In case you hadn't heard, the State of California is broke. (Actually, probably worse than broke. This is one of those times where we find ourselves glad that our state does not have kneecaps.) As a consequence of this, the California State University system (one of whose 23 campuses is my own fair university) is now dealing with a $585 million reduction in funding. (At my own fair university, the cut is about $40 million.)
None of the options for addressing the budget cuts are wonderful. They have included yet another round of student fee increases and layoffs of significant numbers of lecturers (although they aren't being counted as layoffs because the lecturers were classified as "temporary" workers, this despite the fact that many of them have been teaching here for a decade or two). And, this academic year, they also include furloughs for the remaining faculty and staff.
A furlough is a period of time for which the employee is not paid, and on which the employee performs no work. Thus, an immediate consequence of a furlough is less pay (for CSU faculty in my bargaining unit, 9.23% less pay for the academic year). However, a furlough is distinct from a salary reduction -- it does not effect our health benefits, retirement benefits, and the like, and, at present, the reductions in pay cover only the year from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010. Despite getting less pay during this period, the furlough doesn't reduce anyone's base salary. As well, the assumption is that our taking these furlough days (for faculty in my bargaining unit, nine days per semester, 18 for the academic year) saves enough money overall to save some jobs.
We're shouldering our share of the pain. But, we're not shouldering an inordinate share of the pain by working on those unpaid furlough days. If the State of California cannot pay for a full academic year of teaching, research, and service activities from us, the State of California will not receive a full academic year of teaching, research, and service activities from us. This is what sharing the pain is about.
In discussing the general issue of faculty and staff furloughs before, I noted the tendency to assume that academics will figure out a way to do the same amount of work (or more) with fewer resources. This is just the kind of assumption that can lead administrators to regard furloughs as a de facto salary cut that needn't do much to disrupt the operation of a university. Academics unwittingly feed this kind of thinking by prioritizing the needs of others, like our students, over our own needs. But working for free just isn't sustainable, especially when faculty workload has consistently ratcheted upward and hard-won increases in compensation have never been in proportion to the increased workload.
When the budget is broken, being honest about what kind of faculty workload is sustainable is essential to fixing it.
And here, we're actually in a reasonably good position because our furloughs are the result of an explicit agreement between the CSU administration and the California Faculty Association. This means that there are clear parameters, accepted by both sides, for how we are to honor our furlough days. Especially helpful is the Furlough FAQ which the CFA has compiled. Among other things, this FAQ emphasizes that furlough days are not workdays with no pay:
6. Can I work on a furlough day?
No. Prior to starting your assignment for any term between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010, you will have to certify in writing that you will not work on furlough days and that you will not work beyond the duties assigned for weeks with one or more furlough days.
7. Can I refuse to certify that I will not be working on furlough days? I will have to work on furlough days and do not want to lie.
No. Refusal to do so constitutes insubordination and may subject you to discipline. Instead, you should reduce (rather than just reshuffle) your workload so that you do not have to work on furlough days.
Although philosophers are insubordinate in various ways much of the time, until I perused this FAQ it hadn't registered with me that a faculty member could be found to be officially insubordinate. In any case, we have all had to sign a piece of paper stating explicitly that we will not work on furlough days. We know it, the administration knows it, and the students should know it.
Maybe this means committees won't be able to meet (or to achieve quorum -- except for three all-campus furlough days each semester designated by the university president, faculty request their own furlough days, meaning that the faculty members on given committee may have furlough days that do not match up neatly).
Maybe this means the turn-around time for student work in need of feedback and grading will be longer.
Maybe this means that phone calls and email won't be answered instantly.
The world will not end.
Undoubtedly, the furlough days may be more disruptive for faculty doing certain kinds of research, especially with experimental systems that need constant monitoring and tweaking. (The Scientist NewsBlog had a recent article about this very problem.) I suspect that this is part of why the furlough agreement lets faculty request six of our nine furlough days each semester, to let faculty avoid being on furlough during days when it is absolutely crucial for them to be in the lab or in the field. Also, the fact that faculty can take different days as furlough days means it may be possible to partner with a buddy with different furlough days to look in on experiments, supervise students who are keeping things going, and so forth. It will be a challenge, but other issues (maintenance closures, equipment breakdowns, illness, etc.) can make research challenging even in academic years without furloughs.
