Friday, February 17, 2012

The Union's Response

Here's the union's response to last night's edict.

Dear Ms. Bush, Mr. Cage, and Dr. Mitchell,
It has come to our attention that some members of the UPI Local 4100 bargaining unit have received notices that their computer access will be cut off if they do not immediately sign the proposed Computer Usage Policy recently promulgated by Human Resources. Perhaps some members of the administration are not aware that this proposed policy is a mandatory subject of bargaining, that such bargaining is in process, and that, as part of the process, we were assured by Dr. Mitchell and Mr. Cage that there would be no cessation of access until bargaining was complete.

Please send an immediate correction to all interested parties and instruct your personnel not to restrict computer access for anyone in UPI Local 4100's bargaining unit. Any impediment to our members' important work that results from this situation will have the gravest possible legal consequences.

I will be in my office today (x2185) if you wish to discuss this further.

Laurie Walter
CSU/UPI Chapter President

More on Our Computers

Well, this is truly the Chicago State Clown College. The final draft of the computer use policy has not been provided to the UPI bargaining team by the administration. In addition, Ellie Sullivan has discovered that neither Eastern nor Western Illinois include a signature page with their policies. Thus, the matter is still being bargained, at least in my estimation. However, it seems apparent that this information has not been disseminated to the appropriate administrators. Last night, I sent e-mails to Laurie Walter and to the Ethics Office. The e-mail I sent to the Ethics Office reminded them that this policy was currently being bargained. Perhaps we should send e-mails to other persons in the administration (the President, for example) asking if this threat will actually be carried out.

Are we really in a Mel Brooks film here?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Will Administrative Foolishness Ever End?

Well all, looks like administrative threats to stop computer access to those who refuse to sign the abomination known as the Computer Usage Policy continue. The following has just come from someone, of course an unnamed someone (doesn't the policy say we must identify ourselves in electronic communications? I guess this only applies to faculty and staff).

"Fellow CSU Faculty and Staff:

If you are receiving this email, it is because you are a Full-Time employee of CSU and you have been identified as not being in compliance with the new computer use policy. You must comply with this mandate by the end of business February 17, 2012. If you don’t comply by signing and returning your compliance form to the Human Resources Department, your network systems access will be removed.

If your network systems access is removed, it may take up to 48 hours to restore. Please be aware that Monday February 20, 2012 is a holiday and no reinstatements will happen before Tuesday February 21. Reinstatement requests may only come from the Human Resources Department. Please do not call the HelpDesk asking for your systems access to be restored.

I have attached the reminder message sent on January 26. The message contains all of the information needed to come into compliance with the policy. This is the final reminder. All employees not in compliance will have their network, Banner, CSU express and Cougar Connect portal access terminated.

Please contact the ethics office via if you have any questions or concerns about the policy."

The computer usage policy is an incredibly vague and punitive policy that will not allow us to conduct university business. It intends to limit our ability to criticize those on campus who fail to do their jobs or who implement policies antithetical to the mission of a university.

Shame on them. They risk student education in order to attempt to quiet those who would stand up for our university.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Channeling Yogi???

So as Yogi Berra once said, this feels like deja vu all over again. As long as faculty have repeating the same message about shared governance, the administration has been intentionally ignoring the message or casting it as some intrusion into the special realm of administration. To wit, a recent email to some faculty, states “After discussions with upper administration, there is a desire to move to a universal freshman seminar curriculum.” As the opening sentence lays the context for the email, I concluded that “upper administration” had made a curricular decision without asking the faculty if that was appropriate. Yes, I did say without asking. The short story is that curricular matters are the exclusive domain of the faculty and any conversation about them starts with the instruments of shared governance, not some narrowly circulated email sent by a middle level administrative functionary. Further, who is this “upper administration?” What is the obsession with anonymity when in collegial environments, we strive for transparency? Why are administrators, who constantly remind faculty of their decision making responsibilities, so reluctant to put their names on ideas that are ill conceived or misdirected?
So at the risk of being characterized as being mean or spiteful by those whose performance is often questioned by my faculty colleagues and me, I will say this to the apparatchiks of this regime. Ignore the instruments of shared governance at your peril. Continue to believe that you have the requisite expertise to make decisions about academic matters and you will be disabused of that belief promptly and publicly. Continue to act as though the faculty of this university have no place but to be dictated to by those without requisite knowledge on academic matters and know the faculty administration relationship will continue to deteriorate. 
And this news flash just in. The low attendance at the most recent faculty forum could be an indicator of the lack of support for the current regime and could say something about the relationship between faculty and administration. I would characterize the low attendance as ambivalence. My friends in psychology tell me that ambivalence is about anger and if that’s the case, it could be prima facie evidence for the aforementioned deteriorating relationship between faculty and non-academic administration. Simply put many faculty are angry and that anger shows up as ambivalence. That leads me to ask how it might show up in November.

