Fac Union Pres Sinclair tells Pres Schill to find another scapegoat

Dear Colleagues,

During recent remarks to the University Senate, President Mike Schill alerted the campus to yet another potential budget crisis. He identified four reasons for his concern about budget “fragility:” the ongoing difficulties with PERS funding, the decrease in international students, low reserves, and the loss of “flexibility” due to faculty unionization.

We were surprised to have President Schill cite United Academics as a cause of budget fragility. In the summer of 2015, UO President Michael Schill and then-UA President Michael Dreiling negotiated a two-year salary extension to the faculty contract, with raises of 2.0% and 2.125%. We agreed to these raises–less than our comparators–because we understood the university had budget problems, and we wanted to do our part to help out and offset ever-increasing tuition.

President Schill and his leadership team, including the Board of Trustees, have been in charge of the university and its finances for five years. They have made a series of decisions about how to structure the budget, spend money, direct lobbying efforts, and shape the university according to their desires and priorities. They have made these decisions without consulting us or involving the faculty in any meaningful way. We believe for President Schill to now say that we are a cause of budget fragility is an insult to the efforts we made two years ago and nonsensical given our lack of input in the decisions that have led us to this point.

One of the main reasons the faculty unionized was because during several budget cycles, the administration decided not to give faculty raises. It’s true that in this sense, the unionization of faculty and collective bargaining contracts have reduced the administration’s “flexibility” not to give raises–in other words, to balance the budget on the backs of teaching faculty, SEIU employees, and GEs. It is also possible that our efforts to protect Career teaching positions during the last round of budget cuts impinged on administrative flexibility.

We make no apologies for reducing administrative “flexibility” to give no raises or terminate good faculty who serve the mission of the university. We do, however, reject the implication that preventing zero percent salary increases and layoffs of quality faculty contribute substantially to alleged budget fragility. Through UA, faculty have demanded decent raises and job stability because this is necessary to recruit and retain excellent faculty. We know that student success comes when the faculty are fully engaged in the research and teaching mission of the university and not from a faculty who are constantly worried about their jobs or looking for positions at other universities.

When we look at our campus, we see a vibrant community of scholars passionately devoted to cutting-edge research and world-class education. We see a growing and diversifying student body who are making tremendous strides into our shared future and are now graduating at higher rates than ever before [https://around.uoregon.edu/content/uos-four-and-six-year-graduation-rates-reach-new-high]. We also see an ever-bloating administration, construction all over campus, and multi-million dollar athletics facilities.

After making his remarks, President Schill talked with me and clarified that he in no way intended to imply that UA was a cause of current budget difficulties. He did, however, reexpress concerns about the union causing future budget fragility. As we prepare to approach the bargaining table on January 9, we intend to discuss with the administration the faculty’s ideas on how to continue to improve our university. We will continue to argue that a strong faculty equals a strong university. We will continue to reject the notion that our union, not administrative decision-making, is a source of budgetary woes on campus.

In solidarity,

Chris Sinclair
President United Academics

11/18/2019: President Schill takes responsibility for UO’s fragile finances

Just kidding, he’s blaming the unions. From Daily Emerald reporter Jack Forrest, here:

The somber mood was retained throughout much of the address with discussions of budget deficits and low financial reserves. At one point, Schill said some blame lies with UO’s trend to unionize.

“One of the things that produced our fragility is that we, unlike virtually all of our peer schools, tend to heavily unionize, in the faculty as well as in the staff,” Schill said. “It just means we lack some of the flexibility, some of the tools, some of the levers that other universities have. Maybe it’s worth it to have that, that’s a decision that the faculty made, but it does create that situation.”

The video is here. Rumor has it that the faculty union’s treasurer will be sending Schill an invoice for “scapegoat services”.

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18 Responses to Fac Union Pres Sinclair tells Pres Schill to find another scapegoat

  1. Dogmatic Ratios says:

    Since he isn’t trying to list all the major factors, this isn’t just scapegoating. It’s irrational and anti-science. Executive salaries are a factor. Increased autocracy is a factor, as is the consequential decrease in distribution and delegation of responsibilities for fundraising and expenditure-reduction, ensuring that the community cannot contribute creatively to solving problems. The reduction of democracy is a factor, since it increases resentment and decreases enthusiasm, causing reduction in effectiveness, productivity, and retention. The increased emphasis on large donor-directed projects is a factor, since it results in general fund and State matching contributions beyond the existing obligations of the university. I’m sure you can add to the list. We could send it to him with instructions on theory construction, experimental design, and data analysis.