17. Can I take teaching days as furlough days?
Yes, subject only to the limitations below.
18. Can the administration impose a limitation on the number of teaching days that can be taken as furlough days?
No. The administration cannot impose an across-the-board limitation on the number of teaching days that can be taken as furlough days, let alone prohibit faculty from taking any teaching days other than campus closure days as furlough days. However, in individual cases, excessive scheduling of certain teaching days as furlough days may conflict with compelling operational needs. For example, if a faculty member teaches a class that meets only on Thursdays and wants to schedule every other Thursday as a furlough day, the resulting reduction of class meetings by half might conflict with compelling operational needs if the class cannot be taught effectively in half the meetings.
19. So who determines what are "compelling operational needs"?
In the first instance, "the appropriate administrators." However, if it is clear that the administrator is using "compelling operational needs" as an excuse to unreasonably deny a desired furlough day to any faculty member -- for example by claiming that "compelling operational needs" militate against the faculty member taking any teaching days as furlough days -- then the faculty member can file a grievance ad let an arbitrator decide what constitutes "compelling operational needs."
In the CSU system, teaching is a big part of what we do. Reducing our workload by 9.23% (i.e., in proportion with the reduction of our pay) can thus be expected to cut into our teaching (and into the instruction-related activities that take place out of the classroom).
This means students, too, will share the pain of the furloughs (while shouldering the pain of increased student fees and the reduced number of courses being offered due to the layoffs of lecturers). I'm not thrilled about piling more woe onto our students, but at the same time I think it would be a mistake to let them believe that their education does not require real resources and labor -- especially because they are California taxpayers and voters. Understanding the realities on the ground may inform the educational priorities they express to their elected officials.
32. How can instructional faculty make sure that they receive a workload reduction that is commensurate to the pay reduction?
The furlough agreement explicitly states that '[t[he furloughs ... shall not result in an unreasonable workload or schedule within the meaning of Article 20.3." For instructional faculty, this means that to receive a workload reduction that is commensurate to the pay reduction, they must schedule some furlough days on teaching days. The Chancellor's Office has stated in a Press Release that '[u]nder the ... furlough agreement, faculty members will work with individual campus administrators so that class schedules for students are minimally disrupted" and that "if a furlough day is taken on a day of instruction, alternative out-of-classroom assignments could be given to students." It should be noted that these statements are NOT part of the side letter. As a result, if a campus administrator attempts to ensure that "class schedules for students are minimally disrupted" by limiting the number of teaching days that can be taken as furlough days, or if that administrator dies allow a faculty member to take teaching days as furlough days but orders him or her to give "alternative out-of-classroom assignments" to students, this may create an unreasonable workload or schedule that can be grieved.
Here, the FAQ reminds faculty that not working means not working. This is not always an easy concept for people who stay up until 2 AM grading papers, or work out pedagogical improvements in the shower, or brainstorm refinements to their research projects on their commute. However, avoiding mission creep is part of honoring the furlough day.
Of course, the worry is that really honoring the furlough day by setting work aside may come back to bite the faculty member in the butt. In particular:
35. I am a probationary (tenure-track) employee. Can I afford to take a workload reduction without hurting my chances of getting tenure?
The furloughs are not supposed to have an adverse effect on the eligibility for, and award of, tenure. To ensure that probationary employees can take a workload reduction without hurting their chances of getting tenure, the furlough agreement provides that, upon request, the probationary period of any probationary employee will be extended by one year from six to seven years. The probationary employee must make this request between July 1, 2009 and June 30, 2010, and if the employee has an active application for tenure, he or she must make the request before the first level of review has rendered a recommendation concerning that application. Note that this provision does not absolve the probationary employee from the obligation to submit performance review materials in a timely fashion.
My first thought, in reading this, was to wonder whether it would be more beneficial to take an extra year building the case for tenure, or to reduce the expectations on scholarly work, teaching, and service for the current academic year by 9.23% This might depend on whether bringing a particular piece of research to completion, getting manuscripts written, submitted, revised, and published, etc., requires more than 90% of the standard amount of time, effort, and luck. Plus, figuring out the rhythm of research, teaching, and service in an academic year with furlough days will itself require time and effort.
