Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Thumbs Up to DE: Coverage of Crime Investigation Makes Front Page

Image source: http://superchief.tv/columns/legal-mugging/

In a previous post, I complained that the campus does far too little to educate -- again and again -- students about avoiding crime in the area. In that post, I asked our daily newspaper, The Daily Egyptian, to report on these stories.

Well, today's issue of the Daily Egyptian has front-page coverage of recent robberies, where they have occurred, and how to prevent becoming a victim of crime on or near campus. The only suggestion I have for the DE is to possibly post the police blotters on their web site. Those of us who check know where crime is more likely to occur but it would help students too.

At any rate, this is a good sign even if it is about the uglier side of humanity. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

SIU Strike: The Movie is Out

A local activist sent the following along for your edification (and anticipation):

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Crime? What Crime?

Source: http://bhattlaw.com/ (see here for direct link to image)

Once again, the Southern Illinoisan reports a vicious assault on two people walking on or near campus. The silence from the university administration on "campus safety" is deafening.

Crime in the area is no secret to people outside Anthony Hall or Stone Center. In fact, Carbondale is the most crime-ridden college town in Illinois.

The last time there was such a beating near the SIU Recreation Center, the administration did unexpectedly act--by rushing to say how much (now) President Poshard loves diversity and welcomes African Americans to campus (the alleged assailants were black). The incident was surreal: the victim was lost in the race hysteria while the accused were assigned to a "dean of color" over at the law school (not normal procedure).

If the administration simply wishes the problem will go away, they are kidding themselves. (Trust me: I've been here long enough to hear all the excuses and spinning of crime statistics).

Let's hope that the Daily Egyptian can start running a police blotter for both the campus and Carbondale. Doing a series of articles on crime victims would help too. They have written about every other imaginable group on campus.

Until the administration and Carbondale get this problem under control, SIUC will deserve its reputation, if not as most crime-ridden, then as the "Capital of Denial."

Friday, November 18, 2011

Professor Publius: FA Contract a Real Loser (Chart)

"Professor Publius" sent the following before-and-after chart comparing FA demands with what the FA got. Feel free to respond (or not). It's a semi-free country, after all.

Click on each chart to enlarge. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

FSN: Should You Sign the Petition? An Exchange between Seltzer and Eichholz


At the request of Professor Deborah Seltzer-Kelly (and the permission of Mike Eichholz), I am posting this exchange between the two concerning the confusing state of the FSN petition process. The Illinois labor law is written in such a way that the petition states X (in plain English) but means Y (under Illinois labor law). No doubt labor unions and their political allies made the process so contorted to kabosh any effort at decertification. The petition states that the signer adopts the FSN's third entity as signer's bargaining representative (X) but in reality it is only a way to get a vote on the current status of the FA and any alternatives (Y). Think of it as a vote of confidence/no confidence in the FA. 

Another factor: the lack of fair share means that many faculty who might sign the petition are apathetic. The union affects them indirectly but they do not pay $600 per year to the FA. They can go on with their lives and wish these periodic union-administration disputes would pass (as they always do).

Again, at Professor Seltzer-Kelly's request, I post the following exchange for interested readers. The FSN has 75% of the petitions they need and must get about 40 more signers before the window closes (i.e., before the FA and BOT sign the final contract). That is yet another hurdle for anyone unhappy with their union: decertification can only take place (generally speaking) when a contract has lapsed. 

EXCHANGE: Seltzer-Kelley(Curriculum and Instruction) and Mike Eichholz (Zoology)

On Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 12:12 PM, Deborah Seltzer-Kelly wrote:

Mike, can you tell me why the FSN has not made an AAUP Bargaining Chapter the other alternative for representation, instead of trying to create some new entity out of the Faculty Senate? The fact that the FSN doesn't offer an actual plan that would clearly work for this is, I think, a very substantial barrier for many of us in voting to decertify the FA. Frankly, too, I can see why this makes the FSN look like a stealth administrative support group to a lot of us who are very unhappy with both sides.
Thanks for any information you can give me -
Debbie Seltzer

On 11/9/2011 1:38 PM, Mike Eichholz wrote:

Debbie,  We considered the AAUP as an alternative, but our perception is a big part of the problem with the FA is the outside influence of the IEA/NEA; thus, we decided if we were going to support a collective bargaining agent we preferred one that had no outside affiliation.  It's not clear to me why this is preventing people from signing the petition cards.  I'm not certain how we can make it any clearer that signing these cards only indicates an indivdual would like to vote on representation and when that occurs he/she can vote for continuation of the current representation, new representation, or no representation at all when an election occurs.  Before such an election would take place, details of the new collective bargaining agent would be developed (with the input of all interested faculty and provided to all faculty so they know what they are voting for.  We can't take this step until after the petition is completed because it requires negotiation with the administration, and we can't contact the administration regarding this issue until after the petition is completed.  If you have additional questions, please let me know.  Feel free to forward this e-mail to anyone that may have similar questions.

On Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 2:25 PM, Deborah Seltzer-Kelly wrote:

Mike, with all respect, I hope you will understand why saying something along the lines of "Trust us, it doesn't actually mean what it says, and it can all be worked out later" is not a satisfactory response. In particular, your comment that "we decided if we were going to support a collective bargaining agent we preferred one that had no outside affiliation" confirms exactly what I believe many faculty fear: that the core group in FSN already has a firm commitment to a particular course, and will use the results to endorse that. The fact that you are promulgating a "push poll" in which faculty members who want to vote on alternative representation are being asked to endorse a specific model for that alternative feeds that sense. I am unwilling to put my name to something that, while it claims to simply affirm my wish for the freedom for faculty to make another of a wide range of choices, can actually be used to argue that I (and others) supported your Faculty Senate option.
I would very strongly suggest that if you want more faculty response--and to overcome the distrust among many of us raised by the difference between the verbal and the written versions of positions we are seeing on the parts of both our administration and our FA--you focus upon making your language far more precise. If what you really intend is for faculty to be able to consider and select an alternative agent for representation--possibilities for which might include an AAUP collective bargaining chapter, a local educational union, a Faculty Senate constituted body, or ???--then say so.
Thank you for your permission to disseminate your answers; I will continue to do so with your next reply as well.


