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.