[NOTE: This two-part message offers a viewpoint differing from that of my colleague Professor Zaretsky. Please read her post, Deo Volente discussions, and my own reflections below. We FA members have a week to decide and even change our minds, as I have done before deciding that NOW is not the time]
After paying close attention to what the Faculty Association (FA) has been saying, as well as the fine details of administration statements and terms, I have decided to vote "no" on a strike at this time.
This does not come easily because I am unhappy with the current proposed raises and believe the substantial retirements this year mean more work at the same pay. I would hope that the administration could offer those of us left behind a small slice of the pie (hundreds of workers will retire this year. Do the math).
Unfortunately, the FA leaders insist that this is not about modest pay raises or short-term job security. Instead, they have whipped themselves up over perceived "attacks on tenure" and "forced teaching of online courses."
The FA's Distance Ed claims are false, even by the administration's imposed terms (see Addendum D). I might add that the transition to online education has been rocky and there is no way the administration is in a position to force people online. More important: for years, faculty screamed for unit control and credit for courses taught online. Distance Education credit hours and responsibility are now at the department and college level. We asked, we got, now we live with the rocky transition from central to unit control.
To write contract language "no professor shall be required to teach online" goes against the decentralization of programs that are being put in place after departments and colleges decided to create them. Some colleges now offer certificates and degree programs with an online component. If Mass Communications or Education create programs with an online component, then shouldn't they be allowed to hire people who teach an online course in their area of expertise?
Even the FA knows this is a straw man: at last Friday's Q & A, Professor Auxier conceded that there would be more than enough volunteers and it is not going to be an issue in the short term. But, then, the FA flies off into the stratosphere of "power politics." "They" want to make "us" do as they please and it is theoretically possible that some time down the road this may be an issue. Perhaps, but not in the next 3-4 years! Why are they leading a strike movement with this weak non-issue?
The Chancellor's email today puts forth the administration position that financial exigency (or program elimination) is required to terminate faculty. There is added job security because of retirements and the hiring freeze. Plus those with tenure are listed (even under imposed terms) as the last to be laid off.
"The full or partial layoff of Faculty members in the level of organization as determined by the Board to which the layoff applies shall be in the order listed below:Those same "imposed terms" scratch out the following no-layoff clause:
a. Full-time untenured tenure-track Faculty;
b. Tenured Faculty."
"No Faculty member shall be laid off for financial exigency during the 2006-2007, 2007-2008, 2008-2009, and 2009-2010 fiscal years."
The 2006-2010 clause granted no-layoff security even with a financial exigency--a higher bar than the Board Policy which calls for financial exigency before terminating faculty. Still, declaring "exigency" means the Board believes the very existence of the institution is threatened and that would send SIUC's borrowing costs sky-high (not to mention the bad press).
Can I live with financial exigency as the "bar" needed to lay off faculty? You bet. Demanding more is really setting tenure-track faculty in a position so secure that we only share that privileged position with one other group: U.S. Supreme Court justices!
The FA insists that "financial exigency" is not in a new union contract. Even if true, so what? The FA view is that the whole universe exists within the union contract:
no contract clause = no tenure rights. . .Step back from the ledge and imagine the following: you are teaching at a college or university of your choice. You are a tenured professor. Are you freaking out about your "insecure tenure" because your college has no union? Of course not.
Again, since the FA is fond of hypotheticals, imagine a contract with no "financial exigency" clause. The Board policy remains (with financial exigency required for terminations). This could be the basis of lawsuits for wrongful termination, as was the case back in the 1970s. Does any one believe the administration wants to go through that again? I have criticized many administration policies over the years but I am not that paranoid.*
*If the Board eliminated its "financial exigency" policy (as the FA says it might), then I will seriously consider a strike. But we haven't crossed that bridge, have we?"We strike for tenure" is a loser argument in this economic climate. Lifetime job security is never popular even in good times. Privately, FA members will say tenure = lifetime job security (and, hey, I'm all for that!) but when outsiders accuse FA leaders of desiring lifetime jobs, they retort "that's not true!" But, really, it is true if the FA insists on a no-layoff clause in each and every contract.
The informative, vigorous discussions at another web site make one thing clear: those strongly in favor of a strike believe this is not about money or short-term (as opposed to life-long) job security. Perhaps they wish to seize some "moral high ground." Yet who is not in a union for better pay? That's why I joined and the last contract was good for me. I grow fearful when my union puts bread-and-butter issues below some "larger cause" (particularly one that seems purely hypothetical).
The FA leadership also favors a strike to make the administration "bargain in good faith." But given the malevolence they have ascribed to the administration (with particular demonization of Cheng) one would think the "Evil Empire" (as one person characterized the administration) would "Strike Back" during a strike (apologies to the creators of Star Wars for the reference). The students would be collateral damage (more on that in Part II).