Possible faculty furlough takes UPI leader by surprise

Cassie Buchman, Associate News Editor

President David Glassman told Jon Blitz, president of Eastern’s chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois, a proposal to furlough faculty that took Blitz by surprise Wednesday.

A furlough is a leave of absence without pay where employees do not perform any of their usual job duties.

This came after Monday’s announcement of hundreds of potential layoffs for non-instructional staff and mandated furlough days for others starting in March if a state budget is not passed and no funding is given to the university.

Blitz was meeting with Glassman as part of mandated meetings they have to encourage discussion between the UPI and administration.

Blitz said he was simply unprepared for the potential extension of furlough days to the UPI, as the faculty contract does not have provisions for or language about furloughs in it.

He said he did not see how the faculty is going to go through furloughs without affecting instruction.

“Yeah, we’ll limp through the remainder of the semester, but students will be affected and classes,” Blitz said.

Grant Sterling, vice president of the UPI chapter, said the university has a furlough policy but has exceptions to this in cases where union contracts have different provisions, such as the UPI’s.

At the meeting, the president did not give details of a specific furlough plan but he did say he would want to extend furlough days to all faculty members, Sterling said.

If more Eastern employees take furlough days, then fewer employees will be laid off.
Glassman said if fewer employees lost their jobs, they would be able to help operate the university and serve students.

“When employees are laid off, they begin to look for new jobs,” Glassman said. “We don’t want to lose our excellent employees.”

The university intends to call back employees who have been laid off as soon as an appropriation is received from the state.

The discussions are now at the preliminary stages and will involve assessments of what the university will have to do to get through the semester without faculty furloughs, focusing on budgetary information and how much money could be saved.

Sterling said questions such as what would happen if the funding from the state came through would also need to be answered.

Glassman wanted conversations about what is possible to save money and have fewer layoffs, Sterling said.

While some would prefer to have everyone do some number of furlough days rather than have people lose their jobs, some people, such as faculty who teach five days a week, have the extra concern of finding ways of taking furlough days without affecting students negatively.

“A lot of the members will make sacrifices,” Sterling said. “I know civil service workers who were laid off. That’s painful.”

Glassman said the budget impasse is unprecedented. Through furloughs, the entire university could take part in sacrifices to make sure it will be able to continue through the semester, he said.

While Glassman said he could see where faculty and staff might be surprised at the budget impasse, it should occur to almost everyone that atypical measures would need to be taken when the university has still not recieved a $40 million appropriation.

Glassman said he would like people to remember that the university is not to blame for these challenging conditions.

“If we all share in the sacrifices, we will meet this challenge with a collaborative and community spirit,” Glassman said.

Sterling said he hopes none of this will matter.

“There’s still the possibility the state will get its act together,” Sterling said. “We still hope; we have to talk about our options.”


Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]