How Some U of I Faculty Members Will Deal With Furloughs

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SUSAN DAVIS IS TAKING HER FIRST unpaid furlough day on February
15, along with other faculty and members of the Campus
Faculty Association at the University of Illinois. “Since the
University demands that we not do our jobs,” she says, “we
will be on campus devoting our furlough time to discussions
of the future of the University of Illinois, and taking action to
break the logjam in Springfield.” For many faculty members
at the U of I, furloughs (pay cuts) are a painful but short-term
issue. They are much more worried about the growing threat
to university jobs (staff as well as faculty), to the institution’s
reputation, and to accessible, high-quality public education
in the state of Illinois. What is the current uproar over furloughs/
pay cuts really about?:
• A state legislature that has consistently underfunded
the university over the past thirty years. While the
state provided almost half of this “state” university’s
budget in 1980; it provides only about 16% of it now.
• A state legislature that now can’t even get itself
together to balance its own budget, and as a result
is delaying payment to all kinds of providers,
including the university.
• A university administration that has swollen like a
cancer, soaking up funds that should have been
spent on teaching and research.
• A university administration that routinely ignores
the established principle of “shared governance” by
offering professors propaganda, denying them
accurate information, and making major decisions
without consulting with the faculty.
• A public that all too often thinks of the university
as a glorified job-training center, rather than as
what it was meant to be—a place for educating the
state’s citizens to be productive members of society
and informed, engaged participants in democracy.
So, on Monday, February 15, faculty members came
together with students to talk about what the University of
Illinois will be like in the next century. What will it be like
as a place to learn and work if tuition triples? If programs
close and class sizes triple? If most classes have no TAs? If
poor and middle-class families have no chance to send
their students here? All these things are happening right
now in the much admired University of California system.
In the midst of the worst unemployment in decades, professors
like Davis and myself feel lucky to have jobs–for
now. But the federal stimulus money runs out soon, and
the University administration has large cuts planned. As
teachers and scholars concerned with education’s future,
we don’t feel it is “time to sit down and shut up.” It’s time
for a democratic discussion of the university’s future,
which is a big part of so many people’s futures.

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