On 11/9/2011 5:29 PM, Mike Eichholz wrote:

Debbie,  As we have stated numerous times, the wording on the card is dictated by the Illinois Education Labor Relations Board.  If you don't believe me, call Eilene Brennan (312) 793 -3170 with the IELRB.  I agree that if I didn't know better I would not be comfortable signing that card.  That is why we have tried to pass on as much information as possible through e-mails.  If you have a suggestion that doesn't include changing the wording on the card, I would love to hear it.  The law is written to protect the unions in place, we can't do anything about it.  The whole idea with this approach is the entire faculty will have input and be able to vote on how any new bargaining agent is formed.  Page 71 of the below website provides the wording that is required for the petition.
If you have nay more questions, please let me know.

On Wed, Nov 9, 2011 at 6:10 PM, Deborah Seltzer-Kelly wrote:

Mike, I have read each of your emails thoroughly, and believe that I have understood them. I will recapitulate my understanding so you can correct me when and if I go wrong:

The FSN has chosen to follow Part 1110 - Representation Procedures in an attempt to replace the FA with another organization in a single step, rather than following the decertification procedure and then creating a new entity that would need to work toward recognition;
-This process requires that 30% of the represented faculty sign a card authorizing a new group to be their exclusive representative for collective bargaining;
-Such a group does not yet exist, but a body called the SIU Representative Faculty Committee has been proposed by the FSN core group on the assumption that a cooperative agreement can be reached with the Faculty Senate to create it--so that is the name that is on the card;
-The decision to place the name of an organization that does not yet actually exist (and that may or may not be possible at all) was made by a core group within the FSN. This group decided not to pursue organizing as an AAUP collective bargaining chapter because they believe that outside influence is a problem in the case of the current Faculty Association, and for some unstated reason they have not pursued the independent local option either;
-Those signing the card are asked to trust that, when and if it gains the right to representation, the FSN actually intends to engage in open deliberations as to the shape the organization will take--which might include a Faculty Senate-associated body, an independent local union, an AAUP affiliate, or something else.

Is all of this correct? If so, then I reiterate my previous point: the FSN has chosen a procedure that relies upon faculty members to trust them to implement a particular process--despite the fact that it is not at all clear that the body the FSN plans to create will be possible at all, and that the core group within the FSN has already made a number of key decisions that have dictated the direction this effort has taken. There are two alternatives that you have not attempted to pursue: 1) go after decertification first--which I agree leaves a troublesome gap in representation; or 2) hold meetings of more substance than the get-to-know-you events that you've had so far, and have enough real discussion to do the consensus-building on the replacement organization now, so you have a genuine option to offer on the cards. I believe that this last might yield a better result; it would provide the clarity and honesty that many of us have found so lacking on both sides of the current struggle.

On 11/9/2011 8:13 PM, Mike Eichholz wrote:

Close, but no this is not correct.

We had 2 options:

1)  We could initiate a petition for straight decertification.  If 30% of the faculty signed that petition, an election would have been held which would have required 50% of those voting to vote for decertification for it to pass.  If it passed a year of no representation would have been required before a new bargaining agent could have been elected in to place.

We chose option 2!

2)  Initiate a petition of replacement (I don’t have the form with me and don’t remember the exact terminology used on the form).  Again this approach requires signatures of 30% of the faculty, but after 30% of the signatures are received a vote by all faculty is still required.    The cost to using this approach is you have to provide a name for the replacement bargaining agent although you don’t have to provide any detail as to the form of that agent.  The benefit of this approach is that it doesn’t require the 1 year period of no representation, but more importantly, if you reach a 30% threshold for a vote, it is a 3 way vote (IELRB requirements, check with Eilene Brennan of the IELRB if you don’t believe me) between the FA, the new representation, or no negotiating age.  If none of the above have more than 50% of the vote, then there is a run-off election between the top 2.  Thus, this approach allows both those people that want a different bargaining agent and those that don’t want any bargaining agent to have a voice.  It also still allows those that would like to keep the FA to have a chance to do that as well.  I’ll reiterate, 30% of the signatures only leads to a vote with 3 choices, and that vote won’t take place until the alternative bargaining unit is actually been created.  Any information you have heard that contradicts this is just supporters of the FA trying to provide misinformation to confuse things.  Again, if you don’t believe me, talk to Eilene.  There is no procedure that allows for a replacement of the current FA without a vote of the full faculty.
By the way, there is no question about the legality of the bargaining agent we have proposed; again, this is just members of the FA trying to create a smoke screen to confuse the issue.
I’m happy to answer other questions.

On Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 1:06 PM, Deborah Seltzer-Kelly wrote:

Hi Mike -

I have now spoken with Eileen about a couple of my questions, and would be interested in your responses to that discussion:

Why have you not explained in your emails that the FSN is now working against a very short deadline? As soon as the new contract is signed, the window for submission of a representation petition is closed until January 1 of 2014 (per Section 1110.70 on Timeliness). In fact, too, Eileen says it is possible that the FA could make an argument even now that, since there is substantial agreement and documents are in preparation, the window is closed--although there's no telling how that argument would turn out until and unless there was a hearing.

