-level activities of teachers and researchers.

• The spectre of new “consulting” firms coming in to advise the process raises further concerns about the voice faculty will have in shaping these important changes; not to mention the extra expenses to be incurred in implementing them.

The Working Group is right that communications programs provide a broad range of services to connect with and inform the many and varied stakeholders of the University…” Put in a more education-friendly form, it is vital that transformations of university procedures actually facilitate the free exchange of ideas among faculty, students, staff, administrators, alumni, fundraisers and the larger communities we serve.

Observing that President Ikenberry has been charged by incoming President Hogan to move forward quickly in implementing the Working Group’s recommendations, the CFA looks forward to substantial faculty input on the implementation process, which seems, from the list of working-group members, to have been lacking in the formation of the Working Group itself. As a voice for faculty communication throughout this process, the CFA stands ready to investigate and address the faculty’s many vital interests. Please join us.

Kathryn Oberdeck
President, Campus Faculty Association
June 25, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Peter Brown on adjuncts

Check out this post by Peter Brown on adjunctification of higher ed and why adjuncts deserve a living wage and job security (among other things -- I'm not doing the article justice).

Monday, May 3, 2010

Great Day in Springfield on April 21st!!

Lobby Day in Springfield is an annual tradition for educators to meet and greet state lawmakers and have their voices heard. But this year Lobby Day was inflected with a real urgency as 15,000 teachers, staffers and school workers converged on Springfield to express their frustration with Illinois’ unprecedented budget crisis and the threat of cuts to education at all levels. CFA members decided to take our fourth and final furlough day on April 21 in solidarity with Illinois Education Association and other U. of I. campus unions, and so we got up early and got on the bus.

Lobby Day was surprisingly fun, in large part because of excellent IEA organization that got us and our banners there comfortably, with plenty of donuts and coffee. We enjoyed a huge march and rally, addresses by state leaders, and visits to lawmakers’ offices inside the stunning Capitol building. We met and congratulated our allies (in the CFA's case, Mike Frerichs) and faced heated if not well-reasoned resistance in discussions with our very pressured opponents. Illinois Education Association members gave everyone lunch with amazing efficiency.

For CFA members who had not participated in lobbying before, this was an eye-opening event. Not only did we speak face-to-face with central Illinois State legislators about the importance of a fair tax increase, but we felt surrounded by and connected to many other kinds of people who work helping, teaching, counseling and supporting Illinois students from preschool to graduate school. We were reminded that as University of Illinois faculty we are part of a much larger structure of public education that is, ideally, a structure of opportunity and personal advancement for everyone in the state. At least that's what I felt. Rather than production workers in a credential factory, or ivory tower technocrats, we‘re connected to educators across the state as we try, in straightened circumstances, to help students learn and grow. While it's true times are hard in Illinois, it's also true that the opportunity for a strong public education, up to and through university, should be expanded not narrowed. I'll be in Springfield next year, and for as long as it takes.

Professor Susan Davis
Department of Communication
CFA Executive Committee Member

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Organizing 102: Common Furlough Action Day #3!

Join us on April 6th at the university YMCA for Organizing 102, the next common furlough action day! After the success of Organizing 101 at the February teach-in, we decided another "class" in the series was necessary. There are no pre-requisites in order for you to attend, though!

The event is straightforward, yet crucial to our success. From 12-1 those of us with organizing experience will moderate discussion and train attendees on how to organize. From 1-2:30 we plan to go out and do the organizing: write the emails, set up the meetings, and talk to our colleagues. Doing can be a lot more scary than talking, but we won't have success, and we won't grow, if all we do as a union as talk. Finally from 2:30-3 we will debrief (with cookies, of course). There is a chance we will shorten this event so that it doesn't overlap with an AAUP event on the tenure process.

I look forward to hearing your thinking on the kinds of topics you want to see covered in Organizing 102. Don't work on your furlough day, organize to affect change... and most importantly, bring a friend!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

CFA Brown Bags on March 31st

Attend CFA Organization Building Workshops March 31st

What: CFA Workshops addressing organizing among the under-represented in the CFA, namely:

• contingent faculty,
• untenured tenure-track faculty
• women, and
• people of color

When: March 31st 12:00-1:30
7:00-8:30 (same program as 1:00 for those not free during the day)

Where: University YMCA 1001 S. Wright St.

