Excellence without Money! Redux

excellenceWell, for those of us who work at state unis with fiscal years that begin on July 1, the budget crystal ball is becoming clearer and clearer.  There is no money to support our excellence!  Notortious Girl, Ph.D. reports that her uni is considering furloughs that aren’t pay cuts, but rather “two unpaid days a month (where we´re not supposed to work — yeah, right) comes out to 6% of our work days, which means that my tenure raise is effectively wiped out before I ever see it.  Add to this the suggestion from our dean that the course releases that allowed us to teach 3-3 rather than 4-4 may be going away (but with no decrease in research expectations), and you can see why I´m cranky.”  Crank on, my friend–that is one bum deal.

It all stinks–but it’s that “no decrease in research expectations” that I think faculties must protest.  At Baa Ram U., my department has no raises to offer and zero travel money–but, we haven’t had to fire anyone, and we aren’t facing an increase in our teaching loads.  A colleague of mine commented yesterday that we might need to consider suspending the tenure clock or revising our tenure standards for junior faculty if this is our new reality for the next several years.  I think this is correct–and if I were a recently hired Assistant Professor, I’d feel like I had just pulled the short straw in a bait-and-switch.  But, this is the Golden Rule, friends:  those who have the gold make the rules.

Should universities–and the people in the states who b!tch and moan endlessly about taxation–get the benefit of our full workload when they’re not paying for it?  I say that’s a hells to the no, rinse, repeat.  As I wrote in my “Excellence without Money” post last winter:

Hey, kids, let’s rent a barn (without money!) and put on a show (for no money)!  Historiann has even developed this generic university seal to symbolize this movement with the Seal Generator at Says-it.com.  You can make your own seal–say it with me nowfor no money!  Can you feel the excellence, my darlings?  Let’s see if the copier company will be happy to to fix our copier–for no money!  How about serving up lunch in the student center to us–for no money!  Maybe Shell Oil will donate gasoline for staff and faculty vehicles so that we can get to campus–for no money!  I wonder if banks and landlords will forgive mortgages and rents for everyone employed in higher education, so that we can house ourselves for no money!  This no money thing could work, just so long as it’s not just people in higher education who are doing it for no money!


Gone fishing!

How are things looking at your state or private uni?  Where do we go from here?  Just in case you’ll be furloughed too, here’s another handy-dandy graphic you can post on your office door and include in your e-mail messages on furlough days.  You can call it “Gone Fishing.”  Now if your definition of “fishing” might include reading 12th century monastic charters, or reading through U.S. Congressional papers, or consulting Canadian notarial records–so be it.  Just make sure that you spend your furlough days working on what you want to work on.

0 thoughts on “Excellence without Money! Redux

  1. Well, that’s just sucktastic, isn’t it? The moms haven’t heard anything about plans for additional furloughs at Queer the Turtle U, but times are hard enough that we are going to assert our copyright claim to the phrase “Excellence Without Money” just in case it turns out there is any way in heck to make money off it. We’ll cut you in for 25%, Historiann, but we can’t resist reminding your legions of loyal readers that the phrase made its public debut over in my happy little corner of the blogosphere with this post: http://roxies-world.blogspot.com/2008/12/hard-times.html. All credit for the brilliant generic university seal goes to that genius of the graphic arts, Historiann. I would still like to have a crystal water bowl with that seal upon it. Moose just wants a tee-shirt.

    As for what to do on your furlough days, how about pounding out some vitriolic blog posts about the big doofuses who are in charge of state budgets nowadays?


  2. I’m going to repeat here something I said at Notorious’:
    The suggestions about trying to bring home to students and the general public that less pay means less work is a reasonable one, and it was my own inclination when talks about pay cuts started on my campus. But, a colleague brought up what I thought was an interesting word of caution. She noted that the general public already looks at us as having three months off (or of glamorous travel) in the summer, long vacations during the year, and perhaps 20-25 hours in the classroom the rest of the year. They tend to discount class prep, grading, research and all the other multitude of things we do aside from the hours in the classroom. And this colleague suggested, quite correctly, I think, that reacting with too much indignation will only backfire, as most of the public already thinks that academics do far too little work. Such responses will be seen as borne of massive entitlement.
    [New:] While I think it is important not to keep pay cuts and other hardships completely invisible to the public, I think the way this gets communicated is important. Outrage will only generate hostility, because everyone is hurting. I know about 4 people who have lost their jobs outright: if I were to complain of my losses to them, they would rightly feel impatient. Students themselves are only too well aware of the economy. Here at OPU, not only are we expecting significant pay cuts, but tuition is going up quite a bit for them as well. I suspect this is the case for many unis.
    One final note: Your point on the tenure clock is a really important one.


