Secrecy Update – UI administration decides to release data after all…

We wrote in June about the culture of secrecy in the UI administration.

The presidential search, for example, will be held behind firmly closed doors. Search committee members must promise not to inquire on their own about any of the candidates. In contrast, our next-door neighbors in Wisconsin chose their system-wide president through an open public search. Each finalist participated in “a statewide public forum via videoconference, offering opportunities for faculty, staff, students, and community members to interact with candidates and provide feedback.”

The UI could have conducted its presidential search in this more open way. Instead, the faculty-at-large may contribute only through a single public meeting on each campus with members of the search committee, and electronic suggestion-box type communication. The search will not allow any public discussion or naming of candidates, let alone any interaction with them. Our last presidential search was conducted in similar secrecy, and gave us Michael Hogan – a complete disaster. Such secrecy is completely unnecessary, as the Wisconsin example shows. We believe a more transparent approach would yield better outcomes.

Another example of unnecessary secrecy is the administration’s complete rejection of CFA’s request for institutional data they had provided to the federal government, called the “IPEDS data“. This data analyzes student and faculty demographics and presents campus-specific financial information (unlike the annual financial reports of the university, which combine the three campuses and central administration into a single entity). The university said they could not release any of the data, because it was all in draft form, and furthermore that much of the data contained “identifiable information” on students and hence could not be released due to privacy laws.

Legalistic hogwash, as subsequent developments have revealed!

How we got the data

The CFA appealed the university’s denial to the State Attorney General’s office, which told the administration to justify their assertions. Meanwhile we wrote to the Department of Education (which compiles the IPEDS data) and received the following response:

In response to your question regarding the publication of IPEDS submitted data by institutions. I am not aware of any prohibition for this practice. I am aware that institutions sometimes choose to publish IPEDS submission data prior to its release from NCES. I do not believe there are any federal obstacles to doing this. – Richard Reeves, Branch Chief, Postsecondary Branch, Administrative Data Division, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, Washington, D.C.

We passed this information on to both the Attorney General’s office and the university, and a week later the administration released all the data we had requested. Evidently it is not in draft form after all, and it does not contain any “identifiable information” about students.

And so, at long last, here is the top-secret IPEDS data for  for 2012-2013, for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

What the data shows

A quick skim through the file reveals that the university’s managerial numbers are growing at the same time as staff numbers are shrinking and financial reserves are soaring.

Managerial bloat revealed in IPEDS data for 2012-2013:

  • Pages 159-164 – “management occupation” non-instructional staff numbers went up by 100 from 2012 to 2013, while total non-instructional staff numbers went down by over 400.
    Does this campus need more managers and fewer workers?

Financial highlights from IPEDS data for 2012-2013:

  • Page 84 – net assets of the Urbana-Champaign campus shot up by $289 million (to a total of $2.25 billion), because assets increased $82 million and liabilities decreased $207 million.
  • Page 84 – “unrestricted” net assets for our campus, which could be spent freely at the discretion of the administration, went up $149 million (to a total of $558 million).
  • Remember these figures are just for our campus, and do not even count the endowment, which is separately held

Demographic highlights from IPEDS data for 2012-2013:

  • Page 150 – see demographic breakdown of full-time tenured faculty
  • Page 151 – see demographic breakdown of full-time tenure-track faculty
  • Page 152-153 – see demographic breakdown of full-time non-tenure-track faculty. Interestingly, only 7 of these faculty hold multi-year contracts.
  • Page 169 – salary averages broken down by rank and gender

Note that IPEDS data collection suffers from a significant time lag. The most recent data submitted is for 2012-2013, and even that data will not be available on the IPEDS website until October 2014. We must wait until 2015 to acquire data on 2013-2014.

Conclusion

The university administration is committed to a top-down approach. One manifestation is that it keeps to itself information about our university that should be freely available to all. Should we really have to appeal to the State Attorney General, in order to get basic information about the finances and demographics of our own institution?

Faculty need a forceful, strong and independent voice. C’mon illinois – we can do so much better!

 

 

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