More info contact: Kate or Siobhan:

Monday, March 22, 2010

New on Kritik

I (KBHC, Kate Clancy) am the most recent author in the Kritik blog series "15 Ways to Take Your Furlough." My piece is entitled "Teach your Children Well" and I hope you check it out.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Join Us in Springfield on April 21st for Higher Education Lobbying Day!
Let the legislators hear your voice in support of democratic public higher education.

Free buses will leave Champaign-Urbana at 8 a.m. Contact the CFA Office Co-ordinator for details

Or sign up for a spot on the bus via our on-line petition by visiting

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Shared Faculty Mission at UIUC?

On March 4, 2010, the Campus Faculty Association sponsored an event titled “The University’s Core Mission: Are We Really All in This Together.” The event was attended by faculty from six different colleges (ACES, Education, Engineering, FAA, LAS, Law) and the University Library. Those who attended the event discussed the contributions faculty make to the university, our community, and society. We discussed how the University of Illinois is different from a technical school, liberal arts college, or a job training center, and what it is that makes this university great.
Our discussions revealed some differences across disciplines. For example, the work of some faculty focuses on immediate contributions to society whereas others do work whose greatest contributions may only be appreciated in the future. More importantly, our conversations also revealed significant commonalities. These commonalities, and our discussions of them, helped clarify the components of what we believe is the university’s core mission.
Our discussions led to the drafting of a Shared Faculty Mission Statement, which is divided into two parts: (a) a description of our shared contributions; and (b) implications of our shared contributions for the future of the university. The version available on this blog is a draft version, which has been circulated to panel participants and is now open for comments from the University faculty community. Please post comments on this site (if you can) or e-mail comments to The final version of the statement will be transmitted to the University community, the president, the Board of Trustees, state legislators, and the public.

Shared Faculty Mission Statement

Shared Contributions

• The core contribution made by all faculty is to use their intellects in creative ways to generate knowledge, insight, beauty, wisdom, and practical products and applications that will make our campus, our community, the state of Illinois, and the world a better place in which to live.
o The ways in which faculty do this are remarkably varied. Here are only a few examples. Some faculty will create music that no one may be able to appreciate immediately, but which may be admired by thousands or even millions in years to come. Others may delve into agricultural production and consumption or engineering problem-solving with the goal of producing knowledge or other tangible products that will have an immediate impact, either locally or internationally. Other faculty do research, whether on the culture of a distant land or the biology of bees, that may not have an immediate impact, but which will prove to be remarkably useful at some future point in time for reasons we cannot currently even imagine. Many of us produce knowledge about our fields (be they in education, history, or the sciences) that is used to address inequities related to racism, sexism, or homophobia. But we also do research on topics that may attract little attention from the public at large, until and unless they have had the opportunity to participate in learning activities that excite new curiosities and interests.

• Through their teaching in the classroom, laboratory, and studio, their advising, and their sharing of their own creative work with students, faculty teach undergraduate, graduate, and professional students how to think critically, communicate effectively, engage the world around them, solve problems, and be thoughtful, productive citizens of this community, state, country, and the world.
o We teach 700 students at a time in some large survey courses, but we also give one-on-one training in skills that cannot be taught any other way. We teach students to appreciate chronologically, geographically, and culturally distant worlds they have never imagined, and the problems of people next door with whom they will need to work as fellow citizens. We train them in reading, writing, focused attention, collaborative work, and creative thinking they will need to succeed at work and with their neighbors – these are skills they will use to make their local communities, the state of Illinois, and the world a better place. We counsel our students with regard to the prospects of our professions and the skills they need to succeed there, and we grade their work in order to help them assess the level of their own skills. Finally, we instruct and learn from our colleagues across the globe through conferences, journal articles, and presentations, so we are able to bring the wealth of our fields’ knowledge to Illinois.

• Faculty help graduate and professional students reach an exceptional level of excellence in order to carry on, refine, and apply the knowledge that we create and disseminate. We work in labs, offices, classrooms, clinics, and libraries where graduate and professional students are trained and make vital contributions to the University and community.