  3. I think I ought to write up a post about my own experience with furloughs in the 90s. (It was a province-wide action in the nineties, here. Just what you need to experience when you’re suddenly the sole support of a family of four!)

    The reality is that you will not get those furlough days off. The reality is that you will keep working at the same level as before, if not more intensively as overloads that were paid become unpaid and extra overloads are piled on top. People will not honour your furlough days when planning service duties and the grading doesn’t get any lighter.

    We’ve been slashing our own household expenses since last spring when I saw the writing on the walls while teaching the crash of 1929 to a class of horrified Western Civ students (there are few things more sobering than realizing that you’re reliving much of what was a catastrophic historical moment). Still, when the pay cuts or furloughs come back, as they surely will here, I know it won’t be enough.

    Those of us who are tenured owe it to keep an eye on the tenure-track and limited-term faculty members to make sure they are not unfairly burdened by impossibly high publishing expectations on an increasingly heavy workload with no money to boot. It’s going to be ugly!


  4. We’ve been doing Excellence Without Money for so long at my place that we’re actually in really good shape (knock wood) in this precarious budget time. We’re not yet sure whether we’ll get a raise (unlikely, but a slim possibility of 1 or 2 percent, depending on the news from the state capital this summer), tenure raises are intact (8%, so not shabby), and no talk of furloughs. Travel $ comes out of dept. operating budgets (they eliminated any university-wide travel cash just before I got here), and thus decisions about it are left in the hands of departments. We’re going to cut back on our funding of travel this year, I think, but it won’t be eliminated (I think people will get partial funding for one conference per year, whereas I’ve consistently gotten funded for two conferences per year, typically coming in at somewhere between 1 and 2K in travel money). However, we’re also going to revise our tenure/promotion standards while that scaling back is in place. If we aren’t going to give at least partial money for two conferences a year, we’re not going to make that a requirement for advancement/keeping one’s job. We’re not increasing teaching loads (for indeed, we’re still at a 4/4), and it’s unclear what’s happening with course releases (other than that they are not awarded based on productivity, harrumpf, but that’s always been true). Because we planned for greater cuts than the state ultimately asked for, we’re in the position now to increase our emergency fund and not to have to make any more tough decisions, at least for the moment. In other words, we’re in pretty good shape compared with many other places, in no small part, I think, because we’ve got a very, very smart president.


  5. I take your points about not pissing people off needlessly, Sq. and Janice. But–I work for a state that pays for less than 11% of Baa Ram U.’s budget. How much LESS support could they offer? We’re at the point where I think we should remove the state name from my uni and raffle off the naming rights. Why not Microsoft University? (Or, more likely, ConAgra U., or Archer Daniels Midland U.)

    Why should “Colorado” get the credit for my State U. when they’re not paying the damned bills?


  6. The begrudgery out there is too strong for non-uni people to get it on their own. There’s a need for

    a) education. We need to repeat and repeat and repeat what our working day looks like. Eg up at six, check work emails, all the way to sleep at eleven after spending the last three hours in a desperate attempt to push one’s research forward. No weekends. Maybe a week of actual vacation. Usually none. I know I spent about ten years with a total of three, count ’em, three, days off.

    b) the impossibility for non-tenured faculty to insist on, request, or even mention anything. Anything at all. The only other group with a worse lack of rights is illegal migrant farm workers. I am not being facetious.

    c) direct the job actions at the administrators, to the extent possible. Useless paperwork and committee meetings take a lot of time. Especially for tenured faculty who are the only ones in a position to protest anyway.


  7. Historiann, I think “Coors U” has high likelihood in Colorado. And it seems a natural fit with stereotypical views of undergrad culture! And the acronym could stay the same, since Coors and Colorado both start with C.