While the IL Labor Board does not determine the viability of the proposed new organization--that is controlled by federal law--the FA and/or the administration could certainly challenge any entity that did not yet actually exist (with bylaws and so on) when they respond to the initial petition in that seven-day window (see Section 1110.100 Processing of Petitions). While the IL Labor Board might not make any finding on that, a federal finding as to the legitimacy/viability of a union body would definitely supersede theirs. Interestingly, too, Eileen told me that, in her personal opinion, it would be very unusual for an organization without at least some founding documents submit a representation petition.

I want to continue to make clear here that I am NOT pursuing this because I would like to undercut the FSN efforts; I too believe the existing FA has failed to serve anyone's interests, and that it has contributed to the deterioration of relations on campus. At the same time, I come to this process with considerable background in union representation (from my years in the Nevada Education Association), and I am quite concerned that any effort to challenge the FA must be done carefully and correctly.

Thanks for the discussion -


On 11/10/2011 1:31 PM, Mike Eichholz wrote:


We didn’t discuss the issue of deadlines because, as your questions have clearly demonstrated, the process is already extremely confusing and we didn’t want to add to the confusion.  Without knowing i) when a contract might be signed, ii) the length of that contract (if it is < 2 years we don’t have to wait until the last year of the contract) we could not provide an accurate estimate of when the deadline is.  I have spoken with 2 individuals from the US Office of Labor-Management Standards and both indicated the information we have provided would be adequate until an actual vote.  There is no question the FA will file a grievance and challenge the petition.  We are attempting to ensure they have no basis for that grievance.  I’m not certain what you think our ulterior motives are, but I really don’t have time to continue these long e-mails.  I would be happy to speak with you by phone if you would like to give me a call (453-6951) to discuss the issue further.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Why I Voted "No" to a Strike

As a member of the Faculty Association, I explained in late September why I voted "no" to a strike. I have never accepted the notion of "my union, right or wrong" any more than I would accept the false patriotism of "my country, right or wrong."

So, here I am teaching today as I always do. My hallway is empty but others show no sign of any change. Indeed, the number of faculty on strike varies enormously by department: virtually nothing has changed in some departments. In other departments, the majority of faculty are on strike. 

I hope the FA comes to a settlement with the administration sooner rather than later. My guess is sooner but we shall see. 

As a recap, here is Part II of the "Why I Will Vote 'No' to a Strike" blog I posted some time ago. Part I deals extensively with the union fears over tenure and financial exigency. I don't find those fears realistic or rising to the level of strike but many faculty do. Can that bridge be crossed between the FA and the Board? Again, let's hope so!

NOTE: The short url for the blog is http://goo.gl/XISaM

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Remember the "Almost" Strike of 2003?

From my email archive: I sent the following to a friend at another college who wanted some reading suggestions. Note that we have been there before (2003). Let us hope that "almost"-strike repeats itself!

From: Jonathan J. Bean
Sent: 1/11/2003 3:08 PM
Subject: Re: Readings

Dear P,

Michael French has a history of the U.S. Economy since 1945. Also, check citations from the leading econ history textbooks. The one co-authored by Jonathan Hughes has a section on the rise of the tertiary [service] sector. Vedder and Galloway focus on this period in their labor books and articles.

I'm away from my office but will scan my shelves for further ideas.

Here at SIUC we have a faculty strike date set for Feb. 3 if there is no agreement by then. Not a good situation.

-----Original Message-----
From: Jonathan J. Bean
Sent: Thursday, January 30, 2003 11:05 AM
Subject: Paean to Strikebreakers?

Dear P, 

With a strike looming this coming Monday, I remembered the paean to strikebreakers you mentioned. . .

The campus newspaper is strongly anti-union and has raised good questions . . .


Monday, October 31, 2011

FSN Petition Drive: Confidentiality of "Cards and Petitions"

Love or hate the Faculty for Sensible Negotiations (FSN), their card drive has apparently begun in earnest. Below you will find the message from their Executive Committee. Meantime, I did some fact checking about the confidentiality of such cards.

The general Illinois Labor Relations Board states:
Q. What is a showing of interest?

A. A showing of interest is evidence 1) in the case of a representation petition or intervention petition, that an employee desires to represented by a particular labor organization or 2) in the case of a decertification petition, that an employee no longer wishes to be represented by the labor organization which is the current exclusive bargaining representative. Such evidence may consist of authorization cards or petitions that are signed, dated and clearly state the employee’s intent. The cards and petitions are valid for 12 months following the date of the employee signatures. The Board maintains the confidentiality of the cards and petitions submitted to support the showing of interest. (Section 1210.80 of the Rules). [BOLD ADDED FOR EMPHASIS]
SOURCE:  http://www.state.il.us/ilrb/subsections/frequent/index.asp

The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board is silent on the issue but does say the certification by one or more unions must be by "secret" ballot and have the "no union" choice (two rival unions may also vie to represent faculty).

If the FA has contrary evidence, I'm sure they will let this blogger know.

FSN needs 30% of faculty signed to have a new election as described below. Seems like a high hurdle but who knows? In general, while I am a FA member, I do believe all so-called "democratic organizations" ought to face a vote of confidence every set number of years. The law doesn't mandate such votes but there is nothing to stop those -- like the FSN -- for seeing whether the faculty of 2011 agree with the faculty of 1996 (the ones who originally got representation rights via union election). 

