Monday, March 29, 2010

Cross-subsidies and the humanities

An excellent article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed that dispels the myth that the humanities are a drain on universities.

A few choice tidbits:
"If you count what patients pay for treatment as income earned by a medical center, but do not count what students pay for literature courses as income earned by the humanities department, the hospital will surely look like a much smarter business. You might therefore appoint those productive health-care administrators to a death panel (called a university-wide planning committee) on lost causes like the English major."

"But, according to spreadsheet calculations done at my request by Reem Hanna-Harwell, assistant dean of the humanities at the University of California at Los Angeles, based on the latest annual student-credit hours, fee levels, and total general-fund expenditures, the humanities there generate over $59-million in student fees, while spending only $53.5-million (unlike the physical sciences, which came up several million dollars short in that category). The entire teaching staff of Writing Programs, which is absolutely essential to UCLA's educational mission, has been sent firing notices, even though the spreadsheet shows that program generating $4.3-million dollars in fee revenue, at a cost of only $2.4-million."

"Of the 21 units at the University of Washington, the humanities and, to a lesser degree, the social sciences are the only ones that generate more tuition income than 100 percent of their total expenditure."

"Because [this] evidence runs up against the widespread myth that other units and departments subsidize the humanities, and up against such well-entrenched forces within the university, it is regularly ignored or even suppressed. In the 1990s, UCLA invested huge amounts of money setting up Responsibility Centered Management, an accounting system eventually used at many universities to evaluate all the real costs of different units and the revenue they actually produce. The goal was to make budgeting fair and transparent. However, according to administrators then prominently involved in the process, when the initial run of those intricate spreadsheets showed that the College of Letters and Science was the most efficient user and producer of money, and the health sciences were far less efficient, RCM was abandoned. I have no illusions that the businesspeople and University of California medical executives who evidently have President Yudof's ear will be more receptive to that inconvenient truth today than they were then."

"Even though scientists bring in research money, research grants never pay for their full costs, so they actually erode resources from the general instructional program. And cutting budgets further in the courses that are already the lowest cost is nutty."

"But when a university's own leaders begin talking about higher education as if it were just another business rather than a great collective legacy, by making English professors the scapegoat for hundreds of millions of dollars in operating deficit, they need to hear some other voices. The assumption that the humanities are a vestigial parasite within an otherwise self-sufficient institutional body is dangerously wrong."

If the above link no longer lets you view the whole article without paying, then try this link:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The latest in the Daily - "Faculty votes ‘no’ to fairness"

“'Obviously, the University isn’t rolling in dough, but it wasn’t made clear that pay cuts were really necessary and that all other options were explored,' said Gil Rodman, professor and member of Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education. 'The crucial parts of the budget decisions have been completely opaque.' Some faculty expressed frustration with Bruininks’ refusal to support the sliding scale and his emphasis on the fact that a decision needed to be made soon. 'I feel like we’re being held hostage, because we’ve known about many of these issues for years,' anthropology professor Karen-Sue Taussig said. 'I feel like we’re being held hostage by hearing that this is the only acceptable proposal to the administration.'"

"These reductions will save $18 million in a bid to close the University’s swelling $132 million budget gap. If historical trends are any indicator, the difference will be recovered with tuition. Dig in for talk of double-digit increases. This across-the-board proposal was not the only option on the table last Thursday. An alternative proposal, deemed the 'sliding scale,' would have yielded equivalent savings with a more progressive cut schedule. During the height of the Great Depression, the University cut pay according to salary level, where wages at the bottom were held steady while larger percentages were cut up top. This time around, across-the-board cuts will inflict greater harm on the lowest-paid staff than on tenured professors or the ever-growing cadre of vice presidents...For clerical workers, janitors and other low-paid University employees, the vote came as a stinging rebuke of progressive principles. AFSCME 3800 President Phyllis Walker said after the meeting, 'This means that some clerical workers won’t be able to buy presents for their children this holiday season.' So why the lopsided vote? It’s complicated. Political science professor Teri Caraway, a member of the Chop from the Top Coalition and a supporter of the sliding scale, explained that administration had coerced faculty into approving the administrative plan. “He held a knife to our throats,” she said. In an e-mail sent to faculty mid-March, Bruininks spoke in not-so-veiled terms: 'If there is not a vote in support of a reduction in pay for faculty, our budget plan going forward will necessarily include deeper college- and unit-level cuts, which will inevitably lead to additional job losses.' Under direct administrative threat of layoffs and with word from St. Paul that failing to vote for pay cuts would further erode what little remains of legislative support, it’s understandable that so few faculty members were willing to 'rock the boat.' While we applaud the faculty for (mild) self-sacrifice, they failed to use their consultative power to craft a more just and sustainable solution that would have spared vulnerable employees from financial pain and scrutinized the very real potential of the University to price itself out of the market. With little say in the budget process, students should be disappointed that faculty legislators were not more willing to craft and consider alternative budget proposals, which would’ve been a clear sign of challenge to ever-more-expensive administrative lock-step. Microbiology professor Pat Cleary, who voted with the majority, partially blamed the vote on procedural limits: 'We should’ve been able to amend the main proposal, but parliamentary procedure wouldn’t allow it'...Many left the meeting looking to the future. Walker was energized regarding the students, staff and faculty who fought for the lowest-paid. “This is the beginning of a coalition that is going to go far,” she said.”

Excuse me, Mr. President...

Bill Gleason speaks truth to power:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Report on the March 25 Faculty Senate meeting

Most of you know by now that the Faculty Senate approved Bruininks' motion to cut faculty salaries by 1.15%. Of course we are very disappointed that our resolutions did not pass, but we think that there is reason for optimism. (Note: This report could have been much longer, as there was much parliamentary maneuvering that occurred at the meeting that is not described below. It would make your head spin and perhaps bore you to death, so we opted for brevity.)

The meeting opened with Bruininks giving a ten-minute speech, decorated with the same vapid PowerPoint slides that we have all seen. Asserting that his plan was the most even-handed and fair, he dismissed a sliding scale model because it would disproportionately affect our "best" faculty and encourage them to engage in "job-seeking behavior." Bruininks deemed this too high a price to pay to shield the lowest-paid workers at the U from pay cuts. "I'll be quite blunt about this," he said, "this is the only plan at this point on the table and being discussed today that I'm willing to consider." He concluded by stating that the issue of the day was whether faculty are "willing to make a really modest contribution in the short-term to help solve a long-term issue facing the University of Minnesota."

FCC Vice-Chair Michael Oakes then presented the motion on behalf of the FCC, which was unanimous in its support of Bruininks proposal. Eva von Dassow spoke in opposition to the motion. Debate proceeded for about an hour, with numerous FCC and other Senate committee members, or their alternates, weighing in to support Bruininks' proposal. Many spoke to the issue of "sharing the pain" or "taking one for the team" as a way of urging support for Bruininks' motion, completely ignoring the fact that our Resolution on Salary Reduction was intended to do just that, while at the same time protecting the most vulnerable workers.

