Universitas

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.

10 responses to “Universitas

  1. Strong letter: hope the N-G will print it.Yes, some budget numbers would be welcome.For instance: the claim is often made that the basketball and football programs are self-supporting. I find it hard to believe that *no* part of the university budget (including student fees qua tuition increase) goes to these programs. Hard numbers might convince me I am wrong.We have read that the WILL budget has been cut 5%. Was the faculty consulted on this damaging reduction? What other programs are targeted for a similar reduction? What cuts are projected for construction and the physical plant? How about administrative travel and expenses?Since the administration is willing to sacrifice quality of education to the bottom line, let us see how they are planning to reach that line. Unilateral decisions reached behind closed doors are not the way toward universitas.

  2. Hi Megan! I appreciate both the University's and the CFA's roles in educating the community about the budget, but increasingly I long for a public moment where various understandings of the budget are compared and reconciled. To take the technology park example, have resources been siphoned out of the teaching areas of the university to support this investment, and if so, for how long and to what ends? Does the research park make money, and where does that money go? On the other hand, is it true (as is stated on this blog and others) that LAS receives a poor share of its teaching revenues back?I guess fundamentally, I'd like to see all sides move beyond calling for transparency, and begin calling for the resolution of specific budget questions. On the one hand, the University has recently put a lot of budget information out there — through meetings and through its new web site. So I think the ball is now in the university community's court, first, to study this information carefully, second, to reply to the university's reply (the University offered what seemed to this observer to be a very clear and cogent critique to the Bunsis report; what would be the counter?), and then to ask concrete questions.I think this post is a good step in the right direction. I see two questions here:1) Is the Research Park a money maker, in a way that would justify the massive investments in a time of stagnating incomes?2) How are tuition monies being used, and to what extent do the teaching units get to be involved in these decisions?A third might be:3) What specific things need to now be transparenter? (as it were)Would the Senate, the CFA and the administration together help sponsor a public forum of some sort to answer specific questions?

  3. John, those are all great questions, and I wish we had answers to them right now. I will say that Bunsis has written a response to the UI administration's rebuttal of his initial report; I believe it was sent out to all faculty, but if not I could fish around my inbox for the link and put it up here.

  4. Ok, first of all, please note that the faculty are *employees* of the university. I know that you don't say anything to contradict that essential point, but the tone of all the sturm und drang over furloughs seems to miss that. Sure, in the interest of good worker / management relations, the university should perhaps consult you on big things, maybe pretend to care sometimes, and in others actually follow your suggestions. But the notion that the faculty are somehow owed a say in the budget process of the university is absurd. The same goes for determining the mission of the university – that is the job of the trustees, not the faculty. Indeed, most of what I have heard coming from my friends in the humanities and social science departments prove that the further they stay away from the budget, the better off we'll all be. Sorry folks, you are good people and I love you all, but unless you can coherently talk about the university's cash flow analysis, you should probably stand clear. Wait, no…let me stop there…actually, I'm getting tired of feeling embarrassed for you when you talk about the budget, so please stop. You hate it when know-nothings try to usurp your authority in your chosen areas – fair enough – so please try to empathise with our poor accounting faculty.A little perspective would be nice too. You are asked to take a temporary 2% pay cut, and at a time when people outside of academia are losing their jobs by the millions. Additionally, there are certainly scenarios where the university could actually go bankrupt (yes, state universities can go bankrupt just like everyone else). Meanwhile tuition – and I'm a student- is going up at a much higher rate than 2%…so don't tell me about shared sacrifice until you are ready to step up and take a much larger, and permananet pay reduction. Shared sacrifice my butt – your sacrifice so far is pretty minimal, considering the stakes for us all and the fact that layoffs have already begun.The whole thing just goes to show that the faculty have shown a remarkable ability that only professors seem to have – to act so jaw-droppingly stupid and in a way that only really smart people can manage (and I say that with tough love – seriously, a big sloppy wet kiss and a pointy stick in the eye for all of you). You seem like you are absolutely determined to hang this around the necks of the administration…and why? Um, it seems that this is an instinctive behavior, that this is the only thing that you know – that's all I can come up with. News flash – *it's the damn state government's fault.* And just a month ago, our incompetant governor was running in a primary against our deadbeat comptroller – the two people that are most responsible for the current situation – well, other than Blogo, Michael Madigan, and a few others – but hey, it's the guy that cuts the checks and the guy that signs them running against each other! Did the faculty assoc hold their feet to the fire? No. Did they mobilize to vote for whoever would promise to pay the university promptly and fully? No. Did they try to bring in the hundreds of thousands of students, parents and alumni that live in Illinois to support them? No. Did you get on busses and go to Springfield and hold teach-ins in the state house? No. Instead they blathered on about the administration, Global Campus (enough already!), nonsense about a budget that they don't understand (ask a freshman accounting major in one of you classes, they can help you out here), and now another serving of baloney about econ development. I would say "shame on the faculty assoc," but no one really took you seriously before this, and I can't imagine that anyone will take you seriously when this is all over. You are not "saving public education in Illinois," you are killing it with your stupidity and negligence.