Without further ado, here is the FSN message:


Attached to this email is asignature card associated with the Faculty for Sensible Negotiations’ (FSN) effort to initiate an Illinois Education Labor Relations Board (IELRB) ballot to determine whether tenured and tenure (T/TT) track faculty at SIUC wish to continue to be represented by the Faculty Association (FA) as our exclusive collective bargaining agent.  An identical signature card also will be placed in your campus mailbox.   Once signatures have been collected from 30% or more of T/TT faculty, the cards will be forwarded to the IELRB to bring forth a formal a vote on replacement of the Faculty Association with the SIU Representative Faculty Committee (seeattached white paper for a conceptual outline), retention of the Faculty Association, or decertification of the FA with no replacement.  We would prefer to have cards returned by Friday, 4 November but will gladly accept cards after that date.

The university administration cannot support this action in any way.  Do not use university resources (i.e., ink and paper) to print these cards.  Once signed, return your card to any individual listed on the signature card by placing it in their campus mailbox or hand delivery to the listed office address.  Please contact a listed FSN representative if you are concerned about retribution for supporting this process or desire an alternative method of returning the card. Signed cards will be delivered to the IELRB for validation.  The FSN will not publicly disclose the identities of those who sign and return the cards. 

Your signature on these cards only indicates your interest in providing T/TT faculty an opportunity to vote on attaining alternative representation.  Signing this card does not preclude you from voting to retain the FA or for no representation by a collective bargaining agent in the subsequent IELRB ballot provided signature of at least 30% of T/TT faculty sign and return the attached card.

Faculty for Sensible Negotiations

Executive Committee: John Groninger (groninge@siu.edu), Karl Williard (williard@siu.edu), Jason Greene (jgreene@business.siu.edu), Kim Asner-Self (kasner@siu.edu), Justin Schoof (jschoof@siu.edu), Ed Benyas (benyas@siu.edu), Sara Baer (sgbaer@siu.edu), Matt Mccarroll (mmccarroll@chem.siu.edu), Bruce Devantier (bdevanti@siu.edu), Maryon King (mfking@business.siu.edu), John Voges (jvoges@aviation.siu.edu), Mike Eichholz (mikeeichholz@gmail.com)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Emeritus Faculty Organization to Fight for Freedom

Sent from the witty microbiologist David Clarke, professor emeritus. Click and then hit F11 to enlarge.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sue Your Law School! They Gave You the Degree

This story ought to be a wake up call for Illinois law schools, among others. Suing based on "deceptive marketing" and the rest is not just for University of Phoenix any longer.

Just hope your university doesn't get this guy as judge. . .

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Pension Cutters: They are Back!

Ever get the feeling that generational warfare is upon us? Too bad the young people protesting "Wall Street" are not taking time to protest the "screwing" of their generation (heck, mine too) by decades of pay-go redistribution.

But, hey, the Baby Boomers gave us many great dead rock stars who never collected Social Security or pensions: Thank you, Jimi, Janis, et al. 

FYI: Decertification and Local Only Teacher Unions

There is now a move on campus to decertify the FA. See the message issued by "Faculty for Sensible Negotiations" (after the critical commentary by FA leader Dave Johnson)

In his provocative book Teacher Unions, former union organizer Myron Lieberman argued that the NEA/AFT organizations had grown out of touch with members and required expensive bundled membership (national/state/local). See his section on "Local Only Teacher Unions" (LOTUs) near the end of his book.

To get information up quickly, here are some links to places that have had LOTUs, sometimes after a decertification. I am not (presently) taking sides on the issue but post the following as FYI:

Here is an article advocating more options for teachers (skip to pp. 28 onward). It notes that most LOTUs have been in Ohio and Indiana but see below for more. . . . 

Interesting labor journal "special issue" on what happens during faculty strike:


especially  http://www.springerlink.com/content/gn43127353674263/  -- a strike that "nearly killed the university" and resulted in the former union militant working to decertify the union.

Of course, most college faculty have no unions (poor, pitiful souls!) and the teacher unions are concentrated in the K-12 sector. See below:

Washington State:



Southern Illinois:  teacher union decertifies and creates LOTU:



Detroit and Colorado:

Kansas break away from NEA:


Don't forget PATCO! Some may see this as the "last stand of unionism" but sometimes you lose. Ask PATCO.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Happy Songs for the Strike Vote Blues

As children, we learn to count the age of a tree by the number of lines marking the passage of time. Adults measure age by the wrinkles on their face. And nothing causes wrinkles more than worry (unscientific observation). With furrowed brows, Saluki faculty have yet to bring out in song, either by singing the blues, shouting union songs or joining a chorus of "Up With People."

Ecclesiastes states that "there is a time" for everything, including worry. But this blog is about being happy in the face of worry. So put on some new shoes, drink a margarita, and choose your favorite of the following "Happy Songs." Nominations welcome and I'll try to add them! For a list of ideas, see Spin's list of the top ten "happy songs."

Here are three with the #1 pick recommended by Professor Jonathan Wiesen (and also one of my favorite happy songs). Good timing, Jonathan, now that R.E.M. just broke up! But, hey, we'll save "breaking up" songs for another day . . .

Enjoy and recommend!

#3: "New Shoes" (Paolo Nutini)

#2: "Don't Worry Be Happy" (Bobby McFerrin)

#1: "Shiny Happy People" (R.E.M.) -- redirects to the Youtube video in high quality.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Why I Will Vote "No" to a Strike (Part II)

In a previous post, I explained why I think the FA's two major strike issues--tenure and distance education--are based on unsubstantiated fear and certainly no reason to go on strike. This post discusses other reasons to vote "no" next Wednesday. Feel free to add or subtract from the list (by arguing back!). This is a long post but I have included two short Hollywood movie clips to keep you interested. Suggestions for other Hollywood metaphors appreciated!