Our first substitute motion, the Resolution on Financial Stringency, was presented by Eva von Dassow. Our demand for the administration to justify its expenditures struck a chord. Although there were some doubts raised about our use of the word "audit," as well as a call for providing more specific items for auditors to investigate, a number of senators noted that the administration has not enunciated a long-term plan for how to deal with reductions in state allocations and that the issues raised by the resolution are important and should be part of discussions about developing long-term solutions. Michael Oakes, Vice-Chair of the FCC, made a friendly amendment to our resolution that removed the following clause from the third paragraph of the resolution: "prior to asking the Faculty Senate to vote on its proposal to reduce faculty compensation." By removing this clause, our motion was no longer a substitute motion but a separate, independent motion. The motion was then referred to committee for further action.

The second substitute motion, the Resolution on Salary Reductions, was presented by Karen-Sue Taussig. After little debate and extensive parliamentary maneuvering, the motion was voted on and was defeated by quite a large margin. Although the motion was defeated, there was a lot of support for the idea of a sliding scale and for shielding the lowest-paid workers from pay cuts. The main criticism of the sliding scale cut was that imposing larger cuts on more highly-paid individuals would drive away "rainmakers." Making those who earn more take a bigger hit, some argued, would produce a brain drain and allow other universities to "cherry pick" our best faculty. Some openly doubted the veracity of this claim, noting that most universities are facing major budget problems. (Not to mention that the argument shows quite starkly the administration's dubious conflation of high pay with quality of scholarship and its assumption that our best faculty only care about making a lot of money--neither is true, of course.)

The main concern voiced regarding the sliding scale had nothing to do with the sliding scale per se but rather the non-binding character of Faculty Senate resolutions. If our Resolution had passed, Bruininks could have ignored it and simply imposed deeper cuts on academic units, which would have had two consequences that concerned many people: first, the administration would portray this as faculty voting "no" on paycuts, which would reflect badly on faculty and incur wrath from legislators and the public; second, that the cuts to units would hurt the very people we were trying to protect with the sliding scale proposal.

After the Resolution on Salary Reductions was voted down, Bruininks' motion became the only remaining motion. At this point, Bill Beeman made a motion to suspend the rules, in hopes that we could then amend Bruininks' motion and replace the across-the-board cut with a sliding scale. There was a palpable change in energy in the room at this moment. Bill Beeman almost withdrew the motion, since a previous effort to suspend the rules was voted down, but audible "whys?" came from many senators. A two-thirds majority was required to suspend the rules, and unfortunately we did not get enough votes. The votes were not counted, but a lot of cards went up to support the motion to suspend the rules. By our estimate about half of the senators were in favor of suspending the rules. Senators then voted on Bruininks' motion, which passed. (Many senators seemed to think that amending Bruininks' motion would have bound him to carry out the sliding scale, but we are uncertain of this. The tenure code requires the President to obtain faculty assent in order to cut our salaries, but the Senate Constitution states that Senate resolutions are non-binding on the administration.)

It is worth noting the irony of this situation. The very impotence of faculty governance is what caused many faculty to hold their noses and vote for Bruininks' motion. The other striking fact is that the concerns raised reflected a profound lack of faith in Bruininks. Many faculty believed that he would simply ignore a resolution adopted by the highest governing body of faculty at the University.

Of course, there is an alternative argument that received little direct endorsement by those speaking at the Faculty Senate, an argument that Karen-Sue Taussig valiantly conveyed: it is our ethical obligation to take bigger pay cuts so that those who make least do not take a cut. After voting to endorse the sliding scale, the ball would have been in Bruininks' court. He would then have had two choices: ignore faculty and go forward with his plan or come back to faculty with a sliding scale cut. If he decided to do the former and not the latter, that makes him look bad, not us. The headlines could have read: "Faculty Vote to Take Bigger Cuts to Protect Low-Paid Workers at the U." But in the end, the frames "voting no on Bruininks plan = voting no on pay cuts" and "voting no on Bruininks plan = imposing layoffs on staff," won the day. People voted out of fear of the havoc Bruininks would wreak if we defied him. He held a knife to our throats by threatening to hurt those we were trying to protect if we did not bend to his will. Faculty should be outraged by these hardball tactics and the contempt they show for having faculty participate, rather than merely being consulted, in the governing of our University.

Although we did not achieve all that we had hoped, we think that we accomplished quite a lot given that FRPE has been in existence for less than two months. We stirred things up at the Faculty Senate and forced the administration to mount a vigorous defense of its policies. Numerous FCC members rose to speak in defense of the President's plan, as did many people who served on senate committees. (The notable exception was Joe Konstan, a faculty senator serving on the finance committee, who voiced a scathing critique which you can view here: The playing field was uneven, and we are less experienced than those who were behind Bruininks' plan, so we did get bloodied a bit, but we have learned from the experience and will be stronger and better-prepared the next time around.

So where do we go from here? The Faculty Senate meeting only became a focus of our organizing efforts in the short-term because our strong tenure code gave us a golden opportunity. Our long-term struggle remains the same: transforming the University of Minnesota. So now is the time to renew our efforts and plan next steps. We will meet next week (TBA) to reflect on what transpired this week and to plan for the future. We hope that you will attend.

Reporting on March 25 Faculty Senate meeting

The Daily:

Minnesota Post (by far the most in-depth coverage thus far on March 25):



Pioneer Press:

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Open Letter from Faculty to President Bruininks

Faculty, including P&A, who would like to sign the letter may do so at:

To: Robert Bruininks, President, University of Minnesota
Open Letter to President Bruininks
from the Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education

We are dismayed at the inequity and short-sightedness of your plan to address financial stringency by imposing temporary reductions in employee compensation. Moreover, we deplore your threat that if the Faculty Senate does not approve your plan to cut faculty compensation, “deeper college- and unit-level cuts, which will inevitably lead to additional job losses,” will be made (e-mail message to faculty, March 16, 2010). There are better ways to reduce expenditures at the University, and better models for salary reductions than what you have proposed.

Faculty are willing to accept reductions in compensation sufficient in magnitude to protect the lowest-paid employees at the University from suffering any cuts at all, provided that the plan is equitable rather than regressive, and that expenditures bearing the least relation to the University’s mission are cut first. Because it is faculty alone who have the privilege to vote on whether to accept a reduction in compensation, it is incumbent on faculty to demand that such cuts be equitable and that they be proposed in accord with applicable University policy.

Your proposal calls for the following compensation reductions: a three-day mandatory furlough for all civil service and union-represented staff; a uniform reduction of 1.15% in the compensation of all faculty; and a uniform reduction of 2.3% in the compensation of academic and administrative officers (numbering 85 positions total). Contrast the cuts made in 1932, when the University and the nation faced a comparable situation of economic duress. At that time, the Regents imposed a salary cut on a sliding scale, reducing all salaries above a certain threshold in graduated increments while leaving salaries below that threshold untouched. We quote the University News Release of May 1932 on this matter:

The regents put into effect a slash of 20 percent on that part of any salary over $3600; of 15 percent on that part between $2400 and $3600; of 10 percent on that part between $1100 and $2400, but left without reduction salaries and wages up to and including the figure $1200 [sic] a year.

In our view this should provide the model for reductions in compensation now. A similar sliding-scale cut would easily achieve greater savings than the $18.5 million that your plan would yield.