  5. Sure, in the interest of good worker / management relations, the university should perhaps consult you on big things, maybe pretend to care sometimes, and in others actually follow your suggestions. But the notion that the faculty are somehow owed a say in the budget process of the university is absurd.I am unclear on the difference between your two statements, bob: in the first, you say the university should consult us and follow our suggestions; in the second you say having a say is absurd. Are you disagreeing with yourself here?

  6. Maybe that was unclear – I'm saying that the administration is under no obligation to do so. I'm sure that they can get some good suggestions by talking with their employees, some of which they can elect to follow – i.e. they may, or they should, but not they must. Obviously the segment of the faculty that makes up the dept heads and chairs is involved in the budget – but the idea that the administration has some sort of obligation to bring in the faculty as a whole to consult on temporary salary cuts (i.e. furloughs) is a fiction. The faculty assoc comes off as wanting to haggle over how to rearrange the furniture in a burning house. Maybe, just maybe, this is one of those situations where it's time to put aside the intellectually lazy idea that it's always the administration's fault and actually work with them – and the students, parents, alumni, hourly staff, everyone.

  7. I think you may be more unclear than you realize, bob. First, the faculty are increasingly aware that they are employees and that the Administration is under no legal obligation to listen to them – which is exactly why they are talking union these days.As I see that you are aware, though, the other part of the recent public statements is not necessarily that the Administration *has* to listen – although the University's own stated principles for many years have declared that they will – but that the Administration *ought* to listen. You acknowledge the moral wait of this, I believe, with your point about tuition increases: that is, you are fully aware that neither the UIUC nor the CFA are *required* to care about your costs; the point is that both *ought* to – and at least in the case of CFA the record shows that they do (including lobbying Springfield, etc.)By the way, since you mention getting on the bus, CFA has in fact been part of efforts in the past to do just that. In fact, there is another opportunity coming up to "get on the bus" April 21 or 22 I believe, and you'd be welcome to join them and other unions, student groups, and concerned community members — if you want to practice what you preach.