What is a strike? The unions threatening to strike state:
While there is no legal definition of a strike in the Labor Act, our operative description is, “a concerted refusal to perform day-to-day work duties to disrupt the normal operation of an employer.”
For faculty, disruption of "normal operations" means we do not teach our students, we do not advise our graduate students, and we do not conduct research with the tools provided by our employer.

Some people argue that unions exist to strike. In fact, many public employee unions are prohibited from striking. This would include police, fire fighters, and all federal employees. Moreover, unions perform functions that have nothing to do with strikes: for example, they provide grievance support, legal insurance, and collective bargaining without a work stoppage.

*Strikers are free riders: Typically, the union argument is that non-union members are free riders who benefit from union-secured gains. During a strike, those who continue to work are carrying the load of those who are not working. They help to keep the "normal operations" going as best they can while their striking colleagues walk away. If the strike results in minimal benefits but includes a "back-to-work" clause to end a weak strike, then those strikers get back pay for not working.

*Strikers lose pay, administrators still get paid: The FA has demonized administrators and wants to "hit back" with a strike to get their attention. NEWS FLASH! The administrators still get paid, the only people who lose are the students (more on that later) and the strikers, unless there is bargaining "success."

*What does the FA consider "success"?  Inserting tenure and no-layoff language that is more to their liking? I've already argued that any change in wording is only to address a fear that is unsubstantiated particularly given the wave of retirements this year. If that is "success," it is status quo success, IMHO (see previous post). The FA has asked for 1.25 months salary for teaching a distance ed course. A month's salary (the norm for summer) is not enough. This was never an issue with summer teaching but now that we have online courses, it is "unfair" if we earn less than 1.25 months/salary per course. If administration agrees, it would mean teachers have to offer courses with very high enrollment to pay for these gilded teaching slots. But FA doesn't like thinking in terms of cost recovery either so around and around we go in this Alice in Wonderland world. 

*"Show me the money!"  In the movie Jerry Maguire (1996) a professional athlete is trying to get his agent's attention as to what really matters to him. The athlete is concerned with the bottom line, but the FA (our Jerry Maguire) says that this strike is "not about the money." If the FA played Tom Cruise's part and said "it's not about the money," the movie would have ended right here:

The FA insists there is a surplus here at SIUC. When have they ever admitted that a) there was a deficit or b) it might be prudent to have a "rainy day fund"? But this year there will be mass retirements and they could bargain for slightly higher pay in return for giving up some faculty lines. But they won't do that because they want to maintain "quality education" even though we all hope to muddle through without layoffs. The only way is through attrition until we reach a time when we can afford to "preserve faculty lines."

*"Preserving faculty lines" = higher risk of layoffs: Face it, if there are fewer of us here to do the "normal operations" of our employer, we have greater job security.

*"I'm not going to actually strike, but I want to strengthen the union position by voting 'yes'":  I've heard this many times on campus. Keep in mind: if you vote "yes" you probably told people you were voting "yes" and they would expect you to act accordingly if there is a strike. If you cross the picket line, you probably have earned the term "scab" (an ugly term from the union-label factory). You will be seen that way. On the other hand, if you are on record voting "no," then hold your head high and go to work. You have voted your conscience and acted on it.

*Back to work pay: The union assures us that strikes "usually" last only two weeks. Maybe yes, maybe no. Frankly, as I posted elsewhere on this blog, there have not been many strikes in higher ed since the Meltdown of 2008. Will you get paid for the time you were off? Maybe yes, maybe no. People are already calculating how long they could go on strike. You may borrow money from the IEA but it must be paid back. I have my doubts as to how generous the IEA would be since they only get 1/3 of faculty members to contribute here at SIUC. The IEA prefers to have dues from 100% of members; that is why the FA/IEA is demanding "fair share" fees for those who refuse to join the union.

*Fair share isn't fair--know your rights:  I'm confident the FA will not get fair share from the administration. As a FA member, I do not want to coerce fellow faculty into paying against their will. Moreover, I want the right to "vote with my feet" by leaving the union if I think it is irresponsible. If "fair share" comes about, look up your rights to rebates of the fees at this web site.

*Striking will hurt some departments more than others: Want to really damage your college or department's position on campus? Shut down operations and leave your students wondering what to do. Trust me: a strike will show fault lines of union support/nonsupport. I suspect my college (liberal arts) will be hit hard by a strike. Not good. It would take years, if ever, to recover.

*A strike hurts students: The FA barely mentions students. The strike is aimed at the administration but will hit current students and may dissuade future students from coming here. The FA retort is that "this is in the best long-term interests of students." How high-minded of the FA to break a few eggs (current students) to make an omelet of better education in the future!

*The federal government may freeze financial aid: This is not hypothetical. Last month, a NEA faculty union went on strike at Youngstown State University (16,000 students). The U.S. Department of Education took swift action and ordered the administration to freeze federal financial aid to students. That forced the union to call off the strike. If students lose financial aid, and the union continues to strike, we will lose semester when the administration is forced to cease operations. That is not disruption, it is destruction.

Even if financial aid remains for this semester at SIUC, how will students manage a delayed semester when they have to work back home? Yeah, this is going to be REAL popular with students and parents.

*Show me a winner! There were some successful strikes that I listed previously but they were all pre-2008. Since 2008, I have identified three faculty strikes: Central Michigan (sent to binding arbitration per Michigan Law), Long Island University (strike ended with 6% of raises over five years, a net loss after inflation), and Youngstown State, which does not look hopeful. Again, if there are more, show me the winners. Who wins in a strike? Read this cautionary tale of a strike that "nearly killed the university"--written by a former militant unionist who crossed the picket in a 1990 strike and then successfully decertified the union.