• In addition to sharing their knowledge and skills with students, faculty engage in community outreach. The contributions made by faculty are not limited to the University of Illinois campus.
o For example, we talk to community groups, elder hostels, primary and secondary school classrooms and teachers about what our knowledge means to them. We reach out to many communities of lifelong learning and engagement. We provide free consultation and services. We serve on professional, business, and community organizations, from the local level to the international.

Implications of Shared Faculty Contributions for the Future of the University

• Given that the core contributions of faculty revolve around their ability and willingness to be creative, it follows that the key to a successful university is the establishment and maintenance of an environment that permits that creativity to flourish. This means that ideas must be able to flow freely — in research projects and applications of research; between faculty and students, among faculty and among students; across our global professional networks and down the street to a local reading group.
• Because we value the diverse ways in which we pursue, disseminate and apply knowledge, we value above all the varieties of creativity that the university promotes. For example, engineers and their students benefit from the opportunity to learn the skills of communication and group process from humanities and education professionals; humanists and their students benefit by the presence of scientists, engineers and policy specialists who are transforming the material foundations of our social, cultural and artistic networks. The different fields represented at the University of Illinois form an interdependent institution that cannot survive without supporting all of its parts. While groups of relatively homogeneous scholars and professionals, whether humanists at a liberal arts college or engineers at a technical institute, can make valuable contributions to society, the realization of the full potential of a university, as described above, depends on the ability of all fields to flourish.

• Given the diversity of contributions made to this common purpose by faculty who are experts in so wide an array of scholarly fields and teaching endeavors, we need shared governance to make sure that resources are distributed fairly, and that the contributions made by faculty in different disciplinary fields are judged by standards of value appropriate to those fields. Shared governance helps to preserve the clear, consistent, and permanent lines of communication among all members of the University community which are essential if we are to appropriately represent our respective contributions to our shared mission.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Opportunity to comment on budget

Governor Quinn has established a website with budget information, updates, and an opportunity for comments. Since there are likely to be many comments advocating cuts in education and opposing any sort of tax increase, members may wish to voice their opinions, or at least check out details regarding the budget. You can access the official web site and provide comments at the following url:

Friday, March 5, 2010

Monday, March 1, 2010

RSVP - March Forth on March 4th

Please sign CFA's new online petition! Then pass it on. Then attend the March 4 events and bring a friend or colleague.

Friday, February 26, 2010

CA judge says NO to furloughs!

Less than a week ahead of a National Day of Action to Defend Public Higher Education, called first by state university workers in California (and organized here at UIUC and UIC by a coalition of campus unions and student groups), a judge orders an end to furloughs -- and back pay -- for thousands of union employees in California!

Read more right here.

To help spread the word on facebook about March 4 here at UIUC, click here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A few important links

First: Nine layoffs in University of Illinois Facilities. I thought we were suffering through furloughs in order to avoid layoffs?

And second: Central Michigan University NTTs form union. This is great news for contingent faculty across the country. Nice work CMU!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


by Megan McLaughlin, CFA Pres.,
[delivered at Feb. 15, 2010, Teach-In/ Common Action Day]

Universities originated in medieval Europe—as guilds (something like a union) of scholars, who banded together for self-protection and self-regulation. The word “university” comes from the Latin word universitas—which means something like ”the whole,” or, more concretely, “all of us.” I hope you will excuse this little excursion into my area of expertise, medieval history. The point I am trying to make is simply that universities have always been groups of people with a shared love for knowledge and teaching, working together to promote those goals. A university is, by definition, a unifying force, bringing together those with shared values. The real tragedy of the current situation is not the fact that “all of us” need to tighten our belts, but the ways in which it is dividing us from one another. Whatever else this Common Furlough Day and the three others that are scheduled for later this spring do, I hope that they can remind us of our underlying commonalities and our desperate need to work together to save the university and public higher education in Illinois.