In any case, lowering the bar for AY09-10 by 9.23% is not an option on the table, so the question is moot.
I do hope this provision will insulate our probationary faculty from bearing more than their share of the pain. Burning out our recently acquired talent would be a bad thing, especially since these are the folks we hope will be carrying the university forward two or three decades down the road. And, I hope that department chairs will get on the case of their probationary faculty to ensure that they don't work when they shouldn't be working. Under normal circumstances one should not have to spend 100% of one's waking hours working for tenure. In these decidedly abnormal circumstances, one should definitely protect at least 9.23% of one's waking hours from the all-consuming tenure chase.
Not having worked at a university (except as a grad student), but having worked in the commercial sector as a salaried employee (which I assume faculty are), I'm curious:
If I, as a faculty member, take a furlough day on (say) Tuesday of one week, and then work the following Saturday to catch up on what I didn't get done, am I being insubordinate? I.e., is it assumed that faculty do not work on weekends? And therefore that any work they do on weekends is voluntary/unpaid? (I'm not suggesting that this should be viewed as a workaround to the furlough. It's imperative that actual work be decreased. I'm just curious about how it works.) At my company, we all have "official work hours" that we're expected to be in the office. The assumption is that during non-work hours, we're not working. All costs etc. are based on an assumption of a 40-hour week. But a lot of us DO work on weekends, or after hours, because we have to in order to get the work done.
How does one go about explaining to funding agencies that progress is slow because he or she was contractually prevented from going to the lab?
Will people just shift their lab work schedule to go sunday-thursday and take friday as their furlough day?
Are grad students included in the furloughs and work-prohibition? Presumably not specifically under the same agreement that the faculty has worked out but some department rules? If this had happened to me during my last year in grad school I would have taken my pipettors and an incubator home to my apartment and I'd have been doing biofilm experiments in my bathtub.
I presume that translates into so many fewer class periods and like reduction in the number of credit hours for the course. I'd be interested in seeing how your regulations about 'on assignment' are written. In my case, during the academic year we were on assignment except during days when the university was closed. As I recall, that was some 10 or 12 days during the academic year.
Hm. A philosopher taking a furlough reminds me of Deep Thought's response to the threat of a strike by the Amalgamated Union of Philosophers, Sages, Luminaries and Other Thinking Persons: "And who exactly will that inconvenience?"
(hey, you don't expect me to actually read this post to work out the answer, do you?)
9.23? You're being ripped off.
By my calculation, this leaves your working almost an extra 8 minutes over the year.
I kept hoping the post was snark, but it isn't.
I presume the ethical thing to do would be to take your furlough days in proportion to your expected workload for different components of your duties, so don't take every day as a teaching day, but 40% or 60% or whatever the nominal teaching load is?
"Although philosophers are insubordinate in various ways much of the time, until I perused this FAQ it hadn't registered with me that a faculty member could be found to be officially insubordinate. "
Best argument against going the academic route.
If the State of California cannot pay for a full academic year of teaching, research, and service activities from us, the State of California will not receive a full academic year of teaching, research, and service activities from us. This is what sharing the pain is about.
If it were me, I would religiously furlough my teaching and service activities, but I would not in any way, shape, or form reduce my research efforts.
CPP, if I get furloughed, that's certainly my plan until they start to complain with their "compelling operational needs" bull.
For a UC point of view on the furloughs see:
From the UC Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs:
faculty furlough days will not occur on instructional daysâ¦. In such difficult times, I believe that we must do everything we can to ensure that the students continue to receive all of their instruction. Asking the faculty to carry a full teaching load during furloughs is a large request, but in my mind is justified by the Universityâs paramount teaching mission. Research is permitted on furlough days
bsci : If you translate that statement from the UC Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, he's saying "we expect the faculty to continue to work as they always do regardless of the reduction in pay."
If they want to reduce pay by 9%, they should also expect 9% of classes to go untaught.