*Let us be a little grateful: for what we have as faculty. Secure jobs (despite FA rhetoric) and really good health insurance. We pay only 10% of the $1905 spent on Health Alliance for a household of three or more (including dental). As a person with intractable medical issues (and braces for one child this fall!), I am not reassured by the blithe FA line "don't worry, you can sign up for COBRA insurance later if something happens."

*Remember Thelma & Louise? I'll end with the final 1.5 minutes of that classic movie. It's a great ending in a movie theater but not in real life. Don't let your vote be for pushing the medal to "accelerate" off the cliff. . . .

Thursday, September 22, 2011

OPEN FORUM: What Do Students Think of a Strike?

At the Deo Volente web site, an anonymous student posted the following:
 "I just want to thank everyone involved in this whole mess, that after 1 month here as a transfer student I will be transferring to another school after this semester....get it sorted out!"
This is an open space for students to react to a possible strike by faculty and staff. Feel free to be anonymous but no ad hominem attacks on people.

Any response is fine but I'd also like to know how a strike might alter your plans, if at all. Would you color your view of SIUC as an institution of higher education, either positively or negatively?

FYI: "Anonymous" is boring so feel free to follow our Founding Fathers by using pen names (Cato, Brutus, Claudius, or something modern like "50 Cent" LOL).

Fire away!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Why I am Voting "No" to a Strike (Part I)

[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:
a.         Full-time untenured tenure-track Faculty;
b.         Tenured Faculty."
Those same "imposed terms" scratch out the following no-layoff clause:
"No Faculty member shall be laid off for financial exigency during the 2006-2007, 2007-2008, 2008-2009, and 2009-2010 fiscal years."
Given the above factors, how bad would things have to get before they laid off tenured people? When our 2006-2010 contract expired, President Randy Hughes assured me that it would be very unlikely layoffs would ever reach tenured faculty unless things were really bad (as in "financial exigency" bad). But now the union leadership is leading us into a strike based on a quixotic battle with something that a) hasn't happened and b) is likely never to occur!

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).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Replacement Workers during a SIUC Faculty Strike

 The Daily Egyptian reported the following:

“Chancellor Rita Cheng said if the unions were to go on strike, the university would ensure minimal impact on students. She said substitute teachers would be called in and administrators would teach classes.”

And at what point may the university hire faculty to replace those who are on strike? “Substitute teachers” sure sounds like “replacement workers” and they won’t be hard to find. That will only make the union picketing meaner. 

Seeking Success: Any Faculty Strike Victories of Late?

The Long Island University faculty cancelled their strike after six days, accepting 6.5% in raises over 5 years. The Youngstown State University faculty called a strike, then called it off. Doesn't look hopeful there either.

Central Michigan Faculty voted to strike but a judge signed an injunction sending them back to work. They are waiting for a fact-finding report. That report won't come out until late October or early November.

A previous post of mine listed successful strikes but they were all in the pre-2008 years. Still looking for a clear union victory. Does anyone have something for our victory column?

NEWS FLASH: Strike Fund Loan Details!!

What are the timelines, procedures, and standards related to the IEA-NEA interest-free strike loan program?

1)      You must be an enrolled IEA-NEA member at the time of the loan request and remain a member until the loan is repaid [usually a period of six month repayment.]
2)      The local must be on strike at least ten (10) work days and have the likelihood of a missed check (or  a check with reduced pay) before the interest-free loan program can be instituted. The paperwork for the loan is usually implemented in such a way that the actual check should be available at the end of a ten (10) workday period if needed.
3)      A loan may not be for more than the “net pay”, i.e., your gross pay minus payroll taxes. So for faculty and grad assistants with monthly paychecks the rule of thumb is ½ of the monthly net pay and for civil service employees it is the bi-weekly net amount.
4)      Individuals must sign the IEA-NEA loan agreement document as well as any loan documents that may be required by the lending institution. A copy of your latest pay stub is needed to substantiate the amount of the loan.
5)      More information will be provided by your local Strike Loan Committee if and when a strike action takes place.
6)      Only borrow what you absolutely need.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

COBRA Health Insurance Costs: Here are the Numbers

If the Faculty Association goes on strike, the leadership noted that strikers are covered by COBRA. If the administration is really as malevolent as the FA makes it out to be, then assume a scenario where strikers are left paying the full cost of their health insurance.

How much would that be for a family of four? (For other household configurations, consult this chart. I have a family of four (three dependents) under Health Alliance Illinois. If I went on strike, the cost would be $1,803 + $102 for dental = $1,905. The COBRA rates are roughly the same for other plans.

For more information on COBRA, see



As you can see from the second link, "it's complicated." But learn your rights. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Strike Fund? Questions About IEA Loans

In its strike FAQ, the FA/IEA mentions zero interest loans to cover insurance costs. Those costs may be nothing, since the state already paid SIUC for our coverage OR they may run up to the full unsubsidized insurance cost. It's all up in the air.

The question of a lending fund for strikes is key: what will IEA loans cover? Insurance, lost pay? And for how long? Is there a cap? Finally, most importantly, the IEA site mentions the generosity of other NEA affiliates in contributing to such zero interest loan funds. That suggests it is left up to the "generosity" of other locals? Or does the IEA has a central revolving fund? I asked the IEA organizer at the FA meeting yesterday and he promised to get back to me. Let's hope so because how many people have the savings to go on strike and pay the family's bills??

*UPDATED* Youngstown Univ. Strike: Situation to Monitor as SIU Faculty Consider Strike

My last post consisted of links to strikes by faculty at Illinois colleges. All those strikes occurred before the Crash of 2008. I found one strike called by Youngstown State Univ. faculty (NEA affiliate) but then called off. For details, follow news stories on that story since it is running in real time as SIUC heads toward a strike vote:

*8/20: With a letter of intent to strike sent by the union, the U.S. Department of Education urged the university to withhold financial aid from students. Students rallied against being "held hostage" by the administration.