Having called for unity, I am now going to say a number of things that will sound pretty divisive. My excuse is this: most of us are already thinking these things. So the time has come to say them out loud and take action to correct them, so that we can restore our common purpose. I would like to preface my criticisms by saying that they are NOT intended as a personal attack on either President Ikenberry or Chancellor Easter—both honest and honorable men. The two of them have inherited a mess not of their making. But if that mess is largely the fault of the State legislature, it has certainly been made much worse by the actions of the university administration over the past ten years. So now it is up to Ikenberry and Easter to correct their mistakes and help us get the university back on course.

One of the buzz-phrases of the administration’s response to all financial problems over the last few years has been “shared sacrifice.” When the furlough policy was announced, President Ikenberry emphasized that he and other highly-paid administrators were taking ten days of furlough, while the rest of us were only taking four. I applaud that action—I really do. But does anyone here believe that sacrifice is ACTUALLY being shared? Budget cuts are clearly hurting some folks much more than others. The ones suffering the most are our students whose tuition goes up and up and up—apparently without end--and the hourly workers on campus, some of whom have been laid off, while many others have had their hours, and thus their wages cut. Faculty members and academic professionals have seen salaries that don’t keep pace with inflation, and now actual pay cuts (the term “furlough” is, of course, just a euphemism for “pay cut”), but we’re not really hurting—at least not yet. But what about the administration? Are they making their share of the sacrifice?

The answer is: it’s hard to tell, because we don’t have budget transparency at this university. We desperately need information about the budget that we can trust, and we just don’t have it. Worse, years of secrecy about university budgets have eroded any trust we may once have had in administrators. Yet in the current crisis, we are apparently expected to rely on those same administrators to bring us out of this situation with both our finances and our values intact. How can we do that when the administration’s track record is so dubious? These are the folks, you will remember, who gave us the Banner system and Global Campus.

Given that history, I decided last week to do a little preliminary reconnaissance in the budgetary jungle, looking, in particular, at administrative costs as they’ve changed over the past ten years, between budget year 2000 and 2009. This is a very complex subject, and I am about as far as one can get from being an expert in this area, but I would like to share some preliminary results with you. Let’s start with administrative salaries. It turns out that our Chancellor’s salary rose nearly 70% during the period in question. That of the Vice President for Technology and Economic Development (on whom more later) rose about 38%. This in a period when salaries for graduate employees, academic professionals and permanent faculty, for contingent faculty and hourly workers, were stagnating.

But there’s much more to the story than that. Not only are administrative salaries growing rapidly, but the number of administrators is multiplying. The Office of the Chancellor had ten administrators associated with it in 2000; by September, 2009—when service workers were already being laid off—there were nineteen, and the total amount of salary money designated for administrators in the Chancellor’s office had tripled. Things were even more exciting in the office of the Vice President for Technology and Economic Development. It was a new office in 2000, with only two administrators associated with it; by 2009, there were 37. Spending on salaries in the Office of the Vice President for Technology and Economic development increased ELEVEN-FOLD between 2000 and 2009. Just a month after furlough language first appeared in our contracts, the Board of Trustees approved paying out over $4,000,000 in total salaries to that office—in other words more than one fifth of what the university originally claimed it expected to recoup from its furlough policy (their numbers have since changed). Now frankly, I just don’t see the “shared sacrifice” in these figures. Of course, I’m only a medieval historian, and not an accountant, and I don’t know much about the finances of higher education. Perhaps cutting back on administrators and their salaries wouldn’t really help very much in our current crisis. One thing I am pretty sure about, however, is that INCREASING administrative spending, especially at this rate, is not going to do the trick.

That’s why the Campus Faculty Association is forming a new “Faculty Watchdog Group on Administrative Costs.” The Executive Committee of the CFA is overstretched at the moment, and none of us is a financial expert—so please, if you do have any expertise in these areas, considering helping us with this important endeavor.