  8. Mark K.–good point, although I think it’s the privileged uni in Boulder that will more likely be Coors U. Remember, I teach at the Aggie school, and Golden is right next door to Boulder. (Besides, the Republicans in my state would be thrilled to slap a “Coors” on the so-called “liberal” uni’s name.)

    quixote makes some good points, too. I somewhat disagree with the “direct job actions at administrators.” Most of the admins I know work really hard at shielding the faculty from b.s. and deal with a lot of it themselves. If they had the money, I’m sure they’d share it generously with us. I think it’s the taxpayers and voters–or rather, the non-taypaying voters–who should get it in their faces. They’re the ones to blame for the craptastic state of my state’s budget and the overlapping series of constitutional amendments that mandate increases for K-12 education while also limiting the % of budget growth and mandating tax REFUNDS.

    You get what you pay for, folks. Why do you think it is that faculty at Amherst, Oberlin, and Bennington are more available to students and have time to direct multiple senior honors’ theses, etc.? What do you think you’re really entitled to when you’ve chosen to attend a uni that puts freshman in classes with 100+ students? State unis should offer a high quality education to all–but they can’t do it on the cheap, and it’s not the responsibility of the faculty to volunteer their labor to fill the gap.

    (My comment here is admittedly drifting away from the economic crisis of our age, and into my problems with state universities in general, which will not be solved once the economy is in recovery. Sorry to get a little O/T.)


  9. I’ll just point out that most faculty do, in fact, “get their summers off”–if, by that, we mean that faculty contracts do not extend to the summer months, and that our annual salary is based on nine months of work, not twelve.

    Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your perspective), universities collude with faculty (or is it the other way around?) in sometimes allowing work performed while not on contract to count for annual evaluation and (eventually) tenure and promotion. That is, many faculty members write and do research in the summer and take credit for it when their contracted performance is evaluated.

    No wonder universities expect we’ll work for no money, when we do it all the time.

    Let’s lobby for 12-month contracts and a corresponding 33% pay raise!

    A clearer accounting of what faculty work really looks like–as well as how it is rewarded and compensated–would be useful not only for the general public, but for faculty and administrators both, it seems to me. As long as faculty/administration are willing to be sloppy about things like summer “work” being counted as part of faculty’s contracted duties, faculty are probably already standing on a very slippery slope and (I hate to say it) contributing to its slippery-ness, to some degree.

    And, as I’ve said before in comments on Historiann’s blog, this kind of clarity (or sloppiness–again depending on your perspective) is probably linked up in important ways to differences between tenure-track and non-tenure-track work, which is also something we should all be constantly conscious of. Certainly, when I was tenured, I was (all too wilfully) pretty blind to the inequities that “let” me count my summer (research and writing) work as part of my contracted work, while my non-TT colleagues could not. Who wants to question the privilege they enjoy, though?

    Uh-oh–did I just suggest that working for no money (in the summer at least) is really a privilege that TT folks enjoy, rather than an unfair burden?


  10. Tom–great points. What to do? The not-being-on-contract months of the year give us the liberty to travel to archives and conferences, or to work with collaborators, etc. If they put us on contract, then in theory we’d have to be available for meetings and other obligations.

    We may use our summers to research and write–but we don’t have to. (We don’t submit billable hours, etc.) I’m thinking that people who regularly used their summers entirely for family travel might come under suspicion among their colleagues, but so long as they’re productive *enough*, who’s to say when it gets done?


  11. To respond to your last point Historiann, that’s exactly my problem. My work load during the year is such that in order to get any substantive research and writing done, which is expected for tenure and promotion, I have to work during the summer. Taking time off to travel or just hang out with my family would put me way behind the curve. So I am complicit in what Tom suggests-I’m working during the summer whether they pay me or not, but it isn’t necessarily by choice.


  12. Interesting thing about that contract, Tom. We’ve been working on a new contract at SLAC, and it is pretty interesting how most of my colleagues interpret their contracts. People were under the impression that they were on 9 month contracts, except for the people on 10- and 12-month contracts.

    Um, no.

    Our contract has always run for 12 months, but faculty in most of the schools and colleges have a nice little clause that says, “normal campus duties to be performed from August through May.” But you know, they keep our health insurance payments up all year — which they wouldn’t have to if we were on real 9-month contracts.

