CFA’s response to Provost Feser’s Massmail

In a recent mass email, Provost Ed Feser informed units that he expects them to produce plans for either a 3, 5, or 7 percent cut in their budgets for FY17. CFA supports a proactive response to the current state fiscal crisis. We fully understand the necessity of budgetary measures that will no doubt include economic belt-tightening from all units. But we also believe that our campus budget planning is in need of profound structural reforms. Our budgetary decision-making process was developed in an age when we received a much greater percentage of our total revenue from the state than we do today. Forty years ago, the income from state revenue and tuition was more than sufficient to cover the operating needs of our university, and a top-down distribution model seemed to work to everyone’s satisfaction. In the new economic environment in which state revenues have dropped and tuition revenue has skyrocketed to cover the gap, the top-down model no longer works. We encourage the administration to act decisively to redesign the campus budget model and bring it into conformity with university financing best practices. We believe that while short-term cuts are certainly required, any serious cuts to our units and Colleges should only be made in light of a fully transparent and redesigned budget model.

— CFA President Bruce Rosenstock

University employees’ health coverage and the AFSCME contract

Threat to your health coverage

Governor Rauner is demanding big cuts in health insurance spending, which for employees would mean big hikes in premiums or out-of-pocket costs (or both). All university employees, including faculty, can expect to see increased health care costs if the Rauner administration prevails.

The cuts are linked to ongoing contract negotiations with AFSCME (the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees). Those contract negotiations, due to state policy, determine health benefits for all state and public university employees.

The Rauner administration wants to cut the state’s contributions to workers’ health care by $700 million in FY 2016 and a further $150 million in FY 2017. These cuts would place Illinois dead last in the country among state health care plans, according to AFSCME, and state employees would pay more for their coverage than in any other state.

Details

Rauner’s proposal offers four options, all of which result in higher health care expenses for workers:

  • An employee could agree to double their monthly premium cost and continue with the same out-of-pocket expense as currently.
  • An employee could opt to pay a higher monthly premium and incur higher out-of-pocket costs.
  • An employee’s premium would stay the same as currently but they would incur greater out-of-pocket costs.
  • An employee could opt out of retiree health insurance, and until retirement continue with the same premium and out-of-pocket cost as currently.

These proposals aim to shift health care costs from the state onto workers, to the tune of $3,100 per worker per year (on average). In other words, it is a pay cut in the form of a reduction in health care benefits. This change could go into effect for all state and university employees as early as January 1, 2016.

What you can do

AFSCME needs support from all university employees in order to stand up to the Rauner administration in their contract negotiations.

AFSCME is organizing a series of rallies to show that state and university workers are united in their rejection of increased health care costs. CFA urges its members to join other workers at a rally on Thursday, December 10th (reading day) at 5:30 p.m. in Springfield, IL at the Prairie Capitol Convention Center and to stay tuned for news of a local action.

CFA supports AFSCME as they fight for health benefits for all state and university employees.

CFA Responds to Budget Cutbacks in LAS

The Campus Strategic Plan lists as one of its most important goals “to strengthen the visibility and impact of the arts and the humanities.” This goal cannot be met by imposing severe cuts on the departments of the College of LAS. We therefore ask Dean Ross to explain to LAS faculty why the College wants departments to return an average of 5% of their budgets.

It is true that state appropriations (12% of our $2 billion budget in FY15) have dropped over the past decade. They will almost certainly drop again in the new FY15-16 state budget once it is passed. But increases in our tuition revenue (33% of our budget) have more than made up for these drops. In fact, the University of Illinois system has been consistently amassing surpluses over the past decade (now $1.5 billion).

While we do need to prepare for future expenditures on deferred maintenance costs, and while the state may impose the additional burden of pension contributions, we are not now in financial crisis. We can meet our present budgetary expenditures and we can meet future needs.

If the university is in fundamentally good fiscal shape, why did the Dean of LAS tell the EOs on November 6 that the College was running deficits that need to be made up this year? Why the sense of urgency? Why undermine one of the goals of the Campus Strategic Plan?