I guess I'm a also a bit confused as to how a 9.23% reduction in work leads to 9 furlough days. Do you guys normally only work 100 days out of the year? Assuming 20 days of work per month (4 weeks times 5 days), that's 5 months. Now, I know that faculty salaries are usually academic year salaries, but I thought that was 9 months, not 5 months.... A 9% furlough ought to be more like 16 days off, even sticking to the usual fiction that faculty always get summer salary and don't work over the summer when they don't have it (har har).
Never mind, I figured it out -- "9 furlough days each semester". That makes more sense.
So, at UC there is no teaching reduction and research is permitted during furlough.
Hm, nominal service load is what, 15% at UC?
So 2/3 reduction in committee load for everyone!
In Wisconsin, the system has specified that for instructional folks, furloughs must be taken so that they don't affect direct instruction days. The rules are so intricate that our HR people have been putting in a ton of overtime figuring out how to make them work. And, of course, they also haven't been working on the other stuff they need to do, but no worries, because they're being furloughed, too.
Guess what, it's even more non-sensical than that. Suppose you are on sabbatical, and taking the full year (i.e. no on campus responsibilities, 1/2 pay). You still get furloughed! I have to take 9 days off during my sabbatical. Of course it's not as bad as what my colleagues are doing, but it's typical administrative nonsense.
Are you allowed to take an entire week, or most of two weeks, as furlough? That could be a very effective way to at least get a decent rest, or to get a home improvement project done, or to take some time out while family are visiting.
I may be at the only college in the country that isn't having furloughs. (The state wasn't allowed to cut higher ed funding below 2005 levels if it wanted to get stimulus funding, and higher ed funding hadn't increased much since 2005, so the state was stuck finding other places to cut. We're going to be in bad shape when the recession is over, because the state is not allowed to collect more tax revenue than it did during the worst previous year, and we won't be bailed out again.) So I'm lucky not to be dealing with the problem this year, but in a year or two, who knows what will happen.
In any case: I'm wondering if other schools are thinking about how the furloughs and swine flu are going to interact with one another. If the professor gets sick, will those missed days become the furlough? If the professor's kids get sick, will that become the furlough?
(If it were me, I would be tempted to schedule all my furlough days for the days when K-12 doesn't have school. That would solve problems for both me and my students.)
Screw furloughs. I'm untenured. I can't afford to teach less, because I'm given a set amount to cover, and if I cancel any classes (even if allowed under the rules) then I will have to rush on non-furlough days, which means worse instruction and worse evaluations.
I'll pretend to not work for however many days they tell me to not work (outside of class) but the reality is that I need to be job hunting, which means I need to publish more, which means I'll be working more.
And I won't slack on service tasks that are assigned to me because politically I can't be seen as a slacker or unreliable or anything. Not a safe situation for an untenured person in a budget crisis.
So, I'll teach just as much, I'll do more research, and I won't (can't) say no on service. You can say I'm part of the problem, but I have to protect myself, and if I can find a better job elsewhere, I'm out.
@ Untenured CSU Assistant Professor
> You can say I'm part of the problem, but I
> have to protect myself, and if I can find
> a better job elsewhere, I'm out.
Okay, "you're part of the problem".
Outside my academic experience, I see this *all the time* in the IT world: "make this happen, you have a budget of zero dollars." All too often I see workaholic nerds build something to make [this] happen at a budget of zero dollars, by using castoff equipment and effectively working unpaid overtime.
When it breaks (usually after the workaholic nerd has burned themselves out and left) the poor schmuck left behind has to try and build a replacement for less than zero. Even if they succeed in replicating function, it's going to be ugly, and regarded as a failure.
I don't have any patience for this. I don't have patience for people who do it, it's a disservice to the people you're actually working for to give them what they want if what they want violates good systems design.
If someone puts ridiculous burdens on their workers (or has completely unrealistic expectations for workers), it does nobody any good to try and meet those requirements. If you fail, you fail. If you succeed, you fail.
Do you really want a tenured position at a university that works you to death? Now you're not only stuck hanging around for the paycheck, you stuck hanging around to keep your tenure. How does *that* make sense?
Untenured CSU @17 -- I think that your approach is much more effective than Janet's. Her attitude devolves into a dysfunctional politics of grievance a la France (or pre-Thatcherite UK).