8/25: http://www.vindy.com/news/2011/aug/25/ysu-responds-to-faculty-strike-vote/

8/26: http://blog.cleveland.com/metro/2011/08/youngstown_state_university_fa.html

9/14: Talks resume: http://goo.gl/KDqwg

9/16: Followup action from faculty activists: http://goo.gl/vNhLR

NOTE: While YSU saw enrollment increase since 2000, it dropped in past few years: http://goo.gl/Wurr1

I'll be contacting union officials there to find out what was involved. There was mention in one comment that a YSU professor said he couldn't afford $500 COBRA payment and was going to forgo health insurance.

If you know anyone at YSU, contact them for info. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mayor Emanuel versus Chicago Teacher Union

Capitolfax.com has yet another story on how ham-handed the AFT teacher union is in Chicago. The union hates Emanuel and the hatred is mutual (expletives from the mayor deleted). Last year, Emanuel got the state to pass a law that raised the necessary strike vote to 75% in Cook County. And now he has the teacher union boxed in on school reform.

This is why people, even in Democratic cities, turn on teacher unions. Personally, I believe SIUC, like most such employers, gets the unions it deserves but I sure wish it weren't one of the duopoly (NEA/AFT). Currently, I'm like John McCain's mother: she said to her party's members who thought McCain stunk that they ought to "hold their noses" and stick with the campaign.

Right now I'm holding my nose and hoping for the best. But I sure wish my local union were affiliated with a national that didn't stink.

Postscript: Imagine Governor Emanuel! His approval ratings are very high in Chicago and his well-known anti-union stance doesn't seem to bother the same Democratic characters who got so riled up by Governor Scott Walker. Surprise, surprise.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Books That Make Us Human: My Top Ten List

Professor Brad Birzer, a man of unbounded energy, asked several of us to contribute a "top ten" list of books that make us human. Quite a challenge: limited to ten books, what would you (dear reader) choose and why?

See my list at The Imaginative Conservative web site. It starts with a book by this man:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Enrollment Numbers: SIUE, U of I Hit Record Highs, SIUC Sings the Blues

What else is new? This fall semester, SIU's Edwardsville campus saw more new students, more applications and a record number of all students on campus. Ditto University of Illinois. No need to parse out the spots of strength in an otherwise cloudy forecast. "Nothing but blue skies up ahead."

SIU-E is less expensive than SIU-C, morale seems higher (can't be lower than Carbondale!), and the infrastructure is nice on the eyes (compare Faner Hall, Housing Towers at SIUC). I wonder if professors at SIU-E watch their drip buckets to capture the leaking pipes in the offices? Probably not.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

New Firing Line: Sexual Harassment as Excuse to Fire Faculty

From East Georgia College: the latest in a string of cases involving abuse of the "sexual harassment" codes. These codes can be used to expel students later found to be innocent (see my previous blog entry) or terminate faculty for speaking out against "sexual harassment" codes that lack due process.

All too often, the accused is guilty-until-proven-innocent. Even then, students and faculty can still be thrown off campus because the administration doesn't feel they will make for a "comfortable environment." Oh, no, we can't have tenure-track faculty criticizing our administrative czars, especially if they wrap the Star Chamber with sweet sounding rhetoric about an "institutional commitment to a harassment-free campus." Offering a different viewpoint thus constitutes harassment itself!

Thank God for the lawyers at FIRE and ACLU local chapters. This is also an issue being fought by the Faculty Association. It is a battle against university lawyers who err on the side of being overprotective of those who might be harassed. This buys them, in their way of thinking, some legal insurance against lawsuits that claim they didn't "do enough." FIRE, ACLU, FA help level the legal battlefield.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Strikes and Alternatives: What About Binding Arbitration?

Since my union is emailing me "strike watches," I went in search of information on what makes for a successful strike, particularly in a competitive market (that would include higher education, where students can simply leave).

I didn't find much in my end-of-day search but the links below are a start on strikes and binding arbitration as a permissible alternative in Illinois:

How to Go on Strike

How to End a Strike

Several colleagues have mentioned binding arbitration as a desirable end. The Illinois Association of School Boards (IASB) has supported binding arbitration as an alternative to strikes while backing a law that would prohibit strikes by public employees.

Illinois Education Association has a FAQ on rights that mentions binding arbitration although the context is not clear:  "All collective bargaining agreements are required to include a grievance procedure ending in binding arbitration and provision prohibiting strikes during the duration of the agreement."

Another source states that binding arbitration is "permitted" in Illinois:
ILLINOIS: Educational employees at all levels permitted to bargain under the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act. However, several types of employees, including supervisors, managers, confidential employees, short-term employees, and students, are excluded from bargaining by statute. Impasse procedures include mediation and fact-finding. Arbitration is permitted. Strikes are permitted after several conditions set forth in the statute are met.
Read the Illinois law here and here. Michigan's law seems much stronger and mandatory, according to this source. See also this link.

No talk of strike funds (probably none) or the option of binding arbitration. This happened when faculty struck at Central Michigan University. A judge ordered the instructors back to work but also imposed binding arbitration.

If there is any one out there who knows more about these issues, feel free to comment or, better yet, post a blog (with your name or pseudonym if you prefer!). I'm sure inquiring minds on campus would love to know more about the ins and outs of strikes, the alternatives, possible outcomes, etc.