According to information provided by the Division of Management Information, the college of LAS has 25 departments running budget deficits in 2015, and the goal for 2016 is to reduce this to 20 departments with budget deficits. But it also shows that the total budget deficit of the College of LAS is below the goal for FY16. Why are we departing from the goals of our Campus Strategic Plan?

The lack of budget transparency has been a serious problem in the past. CFA calls upon Dean Ross to convene a special All College Faculty Meeting devoted to the budget, at which faculty members can ask questions and get them answered, about the financial state of the college and the campus, as well as the justification for large mid-year cuts.

CFA Stands With Our Students, Against Racism

On November 18, following a rally in support of Black students across the US, someone started a Facebook page for a so-called “Illini White Students Union.” The page, which Facebook has since been taken down, reportedly called for surveillance of “anti-white terrorists” on the UIUC campus, and called on visitors to circulate the names and identifying information of black student activists.

CFA stands in solidarity with the students of color who, in the face of ignorance and bigotry, continue to organize for a better University of Illinois. We support their calls for a safe and welcoming educational space – one that includes many more Black, Latino/a and American Indian students. We call on President Killeen, Chancellor Wilson, and Vice Chancellor Romano to not only denounce acts of intimidation aimed at student activists, but to also commit to making real change on our campus. Our students deserve nothing less.

The CFA Executive Committee

Details are available in the Independent (UK) (http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/white-student-union-formed-to-organise-against-black-terrorism-at-university-of-illinois-at-urbana-a6740466.html)   and the News Gazette (http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2015-11-19/group-calls-ui-do-more-curb-anti-black-terror-campus.html).

CFA Responds to the Salaita Settlement

CFA is happy Steven Salaita has accepted the settlement approved by the Board of Trustees. Compensating Dr. Salaita, however, is only a first step. Two major concerns remain unresolved.

First, the damage inflicted on the American Indian Studies Program must be made good. We call upon Chancellor Wilson and Dean Ross of the College of LAS to make recommendations about how at a minimum to restore the AIS Program to its former strength both in faculty lines and programming capacities. We also call upon Chancellor Wilson to take steps to move this campus decisively beyond the “Chief” era — through continued education, and by eliminating the use of music associated with the “dance” of the Chief during sports events.

Second, the intrusion of the Board of Trustees into academic policy and hiring decisions remains a serious problem. The prospect of such intrusions has increased rather than decreased, over the past year. The Board now asserts a right to intervene in any individual hiring case. Further, with their decision to subject every faculty hire to a background check, the Board has added a new hurdle in the hiring process — a hurdle with a racially discriminatory effect.

This university does not need a more interventionist Board in faculty hiring. We appeal to the Board of Trustees to explicitly delegate faculty hiring decisions to each campus, and to repeal their blanket background check policy.

Bruce Rosenstock, President

Campus Faculty Association

Where Were You Living Forty Years Ago? My Experience With Background Checks

By a UIUC Faculty Member

It is with some dismay that I see that the Board of Trustees has adopted a policy of background checks for all new faculty at the University of Illinois. In order to take advantage of a fellowship opportunity at another academic institution, I recently had to submit to four background checks. In my experience, the entire process seemed a poor use of time and resources.

For instance, the educational background check that was initiated by HR at University X could not be completed because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a federal law that protects the privacy of student educational records. After having dutifully filled out the requisite information on the HR website, I received a letter in the mail some weeks later that informed me that my alma mater would not release any information to the third-party vendor. I remain puzzled as to why University X continues to pay for such abortive background checks, as most academic institutions would presumably claim similar protections for student records under FERPA.

Meanwhile, the state police criminal background check ($10) and child abuse history check ($10) were unduly onerous for little return. I had to compile detailed information for these checks: they demanded to know all the addresses where I had lived since 1975, and the names of all individuals with whom I had lived since 1975, including family. Given that the agencies only have jurisdiction in a state in which I had never previously resided (and in a country in which I had spent limited time), it seemed unlikely that they would find useful most of the information that I had carefully supplied. The results of these checks were available instantaneously, suggesting that my foreign and out-of-state details were not examined at all.

