Senate Executive Committee discusses non-tenured track faculty, budget, strikes

By MaryCate Most

At its Monday meeting, the Urbana-Champaign Senate Executive Committee deliberated on the University budget, non-tenure track faculty, strikes at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a new standing committee.

Strikes in Chicago

Senate Executive Committee Chair Roy Campbell asked the committee to consider the strike that occurred after faculty unionized at University of Illinois at Chicago. 

“How do we learn from our sister campus that seems to be upset?” Campbell asked committee members. 

Joyce Tolliver, General University Policy Committee chair, spoke out about some of her concerns for unionization on the Urbana-Champaign campus.

“What we should learn from this is that if you unionize, we might strike,” Tolliver said. “Beyond that, I just don’t think there is any real benefit to SEC sort of examining the validity of the demands and the validity of the administration.”

Campbell mentioned that the Senate also considered the University of Illinois at Chicago strike as an opportunity to look into the Urbana campus’ notions of shared governance.

“I would like someone at least to think about just how the situation occurred and whether there really are any issues that we would need to deal with in the way we think about shared governance to make sure that no one is feeling the same way they obviously feel in Chicago,” Campbell said. 

Non-tenured track faculty

In light of the debate that arose over non-tenure track faculty at the Urbana-Champaign Senate’s February meeting, Executive Vice Provost Barbara Wilson decided it was time to ask non-tenure track faculty members what they would like to be called.

“If this is a term that we are going to use with that group of employees, we want to make sure that feels right to them,” Wilson said. “We want to go back at it for an endorsement of the principles.”

All 770 non-tenure track faculty members received a survey asking what they wanted to be referred to as, including titles such as specialized, NTT and other options. 

University budget presentation

The senate also discussed the University budget, which was presented by Chair of the Senate Committee on the Budget Mike Sandretto. 

Sandretto said the University has $800 million in excess cash. This excess — money that has not yet been allotted to cover any specific cost — was the subject of much confusion. The University, however, has a variety of potential expenses that it will likely need to pay for by the end of the year. Excess funds will likely cover these potential expenses, which may include pension funds that need to be supplemented, additional faculty salaries and additional office space. 

Because of the confusion, the Senate Executive Committee voted to hold further discussion about making a clear budget presentation before presenting it to the full senate.

“We don’t want people to leave more confused or with erroneous information,” said Senate Executive Committee Vice Chair Kim Graber. “It is just too important, and people are too, right now, invested in and sensitive to the budget because of the pensions. We don’t want them to think, ‘there is all this money,’ and nobody is thinking about their pension. It is a dangerous time, and we have to be extra careful.”

Information Technology Committee Chair John Hart also raised some concerns about wording in the presentation that suggested that Illinois had no option but to reduce pension benefits.

“(At) Eastern Illinois (University), they listed out a bunch of choices that the state could have made to avoid the (pension) situation they are in now,” Hart said. “The use of the past tense makes it sound like the state didn’t have a choice. That is arguable. They could do a lot of things.”

Compensation Review Standing Committee

Senate Executive Committee members also brought up the proposed Compensation Review Standing Committee, which would address faculty and staff compensation as a whole — beyond benefits — which the Academic Faculty and Staff Benefits Committee will still be responsible for.

The main question at hand was whether or not the committee should become its own separate entity, or whether it should be combined with the benefits committee.

“I’m really not sure why this wouldn’t fall under the Committee for Academic Faculty and Staff Benefits Committee,” said graduate student Calvin Lear. “It just seems to me that it would be easier to fold them into that.”

Tolliver disagreed, saying that the proposed committee would also include key elements such as salary inequities, vacation time, sick leave, tenure rollbacks and other elements.

Choosing members for this standing committee is set to be discussed at the senate’s next full meeting March 10.

MaryCate can be reached at [email protected]