Let me now turn briefly to the subject of “shared governance,” in particular as it relates to an issue I am calling “mission creep.” Long, long ago—back before 1999—the mission of the University of Illinois was threefold: teaching, research, and service. That’s what faculty were hired for; that’s the basis upon which they were given raises and awarded tenure. But in 1999 rumblings began to be heard in certain quarters of the administration about a “fourth mission”—economic development. At first, apparently, this was seen as just one form of service, fitting into the traditional threefold mission model. Gradually, though, it took on a life of its own—as witness the creation of the Office of the Vice President for Technology and Economic Development. So far as I can tell, the faculty were never consulted about the addition of a new, fourth mission—it just occurred. And of course, if they were never consulted, they could play no role in defining “economic development.” Does it, for example, mean “development from the bottom up”—programs for empowering the poor to get ahead economically? Does it mean support for small businesses, the ones that produce most of the jobs? Don’t be silly. For the administration, “economic development” means providing resources for corporations—preferably big corporations of the type that you find at the Research Park, or high-tech start-up companies that will take technologies developed at the U of I and make them profitable.

Well, it would have been nice to be consulted about whether we wanted our university to take on supporting corporations as a new mission. But it would have been even nicer to be consulted about the next step, which involves re-allocating scarce resources, in a cash-strapped university, away from programs that don’t serve this bogus fourth mission. Allow me to quote from the budget request currently before the state legislature. The Budgetbook submitted in November, 2009, repeatedly lists four missions for the university, the fourth being “economic development. It then states: “The University of Illinois must [add] capacity in the areas of highest enrollment demand and those of greatest economic development promise. It is essential that additional reallocation accompany these incremental advances . . .” In short, more money will be provided not only to programs with high enrollments (fair enough, perhaps), but also those of “greatest economic development promise.” And that money will be taken from other programs, which presumably offer less economic development promise.

Now this is not entirely new. For as long as I’ve been at the U of I, professors in some fields have been paid more than professors in others. But it was never an explicitly and publicly stated policy; and it never threatened our research and teaching, it never threatened our STUDENTS the way it now does. Under this new policy, if you’re a student in engineering or business administration, you’ll have to pay a higher differential tuition, but you’ll get relatively small classes, more teaching assistants, the latest in classroom technologies, state of the art laboratories, and extensive career counseling services. On the other hand, if you’re a student in social work or special education, in history or English or mathematics, in theater or ethnomusicology, you’ll have more trouble getting advice about requirements because your department only has one advisor for hundreds of majors; you’ll have trouble getting the class you need to graduate because a professor has retired and hasn’t been replaced; you won’t be able to finish your term paper because the library is closed during the only times when you’re not working two jobs to pay for college; and you’ll have to get your letter of recommendation from a professor who only knows you as part of a class of 150.

This is not in the future—it’s already happening, right now. But that doesn’t make it acceptable. A university is—by definition—all of us. We can’t allow a small number of misguided administrators to distinguish the worthy few from the unworthy majority. For make no mistake about it, most of the faculty on this campus will fall into the unworthy category, the category of those who don’t have much “economic development promise,” those who “merely” educate our students to be informed, engaged citizens and productive members of society. It’s time for our colleagues in the senate to take a stand against “mission creep.” It’s time for the rest of the faculty to support them by writing to the administration and the board of trustees about this pernicious policy. It’s time for students to reassert their right to a world-class, affordable education. And when April 21 rolls around, it will be time for all of us to get on the bus to Springfield, to insist that the legislature properly fund OUR University.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

American Universities as Hedge Funds?

We'd also like to direct your attention to the following story at Huffington Post by Bob Samuels: How America's Universities Became Hedge Funds. A few notable quotes:
When journalists asked the UC president, Mark Yudof, how the university could lend millions of dollars to the state, while the school was raising student fees (tuition), furloughing employees, canceling classes, and laying off teachers, Yudof responded that when the university lends money to the state, it turns a profit, but when it spends money on salaries for teachers, the money is lost....

To understand how both public and private research universities have gotten themselves into this mess, one needs to understand five inter-related factors: the state de-funding of public education, the emphasis on research over instruction, the move to high-risk investments, the development of a free market academic labor system, and the marketing of college admissions. These different forces have combined to turn universities into corporations centered on pleasing bond raters in order to get lower interest rates so that they can borrow more money to fund their unending expansion and escalating expenses.

Do go read the whole thing. David Swenson and others are implicated in this move, and many major universities, including the UC system, Harvard and Yale, are all doing the same stuff.

