Letter from the President
March 10, 2016
In an e-mail sent by Chancellor Colwell Wednesday afternoon, GAU was provided with details concerning budget scenarios should the state fail to pass a budget for fiscal year 17 until after the November election. Those preliminary details are as follows.
- The elimination of more than 180 faculty, administrative professional and civil service staff positions
- The elimination of 300 student employment positions
- The merger of four colleges into two colleges
Additional clarification was provided by President Dunn in his System Connection newsletter including reduction in graduate assistantships as part of the elimination of student employment positions, reduction in funding for research programs including grant funded programs, and the complete elimination of state funded travel. PDFs of potential cuts as outlined in the system connection are attached to this message.
Concerning the implementation of these changes, the Chancellor stated the following:
“…should we find ourselves in the unwelcome position of having to implement any of these reductions, we would do so in compliance with contractual and collective bargaining agreements. Further, no specific colleges have been targeted for potential merger, as this would require larger campus discussion, and I want to stress that the merger of colleges would not directly translate into the elimination of academic degree programs.”
Upon receipt of this information, GAU has reached out to both President Dunn and Chancellor Colwell to obtain specific information concerning the impact of these budget scenarios upon the graduate student population and the implementation of the proposed cuts should these cuts be implemented. GAU will provide additional information concerning this situation to the membership as soon as it receives it.
Specifics of the scenarios are expected to be shared during President Dunn’s testimony in Springfield, along with the leaders of other Illinois colleges and universities, 9am on Thursday. You can view the testimony at the General Assembly’s website at http://www.ilga.gov/senate/audvid.asp The Appropriations II Committee, where President Dunn will be listed as 212.
Additionally, several assistants have voiced concerns to GAU about potential reductions in GA workload which would require a reduction in appointment. Upon raising this matter with Chancellor Colwell, who charged Provost Ford with investigating the situation, it was later clarified that contracts would be awarded at the usual amount of 10hrs/week for 25% and 20hrs/week for 50%. With regards to the award of contracts, Provost Ford stated the following.
“…I confirm that both the GAU and the administration have an interest in providing contracts in practice in either 25% or 50% amounts. Unusual percentages are provided only under exceptional circumstances and typically only with special permission from the Graduate Dean and usually with information to the GAU.”
In my column in last month’s advocate, I indicated that the Chancellor urged Chairs and Deans to appoint assistantships at 50% where possible, and make a good faith effort to secure additional funding for those students who would be funded at 25%. While the Chancellor did make this suggestion, interpretation of how assistantships are awarded is largely up to the department in question in accordance with the requirements set in our Collective Bargaining agreement. In light of this, some departments are making the decision to fund GAs at lower percentages in order to provide more funded positions.
Finally, I would like to clarify information provided in last month’s advocate concerning the funds released to colleges for their GA budget for FY16. As stated, colleges have been granted funds for FY16 equal to 75% of FY15’s GA budget. However, we have now learned that this 75% amount includes funding provided to incoming international students to meet their visa commitments, and this figure pertains only to Academic Colleges in Academic Affairs. We have further learned that funding for summer 2016 is included in this 75% amount and is up to the discretion of the individual department.
GAU Executive Council
John Flowers, President
Natalie Nash, Vice-President for Membership
Kevin Taylor, Secretary/Treasurer
Joon Kang, Grievance Officer
John Barnard, Stewards Council Chair
Jim Podesva, Bargaining Unit Chair