Cut the ‘fat’ before the programs

At best, the Academic Planning Council (APC) has been asked to perform a thankless task as it prioritizes programs listed for elimination by the NIU administration and the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE). The administration’s request for this process has put the APC in a difficult position, especially the demand to identify substitute programs for elimination to “balance” APC’s decision to preserve programs marked for extinction by IBHE directives. It is NIU-UPI’s view that the APC has been backed into an untenable position because it has not been allowed to examine the full budget picture here at NIU. That is why the present process is focused entirely on program elimination. APC has no authority to look at cuts in administrative costs, especially on the central administration and college levels. If there are sacrifices to be made, shouldn’t they come from all sectors of the university? Telling departments they must absorb the overwhelming majority of budget cuts only hurts the ultimate educational mission of this university.

There are other ways to save money at NIU that have yet to be explored. After winning bargaining rights for the faculty, UPI will have legal authority to examine in detail NIU’s recent budgets and audit documents. With that information available to the faculty for the first time ever, we will be in a position to identify low-priority expenditures that can be eliminated rather than savaging quality academic programs. Moreover, in developing collective bargaining proposals, NIU-UPI will solicit contract ideas from the entire faculty. We will give them an opportunity to express opinions not only on what they want to see in a contract but how this university can become better and more efficient. Furthermore, once a contract has been negotiated, it will be submitted for ratification by vote of the entire faculty, not simply UPI members.

It is equally important to recognize that an NIU-UPI contract will create an independent, autonomous bargaining unit at this university. This unit will focus on the unique aspects of NIU, its mission, and its concern. Other existing contracts, such as those now in place at Temple University and the State University of New York system, can provide guidance, but it will be the specific desires of the NIU faculty that will shape our final document. Comparisons between NIU and other non-comprehensive, non-Ph.D. granting universities are irrelevant. An NIU collective bargaining agreement will be based on our status as a comprehensive university, our concerns for the protection of quality programs, our research and creative endeavors, and our teaching and public service.

A collective bargaining agreement will, wherever appropriate, locate real decision-making authority in the hands of the faculty members at the department level, where it belongs. A contract will give the faculty legally binding authority regarding the ultimate target of the IBHE program eliminators—faculty workload. But in order to secure this authority, the faculty must first vote for a collective bargaining representative. Only through NIU-UPI will our faculty enjoy the protections they so clearly lack today.