Monday, February 6, 2012

CSU/UPI Nominations

FYI In case you haven't seen the memo from UPI President Laurie Walter
Dear CSU/UPI Members:
Bob Bionaz asked me to send you the following, about our meeting for nominations:

The CSU chapter of UPI local 4100 will hold its next membership meeting Tuesday, February 14, 2012, from 12:30-2pm in Science 116. The purpose of the meeting is to solicit nominations for the upcoming union election. Lunch will be served from 12:30-1pm and the meeting will begin at 1. All members who wish to nominate someone for an office are urged to attend as the final list of candidates must be submitted to the local by February 17. The following is the current list of nominees:

Local 4100

Ellie Sullivan

Chapter Offices
Louis “Pancho” McFarland
Laurie Walter

Deborah Lynch

Eric Shen

Executive Board Rep
Tim Harrington
Mark Sudeith
Deborah Lynch

Vice President-Unit A
Mark Sudeith

Vice President-Unit B ASPs
Romona Raymond

Delegates-House of Delegates (26 allowed)
Linnae Bryant
Gabriel Gomez
Kathleen Haefliger
Carol Leach
Ben Liu
Deborah Lynch
Devi Potluri
Ramona Raymond
Steve Rowe
Eric Shen
Virginia Shen

Delegates-IFT and AFT Conventions (5?)
Deborah Lynch
Romona Raymond

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Response to Professor Pancho's post

Dear All,
"Professor Pancho" recently posted a very thoughtful series of questions, concerns, etc., to which I wanted to respond.  His text is in black with my answers immediately following in red.

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.
On the CSU/UPI website (the exact location is is the version of the Contract I sent out in September of 2011, which is what faculty and staff were asked to vote upon (also in September).  (Note that it is not the same as the final version.)  It is the entire Contract (with the exception of changes to the minima tables) and the proposed changes are highlighted. This enabled us to have members review the Contract and in some cases note inadvertent errors, which were corrected prior to the vote; that's why the final version differs from the one sent out in September. 
 I'm not sure what you mean about January.  As far as I know, the hard copies are being printed as we speak; meanwhile, you can see it online on the Contract Administrator's site or the CSU/UPI site.

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.
As long as privacy is maintained, we can further publicize our grievance achievements.  There is generally a report on grievances at each membership meeting.  However, we will begin posting the draft minutes of our membership meetings on the website for more public access. Thank you for the suggestion. 

 How did we let the bosses get away with doubling our parking fees without union membership outright approval?
I sent out a survey (below, in brackets) in December of 2010, querying the membership as to their opinion on the proposed increase in fees and the possibility of additional increases in future.  I received ~55 responses, out of a membership of ~400. Parking fees were negotiated based upon the survey responses we received.  We also got agreement that future increases would be small.

[Dear CSU/UPI Members,
As you know, since earlier in the semester, the UPI and the Admin have been bargaining the increase in parking fees implemented in August.  This increase was implemented before it had been bargained, and so we (the UPI) have been attempting to both reduce the amount of the increase, and to bargain language that would regularize any future increases during the life of the contract we are currently bargaining.

The Administration initially responded to our proposal to reduce the amount of the increase by suggesting not only that it would stick to the current fee amounts, but increase them substantially beginning in January of 2011.  We rejected that plan, and hoped that the next counter-proposal would accept our language on reducing the current increase.  The next counter-proposal did withdraw the proposed increase for January 2011, but has left the current fee increases in place.