Any cut to faculty and staff compensation, however, should only be considered in the context of a long-term plan for dealing with the budgetary crisis, after cutting expenditures that are not essential to the University’s primary missions of education, research, and public service. Faculty should be provided full access to all available budgetary information, be apprised of the measures under consideration to reduce the budget, and have the opportunity to propose alternative reductions. These principles are embodied in the Regents’ Policy on Faculty Tenure, which accords faculty a participatory role in determining how best to address any financial crisis. Instead, the administration merely informs faculty of cuts in state appropriations, and provides only piecemeal information on how the University is spending the funds at its disposal. The administration has not sought broad faculty participation in determining what to cut; when staff or faculty point out excess spending to reduce, we are ignored.

Instead of demanding only that faculty vote to approve whatever your administration proposes, invite us to contribute to identifying where cuts could be made with no harm to the academic mission. Here are a few suggestions.

➢ Driven to Discover – What does this branding scheme cost? What good does it do for instruction, research, or the citizens of Minnesota?

➢ Wellness Initiative – While programs that help employees improve their health may be valuable in principle, it makes no sense to continue producing abundant glossy advertising for this initiative, and paying employees $65.00 each time they participate in it, at the same time that the administration keeps on raising the tuition students pay.

➢ UMore Park – Millions of dollars have been invested in the proposed development of “a sustainable community of 20,000-30,000 people” at this site on the suburban fringe. Although UMore Park does host some research projects, funding a speculative real estate development can hardly be justified as part of the University’s core mission.

If the University is truly in a situation of financial stringency, programs like these should see funding cuts before academic programs do.

Reductions in state funding have worsened our present situation. But poor planning and misplaced priorities are also to blame. Next year’s state appropriation is close to that of 2007. During the last two years, a hiring pause and salary freeze have been in effect, while academic units have suffered successive cuts and numerous staff have been laid off. Given these cost-cutting measures, with prudent administration, the University’s operating costs should not have increased so dramatically as to make a return to 2007 funding levels catastrophic. Moreover, the present budgetary shortfall cannot be described as unforeseeable. According to your March 16 e-mail message, the shortfall consists of the following three components: (1) increased annual costs, including a proposed 2% raise (44%); (2) the 27th pay period, a calendrical artifact of the bi-weekly payroll system (31%); and (3) the governor’s proposed budget cut through unallotment (25%). The first and second components were not merely foreseeable; in the case of the raise (which many faculty oppose), they are planned. Only the amount of the governor’s unallotment was unforeseen. University workers should not be made to pay the price of the administration’s poor planning.

As faculty, we are responsible for carrying out the University’s teaching and research missions, and we accordingly share responsibility for University governance. We repeat that we are willing to accept compensation reductions, should they be necessary, as part of a coherent strategy to rectify the University’s financial situation. We do not accept your administration’s proposal to impose uniform pay cuts, forcing the lowest-paid employees to bear the burden of financial stringency, while failing to reduce expenditures that do not contribute to the fulfillment of our core mission.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

FRPE's letter to Faculty Senators

***NOTE***page down to find posting for the text of FRPE's resolutions.

Dear Senators,
The president of the University proposes to declare a state of financial stringency. Accordingly, at a special meeting of the Faculty Senate called for March 25th, he will be asking senators to give their assent to a temporary reduction of faculty compensation in accord with Section 4.5 of the Regents’ Policy on Faculty Tenure:
4.5 Reduction Or Postponement of Compensation. If the University of a collegiate unit is faced with financial stringency that does not amount to a fiscal emergency, the president may propose a temporary reduction or postponement in compensation to be allocated to faculty in accordance with a mathematical formula or similar device. If approved by the Faculty Senate or the appropriate collegiate assembly, respectively, and the Board of Regents, the recurring salary of all faculty members in the University or in the designated collegiate units shall be reduced temporarily in accordance with the formula or device. The reduction may not continue for longer than two years, unless renewed by the same procedure.

This vote is part of a larger plan that affects the whole University, with similar pay cuts and furloughs proposed for all salaried employees of the University. Numerous faculty and staff have objected to the regressive flat rate structure of the proposed pay cuts, and to the lack of meaningful student, staff and faculty participation in determining how the budget shortfall should be addressed.

University of Minnesota faculty are privileged in having a strong tenure code that requires the administration to negotiate with us before cutting our pay. It is important that we exercise our role in University governance responsibly and work for a plan that preserves the University’s primary missions of education and research while protecting its most vulnerable workers. This requires access to information and a strong commitment to equity.

In this spirit, we offer two resolutions that will appear on the agenda for the special March 25th meeting. The first resolution, the Resolution on Financial Stringency, calls for the administration to provide faculty with complete information on expenditures and the relationship of these expenditures to the core mission of the University before asking faculty to give their assent to a temporary reduction of faculty compensation. The second, the Resolution on Salary Reductions, calls for the administration to introduce a sliding scale of pay cuts, should the need for pay cuts be demonstrated.

Resolution on Financial Stringency

The President has asked faculty to endorse his proposal to cut faculty salaries by 1.15 per cent. Given the threat budget cuts pose to the University’s core teaching and research missions, we believe that the discussion of faculty salary reductions needs to take place within the context of a wider discussion about budgetary priorities. Such a discussion requires full disclosure of the University’s budget, including a detailed account of all expenditures, as well as reductions already made or considered, that explains how each expenditure relates to the University’s primary missions of education and research. It requires further that the faculty have the opportunity to propose reductions other than those contemplated by the administration, and that the administration consider such proposals, justifying their adoption or rejection in terms of sustaining the University’s mission.

To date, the administration has only provided the Faculty Senate and the University community at large with information on decreases in revenue, increases in costs, and figures on savings projected to be achieved through its proposed reductions to employee compensation, without explaining how resources are expended or attempting to demonstrate that all reasonable reductions consistent with the University’s primary missions have already been made. The University currently spends millions of dollars on projects of questionable value to our core mission, including expenditures on controversial programs such as its Driven to Discover marketing campaign, its Wellness Initiative, and its proposal to develop UMore Park on the city’s suburban fringe. As has been reported in the media, administrative positions and costs at the University have also increased dramatically in the past decade. The administration must justify these expenditures before increasing tuition, imposing pay cuts, or laying off staff.

We do not contest that reductions in state funding have worsened the University’s present situation. But poor planning and misplaced priorities are also to blame, and further underline the need for budgetary transparency. Next year’s allocation is about the same as state funding in 2007. During the last two years, a hiring pause and salary freezes have been in effect. Academic units have already suffered painful cuts and numerous staff have been laid off. Given these cost cutting measures, with prudent administration, the University’s operating costs should not have increased so dramatically as to make a return to 2007 funding levels so catastrophic. Moreover, according to President Bruininks’s March 16, 2010 e-mail message to faculty, the present budget shortfall consists of the following three components: (1) increased annual costs, including a proposed 2% raise (44%); (2) the 27th pay period, a calendrical artifact of the bi-weekly payroll system (31%); (3) the governor’s proposed budget cut through unallotment (25%). The first and second components were not merely foreseeable but planned. Only the third, the governor’s unallotment, could be characterized as unforeseen.

The Regent’s Policy on Faculty Tenure gives faculty the power to insist on a transparent and inclusive approach to addressing the university’s current financial difficulties. The Resolution on Financial Stringency asks that the administration provide a detailed account of all current and projected University expenditures and savings, justifying each item and amount in terms of its relationship to the University’s primary missions of education and research. In addition, it requests an independent audit of the finances of the University, with a view to identifying areas where additional economies might be realized with minimal impact on the University’s primary missions. For a transparent budget process that protects the University’s core missions, we urge you to vote ‘yes’ on the Resolution on Financial Stringency, and ‘no’ on the president’s request for faculty to endorse pay-cuts.

