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

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is unfortunate that this posting tries to turn this into a Democrat vs. Republican -- liberal vs. conservative issue. Lake County Indiana has been run by Democrats for 40 years and it is known best for its graft, corruption, and theft of public funds. The State House was in control of Democrats for 16 years prior to Governor Daniels and NWI didn't experience any economic growth nor did Gary have a reversal of fortunes during that time. I agree that IU could have given faculty and staff raises (for example, I do wonder what the tuition increase will go to), but the partisan diatribe is ineffective.

Anonymous said...

I found the article interesting in some respects. First, the class warfare thing is old and tired. Let’s try to agree there is little difference between Demicans and Republicrats. Were things really that much better for Northwest Indiana with Democratic Governors? Democrats have done such a stellar job governing at the local level for 40+ years haven’t they?

I can understand the frustration with the building projects but the author makes claims about the blight of Gary. Wouldn’t a new building at IUN add value to the City of Gary? Does it not fit an area of excellence (Arts and Culture) for IUN? A bond payment on a $33 million bond at 5% over 20 years is about 218,000 a month. Let’s compare this to the $11 billion worth of 30 US Treasury bonds auctioned last week. That monthly payment is $55 million a month over 30 years. Let’s consider our little monthly payment nothing compared to the payments we are currently passing on to future generations.

The City of Gary continues its slow rusty erosion? I believe continues is not the right word. Did you not watch the Dutch television production touted recently but the campus? If not watch it, or better yet, take a drive around town. It is a disaster. I agree with the author the university should do everything to acquire land in and around our campus. This could be developed into international student housing which might be the only way this university could hope to attain 6,000 students. Look at the IU Institutional Research site and you will see this campus has NEVER been over 6,000 in its HISTORY.

We can only hope the funeral for the Gary Community Schools comes quickly. Its bloated bureaucracy eats up precious resources while the average SAT score for the district is 788. Of course, according the most recent IU Fact Book the Fall 2008 IUN incoming class averaged 899; the lowest in the system.

I also find it interesting so many people think Northwest Indiana is such an awful place. If it is so bad, then leave? Of course, all that vested interest and time means starting over and having to work harder so never mind. The reason the rest of the state may or may not care about us is the inept and corrupt delegation we keep sending down. Charlie Brown et al are an embarrassment and a people who continue to allow this as their representation deserve everything they get (or do not get). Imagine if when we did not “get results” we sent a new set of people downstate. And if they did not work we sent another, and another. Ah but this would require action and the ability to think beyond tired rhetoric. Again, Demicans and Republicrats are all the same, just taking money from different sources (sometimes even the same).

The author is correct about our salaries. At the end of the day they not that bad and the focus could and should be on benefits. We definitely need to merge the two (PUC/IUN) and eliminate the duplication of resources at both institutions. Of course, this means academics with poor or sub-par publication records and a history of showing up two times a week will be gone. It also means majors with three active students and eight graduates over ten years could and should be eliminated.

At the end of the day, in a deep recession such as we are in, to be employed is a good thing. No one likes to not get a raise but it is worse when you do not have a job at all.

Anonymous said...

I believe all IUN employees are thankful to have a job in these times. On the other hand, inidicators are that IUN will have more money in its coffers this year than any time in recent memory. SCH for the fall looks great. Let's say that the increase is 10% this fall and that continues into the spring. Compound that by each student paing 4.4% more, then further compounding suggests that SCH income will be up at least 15%, and that accounts for 50% of our income.

The other 50% of our income is from the state. Let's say that is down 5%. Then simple math suggests that IUN will have at least 10% more $$ than last year.

Since little of that is going to salaries (some promotion raises and select bonuses), where is the money going? Who decides?

I suggest that the concept of bonuses (not going into base pay) be broadened to everyone. I suggest that adjuncts get a bonus too, as their pay is pitiful. Since we are a student-centered campus, I suggest we boost funds to academic programs that have not seen a boost in over a decade even though their enrollments are solid. Lastly, let's get an alumni magazine going again.

Any other thoughts on what should be done with our additional dollars this year, the likes of which we haven't seen in a long, long time?

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