Q & A with Joyce Tolliver as Faculty Association prepares for common furlough day

The Campus Faculty Association, or CFA, will take the first of four common furlough days Monday. The CFA is a group of faculty members from various colleges who want to promote awareness about the University’s financial situation. Interim President Stanley Ikenberry announced faculty furloughs Jan. 5 in response to the University’s fiscal difficulties. The Daily Illini spoke with Joyce Tolliver, chair of the Urbana-Champaign Senate’s Senate Executive Committee and associate professor in LAS, about how the furlough day will affect students.

The Daily Illini: With these large numbers of absences and cancelled classes, how wili this affect students and their curriculum?

Joyce Tolliver: My colleagues are, for the most part, smart and dedicated professionals, and I am confident that they do not want their students to be harmed because of the state’s failure to forward the funds budgeted to us.

DI: What options do professors have when cancelling a class for a furlough? Can a teaching assistant take their spot?

Tolliver: For those who teach five days a week, it seems inevitable that furlough days will coincide with teaching days, but, even then, I think it should be feasible in most cases to find a colleague or TA to cover the class. Each faculty member will decide individually whether or not to cancel classes in order to take a furlough day.

DI: Are faculty members required to notify students of their planned furlough days?

Tolliver: Not as far as I know … and if a faculty member plans to take a furlough on a non-teaching day, it may not be relevant. Nevertheless, I believe that many faculty members are, quite appropriately, discussing furloughs and the University’s fiscal situation with their students. I cannot imagine that any of my colleagues would simply take a furlough day on a teaching day and not bother to let their students know.

DI: Do you think that these planned off-days will effectively get the attention of the campus/community to this issue?

Tolliver: I would hope that the most important intended audience for any planned coordinated action would be the public at large, and especially the legislators … those who hold some degree of power over the state’s payment of its bills. Certainly it could be effective for a large group of people to participate in well-planned, constructive events that are geared toward educating the public about the University’s current cash crisis and the need for the people of the state to financially support public higher education.

DI: Many faculty have said these days are not focused around protesting furloughs, but rather the fiscal management (that excludes faculty input) that has occurred at the administrative level. Is this what faculty members are trying to discuss?

Tolliver: As chair of the Senate Executive Committee, I am obviously intensely concerned about faculty input at all levels of decision-making on campus. I have spent many hours over the past few weeks discussing with the offices of the chancellor, provost and president ways to make sure faculty are included in these decisions now and in the future, and I trust the senate will play a very active role in that decision-making. But faculty members will also need to begin discussions within their own departments about how to respond to the new fiscal reality. I feel that protesting past practices is less important than working hard right now to transform those practices.