Resolution on Salary Reductions

The administration has presented a plan for salary cuts that is projected to yield savings of $18.5 million. Savings will be achieved through the reduction of the salaries of all faculty and P&A employees by 1.15%, academic and administrative officers by 2.3%, and a three-day furlough for staff. We appreciate the administration’s revised proposal as an effort to respond to concerns faculty have expressed about equity in dealing with the University’s financial troubles. Nevertheless, the administration’s proposal of a uniform pay cut is inherently regressive in its disproportionate effect on lower-income members of the university community. A 1.15% pay cut (or three day furlough) represents a far greater portion of expendable income for someone earning $45,000, than it does for someone earning $200,000. Moreover, the 2.3% pay cut for academic and administrative officers is offset by the payment of the 27th pay period for those administrators on 12-month contracts and thus represents no cut at all (faculty on 9-month contracts do not benefit from the 27th pay period).

Should reduction of compensation be shown to be necessary, the Resolution on Salary Reductions seeks to distribute the burden of salary reductions in an equitable and progressive way while protecting employees who are the lowest paid and most vulnerable members of our community. There is a strong precedent for this. In a comparable period of economic duress in 1932, the Regents of the University of Minnesota imposed a salary cut on a sliding scale, reducing all salaries above a certain threshold and imposing no reduction on salaries below a certain threshold. According to a May 1932 news release by the University News Service,
“The regents put into effect a slash of 20% on that part of any salary over $3600; of 15% on that part between $2400 and $3600; of 10% on that part between $1100 and $2400, but left without reduction salaries and wages up to and including the figure$1200 [sic] a year.”

In 1932 the Regents demonstrated a strong commitment to equity and to protecting the most vulnerable staff at the University. The same principles should inform decisions today. The imposition of a sliding scale, down to zero for salaries below a certain threshold, would readily achieve or exceed savings projected to be achieved through the small reduction of faculty salaries currently proposed. In the Resolution on Salary Reductions we offer several examples for how this can be done. If our proposal is accepted, there would be no need to reduce salaries of the University’s lowest paid workers or to make deeper cuts to academic units.
Although the Faculty Senate can only approve or reject cuts to faculty salaries (i.e. not for other employees), by voting ‘yes’ to the Resolution on Salary Reductions we send a strong message to the university administration that a sliding scale cut should apply to all employees at the University.

What You Can Do on March 25th

On March 25th the Faculty Senate will be asked to give their assent to the president’s proposal for a reduction in compensation. We are bringing forth these resolutions in order to bring about a more transparent process for dealing with the university’s financial troubles that protects the university’s core mission and shelters its most vulnerable employees.

To demand a transparent and inclusive budget process that protects the university’s core mission, please vote ‘no’ to the president’s request and vote ‘yes’ on the Resolution on Financial Stringency.

To support a sliding-scale pay cut that protects the university’s most vulnerable employees, should a reduction in compensation be deemed necessary, please vote ‘yes’ to the Resolution on Salary Reductions.

William Beeman, Professor and Chair, Department of Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts

Bruce Braun, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, College of Liberal Arts

William Messing, Professor, School of Mathematics, Institute of Technology

Steven Ostrow, Professor and Chair, Department of Art History, College of Liberal Arts

Karen-Sue Taussig, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts

AFSCME's open letter to the Faculty Senate

March 23, 2010

To the University of Minnesota Faculty Senate:

Dear Colleagues,

We understand that the faculty senate will be meeting with President Bruininks on Thursday, March 25th, to consider a motion on mandatory furloughs and pay reductions. We are also aware that the Faculty for the Renewal of Public Education (FRPE) will offer two resolutions at the March 25th meeting, one calling for transparency in the University budget process, and one calling for sliding scale pay reductions. We write you today to express our support for these resolutions, and to ask you to stand with the frontline staff at the University by opposing mandatory furloughs for the lowest paid U workers, and by supporting the FRPE resolutions.

President Bruininks’s current plan is for a temporary pay cut of 1.15%, with a slightly higher cut for senior administrators. For unionized staff, the president intends the cut to be taken in the form of 3 mandatory furlough days in December. This plan places an unfair burden on the lowest paid staff and faculty who are already struggling to get by, while over 250 administrators earn more than $200,000.

In preparation for last year’s contract negotiations, AFSCME surveyed our members regarding their financial situation. 66% of respondents have worked a second job to make ends meet, and 64% have borrowed money or used a credit card to make ends meet. 36% have had difficulty making a mortgage payment or rent. 6% have faced foreclosure (our survey was done before the foreclosure crisis hit) or eviction, and 14% have had utilities shut off for non-payment.

We asked our members what they go without due to our salary levels. The responses we heard were heart wrenching. One member has not traveled on vacation since 1991. Others do without computers or the internet, even though their kids need them for school. Many responded that they keep their thermostat set at 50-60 degrees in the winter, and walk whenever possible to save gas money and car costs. What they dream of being able to do is not lofty: going to a movie, enrolling their children in after school or summer recreation activities, occasionally going out for lunch or dinner, retiring.

These are members of the University community, our co-workers and yours, who are working full-time, and are already struggling to get by. Now, the administration wants to force a pay cut in the form of mandatory furloughs. They want us to lose 3 days pay over the holidays. For some at the University, losing 3 days pay may mean choosing California rather than Hawaii for vacation. For many of our members, however, it means wondering whether there is any money for a holiday dinner or gifts for the kids. It means borrowing money to pay the light or phone bill to prevent shut off. Quite simply, it means economic crisis.

We write to ask you to vote against President Bruininks’ proposal. We understand the concern that some have voiced that voting against the administration will be viewed as faculty members being selfish and unwilling to take a cut. Nothing could be further from the truth. A vote against the administration is, quite simply, a vote against furloughs and in support of your low wage co-workers. FRPE will be proposing an alternative that truly addresses the budget situation at the U while protecting the lowest paid workers at the University. We encourage you to vote for their Resolution on Salary Reductions. This proposal is based on a similar plan that the Board of Regents implemented during the financial crisis of the 1930’s.

You may be told that voting against the administration will result in deeper cuts on academic units that will result in layoffs of low-paid workers. Unfortunately dozens of our members have already been laid off. Some of these layoffs have occurred in departments that have then hired senior administrators with six digit salaries. For this reason, we also ask you to support FRPE’s Resolution on Financial Stringency, which calls for transparency in the University budget process. We believe that the best way of protecting jobs is through deeper scrutiny of expenditures and an open budgetary process that involves the entire University community.

There are options other than the administration’s that can save the University money. AFSCME analyzed University salaries based on data requested and published by the Star Tribune. According to those figures, if the 250+ University employees making over $200,000 took a five percent pay cut, the University would save $3,207,656. If those making $300,000 took an additional 5% decrease and those making over $ 400,000 took an additional 5%, an additional $867,929 could be saved. That’s a total of $4,075,585.