Pat @18 -- Your IT analogy isn't quite on the mark, as there is no physical product that can "break."
More importantly, your last paragraph assumes that passivity and victimhood are the only options. Untenured is trying to take a pro-active approach to his/her career, so that s/he can be in more of a position to call the shots.
I am well aware of the problems in what I'm doing. If I had another option, I would take it. But I don't. So I do what I need to do to survive, and if I find an escape hatch to a school that will pay me better and not run at the breaking point then I'm out. Those are the scenarios.
Besides, along the way I'm discovering some cool science and helping my students. So there's a good outcome to some of this.
> Pat @18 -- Your IT analogy isn't quite
> on the mark, as there is no physical
> product that can "break."
IT systems rely on people, you can't just stand them up and let them go for 10 years. It's not like plumbing :)
I don't assume that passivity and victimhood are the only options; those seemed to be the options that Untenured was exploring.
I came across way too harsh (violated one of my laws of blogging, "blogging while angry")-> I don't blame you for being a part of the problem. I haven't written my dissertation yet, so it's hardly cricket for me to judge the moral or ethical consequences of making the choice you're making in your particular dilemma. At least you acknowledge the shortcomings of what you're doing, which at least implies you're intending to make up for it somehow.
I will make up for it by doing good things for my students and contributing something important to human knowledge.
Pat, back off... even your latter comment (21) is too demanding.
If there is anybody who should be standing up and fighting this, it's the tenured faculty. Untenured faculty are in the most precarious of positions. If they want to have a hope of getting a job somewhere else and not being seen as a slacker, they can't not work during the furloughs. The system is screwed, and they're already getting the blunt end of it. Don't go and demand that they have something to "make up for" by trying to figure out how to survive when the system screws them more than normal. The tenured faculty are in a far better position to try to do something about it.
Given that you're working on a dissertation, I may well demand that you explain how you're personally going to make up for the fact that, at least in the sciences, we're producing way more PhDs than we have academic positions that we're preparing them for. Do you feel personal responsibility for this? Do you realize that by pursuing a PhD you're contributing to this?
"Now you're not only stuck hanging around for the paycheck, you stuck hanging around to keep your tenure. How does *that* make sense?"
It doesn't make sense, but not for the reason you think.
> Given that you're working on a dissertation,
> I may well demand that you explain how you're
> personally going to make up for the fact
> that, at least in the sciences, we're
> producing way more PhDs than we have academic
> positions that we're preparing them for.
For starters, in my particular field at the moment there's plenty of positions available (IS, an admitted rarity), and at the moment most of the filled positions are filled with people who have PhDs in related fields, instead of IS itself. That aside, training for a particular field doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get an opportunity to work in that field even in non-academic fields. The opportunity for academic work in most humanities fields sucks as well.
> Do you feel personal responsibility for this?
Let's assume for the minute that I'd be willing to have some level of responsibility for fields not my own (actually, at the moment, that's an acceptable assumption).
In the main, the answer to your question is yes. The fact that higher education is devalued (at least in the U.S.) as anything other than a certificate of office work eligibility and is currently underfunded is something that I do indeed feel some level of personal responsibility to correct. It informs my voting process, for one, and my charitable contributions, for another. Unfortunately, I'm not a multimillionaire, so my ability to fund science myself as a philanthropic venture is limited. To each within their capabilities.
> Do you realize that by pursuing a PhD you're
> contributing to this?
Not sure what you mean by this. How so? Let's say I was pursuing a PhD in Physics, instead of IS. I know from talking to Physics candidates here on the campus where I work (as opposed to the one where I go to school) that they're largely aware that their ability to go to a tenured-track position is hugely curtailed at the moment, even given the name of the institution. Some of them have given this practical consideration. Others are just worrying about finishing their dissertation. I worry about those.
I'm pursuing a PhD for multiple reasons; only one of which is "to have the opportunity to pursue science as a full-time career". That's optimal, certainly, but I'm married with two kids, a dog, two cats, and a mortgage in one of the higher cost of living urban centers on the planet, so "getting what's optimal" has to be acknowledged as a nice feature but not necessary functionality. There are other practical considerations, but the main reason why I'm doing it is, "I think the field contains knowledge I want to learn."