  2. just different says:

    Who’s to blame for the loss of 1000+ international students?

  3. Dog says:

    in general, less chinese students are going to American Universities for whatever reason, the UO loss is just a reflection of that

    https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/3012997/us-universities-brace-decline-chinese-students-after-beijing

  4. Professor Goat says:

    This is an outrageous claim. Everyone knows it’s really the fault of our previous Provost, and has been since Frohnmayer.

  5. apt says:

    It’s difficult to believe that our current leader is committed to leading this university versus looking for the next gig (hey look! I can attack unions!). But like the loss of international $ (tuition differential), is this dynamic of non-leader leaders symptomatic of a wider trend? asking for real not just being a smart-ass…

  6. Anas clypeata says:

    It is too bad the reporter did not follow up with questions about specific changes that the administration would have had the “flexibility” to impose in the absence of unions. Would he really be so brazen as to state in public that they would have chosen no raises, no COLAs, no additional step for topped-out staff, making some of the lowest-paid employees pay more for their lunches, more expensive health insurance for GEs, and other penny-pinching garbage that the administration’s representatives proposed every time they come to the bargaining table? How would he expect to achieve excellence while treating the workers at the UO like so many disposable utensils? What a bunch of BS.

  7. cdsinclair says:

    In unionizing, the faculty (and staff, and GEs) have said very clearly that they do not want Johnson Hall to have certain sorts of tools and levers to deal with their poor budgeting skills, er, financial fragility.

    Instead of scapegoating the faculty for their gall to unionize, perhaps that time would be better invested in building relationships with the faculty, understanding their needs and interests, and providing them the compensation, benefits and support necessary to fulfill the mission of the university.

    • Dog says:

      this is way too simple and boilerplate statement to make; my reality is this – in my time at the UO I have only seen administrators care about defending their budget, and I never ever witnessed a real discussion about Academics in any Deans Council meeting. I think its basically impossible for them to build a “relationship to faculty” because the faculty don’t believe that Deans are sincere and care about issues like academic integrity and program quality.

  8. Publius says:

    Who, us? In my first years at Oregon (circa 1975-1990), the Administration consistently blamed all the U of Os financial problems on student radicals + hippies of the 1960s, whose political protests, bad manners, free sex/dope smoking, etc. had alienated all the state legislators.

  9. Unionist4Good says:

    So what excellence does Schill think he could deliver if only there were no unions? Is he upset because he could not unilaterally cut graduate employee healthcare benefits? Does he only want to offer raises to faculty he deems deserving? Eliminate whole programs? How absolutely irrational to blame unions when international student enrollment plummets, or state PERs commitments drive fiscal issues far more than anything any of the unions have proposed. Schill is revealing his autocratic and anti-union ambitions, again.

  10. uomatters says:

    If you watch the video you will see that Pres Schill does not blame the union for PERS increases or international student declines.

  11. solidcitizen says:

    My favorite bit is at 29:16 when he says of a faculty union, “Maybe it’s worth it to have that” while shaking his head.

  12. Inquiring Minds says:

    For a glimpse at how our nonunion workforce is addressed see President Schill’s presentation to OAs (noting that he is an OA too!). https://media.uoregon.edu/channel/archives/13592
    See min 42 about new initiatives and competing interests. Also at 1 hr and 3 minutes about how OAs are unusual at this institution because they are fortunate to get the same 2% merit as NTTF.
    (incidentally, whether they are OAs who make $40,000 or higher execs who make over $140,000) So does the admin have everyone fighting for scraps?

  13. Stickmy Neckout, Ph. D. says:

    Nobody dares say it out loud, but it’s true that “United Academics” has ruined a lot of things at the University. All Mike Schill is saying in the quote above is that “UA” makes for a less nimble UO–and can any of us deny that this is true? I know one is not supposed to say it, especially if one is in the higher administration. But I’d argue that it’s sort of the whole point of “UA.” Am I missing something here?

    • Dog says:

      My few cents on this, and I have said this before: I believe that UA doesn’t really understand research, summer salary, and the like and has done some small things that have negatively impacted research mainly making it quite difficult to hire temp employees to do specific research tasks. Now I have to outsource those kinds of things.

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