Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Michelle Alexander on New Racism and the Criminal Justice System

On Wednesday, February 1, between 10am and noon, Michelle Alexander will discuss her work. According to Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! her book, The New Jim Crow, "argues that although Jim Crow laws have been eliminated the racial caste system it set up was not eradicated and now racial control functions through the criminal justice system."

I'm eager to see how Professor Alexander ties the policing and incarcerating institutions of state to the ideological institutions, especially universities. How do institutions of higher education serve an ideological control function that benefits the ruling classes? How do class relations influence policies and conditions at universities and prisons? What role do we, as faculty, play in this? What role do non-faculty administrators/managers play?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

We made the Sunday NY Times again!!! Ex-Workers at City Colleges Paid for Unused Sick Days "Wayne Watson, a former chancellor, is a big beneficiary."

Well, if you had any doubts about it you must know by now just how much we are working at the State of Illinois/City of Chicago Public Education System Patronage Pit...

The New York Times
January 28, 2012
Ex-Workers at City Colleges Paid for Unused Sick Days


Wayne Watson, a former chancellor, is a big beneficiary.

Many public and private employers have a use-it-or-lose-it policy toward sick time. But the City Colleges of Chicago has generated more than $7 million in postemployment sick day payments for about 140 former employees in the last decade, according to records obtained by the Better Government Association.

Wayne Watson, the former chancellor at Chicago’s community colleges, was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the policy — he accrued 500 unused sick days, for which he will be paid about $500,000.

Mr. Watson, who stepped down from the top job in 2009, has already received about $300,000 in sick day payments and he will receive two more annual payments of $100,000. City Colleges records show the system has paid retirees at least $3 million and still owes them $4.2 million.

In addition to Mr. Watson, at least 15 former City Colleges administrators were owed $100,000 or more in unused sick time payments in the last decade, according to records. Charles Guengerich, a former president of Wilbur Wright College on the Northwest Side, was due $309,061 in sick time. Martin Faber, former executive director of business services at Richard J. Daley College on the Southwest Side, was expected to receive $216,973.

On Friday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office ordered City Colleges to halt all payments for unused sick time to Mr. Watson and other former administrators while his office tried to determine whether the money still owed to them must be paid. “The mayor has zero tolerance on this,” said Jennifer Hoyle, a spokeswoman for Mr. Emanuel. “This is not a benefit City of Chicago employees receive.”

In November, the City Colleges board, at the urging of its new chancellor, Cheryl Hyman, voted to eliminate pay for unused sick days for new nonunion employees.

City Colleges’ vice chancellor, Laurent Pernot, said that the change was made to “save taxpayer resources.”

Asked about his $500,000 payment, Mr. Watson, who is now president of Chicago State University, said, “You’re asking me about three years ago and a different institution.” He declined further comment.

Mr. Watson worked for the City Colleges for 31 years, including the last 11 as chancellor. He had an annual salary of $300,000 when he retired. Under the system’s policy at the time, departing nonunion employees who met certain age and service requirements could convert 80 percent of their unused sick time to cash, with no cap on how many days they could amass.

Mr. Watson took only 11.5 sick days in the last decade he was with the City Colleges. In addition to his payments for unused sick days, Mr. Watson receives a pension of $140,000 a year and is paid $250,000 a year at Chicago State.

Under the revised policy, new nonunion employees can accumulate up to 200 days of unused sick time, but they are no longer allowed to cash out any of them when they leave the college system, Mr. Pernot said.

A similar perk that Mr. Watson and other managers enjoyed remains in effect, however, for the unionized employees of the City Colleges.

Members of the Cook County College Teachers Union who were hired before July 15, 2000, can still cash out 80 percent of their unused sick days upon leaving City Colleges if they meet certain age and service requirements, and they have no cap on the number of days they can collect. Union members hired on or after July 15, 2000, can cash out a maximum of 80 unused sick days.