  8. Thanks to Dr. McLaughlin for an insightful analysis.Stinky Bob, you have either misunderstood or purposefully mischaracterized Dr. McLaughlin's speech. You criticize her for bemoaning the faculty's burden, but she was very clear that "[t]he 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." Further, in commenting on the state of the faculty, she says "we’re not really hurting—at least not yet." Why then, do you feel the need to chastise her and remind her that your tuition is rising at a rate higher than 2%? She and the CFA know this, and they are working as part of a larger coalition to defend the interests of students – especially those who can't pay the increasing rates.You claim (using incredibly insulting language) that Dr. McLaughlin "hangs" the issue around the neck of the administration for no other reason than instinct. Since that's all you "can come up with," I'll point out the sections of Dr. McLaughlin's speech that you missed or intentionally ignored: "…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." She is aware of the State's role. And as Ricky pointed out, the CFA has been active in lobbying at the state level and will continue to be active. She then offers specific examples of questionable administrative allocation of funds, including salary increases that far outpace those of faculty and staff, and have no justification during times of budgetary distress, including the difficult years in the first half of the last decade. She also cites rapid increases in administrative positions and payroll related to contested strategies for fulfilling a contested mission. And though she only mentions Global Campus in passing, it seems appropriate within the context of a commentary on the need for greater shared governance, as it's failure can be attributed in part to the administration's refusal to heed the faculty's outspoken opposition to the plan.Whether the faculty has a right to claim a greater share of administrative decision making is a philosophical argument of a different order, but suffice it to say that reasonable minds may disagree that the relation between the administration of a public university and the campus community should mimic the worker/management model of a privately owned commercial enterprise. The faculty is not the only group of tax paying citizens that would like to see greater budget transparency as one step in a process of increased democratization of the public university system. Dismissing Dr. McClaughlin's articulation of that desire as a "fiction" demonstrates your opinion but does nothing to advance the debate.Finally, you derisively claim that the faculty does not understand the budget. Dr. McLaughlin cited specific budget examples in her argument. You cited none. Dr. McClaughlin admitted to not having budgetary expertise and explicitly asked for assistance so that the CFA could better understand the budget and ensure that it is structured according to the best interests of students and workers. The very speech you lambaste, in fact, is the result of a widely publicized and open event to which the entire campus community was invited and whose goal was to share knowledge. How then can you criticize her for not working with other members of the campus community? To imply that she and other CFA members are lazy is hypocritical. If you truly have the thorough knowledge of the budget that your bravado indicates, then please take the CFA up on their offer and share your knowledge. That would be much more useful than the vapid ad hominem attack you posted here.Rich Potter

  9. Dr. Randolph (I presume) -I support your call for generating specific answers to budget related questions.Regarding the three questions you pose, I think question 2 serves as a partial answer to question 3.As for question 1, the News Gazette, along with some UIUC journalism students, ran some well researched articles last fall regarding the research park. The links are below. They found that the University itself (exclusive of any private or other state funds) has invested $19.2 million dollars in the park above and beyond the $41 million cost of relocating the agricultural research farms that previously occupied that space. The University also pays roughly $1 million dollars per year to rent space in the park. Meanwhile, the park has produced $20 million in federal small-business grants, $3.26 million in property taxes, and roughly $280,000 in conference center income. This revenue is not accrued solely or – if I understand correctly – even significantly by the University. There are, of course, intangible benefits to the University, including faculty recruitment and retention and student internships.One article states: "overall the park requires a subsidy from the university. For 2010, the university has allocated about $269,000 for the park itself – including $150,000 for marketing and new infrastructure expenses – plus almost $240,000 of state money for EnterpriseWorks, or more than a half-million dollars altogether."The headline for another of the articles proclaims that "A decade later, jury's still out on UI Research Park", yet – despite the current budget crisis – the park is slated for further expansion. If the administration wants to gain credibility and put to rest the notion that it is actively mismanaging the University's accounts, then it seems that the onus is on it to publicly and clearly present a detailed account of the costs and benefits of the research park.I would appreciate reading others' analyses of the articles linked below.Rich Potterhttp://www.news-gazette.com/news/miscellaneous/2009-11-22/ui-research-park-investment-and-returns.htmlhttp://www.news-gazette.com/news/miscellaneous/2009-11-15/research-park-growing-ui-tenants-help-fill-space.htmlhttp://www.news-gazette.com/news/miscellaneous/2009-11-15/decade-later-jurys-still-out-ui-research-park.html

  10. I do detect in "stinky bob's" postings a widely shared set of assumptions that go like this: a) the university is a business, run by managementb) faculty are employeesc) students are consumersd) since management knows best, employees and consumers should just shut up.a,b,c, and d are entirely challengeable — where should we start?

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