In addition, the University Central Administration should be required to drastically scale back the number of Vice Presidents, Senior VPs, Associate VPs, Assistant VPs, Assistant Associate VPs and other top administrators. For example, if the University reduced the top administrative positions at the U, (Associate Department Director and above), by 10%, the University could save another $7,755,630. The total RECURRING savings from cutting senior administrative waste would be $11,831,215.

In addition, there are models in other public institutions (Hennepin County and the City of Minneapolis for example) in which voluntary furlough programs met the savings goals. If the administration implemented FRPE’s sliding scale salary reductions for higher paid faculty and staff, and allowed lower paid staff to chose whether or not to take leave days, those who could afford to take days off without pay could and will do so, while those who are most vulnerable will not be forced into financial crisis.

On behalf of our members, we thank you for all the support and concern you have shown for our well-being. Your vote Thursday is not merely a vote regarding faculty salaries. It is a vote to use your power as faculty members to stand in solidarity with your lower paid colleagues at the University.


Barbara Bezat
AFSCME Local 3937

Phyllis Walker
AFSCME Local 3800

Sharon Binek
AFSCME Local 3260

Denise Osterholm
AFSCME Local 3801

Is now the time for big new projects?

In spite of the budgetary crisis at the U, the administration plans to move forward with a major new investment in biomedical buildings. The Daily notes that the project will "cost the University $109 million from fiscal year 2011 through fiscal year 2019" and that "$40 million would be for startup costs, $18 million for facility operations and overhead and another $51 million would be spent on programs and faculty...Over a five-year period, 40 new faculty principal investigators would be hired to work in the Center for Magnetic Resonance Research and the Cancer/Cardiovascular facility, according to the plan. In addition, 40 existing faculty members would be relocated to the new buildings." "Even with the $31 million in grants the University is expected to receive, it will need to find funding for about $78 million."

Our CFO: “That’s a daunting number, particularly in this fiscal environment,” Pfutzenreuter said, adding that it’s best viewed in incremental chunks, as that’s how it is addressed in the annual budgeting process."

Daunting for sure. Perhaps now is not the time to be embarking on a major new building project that will add to recurring costs with 40 new faculty lines? It is distressing that at the same time that the administration is imposing painful cuts on academic units that will result in layoffs and cutbacks in instruction, raising tuition, sticking staff with 3 days of furlough, and asking faculty to take a pay cut (after two years of a pay freeze), that the administration is still planning to go forward with this big ticket project.

Fortunately, at least one regent has doubts about whether the U can afford this project now: "Regent Steven Hunter expressed concern about finding the money for the new facilities. 'I don’t think state funds are going to be there in the foreseeable future,' he said, adding, 'I want to move forward, but I hope we have further discussion about how we’re going to fund this.'

"If approved by the regents, the proposed 280,000 square-foot building would begin construction in fall 2010."

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

March 25 Resolutions - Transparency and Equity

On March 12 the President informed faculty that our vote on March 25 only affects faculty salaries. Yet this vote is part of a larger plan that affects the whole University. Numerous faculty have objected to the regressive across-the-board structure of the furloughs and pay cuts. Faculty and deans have also objected to the two per cent compensation pool, which will be paid for with furloughs and lay-offs.

Faculty are privileged in having a strong tenure code that requires the administration to negotiate with us before cutting our pay. We can use this power to encourage the administration to present a different plan that takes into account concerns raised not only by faculty, but also by students and staff. President Bruininks has threatened to make painful cuts to academic units if the faculty do not assent to his proposal, cuts that will inevitably result in layoffs and cuts in instruction. But threats are a poor substitute for negotiation and reason. Alternative cuts can be made that will protect instruction and the lowest-paid employees at the U. Faculty governance means more than rubber-stamping motions brought forward by the administration.

In this spirit, we offer two resolutions. The first resolution, the Resolution on Financial Stringency, calls for the administration to respond to faculty requests for complete information on expenditures, and the relationship of these expenditures to the core mission of the University. In the context of reduced state funding, ever-rising tuition, and demands for employees to take pay cuts, it is time for an open and inclusive conversation about redefining priorities. This conversation cannot take place without budget transparency. (Link to Resolution on Financial Stringency:

The second resolution, the Resolution on Salary Reductions, calls for the administration to use a sliding scale pay cut rather than the proposed across-the-board cuts. Although the Faculty Senate can only approve or reject cuts to faculty salaries (i.e. not for other employees), FRPE hopes that this sliding scale will be extended beyond faculty to apply to all employees at the University. (Link to Resolution on Salary Reductions:

Resolutions are non-binding. FRPE is aware that the Resolution on Financial Stringency would make the Resolution on Salary Reductions unnecessary, at least for the moment. We also realize that some faculty senators will support both resolutions, and some will support one but not the other. (Some may support neither, of course.) Faculty Senators who support either or both of these resolutions should vote "no" on the President's motion OR support a move to table his motion until he is in compliance with the adopted resolution. Vote "yes" on these resolutions and support the pursuit of transparency and equity at the University of Minnesota.

Administrative bloat

“Administrative jobs have increased by 75 percent across the University system since 1999.” A picture is worth a thousand words:

Not only has there been a high rate of growth in administration, many administrators earn very high salaries. 40 vice presidents have combined salaries of $8.4 million.

Spending on administrative has increased at a faster pace than spending on instruction. Between 2003 and 2007, spending on instruction on the Twin Cities campus increased 17.9% while spending on administration increased 28.5%. (See page 45:

The current budgetary crisis demands a reevaluation of these spending priorities.

The $132.3 million "budget challenge"

Yes, we are facing major challenges at the University of Minnesota--in the administration's infelicitous choice of words, we face a $132.3 million "budget challenge." The administration wants to blame it all on the legislature and the governor. And certainly the $32.3 million unallotment from the governor was unanticipated. What the administration does not want to talk about, however, is how it is responsible for a large chunk of this shortfall. Of the remaining $100 million shortfall, much was foreseeable. And they did not plan for it or they actively created it.

The cost of the 27th pay period, $41 million, was a foreseeable expense that cannot be explained by recent cutbacks in state funding. CFO Pfutzenreuter told MPR: "We've talked about it on numerous occasions over the last couple of years, but we're a complicated place and I think the communication isn't always as good as it could be. We knew it was coming." The 27th pay period is almost one-third of our $132.3 million “budget challenge” for the coming fiscal year (or 41% of the “internal” component of that challenge).

The $41 million figure touted by the administration also invites additional scrutiny. How does the administration arrive at that figure? Total payroll for the U is about $1 billion, and $41 million times 26 pay periods is just over $1 billion. Yet the 27th pay period, according to the administration, should only affect those on 12-month appointments. Many faculty are on 9-month appointments, and many staff are paid on an hourly basis. The numbers don’t add up. (We will set aside my views on the necessity of giving those on 12-month contracts an extra-paycheck, since I anticipate that it will upset some of madradprof's colleagues who are on those contracts. But suffice it to say that 12 months does not equal 52 weeks but a little over 52 weeks. The 52 weeks=one year is an artifact of the U's stupid payroll system. Switch to bi-monthly paychecks and this problem goes away.)

The two per cent compensation pool composes another large chunk of the "budget challenge." The faculty and deans have sent a clear message to the administration. In a fiscal situation in which furloughs and layoffs are occurring, we have no business giving raises. (Of course, the two per cent will be distributed differentially, so most folks will see much less than a two per cent increase.) At the very least, the administration should be open to the possibility of letting departments choose to reallocate the two per cent internally in order to avoid laying off staff and to sustain instructional activities.