Next, I had to be fingerprinted at a local police station in order to complete the FBI criminal history report ($25.75). Because the records officer provides these services to the public for only a few hours each week, one might find oneself in the company of former convicted sex offenders who are also awaiting fingerprinting, as well as prospective school teachers and bus drivers. Judging from the somewhat disorganized procedure, I am quite certain that our local police departments are not yet equipped to deal with a major increase in demand for fingerprinting services. Locally, each fingerprint card can cost as much as $40, and two cards are to be submitted to the FBI lest one prove illegible; the total of $80 must be paid in cash. (CFA editor’s note: the proposed background check policy at UIUC does not mention the possibility of fingerprint collection. CFA assumes, therefore, that since it is not specifically excluded, fingerprinting of faculty is on the table.)

A colleague who also underwent the same background checks at University X found that her fingerprint cards were deemed illegible by the FBI; rather than begin the process again, the vendor simply ran a check on her SSN instead. Thus, background checks run by the same vendor for the same institution cannot be said to be the same, or even to rely on similar sources of information. The inconsistent and varying practices of such vendors raises questions of accuracy and reliability. Indeed, I suspect that the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), passed in 1970, is not adequately designed to regulate the practices of the emerging market of data-brokers. When accused of violating FCRA’s protections for consumers, UIUC’s chosen vendor General Information Services took the contemptible stance of claiming a First Amendment defense of commercial speech. Thus, even when protections are in place, General Information Services has attempted to circumvent them for profit. Are we to subject the employees of the University of Illinois to these kinds of injustices? Our dwindling resources could surely be put to better use.

One of the major questions is the security of personal and confidential information as it travels back and forth across the country. This information is currently being sent to and handled by third-party vendors. Many of these data-brokers fare very poorly on employer review sites — the employees complain about low wages, lack of training, bad management, and low morale. These sites are as (un)reliable as RateMyProfessor, but given the apparently fraught working environments, populated with so many disgruntled employees, one wonders what measures have been taken to secure the privacy of confidential data. Even under ideal conditions, it is difficult to guarantee the security of information; just this week, confidential data (SSNs, results of drug tests, notes from physicians) appeared inexplicably on a public sub-domain of Amazon web services, a cloud computing platform.

In an added and final irony, I discovered that University X had decided two months ago that such rigorous background checks weren’t necessary for everyone. The time that I spent on “compliance” is gone, and my fingerprints and personal information are…who knows where?

Monetary outlay? $125.75.

Pointless invasion of privacy and exponentially increased likelihood of identity theft? Priceless.

Faculty Alert: U of I Pushing for Criminal Background Checks

All UIUC faculty need to be aware that the UI Administration is rapidly advancing an ill-thought-out and far-reaching criminal background check policy for faculty and staff, without adequate faculty oversight or input.  The proposed policy will be brought before the Academic Senate on Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, and if approved, will take effect October 5, 2015.

A link to a draft description of the policy is below.  It was presented by the Vice-Provost to the Senate Executive Committee in PowerPoint form earlier this month.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B3SRTJycobQKSU54VjJzY3g2N1RTcTFJTXVFZG1lTk5HZDE0

Please note that the Vice-Provost’s presentation contains incomplete information and errors of fact.  For example, Penn State does not require criminal background checks of all faculty, and a Pennsylvania judge has granted an injunction to block the State System of Higher Education from starting background checks on all faculty members.

UIC Faculty United (the faculty union at UIC) has informed the administration that background checks will be a subject for collective bargaining.

CFA asks all faculty members to inform themselves about this rushed policy and to help the University community think through the potential consequences of blanket background checks.

CFA sponsors Steven Salaita book event on Oct. 13

Steven Salaita, in conversation with Robert Warrior, will discuss academic freedom, free speech on campus, and the movement for justice in Palestine with the Urbana-Champaign community on Tuesday, October 13, 2015 at 7 p.m. at the Independent Media Center (202 S. Broadway, Urbana).