    And many faculty get really bitchy if asked to show up for special duties in the summer. Actually, many of my colleagues get cranky if asked to show up the week after classes, which is a real work week with lots of admin to take care of, and the week before, which is the same.
    I know that in some places, it really is a 9-month paid over 12. But I actually like that our Provost and my dean have come up with a contract that makes it clear that we are paid for 12 months’ work, but that teaching and service don’t happen in the summer unless we specifically ask to spread our teaching over the summer. But this also means that we have to be a little more specific about what we are doing in the summer. I have colleagues who are upset about the fact that it looks like we might have to start actually being held to our research plans as they are outlined in our contracts, but I’m not bothered. I have colleagues who get the same course release as I do (because we are technically on 4-4), and produce nothing, nor have they done for years. If it means that they have to start producing or lose the release so that we can make ends meet — or so that some of the rest of us can have a little more time?

    Works for me.


  13. I’m a little confused by the turn this discussion has taken, in regard to summer work. It’s always been my perception that T-T academic salaries are much higher than those of adjuncts precisely because of the expectation of summer work, research, publication, etc. Those who are interested in living on a truly nine-month salary, based solely upon teaching and free from publication and service expectations, might consider jumping to the adjunct track. I suspect you won’t find it more amenable than the privileges you currently enjoy.


  14. I’m with tom and quixote and others who make similar points.

    Me, I’ve got a dr crazy like situation, so much was cut before that we’re not in as bad shape as we could be / it is less of a shock now.


  15. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/15/us/15furlough.html?scp=1&sq=furlough&st=cse

    Did anyone else read this piece in the NYT earlier this week?
    I did, and thought “but we do this all the time in academia.”
    Our contracts bear little relationship to when, how, and how much
    work we actually do. And it’s always more than anyone outside
    the tower knows or wants to acknowledge. I’m not sure this
    is different from other kinds of work or industry in type, but
    it may be in scale. I agree with quix., but I think the people
    working in the jobs the Times profiles feel at least a little
    the same.

    Here at my lil’ southern college, Historiann, we banded together
    with Much Bigger and Richer Southern University and a few others
    around the state and tried to secede (it’s a tradition). Our state
    contribution was hovering around 10%, in exchange for limiting
    tuition, and regulating our fund-raising and in/ out of state student
    ratio. What a bargain. The agreement now is we get less, and
    the state meddles (a little) less.


  16. Here’s the report from the SUNY system (which I just happen to know something about, though I can neither confirm nor deny that I work within it):

    Faculty are unionized, and annual raises, health coverage, etc., are contractual. When the economy tanked, Gov. Patterson insisted he needed to break those contracts, and was also going to institute a one- or two-week “pay deferral” over the summer (employees would lose those weeks’ pay in the short term, but would have them paid out whenever they left the state employment system). Word on the street is that NYS governors have succeeded in doing this before, even though it’s illegal — but the legislature balked, and the stimulus package sent enough $$ into the system that Patterson dropped the issue.

    So as far as I know, scheduled raises are happening. Last year’s searches went ahead as scheduled and travel funding has remained the same, at least at the campuses I know the most about. My impression is that things are okay for faculty across the SUNY system, at least for the next year or so, and I haven’t heard of any staff firings (though many open staff positions are being cut or at least frozen). The overall health of the system is definitely not good, but it’s not nearly as dire as it is in other places.

    The most outrageous thing Gov. Patterson has succeeded in doing to “address” this issue is increase tuition. . . but he’s routing 80% of that increase into New York’s general fund, NOT into the SUNY system. So, stick it to the students (and their parents), but not in a way that improves their education. Awesome.


  17. Well, I’m in a system contemplating 8% cuts in salary costs, either through straight pay cuts or furloughs, or some combination. The state is in a mess, so no one thinks people are crying wolf. I mean, it’s worse than Colorado, Historiann! I’ve been through this before at my previous employer, who did pay cuts that varied by salary – 10%, 8%, 6%, 4% depending on your salary. We never got our benefits back.

    My own instinct is to try to protect the students as much as possible, because they have a 9% fee increase while we get an 8% pay cut. The state will be cutting it’s support for the university by 20% over 2 years… not gradual at all. And we’ll have 500 additional students without many new faculty.

    This whole issue of “you get what you pay for” is true. But I can’t take it out on our students, who don’t know to take us for granted.

    I always thought the difference between adjunct pay and full time pay was service, not research; but since my previous job was explicitly an 11 month year, I’m used to not taking time off. I’m now paid 9 months over twelve, and it just strikes me as weird. The one thing it does is make it possible to teach summer school for additional pay.


  18. One upside of living on a low-tax/anti-tax state is that they don’t spend as much even in the fat times. So that when the crashes come, like right now, we generally don’t have to cut as much. How’s that for glass-half-full?

