UIC Professor Encourages Unionization Effort Among Faculty at UIUC

This Letter to the Editor by Darold Barnum, Professor of Information and Decision Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was published in the News-Gazette on June 20, 2013. Professor Barnum earned his PhD and MBA at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. He is the Founding Director of the University of Illinois Center for Human Resource Management, and a former head of the UIC Department of Management.

Local UI Faculty Should Form Union
A recent front-page story [in the News-Gazette] contained a plethora of competing claims about the state of University of Illinois finances.

To cut through the confusion, let’s compare UI with a for-profit university system.

In 2012 the University of Phoenix system increased its net assets by $417 million on $4.3 billion in revenue, for a profit of 10 cents on $1 in revenue.

In 2012 UI increased its net assets by $460 million on $5.2 billion in revenue, for a profit of 9 cents on $1 collected. (UI financial results were similar in 2010 and 2011, and 2013 is expected to generate significantly more revenue.)

So in spite of the UI administration’s story of gloom and doom, UI revenues and profits continue to gush at rates roughly matching those of the nation’s premier for-profit university.

I don’t know how Phoenix earns such handsome profits, but I do know how UI does it. UI keeps faculty salaries below their competitive, free-market values. It does not maintain its buildings and labs, so its campuses continue to deteriorate. It has cut teaching and research budgets year after year, although it has administration-to-faculty ratios among the most inefficient in the nation

UI’s profits would have been zero, as they should have been, if the central administrators and trustees had spent the funds desperately needed to maintain our university’s quality. Indeed, UI-Chicago faculty unionized largely because it realized that unionization and the power it brings is the only way to force the administrators and trustees to forego profits in order to keep the university strong. UIUC faculty are in the process of unionizing for similar reasons. For the good of our university, I can only hope that they quickly succeed.

DAROLD T. BARNUM

Oak Park