The 27th pay period plus the compensation pool add up to about half of the internal component of the “budget challenge” and would have been about 60% if the administration had not delayed the application of the raises until January. These were foreseeable expenses.

Tuition blues

Tuition has increased over 150% in nominal terms over the last decade at the Twin Cities Campus, far outstripping inflation. Most recently, undergraduate tuition increased in 2009 by $720 or 7.3%. In 2010, tuition is projected to increase again by roughly $780 or 7.5%. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the federal stimulus package, will pay for part of that increase, so tuition provisionally increases by about half that much, or $300 and $450, respectively. In 2011, the hammer will drop and students will pay the full $1500 increase of the tuition hikes. The Daily has pointed out the deliberate obfuscation of the administration on tuition increases: “President Robert Bruininks is quoted as saying, "Student tuition increases will not exceed 3 percent this year and not exceed 4.5 percent next year." But these numbers hide their temporary nature. In fact, tuition increased by more than 7% this year and is projected to increase by 7.5% next year. The Daily Editorial Board is not calling President Bruininks a liar, but he is definitely not telling the whole truth.”

Tuition increases during this period cannot be explained fully by cuts in state funding to the University. (See pages 3 and 4 of the admin's March 12 presentation to the regents: The state allocation for 2010, $623.4 million dollars, is about the same as the state allocation in 2007, $620 million. Granted, $620 million in 2010 is worth less than $620 million in 2007. But inflation has been low, and in the interim, there have been salary freezes and a hiring pause. Why the need for yet another brutal round of tuition increases for our students? Balancing the budget on the backs of our students is unsustainable. Raising scholarships to cover the costs of higher tuition is a band-aid that does not deal with the fundamental problem of exorbitant increases in tuition. Some rethinking is in order.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Financial stringency and the tenure code

Another notable feature of Bruinink's message yesterday is that he formally declared financial stringency. Section 4.5 of the tenure code ( requires that such a declaration be made in order for the administration to temporarily cut faculty salaries.

How are we to assess whether we in fact face financial stringency? Section 3 of the "Interpretations" section of the tenure code states, "Financial stringency in section 4.5 is understood to mean financial difficulties that are unusual in extent and require extraordinary rather than ordinary responses...It is understood that the financial difficulty that would permit the president to propose temporary reductions or postponements in compensation under section 4.5 is less severe than the 'fiscal emergency' outlined in section 11, but it is also understood that 'financial stringency' should not be invoked to respond to foreseeable fluctuations in the University's budget and finances."

Many of the costs mentioned in Bruininks' message, however, were foreseeable--e.g. the 27th pay period and increases in the cost of benefits. Not to mention that the 2 per cent differentially distributed pay pool is certainly a foreseeable expense since it is the Prez's idea. The policy will actually worsen our budget situation by adding to recurring costs.

Of course, the cuts from St. Paul do hurt and there needs to be a serious conversation about how to deal with them. What is most notable about the proposed pay cut on which the faculty are being asked to vote is that it does not deal with the deeper underlying problem. The pay cut is temporary, so there is no dent in recurring costs. Clearly, dealing with the budget crisis requires reevaluating past spending decisions, reassessing the need for expensive new projects, delaying some maintenance and construction, and redefining priorities.

The tenure code in fact requires such a re-evaluation take place BEFORE financial stringency is declared. Section 11.2, which applies in *any financial crisis* (not just a fiscal emergency), lists a number of general principles of priority, the first of which is to pursue means other than the "impairment of faculty rights" for reducing costs. Section 11.3 further requires the president to report to the Senate Consultative Committee and to "identify the magnitude of the shortfall, the measures which might be taken to alleviate it (which must not involve impairment of faculty rights), and alternative measures which have been rejected. The president will give the committee full access to all available information and will respond specifically to additional proposals suggested by the committee. At this stage, the University will consider reductions in other expenses. It will also consider increases in tuition, sales of assets, and borrowing." According to Section 11.4, only after going through the processes required by Section 11.3 may the administration propose the temporary reduction or postponement of faculty compensation.

The administration has not done what is required by Sections 11.2 and 11.3 of the tenure code. In order to impose the cuts on faculty, an ABSOLUTE MAJORITY of the members of the Faculty Senate or TWO-THIRDS vote of its members present and voting (a quorum being present) is required. Since Bruininks has not complied with the requirements to impose a cut in faculty salaries, we recommend that Senators reject the administration's proposal on March 25. It is time for the administration to engage in a meaningful dialogue with all stakeholders about the future of the University. In the next week FRPE will present some alternatives to the president's proposal. Stay tuned.

See Periodic Table for some great posts on this matter: and

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bruininks is a bully

Today faculty received a message from the FCC telling us to prepare for an important message from the Prez. The FCC was reassuring: "Over the last few days, we have been in almost minute-to-minute contact with the President's office and have candidly shared a number of faculty concerns, including our own, about the lack of information in response to questions raised at the March 4th Senate meeting and in messages that we have received and forwarded. The President has listened and is now considering new options. Accordingly, a number of faculty leaders will be meeting with the President this afternoon in order to discuss matters further. We anticipate that later this afternoon all faculty will receive a detailed message from the President's office explaining his new plans and providing answers to questions that many of you have raised. Finally, while we share your presumable frustration, we assure you that the recent delays are a result of the President's willingness to respond meaningfully to feedback."

Well, the message has arrived and he has not addressed our most fundamental concerns. He has encouraged departments to think provincially by allowing them to retain savings from the furloughs, and he is trying to peel off some faculty from opposition by translating the pay cuts from days of furlough to percentages (this evens out the effects across length of contract--9 months vs. 12 months). If the analysis below on the 27th pay period is correct, however, the furloughs are part of an elaborate shell game. The Prez gives a little ground by asking for faculty to vote to approve the cuts for just one year rather than two. But he ups the ante with threats: "The proposed faculty salary reduction is a critical piece of a larger plan to balance the University’s budget. I cannot reduce faculty pay without an affirmative vote by the Faculty Senate. If there is not a vote in support of a reduction in pay for faculty, our budget plan going forward will necessarily include deeper college- and unit-level cuts, which will inevitably lead to additional job losses."

Of course, this is a crass misrepresentation of the position that faculty have put forward. Our position is clear: We are willing to take a cut, but two things must happen first. First, the Prez needs to defend his decision to cut payroll and not other fat in the budget--ergo our demands for budget transparency and an audit. Second, the proposed cuts are regressive. If cutting pay is indeed necessary, then we're willing to take a bigger hit that 1.15% in order to protect the lowest-paid workers at the U.

With Bruininks, it always seems to be "my way or the highway." I suppose the bullying and threats should not be that surprising...after all, this is the prez that brought us not just one, but TWO strikes by clerical workers in the last eight years. The Prez's insistence on a 2% pay raise, which will be distributed differentially based on merit assessments (so most folks will see much less than 2%), is part and parcel of his vendetta against our unionized colleagues. In the context of reduced state support, faculty are willing to sacrifice this salary increase, yet he insists on giving it to us. It's time for us to consolidate our ranks and strengthen solidarity with other employee groups and with students. The admin will deploy divide and rule tactics. We must be prepared to combat them.