    Here at our directional state uni, the whole system went on a pay freeze (does that research and publishing I completed and didn’t get a raise for count next year???) and we’ve been told to cut 2% across the board, about $50k for every college.


  19. Susan’s story sounds like the emails about the UC I keep getting — the last ones said they were calling for a 9% pay cut across all faculty and staff, with still holding the option of furloughs on top of that. My campus has slashed course offerings and ballooned class sizes for next year. And the state just hiked fees 9% for undergrads (more for grad students) while continuing that sh!t about no longer honoring the CA Master Plan and turning away some of the people who are qualified for admission.

    Thing is, like Historiann says, UC has been mostly privatized for a long time now — I believe we are at 22% of our operating budget is covered by fed and state stuff and another 11 by fees! I would tell the legislature and the UC Regents to f. off and that they get no say in our governance if they put in so little money, but I’m freaked out at extending that logic out further and allowing all the UC decisions to be made by Montsano, Raytheon and Microsoft. Bleah!


  20. We’re in bad shape at my Uni, well, perhaps “worse shape than usual” would be more correct. The budget must be cut 22%. Initially, the state told us to develop a 30% reduction plan but that was not in legal accord with the federal stimulus package. As I understand it, changes imposed by the state to make this up include a 13% increase in undergrad tuition and slightly less for graduate tuition (this seems insane in a recession but what do I know?), a 4.6% salary reduction, 3% from services & supplies, in addition to other cuts like campus closures during holidays and no course releases.

    They’ve already been turning off the ventilation during down times, I know because I work in my dank little office during down times. I can’t imagine our restrooms receiving less service than they do already but I suppose they will.

    Months ago a special committee was convened to evaluate which academic programs might be eliminated with the hope that those left standing “might become stronger.” I don’t know where that has gone but it scares me.

    Neither the state nor the university can mandate salary cuts without declaring exigency so how that 4.6% salary reduction is achieved is apparently bargainable, making me happier than ever to be unionized. Our last contract negotiation was terrible though, it spiraled into a long, unpleasant mediation. Our union is pushing for FTE reductions over furloughs of course. While the President of the Uni says that furloughs don’t work particularly well he has also said that there is no practical difference financially between the two (which just isn’t true).

    Our classified employees (SEIU) are in worse shape than faculty, facing both furloughs and layoffs. It’s not clear that even for them, furlough means “less work” (it certainly would not mean that for faculty). There is something of an explanation of furloughs and labor law here.

    I don’t know details but it sounds as if departments are reducing TA support to the bare minimum.

    Times are grim but at least our administration appears to be treating the budget process in a transparent manner.


  21. Let me be clear that I wasn’t saying don’t make a fuss about the furloughs and cuts and so forth. We were fortunate during the “Rae Days” that, alongside the much-maligned professor and public service employees, the public healthcare sector in Ontario was also affected.

    When hospitals shut their emergency rooms one day a month or doctors closed their offices one day a month, people noticed and sympathized (or at least felt the pain enough, themselves, that they turned against the government pretty decisively).

    But by ourselves we got no sympathy. And amongst ourselves? We got no support for our furlough day schedules.

    Cassandra? Thanks for the link to IHE atrocity, er, article. His understanding and experience of a university is nothing like mine, thank all the powers that be. And I’d hate to live in a world where M.A. were teaching all the survey courses in formats designed by textbook publishers with occasional comments on the whole system offered by the rare “curricular content” Ph.D. prof. That’s turning universities into an extension of the public schools and not in a good way!


  22. ADM: Goodness, y’all need a union.

    Historiann: I forgot. You have TABOR in Colorado. We defeated a TABOR drive in my ridiculously conservative state a couple years back (to my amazement, given that we have an abundance of greedy-for-a-free-ride voters). We always live on the cheap here, so surprisingly, the news hasn’t been as bad as it could be.

    Travel money from the dean is limited to untenured faculty members. (This happens pretty often.) I feel twitchy about our budget for adjuncts, but enrollments are way up (we’re Small Urban State U., so there’s a population of locals who seem to be staying home to go to college). If enrollments are up, we’ll probably get the funding to hire the adjuncts we need. We have a hiring freeze on for TT jobs in our college (which does not seem to apply to the boutique colleges with low enrollments and fancy-a$$ programs).


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