In the summer of 2014, American Indian studies scholar Steven Salaita’s appointment to a tenured professorship was revoked by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Salaita’s employment was terminated in response to his public tweets criticizing the Israeli government’s summer assault on Gaza.

Salaita’s firing generated a huge public outcry, with thousands petitioning for his reinstatement, more than five thousand scholars pledging to boycott UIUC, and the AAUP censuring the administration of UIUC.   His case raises important questions about academic freedom, free speech on campus, and the movement for justice in Palestine.

In his new book Uncivil Rites: Palestine and the Limits of Academic Freedom (Haymarket Books 2015), Salaita combines personal reflection and political critique toshed new light on his controversial termination. He situates his case at the intersection of important issues that affect both higher education and social justice activism.

Steven Salaita currently holds the Edward W. Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut. The author of six previous books, he is a regular columnist for Electronic Intifada and a member of the Organizing Committee of the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI).

Robert Warrior is Director of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is Professor of American Indian Studies, English, and History. An enrolled member of the Osage Nation, he is the author of The People and the Word: Reading Native Nonfiction, American Indian Literary Nationalism (with Craig Womack and Jace Weaver), Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee (with Paul Chaat Smith) and Tribal Secrets: Recovering American Indian Intellectual Traditions.  He is a member of the Native Critics Collective and, in 2009-10, served as the founding President of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association.

No budget crisis: university gets usual amount of money from state, so far

The budget show-down in Springfield has made no difference whatsoever to the university’s financial situation so far. The Campus Faculty Association has discovered through a Freedom of Information Act request that:

  1. The amount owed to the university on previous years’ state appropriations is only $49 million, as of August 14. The university can easily cover this amount temporarily. Indeed, the university has socked away more than 30 times as much in investments over just the past five years, and the university generates more than 20 times as much each year in tuition revenue. There is no chance of the university having cash flow problems or failing to meet payroll anytime soon.
  2. It is true the state has not begun appropriation payments to the university for the current fiscal year, which started on July 1, but that is normal: almost no funds were received from the state through August in each of the years 2012, 2013, and 2014 (less than $200,000 in each case).

Bottom line: despite all the talk in Springfield, nothing is different this year so far, in terms of state dollars received.

Here is the spreadsheet showing the numbers: FOIA GeneralFunds

Provost Adesida resigns abruptly, with no explanation

From: Acting Chancellor Barbara Wilson <chancellor@illinois.edu>
Reply-To: no-reply-webservices <no-reply-webservices@illinois.edu>
Date: Monday, August 24, 2015 at 1:16 PM
Subject: MASSMAIL – Provost Ilesanmi Adesida’s Decision to Return to the Faculty

Dear Colleagues:

I write to let you know that this morning Provost Ilesanmi Adesida has informed me that he will be stepping down from this role and returning to his faculty position in the College of Engineering on August 31.

I want to thank Provost Adesida for his tremendous dedication to this campus and for his visionary leadership over many years. I worked with him in the Office of the Provost for two years and for this past year as a dean. I have seen firsthand how much this university means to him and how much pride he took in seeing the successes of our faculty, students and alumni.

For almost three decades, Ade has been an integral part of this university. As a highly accomplished faculty member in engineering, the director of the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory, as a dean and as provost, he has been a tireless advocate for Illinois. He has been a voice for us all across the nation and around the world. And closer to home, his leadership can be seen in everything from our ambitious plans to hire 500 new faculty members to this summer’s formal approval of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine to the plans for our new student design center.

Ade ranks among the most respected members of his profession in the world. He holds memberships in the most prestigious societies including the National Academy of Engineering and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is a prolific scholar, a valued collaborator and an honored mentor and advisor.

Ade has left a permanent and positive mark on this university. He has my respect and my gratitude. Replacing him will be no easy task.

