Budget Disaster

Good Afternoon

In light of the ongoing budget disaster, and in response to the March 29th System Connection from President Dunn, Chancellor Colwell has released a statement detailing the possible budget cuts that SIUC will have to take in order to meet the target goal of $30 million in reductions recommended by President Dunn. GAU has obtained additional information indicating that the $30 million number has been derived from an additional $11 million in reductions on top of the already planned for $19 million in reductions this year.

First, allow me to be clear: there are no plans for any GAs to be laid off. Our contract does not include a clause authorizing furlough days or layoffs. While some departments may attempt to save money via the non-renewal of GAs, departments cannot lay off GAs who have contracts due to financial need. Further, GAU interprets Chancellor Colwell’s statement concerning the sweeping of funds, that “it will not include graduate assistantships that are currently filled, even if they will be filled by a different student next year,” to mean that there will be no reduction in the graduate student funding for next year, though there may be a reduction in available positions. We are communicating with the Chancellor to confirm this.

Second, Chancellor Colwell’s message states, “we must reduce academic administrative costs through college or department mergers or other means.” While the Chancellor states later that his message does “not address the elimination of academic programs, since savings from program elimination will be generated more slowly,” the possibility of mergers may impact assistantships going forwards. GAU is currently monitoring this situation and the potential effects it will have on our assistantships: when we have any information concerning this matter, we will inform the membership.

That being said, what can we do?

As members, you can reach out to your colleagues in and around your departments and provide them with the information above. You can also attend the Board of Trustees Meeting this Thursday, April 6th, at 10am in Ballroom B of the Student Center. The agenda for the meeting is available here. You can also attend the town hall meeting with our local representatives this Saturday. You can also attend the meeting of the Graduate and Professional Student Council this Tuesday at 7:15, in Activity room A and B of the Student Center, where this will be an item of discussion. Finally, you can also attend the administration’s information session, April 13th at 3pm in the Illinois room of the student center.

More crucially, you can encourage your colleagues to join the Union. I know this has been something that we have asked of you before, however, never before has the Union needed your support as much as it does now. Without membership, many of the things that the Union does for you, and all graduate assistants on this campus, would be impossible. Without membership, we would be effectively crippled in our attempts to defend you all against the budget situation.

As a Union, GAU will be reaching out to Chancellor Colwell and President Dunn to gather as much information as possible in order to keep all of you updated. Further, we are in the process of scheduling meetings with Chancellor Colwell to ensure that any plan of financial action is in complete accord with his responsibilities under our contract. We are also going to be coordinating with the other Union bodies for a concerted defense of all of our rights as members of the SIU community.

In Solidarity,

Johnathan Flowers

President, Graduate Assistants United


Bargaining Update

Your GAU bargaining team is negotiating for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement – which covers all GA working conditions at SIU.  The team has been bargaining for quite for close three years, unfortunately due to the state budget crisis we have been in a bit of a holding pattern.

The bargaining team has been working and had some successes.  We have agreed with the university to including non-discrimination language in the contract.  We have clarified how vacation works – giving everyone on a yearlong appointment 12 days – allowing international students or those with families far from Illinois the ability to go for a visit.  We have created new language to protect letters offered to incoming GAs offering multiple years of funding.  We also are fairly close on an agreement to be able finish the contract but then be to bargain for salaries if the state gives a budget to the university.

We are still bargaining on other matters.  The biggest issues remains fees – we have gone back and forth with the administration many times, but they argue against doing anything about them, especially given the budget.  We are also working on GAs having work more hours than for which they paid, the number of credit hours you have to work to be eligible to be a GA, and having departments determine GA’s eligibility for assistantship rather than the central administration.

We are hoping we can wrap up bargaining this semester.

Bargaining a contract is important to GA working conditions.  The union’s recent success in bringing back 75% appointments in large part to the efforts of previous bargaining teams which gave us good language to grieve.

If you want more information about bargaining or want to come observe a bargaining session, please let us know.  Or you can come see us during a happy hour.

GAU Reaches two settlements

Graduate Assists United (GAU) has reached two settlements to grievances what we wish to share with you.

