Campus Faculty Association holds teach-in on first furlough day

The Campus Faculty Association, or CFA, held a teach-in on Monday in conjunction with its first common furlough day to discuss the problems caused by the University’s budget situation.

The teach-in consisted of speeches by faculty members, presentations by the Undergraduate-Graduate Alliance, or UGA, and an open-mic session for audience members.

About 200 people attended the event, including faculty, graduate students and undergraduate students, according to the Graduate Employees Organization. The GEO was there in support along with the UGA.

The speeches concentrated on concerns involving increasing class sizes and tuition hikes, transparency between the University and the faculty, and including faculty members’ input when making decisions about the budget.

University spokeswoman Robin Kaler said that the faculty’s concern that tuition is going to continue to rise is one that the University shares.

“The ones suffering the most are our students as tuition goes up and up and up apparently without end,” she said.

She added that the Illinois Promise, a type of financial aid that helps fund the cost of room and board, tuition, fees, books and supplies, is still available to help out lower-income students.

Mark Leff, associate professor in LAS, said that because of the tuition increases, the University becomes accessible only to a small group of people.

“The fear is that I have lived through the golden age of the University, and that’s in the past now,” he said.

Jenny Barrett, an academic professional, took her furlough on Monday and spoke about the importance of academic professionals.

“The big topic today was shared governance,” Barrett said after the teach-in. “We are all members of the University, and we should all have a voice and a say in what direction the University is going.”

As for transparency, Kaler said the new “Stewarding Excellence @ Illinois” Web site is devoted to the budget, and that it lists all meetings concerning the topic. She added that there is an average of 12 faculty members that attend those meetings, which are listed at oc.illinois.edu/budget.

“We would like to see more faculty at the meetings,” she said.

Kate Clancy and Siobhan Somerville, co-leaders of the CFA organizing committee, led a 20-minute discussion during the teach-in.

Clancy said they wanted to give the audience some training on how to talk one-on-one to people about getting involved.

“We wanted to give people one principle to organize by,” Clancy said. “We wanted to create opportunities for junior faculty who are afraid of repercussions for being pro-union.”

Lauren Goodlad, speaker at the teach-in and associate professor in LAS, said more than a select group of administrators need to be included in the University’s decisions, and that decisions should be transparent.

“I believe that students have a right to know how their tuition is being spent,” Goodlad said.

Kaler said the University wants faculty to participate in the decisions involving the budget crisis.

“We encourage them to participate in meetings, ask questions, learn about what’s happening and get involved,” she said.

Megan McLaughlin, CFA president and associate professor in LAS, said she thinks the mission of the University used to be threefold: research, training and service. However, she said she thinks that economic development has become the fourth mission, and faculty were not consulted about this.

She added that another issue is the lack of budget transparency, which has eroded the faculty’s trust in the administration.

Monday was the first of four common furlough days. The other furloughs days are: Mar. 4, April 6 and April 21.