The contract that provides those benefits expires next year. In negotiations for a new one, City Colleges officials hope to bring the rules for union employees in line with the newly enacted policy for nonunion employees, Mr. Pernot said.

Patrick Rehkamp is a senior investigator for the Better Government Association. Mari Grigaliunas contributed reporting.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The State's Computer Policy

As far as I can tell, this is the state's most recent iteration of its computer policy (2008). Its here: http://www2.illinois.gov/bccs/Documents/Policies/GeneralIT.pdf

A look at that policy reveals that the activities enumerated under prohibited actions include: "Libelous, slanderous, degrading, insulting, vulgar, obscene, offensive, or hostile remarks, and/or emails, and/or websites." Obviously, this has some problems since I'm not sure how we would define things like degrading or offensive remarks (not to mention vulgar or obscene), but it seems far more specific than “Electronic mail and all other electronic communication (including websites and blog posts) should adhere to the University standards of conduct which prohibits any communication which tends to embarrass, humiliate or shed a negative light on any member of the community. Respect others you contact electronically by avoiding distasteful, inflammatory, harassing or otherwise unacceptable comments." As has been pointed out repeatedly, these definitions are so vague that they could encompass almost anything.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Union Kudos, Questions, Directions

Kudos to the union leadership for challenging one of the latest administrative oversteps as mentioned in an earlier blog post by Corday. The computer usage policy is a “change in working conditions” and thus must be negotiated with the faculty union. Unfortunately, the administration continues to try to force us to sign the very troubling document with a reminder sent to us via email on January 25. As a union we should stand together and not sign the document until our union and legal counsel has had the opportunity to review and negotiate the policy. Additionally, in an email dated January 24 UPI Chapter President Walter suggested that the campus visit of Minister Farrakhan would cause a parking problem that could be grounds for a grievance.

I hope we can be even more aggressive in using our position as the body that carries out the primary goal of the university. Any number of recent administrative decisions constitutes a “change in workplace conditions.” We can use the union more aggressively to reverse the attack on faculty and the mission to teach our students. In that spirit I offer a set of questions and a set of ideas about union affairs.

First, I have questions regarding intra- and inter-union communications regarding the union contract, grievances and the parking contract Memo of Understanding. Secondly, I have questions about union actions and strategies including the use of grievances. Finally, I suggest some directions that we might explore in order to regain our faculty and worker spaces; all in an effort to further dialogue, develop solidarity and increase our power.


1) Communications

a. The new contract was not made available until after the second week in January and the faculty was hurried into voting without having access to the entire contract. The union membership needs to be aware of provisions in the contract that have changed.

b. Grievances won or lost should be communicated to the membership. The grievance process is an important tool that we can use more effectively. In speaking with colleagues in the halls, in meetings and on the faculty voice blog, I have detected a sharp rise in faculty complaints about working conditions. I would suggest that keeping and communicating to the membership an easily accessible record of the types of grievances, their number and outcome would encourage us to use the process more. Such communication would also increase solidarity among our members.

c. How did we let the bosses get away with doubling our parking fees without union membership outright approval?

2) Actions

I recognize that there are legal barriers and constraints placed on union activity. However, I want to suggest that we should be open to using any strategy that will further our rights and goals as working people.

a. Again, we should use the grievance process more effectively. Discussion and communication of grievances and outcomes will help us analyze this as a strategy that halts administrative overstep and abuse.

b. Historically, all sorts of tactics have been used that go beyond rules-based, formal actions that we, as a union, most commonly use. We are a union of professional workers who have a great deal of specialized knowledge that makes us invaluable to the mission of the university. We should be more creative in how we pressure management.

c. The ongoing college reorganizations have been discussed in committees, faculty conversations and on this blog. This reorganization is a substantial “change in working conditions” and the processes have no input from faculty or a representative body of faculty. A faculty entity “with teeth” must weigh-in strongly about these ill-conceived changes. We have to reassert that such academic matters must be the primary purview of the faculty. The union can be a place for such a challenge.

