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

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this strong and detailed response to the furlough announcement.
    I look forward to participating in the CFA's collective action events, and hope that these might include a broad range of public servants affected by state mismanagement--not only faculty and staff in the entire U of I system, but also teachers and healthcare workers. This election year might be a good time to raise a stink about legislative incompetence.

    For those who may not have heard of it, I would also like to draw attention to the Unit for Criticism's blog, Kritik, which is just beginning a series of posts by faculty titled '15 Ways to Take your Furlough.'

    F Mohamed
    English Dept.


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