I agree that tenured faculty have the best venue to protest, certainly. I don't know that tenured faculty protesting while the un-tenured faculty work double-time is going to put sufficient pressure on an organization to correct itself (this is undoubtedly institution-specific).
At the same time, I understand the desire among the un-tenured to bust their acres off to keep their career on track, given that in most fields their choices are limited. In my experience, though... irrespective of field or workplace, academic or commercial or non-profit... overworking yourself is a bad idea, *particularly* when you're not getting paid for it. You never forget it, it colors what you do for as long as you work for the organization that screwed you.
> The system is screwed, and they're already
> getting the blunt end of it. Don't go and
> demand that they have something to "make
> up for" by trying to figure out how to
> survive when the system screws them more
> than normal.
Let me see if I understand what you're saying here.
* The system itself is screwed
* Someone wants to be part of the system
* The process of joining the system is also screwed
Ergo, we shouldn't be critical of people who want to joined the screwed system, because it's hard enough to join the screwed system.
Well, I certainly don't want to come across as being critical of people who want to do science. I don't want to come across as being critical of people who want to teach, either.
But I don't know that this means that we ought not to be critical of the path people choose, based upon constraints that existed prior to the path being chosen. How many people pursue science as a career without knowing how hard it is to get tenure somewhere? Using "it's hard to get tenure" as an excuse not to do something that's the right thing to do is still just an excuse, no?
This is a free-rider, problem, right? "I want to be part of a screwed system, but for everyone's sake I also want the screwed system to be unscrewed. But that's [someone else]'s job to fix."
All that said, maybe it *is* [someone else]'s job to fix!
Maybe the un-tenured faculty have no political pull within their institution and thus they have nothing to contribute, so any gesture would be entirely symbolic. Maybe the whole situation is so decoupled from the actual source of the problem (the educational system is underfunded) that it doesn't matter whether or not we're talking about tenured faculty or un-tenured faculty and what they do isn't going to really have an impact on anything in a practical sense. Maybe the real actor that needs to get involved here is the student. I don't know enough about the situation to pass a moral judgment on any individual's actions here.
(I don't know if I buy Janet's assessment either, because I don't know that only working inside your contractual obligation and letting the consequences follow is enough to *fix* the problem, it might only be enough to make the problem worse without providing any actual incentive to fix it.)
Of course, that doesn't excuse me coming across as a self-righteous judgmental asshole, simply because I don't know those things :)
Capable faculty and staff can/will get through this. If you implode because of 9.23% less time to work then you would have eventually imploded anyway.
So, at UC there is no teaching reduction and research is permitted during furlough.
Hm, nominal service load is what, 15% at UC?
So 2/3 reduction in committee load for everyone!
Pat: I think the blame here lies on the tenured faculty. If they had their crap together UAP would have no problem -- it would be his chair and the other faculty who would pressure UAP to take time off. The political threat would be in not taking time off, because his colleagues and direct superiors would be the ones setting the rules.
But this is America, and not some crazy socialist country, so everyone is at each other's throats with no solidarity. So you never see a strong faculty at a university (even though they're the ones who actually bring in the money) outside of a few elite institution where the faculty really do know that they're the ones who make the business run (see Harvard and its little Summers episode).
This is how people end up being exploited -- they don't recognize their own value as an individual and as a community, so they get pitted against each other and the logical end of the prisoner's dilemma is inevitable -- even though they are free to talk to each other. It's a cultural prison.
A culture of grievance is at least better than a culture of fear.
I'm a UCD Assistant professor. I'm furloughed, but no furlough days can be used for teaching and research/service expectations have not been decreased. I still work 60-80h per week to get everything done, but am compensated less for it. I brought in 2 million in grants this year, but because they were awarded after the "furlough" start, can't use any of it to pay off the furlough! What is the point of staying with a university that does not value it's faculty & where I can't afford to live- I've been recruited by other top universities and am seriously considering leaving. If this furlough continues next year, I'm gone. Other assist professors with outside funds that I've talked to have the same mindset