I will be consulting with the Council of Deans, members of the Senate Executive Committee and leaders across campus in the next few days for advice and guidance in selecting a candidate to serve in an interim capacity. This is a critical position for the campus that we must fill quickly, but a decision that I know must be made collaboratively.

Once again, I ask you to join me in thanking Provost Adesida for his service and wish him the best as he returns to his faculty position.

Sincerely,

Barbara J. Wilson
Acting Chancellor
This mailing approved by:
Office of the Chancellor

sent to:
Academic Professionals, Civil Service & Faculty

Fortyone heads of departments and programs at the U of Illinois call for the reinstatement of Steven Salaita

Fortyone chairs, heads, and directors of campus units are calling on President Killeen and Interim Chancellor Wilson to

recommend to the Board of Trustees that they reverse their previous decision and reinstate Dr. Salaita at the next board meeting in September.

Read the full statement at the Academe Blog!


Here is the list of signatories:

James Anderson, Head, Department of Education Policy, Organization and Leadership

Matthew Ando, Chair, Department of Mathematics

Antoinette Burton, Interim Director, Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities

C.L. Cole, Head, Department of Media and Cinema Studies

David Cooper, Director, Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center

Clare Crowston, Chair, Department of History

Jerry Dávila, Director, Lemann Institute for Brazilian Studies

Anna Maria Escobar, Director, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies

Michael Finke, Head, Slavic Languages and Literatures

Stephanie Foote, Chair, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies

Behrooz Ghamari-Tabrizi, Interim Director, Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Greg Girolami, Head, Department of Chemistry

Waïl Hassan, Director, Center for Translation Studies

Stephanie Hilger, Head, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures

Valerie Hoffman, Head, Department of Religion

Valerie Hotchkiss, Director, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Jonathan X. Inda, Head, Department of Latina/Latino Studies

Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, Head, Department of Theatre

Lilya Kaganovsky, Director, Program in Comparative and World Literature

Brett Kaplan, Director, Program in Jewish and Culture and Society

Marcus Keller, Head, Department of French and Italian

Edward Kolodziej, Director, Center for Global Studies

Susan Koshy, Director, Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory

Soo Ah Kwon, Head, Department of Asian American Studies

Jean-Philippe Mathy, Director, School of Literatures, Cultures, and Linguistics

David O’Brien, Chair, Art History Program

Robert B. Olshansky, Head, Department of Urban and Regional Planning

Andrew Orta, Head, Department of Anthropology

Jesse Ribot, Director, Social Dimensions of Environmental Policy Program

Michael Rothberg, Head, Department of English

Kirk Sanders, Chair, Department of Philosophy

Spencer Schaffner, Director, Center for Writing Studies

Douglas Simpson, Chair, Department of Statistics

Anna W. Stenport, Director, European Union Center

Eleonora Stoppino, Director, Program in Medieval Studies

Andrew Suarez, Head, Department of Animal Biology

William Sullivan, Head, Department of Landscape Architecture

Jonathan V. Sweedler, Director, School of Chemical Sciences

Ariana Traill, Head, Department of the Classics

Robert Warrior, Director, Program in American Indian Studies

Assata Zerai, Director, Center for African Studies

Call for Release of Complete Information about the Scandal

We applaud the spirit of President Killeen’s massmail to campus (August 13). Faculty members also wish to move forward. But we must move forward with justice. President Killeen should follow the recommendation of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure, as endorsed by the Academic Senate, and remand Dr. Steven Salaita’s case to a committee of faculty experts for reconsideration.

Further, we cannot “learn from the lessons of our past” until we know what was done in the past. The administration has refused to release any names or details of the unethical (and possibly illegal) actions by administrators, faculty or staff. The public does not know who was involved, or what exactly are the “allegations and incidents” to which Killeen refers.

So in the spirit of “integrity, transparency, service and excellence”, which are ideals we share wholeheartedly with President Killeen, we call on the administration to release complete information about the scandal enveloping the university.

Only then will our campus community be able to move forward.

– Bruce Rosenstock, President

Campus Faculty Association