Sunday, July 19, 2009

Doom and gloom

If there is a take-home message from President McRobbie’s e-mail message to us as IUN faculty and staff, it is simple: “Doom and gloom!” It is likely another three more years of the “My Man Mitch” dietary special: fiscal discipline, salary freezes and of course, the compassionate conservatives that they are, a few hundred dollars for those at the bottom.
We can’t quite say that we got nothing. The unholy alliance between the legislature, the universities and the building trades contractors always makes sure that there is money for new buildings. The result is that the campus of course will have its $33 million paean to arts and culture. I hate to think what the bond payments are for such a staggering amount. In the meanwhile, the city of Gary continues its slow rusty erosion. One wonders whether all of us would have been better served if at least some of the money had been utilized for buying up blighted property on the edge of the campus.
This biennial budget session just concluded must rank as the worst in a few decades for NW Indiana. In the Economist magazine, Morton Marcus describes “Indiana as the middle finger of the south projecting right into the north” and may I add right up the a*se of NW Indiana. The fact remains that Central Indiana is the Republican demographic base and they could care less about what happens here in NW Indiana. Charlie Brown and his legislative caucus learned this the hard way. Mitch and Bosma don’t give a rat’s a*se for teaching hospitals, or trauma centers or even casinos in this region. But then you can’t blame them. When was the last time that a Republican running for statewide office ever won Lake County? The second thing about this biennial budget is that it can be described as the beginning of the end of urban public education in Indiana. The unfortunate timing of the disclosure of ISTA’s pension fund related problems ensured that the Republican House agenda for charter schools and privatization would triumph. The die is cast. The Gary School district already had one foot in the coffin. The funeral will be upon us shortly.
So is it all doom and gloom? IU’s decision to bear the entire cost of health premium increases points out that we in both faculty and staff need to focus less on salaries and more on benefits. I have always argued that IU should extend the tuition fee waiver for dependents of employees from the current 50% to 100%. My intuition tell me that 18/20 costs have to be going down as more and more faculty forsake early retirement and some of the 18/20 benefits either for health insurance reasons or because of the Wall Street collapse. These savings ought to be redirected to other benefits.
On the political side, Obama’s victory in Indiana and if you look back in history, Frank O’Bannon’s victory over Goldsmith in 2000, both suggest that a demographic coalition spread across key counties around the state is enough to keep Indiana blue. Mitch won because his opponent was inept and underfunded. 2012 will be an open election for the Governorship and here is to hoping that someone can re-create those coalitions. NW Indiana needs an effective spokesperson to counter the Indianapolis centered power structure.
The same truism applies for higher education in the region. The remarkable decision to institute a salary freeze across the system (whether IU or Purdue) and not give the regional campuses any leeway to arrive at our own choices smacks of arrogance and condescension. More than anything, the region needs a quality institution of higher education that ranks with IUPUI and UIC, which can be a power in it is own right and not beholden to trustees and downstate administrators who could care less about NW Indiana. We all have justifiable fears about what a merger of IUN and PUC would bring. But the alternatives are the Bloomington diet of austerity and deep freezes. Riding along on the boom and bust cycles of the enrollment wave is an implicit endorsement of the status quo. I am sure that a few more years of the Mitch diet will change that mood. But if merger were to happen, coincident with a political renaissance of NW Indiana in 2012, we could have a tremendous boost.

Lastly, I reprint below a message from the President of the IU clerical employees CWA Local 4730:
As many of you may know IU announced on Thursday that staff would be receiving no raises this coming year. They seemed to have no problem finding money for buildings and faculty, President McRobbies two big priorities, but when it came to staff the could only dig up enough to throw a token $500 at half of you, and leave the rest of us to muddle through as best we can. Quite simply they decided to stick it to us.
To add further insult, by mandating the $500 'one-time payment' to only some staff IU is attempting to undermine CWA's policy established right to negotiate the distribution of the money. We do not feel we can let this attempt to undermine us go unchallenged.

A few facts to consider (amounts are estimates).
Total IU Budget for FY2009/2010: 2.76 Billion dollars
Amount needed to give half of the staff a $500 'one-time payment': .40 Million dollars.
Number of PAO's and PAU's being paid 6 'bonus' days: Aprox 1000 at a cost of aprox. .75 Million dollars.
Amount needed to give all IUB/IUN staff a 1% raise: .52 Million dollars.
Amount needed to give all IUB/IUN staff a 2% raise: 1.04 Million dollars
Amount needed to give all IUB/IUN staff a 3.5% raise: 1.83 Million dollars
So what do you think? Do you belive that IU could have come up with a few million dollars to give us all a raise? Do you fell that you all deserve something, not just some of you?Next week we will have a petition for you all to sign but in the meantime I want to hear from you, you thoughts and feelings. We sit down next week with managment to discuss wages and we want to be able to tell them what you think of their misguided and radically unfair distribution of University funds.
Do not be taken for granted. Speak up.
Peter KaczmarczykSerCat - IUB - Wells LibraryPresident - CWA Local 4730

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What next?

At the November meeting of the Indiana University Northwest Faculty Organization, the outcome of the discussion on the No-Confidence vote could be simply described as: "What Next?" How do we avoid repeating the past? One of the proposals was to constitute a task group that would examine our "structural problems" and formulate a series of steps that would take our campus beyond the current difficulties. That seems to be on the agenda for the January meeting. What do you think? Post a comment (if you plan to post more than a single comment - make-up a user name).

What are the challenges we have to face during the next 18 months (before the next administration takes us to infinity and beyond)?

It seems to us, that there are several items which need to be addressed:

1. Academic structure problems: Why do we have so many problems with VCAA's? Is it budget structure? Would we be better off if each school was under responsibility center management (control and responsibility over their budget)? What is so different at IUN compared to other universities which do not have problems with VCAA's?

2. Future of IUN.
Do we believe that IUN can grow into a major research university alone? Will PUC leave us in the dust? Is merger with PUC the only way to grow beyond critical mass? Will a Teaching Hospital and 4-year Medical School solve all our problems?

3. Faculty (and staff) unhappiness with salaries.
While on the short-term, this problem will be alleviated if we continue with the faculty salary equity program (for the next two years), this doesn't address the problem for staff, and (given the realities of Indiana budgeting process) only solves the problem temporarily. Asking for more money from the state legislators is probably futile, so maybe the solution is in addressing the benefits. Something like raising the tuition remission for employees to 100% would be easier to pass than drastic salary increases. If we could include other state universities - even better. As 18/20 begins to wind down, we need to promote early retirement schemes, which might include some sort of part-time employment for a limited 5 year span with health insurance.

Anything else? What do you think? Post your comments!


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Vote of no confidence coming up!

As you have all probably heard, at the latest IUN Faculty Organization meeting the faculty voted to place a motion calling for a vote of no confidence in Chancellor's leadership on the agenda for November meeting. We hope to use this blog to allow interested parties to discuss this issue and hopefully come better equipped with facts to our next meeting. Tell us what you think. What are the possible benefits and what consequences would this motion bring forward?

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