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.