Monday, March 29, 2010

University of Minnesota Faculty

Vote "No"

to Fairness

According to an editorial in the Daily today:

"Thursday’s faculty senate vote failed the lowest-paid staff, and the U."

I don't think the Daily quite understands the position the faculty were put in by President Bruininks and the Morrill Hall Gang.

My comments on the article:

Let's understand this situation. The president began this meeting by saying basically that he would not support any proposal, other than his own. The administration also exerted heavy pressure on the faculty by saying that if they did not vote for the proposal, they would be perceived of as arrogant by the state legislature and the citizens. {There is a certain amount of irony in this - the faculty are the bad guys?}

So a large number of the faculty voted for this proposal while holding their noses. Many of those who did vote yes were openly critical of his proposal during the meeting. When Professor Konstan exhorted the president to step up or step aside many faculty applauded.

So let's lay the blame for this fiasco where it truly belongs - with the President and the rest of the Morrill Hall Gang.

The president claims that we need to use words like financial stringency.

And where is that term used, Mr. President? In the tenure code. And it is a piece of the process on the way to dealing with even more serious financial problems. Have you followed the procedures outlined in the tenure code in this matter?

The president claims to have modeled all kinds of alternatives.

He made this statement without providing any financial facts or evidence to back up these claims. This is special pleading with the bottom line being Trust Us. Given the mess with EFS, the 27th pay-period, and other poor financial decisions and priorities, why should we trust this administration?

The president claims that his flat-tax style proposal is even-handed and fair:

Mr President: Have you ever heard of progressive taxation? This is the system used by the IRS. Making a statement contrary to fact does not make it true.

The president calls for breathing room:

Mr. President, where have you been for the last three years? What did you do during the breathing room that you had then. You squandered it and now we are in a manufactured crisis because of your negligence.

The president claims that the loss of one million dollars will lead to sixteen to twenty job cuts:

These are unsubstantiated statements.. For every milllion dollars we have to lay off how many people? If we laid off vice presidents, we would only have to dispose of four or less. Do we really need a cultural czar? The salary reduction you are proposing is trivial. People like you will still be allowed to be paid enormous salaries so that those on the bottom can be let go...

The president claims that the sliding scale proposal is disadvantageous to academic personnel:

Is there anyone else you'd like to add to those that would be disadvantaged by a sliding scale, yourself for example? You and the, how many is it 40, administrators who have vice president as part of their title? We did not just fall off the turnip truck, Mr. President. Again, how disingenuous can you get. Despite what you claim, the vast majority of faculty make nowhere near what administrators, like you, take home.

The president claims that there are adverse economic effects around cut scores (used in sliding scale):

Model adverse effects around the cut score? Have you even bothered to read the proposal on graduated cuts, Mr. President. They have been designed so that the artifacts that you are complaining about here have been minimized.

The president claims that the sliding scale will lead to cherry-picking [sic] by our competition:

Mr. President, are you aware of what is going on in the American university system right now? You might get away with this when talking to your Aunt Martha, but it is an absurd claim for you to make that we are going to be raided by... Iowa? Wisconsin? Who exactly do you have in mind that is rolling in dough right now? This claim is ridiculous on its face.

The president states:

“I don't think the added protection for some parts of our workforce is exactly worth it and worth the cost.”

This is an incredible, elitist, and arrogant thing to say. Do you mean that the lowest paid people at the U are just not worth the cost to you of fair treatment?

Later the president says that he will be blunt about it – his proposal is the only one acceptable to him.

Mr. President, is it your way or the highway? It will be done your way and no other and we have absolutely no hard evidence that you have carefully examined other proposals? And of course we have to do something immediately because it is an emergency?

We have an emergency because of financial negligence. This is a band-aid. Claiming that it absolutely, positively, has to be done now because you say so makes it obvious what your attitude is to faculty governance and taking honest suggestions from faculty who disagree with you and giving them the consideration they deserve.

As one of my colleagues said later in the meeting, Mr. President: Step up, or step aside.

I'll use the more graphic language of General Patton: Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.

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