And as someone who is an alum of both Harvard and Yale, and a former organizer for Yale unions, I want to say the union movement at Yale was critical of Swenson's tactics from the beginning. From a Yale Alumni Magazine story in 2005:
Perhaps because Swensen prides himself on his integrity, he bristles when critics come after him. Student activists have accused Yale of investing in oil and timber operations that are environmentally irresponsible. Others, including a U.S. senator, blamed Yale for backing a hedge fund that planned to pump, export, and sell water in the San Luis Valley of Colorado. Yale's unions, in particular, have targeted the university, saying it is needlessly secretive about its investments. "They're doing a fabulous job of making money, but what are the social and environmental costs?" asks Ben Begleiter '04PhD, who works for the group that is trying to organize a graduate students' union. Two years ago during a union strike, eight retired employees seeking higher pension benefits occupied Swensen's office overnight. They refused to believe him when he tried to explain that he had no sway over their pensions.

Farallon is the hedge fund many universities use, and it is important to consider not only our own personal costs -- loss of raises, furloughs -- that have come from higher ed financial mismanagement, but the social costs. This is a report from 2005 sponsored by the Yale Unions showing Farallon's support of Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison company in the country. It details Farallon's relationship to CCA, but also the human rights abuses that occur within the CCA's prisons.

The BUNSIS report

If you would like to read the in-depth report on the overall health of the University of Illinois system, there is now a link to the pdf for you to read.

This study was commissioned by the UIC United Faculty Organizing Committee, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT). It has somewhat more detail about UIC finances because it was commissioned on our Chicago campus. The study was prepared by the AAUP's national treasurer, an elected office held by Howard Bunsis of Eastern Michigan University. Dr. Bunsis has a law degree and a PhD in accounting. He specializes in analyzing university finances.

What do we do with 'furlough' days?

Organize! Many colleagues report being pressured to schedule phony "furlough" day in advance. Well, your union - the Campus Faculty Association - is calling for "common furlough days" to demonstrate the impact of these ill-conceived cuts to the University's core mission of education and research - and to use the day for a different kind of service (than the kind Administrators would choose) to that core mission: to fight for it, as only the people who get this job done every day can.

So, mark your calendars:
  • Feb. 15
  • March 4
  • April 6
  • April 21

There will be a planning meeting on Feb. 9 (see previous post below) for all concerned faculty to discuss these and other actions through which faculty at UIUC can begin to take back some influence over the running of the University.

Tues. Feb. 9
University YMCA
Lower Level, Rooms K-1 & K-2

This meeting is open to anyone who cares about the core mission of the University and wants to work together to improve it, resist these shortsighted cuts, and reclaim the excellence that the University of Illinois community prides itself on. But it is NOT FREE! If you attend, you will be expected to engage, participate, and give of your time and energy, your '2 c', yourself.

Please come and bring a friend - or two - or three ...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

latest from AAUP

from Cary Nelson, AAUP President (and longtime CFA member) and Howard Bunsis, AAUP Treasurer

The State does have a fiscal problem, and it has been solving the problem in the short term by delaying payments to vendors, and now the State is delaying the appropriation for higher education.

Moody’s downgraded the State of Illinois debt in December of 2009. Fitch, another ratings service, gave Illinois an A rating on 12/30/2009, and put the state on a watch list for a possible downgrade as well.

The reason for Illinois’s fiscal problem is that income tax receipts have been lower than expected. The size of the problem for the 2010 budget is $2 billion, which is approximately 7% of the State’s General Fund budget.

Looking further in the future, there has been talk of budget holes in the $12-$13 billion range. The current governor wants to raise the income tax rate on those earning more than $250,000 per year, and a democratic candidate for governor wants to implement a progressive income tax system (instead of the current flat tax system). Every Republican candidate for governor is against a tax increase.

What is the response to this?

