Our Weekly Reader for the Week of 3/24/13

Ugh, what a week! In honor of the impending snowstorm, here is this week’s depressing report. — Bruce

1. There is enormous pressure on the state legislature to do something about the pension shortfall, whether or not it is reasonable, fair or constitutional. I would link to the sterling recent statements by the University Administration, our Senate Executive Committee and the University Senates Conference with the aim of lobbying our legislators on behalf of honoring the contractual due-bills of our currently constituted pensions, but, you know, I couldn’t find any. We need a union.

a. Summary, via suaa.com

March 22, 2013
Synopsis of SB 1 #3 and SB 1544 #3
Click Here to read the Synopsis

March 22, 2013
Mini Briefing 03.22.2013
Click Here to read the Mini Briefing

b. In short, on Wednesday, the Senate passed a pension reduction for teachers, which doesn’t apply to SURS.

http://illinoisissuesblog.blogspot.com/2013/03/senate-approves-pension-changes-for.html   (Wed.)

www.chicagotribune.com/news/politics/clout/chi-sweeping-pension-reform-fails-in-illinois-senate-20130320,0,7093136.story (Wed.)

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-illinois-senate-pension-reform-0321-20130321,0,6255605.story (Wed.)

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/politics-and-government/2013-03-20/less-comprehensive-pension-bill-wins-narrow-support-senate.h (Wed.)

c. But on Thursday, the Nekritz-Biss bill passed the House. Much is made in the press that Biss is a mathematician. (For the reasons he left academic for politics, look at his wikipedia page, just saying. I could give you more references if you are interested.) This one caps COL to the first 25K and says it can’t be applied until you’re 67 or have been retired 5 years. Much commentary says that this is unconstitutional, violating

Membership in any pension or retirement system of the State, any unit of local government or school district, or any agency or instrumentality thereof, shall be an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.

http://capitolfax.com/2013/03/21/another-house-pension-reform-advances/

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-illinois-house-approves-major-pension-reform-bill-20130321,0,3792169.story

http://blogs.suntimes.com/politics/2013/03/illinois_house_advances_plan_to_limit_state_retirees_annual_increases.html

http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20130321/news/703219759/?interstitial=1

http://capitolfax.com/2013/03/22/house-pension-roundup/

http://illinoisissuesblog.blogspot.com/2013/03/house-passes-bill-to-cut-colas-on.html

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chi-illinois-house-approves-major-pension-reform-bill-20130321,0,3792169.story

Quote from the second Tribune article:

Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, called the vote “disastrous” because teachers, who generally don’t get Social Security, would see a decrease in purchasing power. Montgomery also dismissed estimates of savings with the legislation because the bill is “blatantly unconstitutional” and will be thrown out in court, meaning the state will “save nothing.”

As noted in the intro, no public comments this week from the Board of Trustees, University Administration or Senate.

d. Before that, there were more philosophical comments about the pensions. I won’t bother with predictive articles. Nobody I could find predicted that a vote on the Nekritz bill would occur on Thursday.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-vote-0318-jm-20130318,0,7659593.story

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-edit-pension-20130320,0,4932584.story

On Monday and Wednesday, the Trib endorsed Nekritz/Biss.

http://capitolfax.com/2013/03/18/unclear-on-the-concept-11/

“So, when anybody bemoans the pension systems’ unfunded liability, they ought to remember that it was a feature, not a bug of the Edgar plan. It was, however, made far worse by Blagojevich and everybody else who backed the pension holidays.

http://capitolfax.com/2013/03/21/pension-thoughts/

“I have yet to hear any credible arguments about how Biss’ plan survives constitutional muster. The best argument is that nobody ever knows for sure how a court will rule. That’s true. Other than that, the Constitution is pretty clear here.”

http://southtownstar.suntimes.com/news/miller/18887797-452/miller-business-leaders-opposition-sinks-cullerton-pension-bill.html

Cullerton’s bill gives people a “choice” of giving up cost-of-living and giving up health care. It didn’t pass.

e. A Sangamon County circuit judge ruled that health care coverage isn’t constitutionally protected. This would be a huge deal if it wasn’t going to be appealed all the way up.

http://illinoisissuesblog.blogspot.com/2013/03/court-tosses-out-lawsuit-over-public.html

http://capitolfax.com/2013/03/20/cullerton-vindicated-by-court-ruling/

f. Part of a trend? Major League Baseball, with a rapidly increasing revenue of $8 billion last year, wants to abolish pensions for their non-playing (and thus, non-union) employees.

http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/9070691/mlb-owners-want-abolish-pensions-personnel-sources-say

2. President Easter went to Springfield. The only reported comments on pensions was the University’s willingness to take a phased-in responsibility for making employee pension payments. He also conceded, by not denying it, that the top 10 administrators got raises of $1.1 million last year. (His was 19%, Chancellor Wise’s was 16%.)
read the whole thing

3. SEIU stuff is going on behind the scenes

http://www.news-gazette.com/news/politics-and-government/2013-03-18/ui-union-meet-again-tuesday.html

http://will.illinois.edu/news/story/seiu-awaits-u-of-is-counterproposal-talks-to-resume

http://www.dailyillini.com/news/campus/article_9fb8951c-90d1-11e2-91a7-001a4bcf6878.html

4. In the words of an Oscar-winning song from a few years back: “It’s Hard out Here for a University President”

http://www.universitybusiness.com/article/tumultuous-presidency

[This one contains a novel history of the Hogan/Urbana relationship by Joyce Tolliver, asserting that Hogan was toast within his first year, i.e., before all the scandals.]