We therefore decided it was time to poll the membership as to your opinion on the fee increases already implemented.  As we've explained previously, the Administration DOES have a right to raise parking fees; however, the UPI also has a legal right to bargain such increases.  Our questions would be:

1.  Do you accept the current fee structure?       yes   /     no    / don't care

2.  Should we continue bargaining to set what we consider a reasonable rate at which fees will increase over the next 2-3 years?  yes   / no  / don't care

Please respond as soon as possible, as we would like to have an idea how the membership wishes us to proceed.  If you are worried about the confidentiality of your reply, send to from a non-CSU account.  Thank you.

In solidarity,
Your CSU/UPI Negotiating Team]

(Back to Professor Pancho's text.)
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.

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.  (See above.)

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.
We would be interested in your specific suggestions.

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.
The Contract guarantees discussion of proposed reorganizations; it does not guarantee that reorganization may not take place.  We will continue to insist on discussion with affected faculty for any future planned reorganizations.

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?
Based upon meetings held with the full team to discuss the outstanding issues, a small group met with a small administrative group to work out the remaining issues.  Our group included the chief negotiator, the chapter president and the Local president.  The CSU administrative group included the President,  the Provost and the CSU legal counsel.  We reached agreement on the outstanding issues.  This did include “annual evaluation of tenured faculty.”  This was based upon a proposal from the Administration which was very punitive and had a very short proposed time from start to termination; we modified it considerably to make it constructive, rather than punitive (based on language from Western Illinois University, where it has worked very well).  We felt that some sort of enhanced annual evaluation was inevitable and wanted to be proactive, to prevent it from being far more potentially damaging to faculty.  Note that under the current language, a faculty member would have to both 1) fail to meet the "adequate" standard in a single area of evaluation for two consecutive years and 2) refuse to participate in development of a plan for improvement, in order to be vulnerable to sanctions.  We also "stretched out" the time course.

There was no direct "trade-off" for the enhanced review language.  The "trade-off" was a generally favorable Contract in very difficult times.  There was a modest raise, going up in future years, and commensurate increases in minima.  The rate for override CUEs will go up by 33% in 2013-2014 and, for the first time in my memory, will be equalized between tenured/tenure-track and non-tenure track faculty, which is a matter of basic fairness.  Also, Composition faculty (who are overwhelmingly non-tenure track) will be paid 4 CUEs per course if they teach four such courses per semester; recently, they received 4 CUEs per course if they taught three sections but only 3 per course if they taught four, which needless to say made no sense.  Again, these gains (except for the basic raise) do not apply to all members but are important for some members and for solidarity.

Improvements in language include that a faculty member who receives the maximum advanced standing towards tenure does not have to apply for tenure by exception, which has sometimes been the case in recent years--of course, that doesn't apply to every member but it matters to the people affected.  Faculty applying for a second PAI award can apply after five years, not six (which is what the language said all along--but again, there had been problems of administrative interpretation recently).  Again, that may not seem major but it is important to people applying for PAIs.  And in a year when all the other unions and administrators had their bereavement leave reduced from five days to three--with the loss of an uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, or cousin no longer eligible for any leave--we retained for our members the five days for all relatives except the aforementioned, and three days for these.  We also have Pharmacy language (for the first time) and a revision of the Distance Education language written by one of our members.
There were also several disturbing administrative proposals that we were able to fight off.  These included abolition of the CUE range (everyone to work 24 CUEs unless excused by the Provost), no differential pay for summer school (in other words, a flat rate), and anyone covered by Civil Service not having access to the contractual grievance process--this last would have applied to most of our Academic Support Professionals and Information Technology Professionals and would have made it more difficult to fight sanctions or termination aimed at members of these units.

Overall, I believe we can be quite proud of this Contract.

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.
  My remark concerning grieving parking applied only to people who have paid a premium to have a parking place available 24/7--not to say it couldn't be widened to include all who park on campus.  No one has ever complained about parking during special events to us, until now.  Again, we would welcome your specific suggestions.

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.
We agree.  We began those meetings with the leadership of the other campus unions a couple of years ago;  we have met as needed since.  The leadership of UPI and Local 743 have been in communication frequently, especially during negotiations. 
Thanks to the blogmaster for giving me the chance to communicate in this forum.  And if there is anything additional you'd like to see on the chapter website, please let me know.