1. What is the State likely to do? The State appropriation is only 16% of the total revenue source for the UI system. There may be a 6% reduction in the appropriation. The appropriation is only 16% of the UI system’s revenue, so in terms of total revenues, the 6% reduction will reduce overall UI revenues by less than 1%. This reduction is not large enough to lead to furloughs.
2. The UI administration, in its budget documents, at times implies that the State appropriation funds the entire academic mission at the UI, which overstates reality. Administrators often argue that “this” money can only be used for “this,” and “that” money can only be used for “that.” However, the reality is that the UI system is one system, not a General Fund only system or a State Appropriation only system. That is why an analysis must focus on the health of the entire system, and not some component of the system that the administration claims is out of money.
3. The State is not considering eliminating the entire appropriation; they are considering delaying payments to the UI system. These payments are going to be repaid at some point. Note that the rating agencies did not rate the State bankrupt or junk; they gave the State “A” ratings, which is the 3rd highest rating for both Moody’s and Fitch. If the rating agencies believed that the higher education appropriation would NEVER be paid back, then the rating would have been much lower (such as the Baa2 rating given to the State of California).
4. What about the current cash flow problem caused by the delay of payments? Michigan faced this exact situation about 18 months ago, when the State delayed 2 months of the annual higher education appropriation. In Michigan, like Illinois, the state funds between 15% and 30% of the public universities’ total revenues (note: this percentage is over 65% in California). Not one public institution in Michigan asked the employees to give back salary money, nor did the administrations at these schools give back their salaries. All that happened was that the universities used their existing cash reserves to deal with the short term problem, and then were made whole when the full payments were made about 6 months later (it was 6 months from the time a payment was delayed to when it was repaid in full by the State). Now, is Michigan in worse shape than Illinois? Absolutely.
5. What should the UI do in response to a short-term cash flow problem?
6. a. The first thing would be to use existing reserves. The Moody’s viability ratio measures how many months of reserves an institution has in relation to total expenditures. If we omit the UI Foundation (which is a very conservative approach), the UI system had approximately 12% or 2 months of reserves as of June 30, 2008. The standard recommendation is to have between 5% and 15% of reserves. Note that these reserves are 12% of total expenses. Therefore, a reduction in a few months of the state appropriation should easily be handled from current cash reserves, which are significant.

b. If the administration claims they have no cash reserves, they can borrow short term money to guide them through this period. Borrowing money is not a long term solution, but this is a short term cash flow problem. The UI system still has a very strong credit rating.

c. Any reduction in spending should not come from the employees, but from administrative costs and administrative spending.

d. The reserves of the UI Foundation should be used to help with any short term cash flow problem. The UI Foundation has over $1 billion in assets; any temporary shortfall can be borrowed from the Foundation, and then repaid when the State pays the appropriation. It is not advisable to use Foundation dollars, but since they will be repaid in a short time, it is a solution that is preferred to reducing the pay of current employees.

e. The last option, after the above three have been exhausted, would be to ask the UI system’s employees to accept a temporary reduction in pay. When the administration gets the appropriation back from the State, then the pay reduction should be paid back to the employees, with interest. Let’s be clear: the 6% decline in the annual appropriation may be a permanent reduction. However, this small reduction is not nearly large enough to support any furlough. Consider this: if the UI system is receiving a temporary decline in the appropriation, then any reduction in pay should be temporary and should be fully refunded.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Faculty input needed Feb. 9!

Now is the time...


Concerned about furloughs?
Voluntary pay cuts? Budget cuts?
What's at stake? What can we do?

Please join an open meeting for all concerned faculty.
Feb. 9, 2010
University YMCA
Lower Level, Rooms K-1 & K-2
1001 S. Wright St.

Bring your ideas for discussion with other faculty members:
  • Transparency and shared governance in a time of crisis
  • Collaborative responses to furloughs and budget cuts
  • The future of accessible public higher education
  • Preserving the research mission of the U of I

Sponsored by the Campus Faculty Association and concerned faculty across campus.

Friday, January 15, 2010

More on "furloughs"

From CFA member Lauren Goodlad, blogging at Kritik.

Cut administration, corporate welfare first

Scorching new letter to the editor by CFA Executive Committee member:

Before we implement furloughs that will cause considerable hardship, we should reduce the costs of activities outside the research and teaching missions of the university.

We continue to increase administrative positions, for example, often at high salaries, even as cuts undermine these missions.

How can we implement furloughs fairly if it comes to that? First, acknowledge that these are substantial wage cuts following several years with tiny or no raises. We have fallen further and further behind. Now wages – along with travel, research, and other funds – are being reduced. Cuts in academic units continue to diminish the quality of undergraduate and graduate education.