In advancing those initiatives, though, Hogan largely bypassed the Illinois faculty, which had a long tradition of shared governance with the university administration. “I imagine from the board’s point of view that if it had hired President Hogan to do administrative restructuring, then he did everything right,” says Joyce Tolliver, the chair of the Champaign-Urbana Senates.“What became problematic was going to the faculty after plans were firmly in place. He talked to us. What he should have done was listen more. We tried very hard to give input in a respectful way, but it was apparent that this marriage would need more work than we expected. By the end of the fall of [Hogan’s] first year, we had reached the point of no return.”

Less than 18 months later, unable to repair his relationship with the faculty as the board of trustees had recently required, Hogan submitted his resignation, and board Chairman Kennedy accepted.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/21/opinion/the-war-at-nyu.html

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/03/18/new-york-university-vote-no-confidence-raises-debate-about-ambitions-and-governance

See also summaries below about NIU and LSU and this, about Purdue policies for faculty miscondut

http://www.jconline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/201303162123/NEWS0501/303160043&nclick_check=1

5. The first hint of a plan to increase faculty teaching loads to save money. We need a union.

http://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2013/03/21/are-professors-selling-students-short

6. MOOC summary of the week

http://www.insidehighered.com/quicktakes/2013/03/18/u-california-faculty-leaders-question-outsourcing-plan

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/03/19/u-california-faculty-union-says-moocs-undermine-professors-intellectual-property

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/03/22/coursera-commits-admitting-only-elite-universities

7. Finally, a depressing read for all of our ample spare time as spring break ends: about 25 years ago, an experiment was started in paying administrators the sort of salaries they’d get outside of academia, never mind that professors would make way more outside of academia. I’d say that there is no evidence it’s led to better-run institutions. Readers of OWR who were at UIUC in the early 80s will recognize the name of the Administrator Zero in this infection: University of California Vice President (and former Illini execu-thug) Ronald Brady. Our horses whinny a la “Frau Blucher” in Young Frankenstein at the mention of the name “Ron Brady”.

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/moneybox/2012/03/uc_davis_chancellor_linda_katehi_s_salary_makes_her_a_member_of_the_1_percent_.html

From the E-summary

==============================

==========3/18 — pp.18-19 (NG) “Pension crisis: where do we go from here”, Op-ed by Rich and Conry, see last week’s OWR
3/18 — pp.20-21 (Trib) “Only one bill gets Illinois closer”, editorial, see above.
3/18 — pp.22-23 (S-T) “Big names litter road to pension disaster” Named; Blagojevich, Edgar, Madigan, everyone who supported the 1994 bill.
3/18 — pp.28-31 (NYT) “Better colleges failing to lure talented poor” (the problem is not with students large metro areas, but smaller ones and rural areas)
3/18 — pp.32-38 (Chron) “The minds behind the MOOCs // The Professors behind the MOOC hype”
3/18 — pp.41-43 (NYT)  ” `No confidence’ vote for head of NYU”
3/18 — pp.44-46 (IHE)  ” `No confidence’ in the system” (at NYU)

3/19 — p.5 (NG) “UI, union to meet again Tuesday”, see above
3/19 — pp.9-10 (NG) “UI joins volunteers for days of service”
3/19 — pp.11-12 (NYT) “Online certificate programs at colleges and universities gain popularity”
3/19 — pp.16-17 (IHE) “U. of California faculty union says MOOCs undermine professors’ intellectual property”, see above
3/19 — p.24 (Boston.com) “Harvard, MIT thwart effort to cap overhead payments”, Oh noes. How will we pay for searches otherwise?
3/19 — pp.25-31 (Chron) “The new faculty minority // Tenured professors fight to retain control as their numbers shrink’ And the administration plan to divide and conquer is proceeding excellently., see above.

3/20 — p.1 (Crain’s) “Illinois judge deals blow to retiree health care challenge”, see above
3/20 — p.3 (NG) “Bill would give alumni group five UI trustee appointments”
3/20 — p.4 (NG) “UI, union to meet again next week”, see above
3/20 — pp.5-6 (Trib) “it’s showtime”, editorial on pensions, see above
3/20 — pp.9-10 (AP) “UC faculty leaders blast bill on internet courses”
3/20 — p.11 (Chron) “SUNY signals major push towards MOOCs and other new educational models”
3/20 — p.20 (IHE) “Australian universities dedicate positions to working with rankings groups” “The University of New South Wales recently advertised for a manager of strategic reputation … For $100,000, responsibilities include maintaining relationships with ranking agencies to “maximize” or “optimize” their positions in rankings.

3/21 —  pp.1-7 (various) — Pensions, see also above.
3/21 —  p.12 (Trib)  — Ex-NIU vice president pleads guilty in `coffee fund’ scandal
3/21 — pp.14-16 (Chron) — “Lighter teaching loads for faculty contribute to rising college costs, report says”, see above
3/21 — pp.18-21 (Chron) — “As their roles change, some librarians lose faculty status”

3/22 — pp.1-3 (NG) –“Legislators question Easter over meeting costs, raises, tuition”, see above
3/22 — pp.4-8  (various) Pensions
3/22 — p.10 (NG) — Editorial praising county court ruling
3/22 — p.12 (IHE) — “Coursera commits to admitting only elite universities”, see above
3/22 — pp.15-16 (Trib) “Charges dropped against 1 worker in `coffee fund’ case”
3/22 — pp.20-21 (AP) “LSU president finalist meets with students, staff” — LSU Faculty Senate passed “no confidence” vote in search process.