3) Contract Negotiations

I would also like more information regarding the process of contract negotiations. I have heard from many sources that there were irregularities during the process including that the majority of the negotiating committee was sidelined during final negotiations which were then conducted by the chapter president and the UPI president. I would like to know if this is true and why this occurred. While it is true that the faculty voted approval of the contract, how did the tenure review clause get inserted into the contract to begin with? What was the trade-off? Who has a record of the union proposals on the contract and the Administrative counter-proposals?

True. We have a signed contract. We approved it. We have to live with it. However, we need to have a more rigorous transparent process including dialogue among faculty so that we have a contract that reflects our central role at this university and so that any irregularities in the latest contract negotiations will never happen again.


1) We need to become more aggressive in our relationship with administration. We should be much more pro-active. We have been too reactive in the past. The special events parking lot crisis serves as a good example. Since Dr. Watson’s arrival and push for more special campus events we have heard complaints from students, faculty and staff about not being able to find parking on campus during special events. As a union we should have already addressed this problem with the administration and developed a workable plan for these occasions instead of grieving the issue after the fact.

2) We need to recognize ourselves as part of the working class and strengthen our relationships with other unions and other working class people on this campus. Given that we all work at the same institution and are aggrieved by the same bosses, we should support each other more and ally together. While the conditions on our campus have deteriorated, we are not an isolated case. University workers all across the country and workers in other sectors are being attacked by the same anti-worker mentality that exists at CSU.

3) Unions are successful when the creative energy and skills of all the members are utilized. We must, as a complete body, take ownership over and have responsibility for the union so that we can participate more fully. This should be a democratic process.

Again, this blog is written in the spirit of collegiality and a desire to see our university prosper. The administrative oversteps, bumbling, and attacks on faculty, staff and students have reached such a critical mass that they seriously threaten our workplace, the success of our students and the very existence of our university. Together we can find ways that the union can respond effectively to these threats.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Faculty Development Opportunities

For those in the humanities and social sciences it has been a difficult couple of years at CSU getting real time off for research and writing if you can't get funding for yourself. In his first year at CSU, Dr. Watson, claiming financial cutbacks (remember all those firings?), banned (or suspended--pick your word) sabbaticals. It seemed counter to the Admin's desire to "raise standards" on campus --mandatory thesis requirements for undergrads and grads were rammed through, but limited money for real faculty development. One could get a leave of absence, but not the traditional 1/2 year at full salary/full year at 1/2 salary that has been part of the contract. I'm happy to report, that they seem to have returned. Rumor has it that some people this year, not sure of the number, have been granted sabbaticals, not just leaves of absence.

Another opportunity that faculty at CSU should pay attention to is the great seminar experience through the Faculty Resource Network at New York University. CSU is affiliated with this and I have been reminded that we need to get as many applications as possible since the CSU affiliation is again in jeopardy.

The week-long summer seminars and the month-long scholar-in-residence info can be found on the faculty resource network website.
Summer Seminars:

Summer Scholar-in- Residence

FRN Webpage

The deadline is approaching soon (Feb. 10th, 2012)/ Housing, breakfast, and lunch are covered. Airfare/travel to NYC is the only thing a participant pays.

Take advantage of the opportunities that we have here.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Think, ask, and ask again, before you sign

Last week faculty and staff were sent a message from Human Resources (another office with lots of new powers on campus--didn't the Admin dismantle the Student Career Development Center and put it under the control of the university's Human Resources Department?--odd). At any rate, HR sent this message under the title of COMPLIANCE ALERT: Computer Usage Policy claiming "to provide guidelines for appropriate use of computers and tech services by students, faculty, and staff..." We were asked to print it out, sign and return the "Certification page," by Feb. 3rd indicating that we understood the policy or our "computer access would be suspended." Any questions about this were to be directed to the Ethics Office.