Second, acknowledge the vast salary gaps between faculty and the proliferating number of highly paid administrators. The university's plan to exempt workers earning less than $30,000 and assess a small number of top administrators a higher number of furlough days is a modest effort in this direction. If the number of impacted administrators were increased, it would be possible to exempt a greater number of the lowest paid.

This crisis draws our attention to some misplaced priorities and a conversation that is long overdue. We should reduce our bloated administration and the charity we practice toward private corporations in the research park. We cannot afford the costly corporate policies implemented over the past decade.

The human costs could be reduced if we invested our limited resources where they are needed most – in teaching and basic research, not huge administrative salaries and support for private corporations.


Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Pay Cut Masquerading as a "furlough"

Dear Colleagues:

Pay cuts (masquerading as “furloughs”) are on the way. The Campus Faculty Association believes:

(1) if we must have furloughs, they should be more progressively tiered. The administration has made some effort in this direction, by exempting those who earn less than $30,000/year, and by singling out a small number of highly-paid administrators for the greatest number of furlough days. A greater number of days off for those with the highest salaries will yield the greatest financial returns for the university. Moreover, it is clearly unreasonable to expect an adjunct instructor who makes $32,000/year to take the same amount of time off as a tenured colleague who earns $200,000/year. In some other universities with similar budget problems, the number of “pay cut days” is being calibrated with increments of—for example—$20,000 in salary. Such an arrangement would be somewhat more difficult to implement, but much more equitable than the current plan."

(2) if we must have furloughs, they should be taken in such a way as to demonstrate to students, their families, and the public the educational “costs” of the budget crisis. If the impact on teaching is disguised, then the legislature has no incentive to restore even the limited contribution they now make to the university’s budget. While many colleagues will feel ethically and professionally bound to teach their classes, it is possible to do this in ways that publicize the university’s budget crisis. One possibility is to use “furlough days” to engage in alternate forms of teaching; another is simply to announce on a given day that one is teaching without pay, and then state on the University "Furlough Days Taken" form that "I was too busy to take a furlough." Please contact us with your creative responses to the furlough situation (and read our blog—address below—for other people’s ideas).

(3) though the university’s cash crisis compels sacrifices from all of us, calls for pay cuts as “shared sacrifice” ring hollow in the absence of real shared governance. The process culminating in the announced furlough policy cast faculty as subordinates rather than partners. We instead must shape what we are sacrificing for. Financial transparency, including explanations for rises in administrative costs amidst shrinking resources for teaching and research, would be a key step in that direction.

Now is the time for faculty to take action to protect their own interests, as workers, as professionals, and as the beating heart of the university.

We encourage our members to join us in “collective furlough/action days” in order to demonstrate the effects of the furloughs to students, the media, and the broader public. Exact dates will be announced shortly.

Our intention is to use these days to strengthen the faculty response to the budget crisis and issues of equity on our campus. Common activities might include lobbying the legislature, a teach-in on the increasingly corporate character of the university, and, most importantly, devoting any furlough time to organizing a union that will be able to resist these and future cuts.

In the meantime, any and all of the following will help:

Write to administrators about furloughs.

Discuss furloughs in your units, to develop responses to this threat. Language authorizing furloughs is now a permanent part of our contracts. CFA senate members will work in the senate to produce a unified faculty statement regarding the furlough threat.

Contribute your ideas about how to resist the administration’s current furlough policy, including efforts at surveillance and intimidation, to the CFA blog:

Use the media to educate the public about the impact furloughs will have on higher education in Illinois.

Help us organize. If you would be willing to organize or host a recruitment meeting for your unit, please contact Kate Clancy ( or Jim Barrett (



Megan McLaughlin, President
for the Campus Faculty Association Executive Committee

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Talking "furloughs"

Interesting discussions among CFA members of UIUC's coming "furloughs" abound. Look for a plan of action any day now that is a joint effort of some of these. And in the coming weeks you might also see Kritik, the blog of UI's Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory.

Also, for an edifying read on "furloughs" in nearby state, check out this law prof's blog.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What to do on those furlough days

[Removed at the request of the author. - RB]