The latest op-eds from the Daily

The Daily is stepping up its coverage of the budget cuts. The links below are opinion pieces. The editors seem to share our lack of faith in top administration.

"Last Thursday, I observed a protest organized by numerous student groups. The point was to send a clear message to the top administrators of our University: Students pay too much to go to school here, and top administrators get paid too much to work here...The message was clear: If the administrators at the top of the University’s payroll would take a modest pay cut, they could prevent tuition hikes and cuts to programs and salaries of University employees who often live paycheck to paycheck. After following the passionate crowd for a while, I found it hard to argue with their logic. Why scrimp dollars from the bottom and jeopardize the well-being of many when you can easily find what you need at the top without endangering anyone? Why pay our head basketball coach and president so much money when we could use that money to enrich our programs and make them more available to everyone?"

"Effectively and equitably filling that $80 million hole will require the cooperation and buy-in from all of this University’s disparate stakeholders — students, faculty, staff and administrators. Actually doing this has been deeply hampered by the complexity inherent in a $3 billion budget and by the University leadership’s unwillingness to clarify, quantify or explain it. The massive financial system requires 380 pages of account descriptions, and even a consolidated annual report weighs in at 86 pages. Rather than provide more succinct, accessible spending breakdowns, administration has chosen technocratic obfuscation. It is time for a University budget summit to bring the community together to publicly explain, hear, defend and to solicit input. Individual meetings between college deans, union representatives, faculty or student groups prevent a wider analysis that can more holistically build a better budget."

"If students and families want to avoid a repeat of 2002-2005, when tuition increased 56.8 percent, the time to get active is while budget cut strategies are being discussed."

Extra paycheck?

From MPR: "Because of a once in a decade quirk in the calendar, employees at the University of Minnesota will receive an extra pay check in the next fiscal year, and it could cost the university upward of $41 million.... "I'm surprised it hasn't been on people's radar here," Pfutzenreuter said. "We've talked about it on numerous occasions over the last couple of years, but we're a complicated place and I think the communication isn't always as good as it could be. We knew it was coming.""

A few things to note. First, for non-salaried staff, they are not getting an "extra paycheck," they are getting paid for the work that they've done. Second, why are salaried employees affected by the extra pay period? Could this $41m just be the price of crappy software that can't spread the annual salary across a varying number of pay periods? Since I am paid based on a 9-month salary, I certainly don't expect to make more money this year just because there is an additional pay period. I've opted to have my salary paid over a 9-month period and across a 12-month period--so why is this any different? I don't think it's coincidental that the admin's initial furlough proposal was 10 days, which would be equivalent to one pay period. Third, the interconnection between the furloughs and the extra pay period needs deeper analysis, esp. across employee classes. Fourth, what a stunning admission of incompetence and irresponsibility from our CFO!

Also see Periodic Table for some sharp commentary on this issue:

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The paleographer and the managers

Great piece on recent developments at Kings College:

Proposals for draconian cuts of academic staff at King’s College London – including the dismissal of David Ganz, Britain’s last professor of Palaeography -- have justly aroused condemnation from the world of academia and beyond, not only for their savagery, but for the way they are being implemented.

The cuts themselves do not offer much room for manoeuvre. Protesting too much would be counter-productive, as it could too easily be characterised as the special pleading of the ivory tower brigade, unwilling to live in the real world. Universities in general are going to have to put up with hard times over the next few years.

But how those cuts are made and where they fall is another matter entirely. In this area not only is a fight justifiable, it is vital. King’s is among the first, and is certainly the most prominent, to wield the axe. It may become the model for others if it proceeds unchallenged.

The powers that be there seem to taking their cues from a chapter on bullying in the Modern Manager’s Handbook. Staff are being required to reapply for their own jobs – the unspoken (but obvious) concern being that any who protest unduly may find that their reapplication is viewed with disfavour.

They will be reappointed not because of the importance of their subject, but more because of how much money they earn for King’s and according to their “confirmed future output” and “esteem indicators.” At no stage so far has anyone outside a narrow band of managers and the most senior academics been consulted; decisions were presented with no alternatives and little real chance of serious amendment.

These are the distasteful tactics normally associated with the call centre or sweat-shop. They are surprising, to say the least, when they come from an institution which is supposed to be a bastion of free and independent critical thought.

Why does it matter? Because it represents a surrender at the highest level (and you don’t get much higher than King’s) to the powers of management in a sector once known for its reliance on co-operation, goodwill and institutional accountability.

This transformation of Higher Education has been going on for some while, beginning with the reforms of Margaret Thatcher (taking away of tenure, institution of assessment exercises that stressed quantity rather than quality, the erosion of the powers of university senates). These changes, and the target-based culture of Labour, resulted in the emergence of a new and powerful managerial elite whose success at moving into the universities and taking them over has been extraordinary.

Certainly the managers have been as efficient as MPs and BBC Talent (and much more discreet) at finding ways of diverting public money into their own hands.

Whereas academic salaries have risen slowly in the last couple of decades (although much less than the number of students), pay at the top has rocketed.

The average vice-chancellor now earns nearly three times as much as a professor, much more than the prime minister and more than the average private sector chief executive. The Principal of King’s, Rick Trainor, had a pay package which rose to £312,000 in 2008/9 from £292,000 the year before and £250,000 in 2006/7. His predecessor made do on £186,000 in 2002. While one person at King’s earned more than £150,000 in 2001/2, this had risen to 79 in 2009.

Keeping palaeography alive by cutting back on the generosity to senior staff does not appear to be an option for discussion, although reducing Professor Trainor’s package to a mere quarter of a million would help out, and a 5 per cent cut in take-home pay for the top 79 earners would produce more than a million pounds, enough for several departments of palaeographers.

Equally, there has also been a massive increase in the resources consumed by the administration.

While King’s is proposing to cut 22 jobs from the Humanities, it is simultaneously advertising for two senior management positions (salary up to £85,000) to administer a “strategic plan to deliver a world class Asset Management Programme of Campus based services.” And an applications analyst (“results oriented”) to support the College’s “enterprise business applications.” And a Distance Learning Administrator. And a head of Principal Gift Development who must also, of course, be “target-driven and ambitious.”

Professor Trainor has an executive team with all the managerial bling of a fully-fledged multi-national, complete with two executive officers and a Chief information officer. There is also a public relations department, an external relations directorate, a marketing department, a quality assurance unit, a corporate design unit (which “protects the brand”), a corporate services section… and on, and on.

According to the College’s own accounts, administrative costs rose to £33.5 million in 2009 from £28.5 million the year before – a rise of 17.5 per cent and more than twice as fast as the rise in cost of academic departments. In 2003, administration cost £16.5 million – making a 103 per cent rise over the six years.

To give a comparison, King’s is now proposing to decimate the Humanities to save £2.4 million. This will claw back less than half of the increase in administrative expenses for 2009 alone.

Anyone who finds it surprising that King’s should be getting rid of teachers while simultaneously recruiting administrators does not understand that universities (in the eyes of both vice-chancellors and ministers) are no longer institutions of learning. They are part of a nationalised industry, and increasingly behave like one.

They have, moreover, become vehicles for a bureaucratic technocracy to advance its own interests, in the way described by Milovan Djilas in 1957 when he analysed the rise of the “New Class” in communist states.