When I clicked on the link to see exactly what it was I would be signing I did not find a pro forma statement about being nice on the computer (e.g. don't read porn, use passwords etc). Instead, I found a multi-page document with more than a few troubling paragraphs. Two in particular raised red flags:

This policy will be modified as new questions and situations arise. Each individual who uses Chicago State University’s computing facilities thereby agrees that his/her use of these facilities will remain within the bound of acceptable use as described in this and other University computing policies or other Chicago State University codes of conduct...

1. Respect the rights and sensibilities of others.
a. Electronic mail and all other electronic communication (including websites and blog posts) should adhere to the University standards of conduct which prohibits any communication which tends to embarrass, humiliate or shed a negative light on any member of the community. Respect others you contact electronically by avoiding distasteful, inflammatory, harassing or otherwise unacceptable comments.


Another colleague shared my sentiments about the offending passages but articulated the problem more succinctly. Computer technology should be used for furthering open inquiry and discussion.

"I noticed the passage and I too thought it threatened the open criticism of the administration on the blog and using university computers. It seems that we should argue that this is precisely what universities should do—encourage open examination and criticism of the conduct of members of the university—and if folks feel embarrassed, humiliated, or cast in a negative light, then they should examine the conduct that brought on the criticism, not attempt to block criticism. If the comments that may tend to embarrass, humiliate or case someone in a negative light are incorrect, then they should be rebutted in the same spirit of open discussion and criticism. For example, the president early on cast the faculty’s teaching in a negative light; we did not attempt to censor him but to rebut his remarks."

Since the document tries to enforce faculty "conduct" we need to know who put this statement together and who it is that will be determining good or bad conduct. Since it steps on free speech issues, H.R., the Ethics Office, and the campus CIO should explain how this statement came into existence--what campus committee of faculty, staff and students put this statement together? CIO Ce Cole Dillon responded to an email about this, but not to the question. The Ethics Office and H.R. have yet to respond.

CSU's Union Leadership, however, did respond and has alerted the Administration to the following: The requirement for employees to sign the new "Computer Usage Policy" is a change in working conditions and, as such, its implementation for members of UPI Local 4100 is a mandatory subject of bargaining. Not sure when or how this will be bargained. Until then, I'm not signing and am certainly not signing away my right to question issues and individuals at CSU.

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year's Resolution

In the spirit of Langston Hughes and for the spirits of our incredible students and the working classes across the globe, I resolve not to be a “coward of the college.” I resolve to use all personal and institutional means to stand-up for our students, faculty and staff. This will include being a better teacher, mentor, advisor and colleague as well as being active in and pushing our various committees, departments, union, faculty senate, and working groups to be the best that we can possibly be. I resolve to not sit by while the disingenuous, cynical, and short-sighted corporate mentality turns our university into free job training for the corporations that ruin our planet and deprive people of safe, secure and meaningful lives.

Please join me in resolving to not be a coward of the college. For insight into what that might mean read Hughes’ essay, “Cowards of the Colleges.” I have a copy in pdf form, if any are interested. Below are a few of my favorite quotes from the essay.

"And can it be that our Negro institutions are not really interested in turning out leaders at all? Can it be that they are far more interested in their endowments and their income and their salaries than in our students?

And can it be that these endowments, incomes, gifts—and therefore salaries---springing from missionary and philanthropic sources and not from big Northern boards and foundations---have such strings tied to them that those accepting them can do little else (if they wish to live easy) but bow down to the white powers that control this philanthropy and continue, to the best of their ability, to turn out ‘Uncle Toms’?...”

“The day must come when we will not say that a college is a great college because it has a few beautiful buildings, and a half dozen PhD’s on a faculty that is afraid to open its mouth…”

“…unless we develop more and ever more such young men and women on our campuses [e.g., I.S.U. members] as an antidote to the docile dignity of the meek professors and well-paid presidents who now run our institutions, American Negroes in the future had best look to the unlettered for their leaders, and expect only cowards from the colleges.” (Langston Hughes, “Cowards from the Colleges: An Essay”, 1934)