Faculty reps on BOT, and what it’s like without

The CFA Proposal to Select and Diversify the Composition of the University Board of Trustees has two main elements that have been incorporated into the pending legislation, HB4688:
1. Inclusion of faculty as Trustees and
2. Establishing a Trustees Selection Task Force TRUST Force) to receive and review nominations and make recommendations to the Governor. Membership on the TRUST Force would include the chairs of the three campus senates, three acknowledged leaders in education from outside the University of Illinois and four additional persons with impeccable integrity. The credentials of all members of the TRUST Force should be made public to substantiate their requisite experience for this important role.
This call for change embodied in the CFA’s proposal is perhaps best stated in former University of Illinois President Stanley Ikenberry’s thoughtful essay entitled “Uncertain and Unplanned: The Future of Public Higher Education”, Policy Forum, vol. 17, Institute of Government Public Affairs, University of Illinois, Champaign, 2005. Ikenberry wrote, “Public college and university governing boards need to reflect the diversification in ‘publics’ to which they must now be accountable and responsible. A fresh vision of public university governing structures, consistent with public interest, consistent with the emergence of new stakeholders, and reflective of a clarified ‘state-public university partnership’ or ‘social contract’ needs to be crafted.”
A prime reason for inclusion of faculty on the Board of Trustees is the knowledge they would bring to the table. Higher education is faced with complex problems and wonderful opportunities. Faculty are arguably the constituency that is most familiar with both. As the U of I goes forward it would be a shame, if not foolish, not to include that expertise in the governance of the institution.
In addition, faculty grants contribute more money to the university than State appropriations, yet faculty have zero say in university governance.
Some of the best arguments in favor of having faculty representation on the U of I Board of Trustees also include what has taken place without such representation:
1. Failure to request and obtain appropriate resources from the State of IL over decades, even in times of economic prosperity (source: report of the North Central Commission on Higher Education)
2. Failure to educate IL legislators and IL citizens on the merits and activities of the U of I so that they would champion funds for the University
3. Interference with appointments and ‘questionable’ awarding of contracts
4. Admissions scandal
5. Politicization of the Board – Pay to Play: Recent past Trustees contributed more than
$585,000 to former Governor Blagojevich
6. Transfer of university property to the U of I Foundation that was subsequently sold to donors at below market value
7. Contracts that negate U of I policies. Examples: Contracts with Triple Canopy, Blackwater, and the Academy on Capitalism
8. Silencing dissent
9. Golden parachutes to ‘team players’
10. Increases in tuition while at the same time approving tens of millions of dollars to the Research Park .
11. Imposition of a Fourth Mission on the university, “Economic Development”, arguably, at the expense of the university fulfilling its traditional three missions: teaching, research and service.

– Stephen Kaufman

Dear Editor:

Your [News-Gazette]December 10 editorial chiding state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson for proposing faculty representation on the U of I Board of Trustees greatly misrepresents the role of our University’s faculty. I doubt you would publish such an editorial about a proposal to add doctors to the governing board of a hospital. You certainly would not show such disdain for the doctors staffing that hospital, likening them, as you did in this case, to inmates of an asylum. Faculty set curricula and work to pass on the special knowledge of their field to their students. Trustees and administrators do not, and indeed cannot, tell faculty how to do this.

As with any great university, members of the U of I’s faculty already play a major role in the administration of the academic enterprise. Were they mere employees, faculty would not fund the organization in which they work. In reality, more than a third of the money coming to the University is brought to our community and state by research grants obtained by members of the University’s world class faculty. Direct State appropriations, on the other hand, amount to less than eighteen percent of the University’s budget; this year, the State has failed to supply even that small share of the money needed to run the University. It will be left to the faculty to shield students from that failure.

In your editorial you say “shame on state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson”, but in fact, the shame is on you: The many members of the University faculty living in the community you claim to represent and the readers who buy your paper all deserve editorial opinions that are at least minimally informed.
-Peter Loeb

Reforming the Board of Trustees

CFA’s proposal to reform the UI Board of Trustees has been introduced (in slightly altered form) by Naomi Jakobsson as HB4688!

This proposal, which the CFA had been working on for months BEFORE the “clout” scandal broke, seeks to establish a “TRUST force” made up of representatives from various constituencies – faculty and others – to select a BOT with an interest in the University’s core mission: education and research.

And more!

To the editor:

In recent days, University of Illinois administrators and spokespeople have made statements suggesting that graduate students are threatening to go on strike because they are not being given the raise they have requested at a time when “other employees of the university did not receive any raises at all this year” ( http://www.provost.illinois.edu/geo_negotiation_notes.html) .

I believe it is important for the university community and greater public to be aware of a very different perspective. In fact, some top university administrators, including Richard Herman and Chet Gardner (who ran the now defunct Global Campus, which will never recoup the millions of dollars the university invested in it), have received extremely generous raises. It is also worth noting that even though university administrators argue that they cannot afford to pay graduate student employees a living wage, the university paid attorneys $400,000 to represent it at the panel investigating the use of clout for university admission.

The reason graduate student assistants are threatening to strike is that the university administration has failed to negotiate in good faith with the graduate student union. For example, whereas the graduate student union presented the administration with a proposal on the first day of negotiations, university administrators did not present a counter proposal until 4 days before the old contract expired, and their proposal called for a 3 year wage freeze.

Howard Berenbaum

Dear Editor…

[Submitted to the News-Gazette this morning by one of our Executive Committee members – ed.]

As a member of the Campus Faculty Association at the University of Illinois I support the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO) and their strike for a better contract:

In recent years we’ve heard a lot from the U. of I. administration about their goal of creating better jobs for Illinois. Now, in the worst economic downturn since the 1930s, University leaders seem committed to lowering the wages and working conditions of some of their hardest-working employees. Despite the administration’s sketchy figures, most graduate teaching assistants make below the university’s own minimal figures for what it costs to live in Champaign or Urbana. Good jobs for Illinois?

The University has been starved for state funds for more than a decade. Staffing has been reduced, buildings neglected, equipment is out of date and there are not enough janitors to clean the classrooms properly. Students sit in classrooms with broken furniture and trash on the floor. Most faculty members work more than 60 hours a week, and we are about to be told to take unpaid furlough days. Meanwhile, the administration pours millions into public relations, consulting firms, stadium sky-boxes, bonuses for disgraced administrators and ill-advised gambles like the Global Campus.

Driving down the wages and raising the tuition of the teaching assistants, who provide nearly a quarter of instruction to U of I undergraduates, might make for a good corporate bottom line — but is not going to encourage the state legislature to better fund the University. It’s not going to improve undergraduate education, or draw excellent graduate students to Illinois.

Susan Davis
Professor
Urbana-Champaign

CFA helping find alternate classroom sites

In the event of a grad employee strike next week, GEO is requesting that faculty show support by canceling classes. For those who feel they cannot do that, or can only cancel some, CFA is helping find alternate venues. Arrangements depend upon date and time, class size and other needs, and availability, so we can make no guarantees. The information [here attached as a “comment”] has been sent to all CFA members, but we can also assist others.