In this new set-up, everything -- and particularly the idea of the university, a place where all knowledge should be promoted in a place of mutual esteem, and where association of differing disciplines can stimulate fruitful new ideas, where knowledge is to be protected as well as advanced -- can be jettisoned whenever necessary.

In its place comes the short-term vision of the speculator. Along with palaeography, all the humanities (and even subjects like theoretical physics) are now being nationally targetted as unproductive; indeed anything which does not have a measurable pay-off in the short-term is under threat.

Curiously, this is not something which necessarily meets great approval in the business community. The best businessman are those who can think widely and critically, who value independence of thought.

The senior managers of universities often do not possess such breadth or imagination. Rather, they have rushed to adopt the horizons and language of the mediocre manager. Take this extract from the 2006 King’s Strategy: “As part of the new performance culture within King’s, the administration has been re-badged Professional Services... we understand the importance of professionally delivered enabling services in realising our vision...”

Many of the people writing this nonsense are ex-academics, who often behave with the zeal of the converted, using ever more inpenetrable jargon to signal their new allegiance.

But the jargon has its own meaning. The internal paper on the cuts states its wish to “create financially viable academic activity by disinvesting from areas that are at sub-critical level.”

Although it seems to have been written by a semi-literate, the sentence is telling in that it revals a total absence of desire to protect areas of expertise which might be vulnerable. Instead, that vulnerability is the justification for destruction.

If academics accept such premises, and try to argue back in terms of economic relevance, they are doomed. There is no way to demonstrate that the study of Voltaire or Milton or palaeography is of any use whatsoever once the argument is defined by such language, any more than you can justify curiosity or imagination or the ability to think and argue.

In the past couple of decades many have learnt to parrot out the language of efficiency and transparency, of output and relevance, of competitive bidding and market share, of metrics and impact, without seeming to realise that it meant accepting also the assumptions underlying these terms.

Modern managerial practice, after all, was developed in the US army in the Second World War, then adapted by think-tanks for civilian life. What its wholesale adoption amounted to was a militarisation of the organisations it invaded – with its hierarchies, chains of command and line managers.

It was by definition incompatible with non-hierarchical institutions like universities, (and has been generally rejected by companies like Google, which value a more egalitarian ethos). So the universities had to be forced to change. They were reshaped to fit management doctrine, not the other way around.

This process is now well-advanced. But if these proposed cuts are challenged – if palaeographers are defended by social scientists, scientists, as well as teachers in the humanities; if lecturers from other institutions protest as well – if, in sum, academics rally to defend the integrity of their profession as a whole, rather than looking only to their own position and advantage – then some good might come out of it all.

They might even remember that once the administrators were there to serve the institution, not to be its masters, and insist on taking that responsibility back into their own hands.

But if they do not – if they keep their heads down, sacrifice other people’s jobs in the hope of keeping their own, if senior professors identify with the managers rather than with their colleagues -- then the game will be over for good.

King’s, certainly, will be badly damaged, for such institutions depend above all on the unquantifiable factors of co-operation and cameraderie to prosper. The “brand” which it so zealously tries to commercialise will be tarnished for a very long time.

But British academics in general will end up as mere drudge workers in the knowledge economy, doomed to follow every fad and command which comes down from on high.

Iain Pears
Is a novelist, historian and has studied the rise of management since his days as a financial correspondent for Reuters.

King’s paper on proposed cuts:

King’s Strategy plan, 2006-16:

King’s accounts, 2003-2009:

Friday, March 5, 2010

Lessons from the 1930s

A document regarding budget cuts from the 1930s was disseminated to faculty senators before yesterday's Senate meeting:
One notable difference between what was done then and what is being proposed now is that the regents voted for sliding scale paycuts: "The regents put into effect a slash of 20% on that part of any salary over $3600; of 15% on that part between $2400 and $3600; of 10% on that part between $1100 and $2400, but left without reduction salaries and wages up to and including the figure $1200 a year." Across the board furloughs are regressive, and furloughs are a temporary solution, not a fix for our budget woes. Our highly paid administrators were apparently incapable of planning for a 27th pay period in their elaborate budget models, and are scrambling to cover the $41m. The administration's 2% raise only adds to recurring costs, and will be paid for with furloughs and layoffs of staff. The budget should not be balanced on the backs of the lowest-paid members of the University community. Salary cuts should be on the table. But before faculty roll over and "take one for team," the administration must engage with us to redefine priorities, reform university governance, and provide transparent and easily interpretable data about how tuition dollars, cost pools, and state funding are being spent. Faculty veto power on the furloughs gives us an opportunity to stop business as usual and to RECLAIM THE U!

Thursday, March 4, 2010 on the wall...periodic table

...wish I could have been a fly on the wall at this FCC meeting. Thanks to the Periodic Table blog for the blow-by-blow account. And thanks to the FCC for not letting the administration ram this thing through. (Bill, how do you get this stuff??? I looked and looked and could not find these minutes.)

Local reporting on March 4 rally

" the issues they came to address are bigger than tuition and furloughs and salaries. Decisions by the administration — financial and otherwise — must be more transparent, said Ron Greene, a communication studies professor. “[There’s] a call for a true, honest dialogue with faculty and sharing the governance of the University,” Greene said. Geography professor Bruce Braun echoed the sentiment: “Right now, we have an administration that I find to be quite isolated from the faculty. “[They] make decisions we have to implement, decisions about what education should look like, about what programs should look like. They’ve got it backwards right now.”"

"“I would vote for it,” said Ben Munson , professor in the department of speech, language and hearing sciences. “I’m happy to share in the sacrifice.” Munson said faculty need to realize that budget issues need to be addressed by everyone. “There are three camps of faculty in this University — the ones that know it’s not going away, the ones that think it’s a ploy by the administration to cut things they don’t like and the ones who've got their heads in the sand,” he said. Faculty who were not willing to voice support for the furloughs questioned the transparency of the University in its budget process. They said they want to know the answers to the technical questions before they vote on the matter."

"The plan has already drawn support from some committee members, with professor Walt Jacobs applauding the administration for “spreading the pain around so that it protects jobs as much as possible.”...“I am one of the people that live paycheck to paycheck. I can’t afford a furlough,” said Amy Selvius, a secretary at the Global Studies Institute and a member of AFSCME Local 3800. She questioned the need to mandate furloughs when “over 250 administrators make over $200,000 a year."”

"Faculty member Eva von Dassow told Bruininks that instead of budget cuts and furloughs, the school should reduce the salaries of its highest paid executive staff, and forgo a planned 2 percent raise for all employees. "That wouldn't make it necessary either to raise tuition, or to close needed programs, or to cut more faculty positions, or to cut curriculum and courses that students need and that they were promised," von Dassow said."

""We're part of something larger," Professor August Nimtz told people gathered on the steps of Morrill Hall, the main administration building in Minneapolis. He said the struggle to defend public education goes beyond the immediate financial woes of the university and the state of Minnesota to a broader economic crisis affecting people and institutions around the world.""

TELEVISION COVERAGE, WITH VIDEO!!! "Barbare Bezat, an archivist who makes less than $50 thousand a year, said not all workers can afford to take a pay cut by being forced to take unpaid vacation days."We are dedicated employees. We're committed to helping resolve the budget crisis. We're simply asking that it not be done on the backs of the folks that make the least," Bezat said."