The Campus Faculty Association at U of I Fights Back: In Springfield and on Campus

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In a political climate of incredible irresponsibility,
ineptitude, and corruption, the Campus
Faculty Association (CFA) at the U of I has
been letting our state legislators know that we
will not put up with the privation to which
public education at all levels has been subjected.
A strong contingent of CFA members
joined members of the Graduate Employees
Organization (GEO) and other unions affiliated
with the Illinois Education Association in
the April 21 march on Springfield. Fifteen
thousand people from all over the state listened
to speakers telling of how devastating
this lack of responsibility by politicians is to
our educational institutions and public services.
They marched around the capitol building
carrying SOS (Save Our Schools) signs,
and visited offices of individual legislators. The
turnout was historic for demonstrations in
Springfield, reflecting the gravity of the budget
and the ruinous effects on people’s lives of
promised funds undelivered.
These effects include the termination of
thousands of teachers and other state
employees, “furloughs” (which are really
pay cuts), the under-funding of public pension
systems, threats to health care benefits,
and the closing of some state funded nonprofit
service providers.
Then, on May 5th, the CFA held a
demonstration in front of the Swanlund
Administrative Building on the U of I campus
to protest the university’s contract with
the RTG consulting company. RTG, a company
working out of a house near the Purdue
University campus in Indiana, was
hired by university administrators to help
them implement the Strategic Plan adopted
by former President White, former Chancellor
Herman, and former Provost Katehi.
Katehi had worked with RTG when she was
Dean of Engineering at Purdue before coming
to the U of I and thought it would be a
good idea for the U of I to contract with
them. Since 2006, this four-person firm has
been awarded $1.73 million in consulting
fees. At issue this year was a remaining
$450,000 of that total to be paid out for
helping U of I administrators work as a
team, and to organize others further down
the hierarchy who would be involved in
implementing the Strategic Plan. This was
an area in which former President White
himself was supposed to have been an
expert. Plus, the College of Education, in
which White is now housed, has a Department
of Organization and Leadership that is
supposed to be teaching those skills to other
professionals in the field. It seems never to
have occurred to our former administrators
that this should be a part of their own jobs,
and that there was plenty of local talent that
is already being paid by the university.
So, at the May 5 rally, CFA President Megan
McLaughlin raised the questions of how many
layoffs could have been avoided, how many
TAs could have been paid, how many units
could have been preserved, if the administrators
had not paid out such an enormous
amount of money to this one firm of four people.
She also asked how many other such contacts
are out there siphoning off badly needed
funds from our educational functions.
The University’s spokesperson, Robin
Kaler, was present as President McLaughlin
spoke. Immediately afterward she
announced to the press covering the event
that while RTG would continue to receive a
portion of the $450,000 for projects that
were already underway, the other projects
yet to get off the ground would be cancelled
and most of the $450,000 would not be
turned over to the consulting firm. She did
not specify exact amounts.
While there were others, such as a group
of the U of I Senate Executive Committee
led by former CFA President Joyce Tolliver,
who had expressed concern to the administration
over this matter, it was the CFA that
was the activist force that educated the university
community about the damage being
done, and that engaged in public protest.
Anyone who questions the utility or appropriateness
of faculty unions in institutions of
higher education—take note.

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