The first concerns a rule put in place by the administration that restricted GAs from holding appointments greater than 50% (0.50FTE – 20 hours a week). This violated the GAU contract, specifically section 5.3, and the union grieved. Shortly before arbitration of the grievance, the administration agreed to eliminate the rule, and go back to the old system of GAs being able to have up to 75% appointments.As part of this settlement, a GA from the College of Liberal Arts was paid for a semester 25% appointment.

The second settlement concerns a GA in the College of Education who was told he had a summer appointment and started working at the beginning of the summer. He was told he would be given a contract to sign shortly, however, after working for nine days he was told to stop working.  A few days later the department told him it had made a mistake and he would not be employed during the summer. GAU grieved and signed settlement where the GA was paid for the nine days and guaranteed a 50% appointment in the Spring semester (he did not have an appointment for Spring).

For those of you who heard a reports of a new university fee, GAU was monitoring this. The fee, intended to support the construction of new residence halls, would not apply to all GAs; only those in university housing would be affected. As the plan for the construction of new residence halls was tabled at the Board of Trustees meeting December 8, the fee will not be applied until the plan is approved. The plan, and the fee attached to it, may be taken back up in February.

Election results and Happy Hour

GAUnited would like to announce the results of our Officer Elections that we held at the end of last week.

Your new Officers for next year are:

President: John Flowers
VP Membership: Rory Leahy
VP Communications: Andrew Gillespie
Secretary / Treasurer:  Greg Carter
Grievance Officer: Linden Reid
Stewards Council Chair: Carlos Medina
Thanks to all of the Officers from 2015 – 2016 for your service and congratulations to all of you who are graduating!
But wait, there’s more!

We will be holding a final Happy Hour of the year tomorrow at Pinch Penny Pub.

GAUnited Happy Hour
Where: Pinch Penny Pub
When: Tuesday, May 03, 8 p.m. – 10 p.m.

Come out and meet the membership both old and new!!!

In Solidarity,

Update from Eastern Illinois University

We are now 8 ½ months into our fiscal year without any money from the state. In addition to not having our regular appropriation from the state, the University chose to fund the MAP awards which were promised to students, and the state hasn’t paid any of those costs, either. On top of those problems, several years of rapidly declining enrollment have exhausted most of our reserve funds.

As a result, EIU has been forced to give unpaid ‘furlough’ days to all administrative personnel, and to lay off 177 civil service workers from across campus. Almost all spending accounts have been frozen, and our remaining reserves are being drained. Despite all these drastic cuts, the administration still needs approximately $2 million to make it through the semester, and it has asked faculty to take a large voluntary pay cut (which might or might not be reimbursed, depending on the level of state funding that comes in the future). The results of that vote will be released on the 15th, although leaders of the faculty union have promised that if the proposal fails they will bring forward a new proposal of their own which will still provide the university with the needed $2 million under terms that are more equitable.

At this point, the harm to students has been minimized as much as possible, and many of the reductions can be reversed if a funding bill is passed. The President of the University has committed himself to keeping the university open not just for the rest of the year but for next year as well, although truly devastating cuts would be needed if no appropriations have been received by the Fall.

-Grant Sterling, VP of the EIU chapter of University Professionals of Illinois

Bargaining Update

Your GAU bargaining team has been meeting regularly with the administration. It has been a difficult environment in which to bargain with the collapse of the state budget under Governor Bruce Rauner. Nevertheless there has been progress made and we are fairly close to finishing.

After consulting with the officers and department stewards of GAU your team presented a package proposal to wrap up all the remaining issues in one shot. We presented ours February 11.

As part of the package considering the financial state of the university we asked for no raise and instead focused on fee relief as that has consistently been what you have said is the most important issue. On March 10 we received a response from the administration which was their package. The good news what that it was clear they were making a serious effort to come to an agreement with us, however there is still some distance to go.

The main remaining issues revolve around the cost of fees, funding caps on the number of semesters GAs are funded, how summer tuition waivers work, and vacation leave (as for 12 month appointed GAs it may be hard to get time to visit their families at home – especially for international grads).

-GAU Bargaining Team

Letter from the President

Dear Members,

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.

50% cuts PDF

25% cuts PDF

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.

If you have any questions, concerns, or comments, you can email us at gau.siuc@gmail.com or comment on either this post or our Facebook page.


In Solidarity,

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