I'd sure love to know more. Perhaps someone at the National Labor College knows? I'll try to contact them later.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

REMINDER: Do Not Use .EDU Email for Anything Political

I've blogged about this before but never, ever use your .edu email address to say anything blatantly partisan. If you work for the state, you lose some (much?) of your freedom to express yourself. Remember those Ethics Exams we take each year with their ridiculous scenarios of terminating employees for relatively innocuous infractions?

Read this article from Capitolfax.com  This fellow used his state email to make a political statement and got a reprimand. It could have been worse.

Just get yourself a Gmail account or private blog and then rant 'n rave to your heart's delight.

Further reading:

Facebook and U: The Dangers of University Email

Big Brother and U, Part II: Is Your University Reading Your Email?

Big Brother and U, Part II: Is Your University Reading Your Email?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Coming Student Loan Crisis: Crony Capitalism + Egalitarian Liberalism

Take the notion that every child deserves to attend college (egalitarian liberalism) and add crony capitalism (banks with the power to squeeze you despite bankruptcy (i.e., kind of like the IRS!). The result is the warning of several commentators recently of a coming student loan crisis. In today's Wall Street Journal, Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus are quoted from an Atlantic.com story they wrote:
As this semester begins, college loans are nearing the $1 trillion mark, more than what all households owe on their credit cards. Fully two-thirds of our undergraduates have gone into debt, many from middle class families, who in the past paid for much of college from savings. . . .
If you want to get a name as an economic seer, try this one. The next subprime crisis will come from defaults on student debts, starting with for-profit colleges and rising to the Ivy League. . . .
Still, there's a difference. With mortgage defaults, banks seize and resell the home. But if a degree can't be sold, that doesn't deter the banks. They essentially wrote the student loan law, in which the fine-print says they aren't "dischargable." So even if you file for bankruptcy, the payments continue due.
Hence these stern words from Barmak Nassirian of the American Association of College Registrars and Admissions Officers. "You will be hounded for life," he warns. "They will garnish your wages. They will intercept your tax refunds. You become ineligible for federal employment." He adds that any professional license can be revoked and Social Security checks docked when you retire.
Read the full article because it is worth the read.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

J'accuse! Feds "Discourage" Due Process

Cross-examine witnesses and accuser? That is so 20th century. The Office of Civil Rights (Department of Education) "discourages" it. Colleges have already thrown out old-fashioned notions of civil liberties, as we well know at SIUC, so they are all too happy to presume guilt. The Wall Street Journal has a followup on this topic, which I blogged about yesterday.

(Look for any advice to those accused in our sexual harassment code and compare it to the apparatus offered up to accusers. Or just click on the "sexual harassment" label for this site).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Feds Gut Due Process in "Sexual Harassment" Cases

The Office of Civil Rights for the Department of Education has retreated from its firm stance in favor of due process and put forth a new standard for enforcing campus sexual harassment codes based on "the preponderance of evidence" (rather than "clear and convincing" evidence). AAUP and FIRE are concerned that this lower bar deprives faculty, staff and students accused of the due process they need and deserve.

Keep in mind that "sexual harassment" codes extend to a wide range of behavior that is not sexual: namely, creating a "hostile environment." The "hostile environment" category embraces speech and makes this an academic freedom concern, according to both AAUP and FIRE.

How low does this bar go? Pretty darn low. Consider a case from North Dakota where a male student (Caleb Warner) was suspended for three years after a female student accused him of rape. The police later found evidence that this woman had made a false accusation (they never happen, right?) and "lodged criminal charges [against her] . . . for filing a false police report."

So the male student was let back on campus, right? No. Based on the "preponderance of evidence" letter just issued by OCR, North Dakota State still refused to re-consider the case. In the administration's opinion, there was no "substantial new information" (bold for emphasis) and "Warner's three-year suspension 'was not a legal process but an educational one.'"

It's a bad turn of events because in 2003 the same Office of Civil Rights was concerned with the "convict first and fast" attitude of harassment officers in areas of speech. In 2003, the Office of Civil Rights issued a statement clarifying that enforcement did not require campuses to abandon the First Amendment. Today's OCR seems to think its lower standard is just fine, thank you. It will apply not only in cases of alleged rape but also "expressive activities" (speech).

This gutting of due process will leave administrations with the power to blur the difference between rape (a crime that must be proved, except on campuses) and innocent speech, however controversial. In either case, due process is there to prevent Star Chambers from walling themselves off from the rest of the world and declaring their authority Supreme on campus. So now places like North Dakota will stonewall and say: we don't deal with legal processes, only educational ones.

AAUP and FIRE have fought so many of these cases that they have lost their shock value.  Indifference breeds the arrogance of power. Fortunately, faculty/staff/students can organize or speak out. In some cases, they can bring in the AAUP and FIREs of the world and "sue the bastards." Perhaps that is the only thing that Power understands. 

For more, read this FIRE FAQ on the new OCR mandates

HT: Adam Kissel

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

23% of High School Graduates Ready for College (Illinois)

From Capitolfax.com (August 17th):
"More than three-quarters of Illinois high school graduates aren’t completely ready for college, based on their ACT scores, state results of the college-admission test released Wednesday show.
Only 23 percent of Illinois’ 2011 high school graduating class — public and private — met college readiness standards in all four ACT subjects tested: English, reading, math and science.

The biggest drag on preparedness, data showed, was college-readiness in science. There, only 28 percent of the 2011 Illinois graduating class scored high enough to predict they will probably land a C or better in the typical college freshmen science course in biology, the ACT report indicated.

Among the state’s African-American students, only 6 percent met that same college-ready science bar."

And although Illinois is one of only four states that require all public high school students to take the ACT, its composite is not that far from the national average of 21.1, noted Mary Fergus, spokeswoman for the Illinois State Board of Education."