Some Notes from the Front

The controversy over the university’s ham-handed attempt to censor faculty and staff reached a crescendo yesterday as, according to several witnesses, at least one administrator felt the need to verbally accost and attempt to physically intimidate one of the faculty members who demonstrated the temerity to challenge this ill-conceived policy.

While the faculty member passed out leaflets at the Michelle Alexander program, the university counsel, Patrick Cage, esq., approached, and wildly gesticulating with his index finger, loudly berated the faculty member for disagreeing with the university’s new computer use policy, for which he (Mr. Cage) claimed authorship. Mr. Cage reminded the faculty member that he (the faculty member) was “not an attorney,” and that he (Mr. Cage) “stood behind” the constitutionality of his policy. In full view of several other members of the university community, Mr. Cage, with CSU’s chief of police standing silently next to him, continued his tirade for several minutes, all the while standing directly in front of and quite close to the faculty member.

I am not in a position to speak to Mr. Cage’s competence as an attorney, although I showed the computer policy to a friend who is an attorney and watched her read it with increasing amusement. When she had finished perusing the document she said, “no attorney could have written this--it is so vague and contradictory--it is simply unenforceable. If an attorney did write this, he or she should be fired.”

Nonetheless, I think it is fair to say that in the intellectual argument arena, Mr. Cage fell rather short in this situation. Rather than mount an intellectual attack on his opponent’s argument, he resorted to volubility and crude physical interposition to make his points, leading me to believe that his intellectual fuel tank must have been on empty. I wonder if he has any intellectual defense for his “policy?” In any event, this is an alarming way for a top university official to behave at a public university event.

On another topic, I find it interesting that the story on Wayne Watson’s lucrative sick leave buyout with the City Colleges has not appeared in any of the local newspapers. I guess in the political cesspool of Chicago, this kind of stuff really is not newsworthy. With city colleges doling out seven million dollars to various recipients, including our “half-million dollar man,” it makes one wonder how flush with money that system must be. Spare me the legal niceties over this issue, it may be legal under Illinois law (there’s an oxymoron), but that certainly doesn’t make it right, or ethical. Indeed, think of what this kind of payout really means. The state’s taxpayers are rewarding someone in an administrative position for simply coming to work, an endeavor for which the employee is already amply compensated. In this state, it is possible to work full-time while drawing a full pension and, in addition, to be rewarded to the tune of $16,000 per year of previous service simply for showing up. No wonder our pensions are under attack.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Reject CSU Computer Usage Policy



We are warned that if we do not sign, then we will lose our computer privileges. We will not sign this poorly written policy as it contains many objectionable sections including the following paragraph:

“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.”

For a number of reasons this policy should be rejected by all who care about our university and rescinded by the administrators responsible for it:

1) It is too vague. Who defines humiliating, embarrassing or negative? Does an email to a poorly performing student which makes them feel bad constitute a violation? Does publishing a blog that points out the potential fraud and mismanagement at CSU constitute a violation?

2) It violates first amendment rights to freedom of speech.

3) It violates the whole premise of an institution of higher education that proposes to engage in free inquiry, critical thinking and problem solving.

4) It creates a climate of fear in which workers at CSU feel their jobs threatened for merely exercising their constitutionally-protected rights and doing their jobs as members of a university.

5) It protects from scrutiny those engaged in questionable practices and, thus, wish to hide their actions behind a policy. Recent and ongoing negative press coverage has resulted from mismanagement. Those who have cast this negative light on our campus would rather that their “dirty laundry” (in other words, their failures) not be examined.

The policy can also lead to severe punishment for those who violate. The policy requires our signature affirming that we are aware of the consequences of its violation. The policy reads “my failure to comply with the laws, rules, policies, and procedures referred to within this training course may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination of University employment and possible criminal prosecution, depending on the nature of the violation.”

Resist this attack on our university and our rights to speak freely within it. Let everyone know of this latest in an ongoing attack on students and faculty. Call the press. Call elected officials. Let CSU administrators know of your rejection of such policies.