UPI discusses salary reduction

Cassie Buchman, Associate News Editor

Eastern’s chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois had meetings Tuesday to discuss and explain the proposal for a salary reduction the union recently received.

Salaries would be reduced by 5.6 percent of members’ annual base contract salary.

The UPI would only be able to get this money back if the university receives the fiscal year 2016 appropriation from the state.

To vote on this proposal, UPI members can see political science professor David Carwell, who is the chair of the balloting committee or they can go to the bridge lounge in the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union.

Voting will take place until noon Tuesday, or electronic votes can be sent to the UPI Chicago office.

Chemistry professor Barbara Lawrence said she did not think the chances of faculty getting the money back from the salary deferral were good.

“Basically what we’re being asked to do is we’re being asked to teach for three weeks at the end of the semester without being paid for it,” Lawrence said. “On the other hand, I appreciate that people all across campus, such as civil service workers and staff have been laid off and they’re having furlough days and everything. I think the faculty should be able to contribute in some way.”

Lawrence said she knows a lot of her colleagues would be put into a rough situation because of the salary reduction.

She said she thought the language was vague in the proposal.

Sue Gosse, a professor in the nursing program, said the proposal language was convoluted and difficult to understand, and the payback provisions in the proposal had a lot of loopholes.

Because Gosse’s husband is retired, she is the primary income earner, so she said the salary reduction would be the loss of “a chunk of change” and she would have to change the budget situation in her household.

Economics professor Teshome Abebe said members in attendance expressed concern regarding the welfare of all employees at the university as well as the welfare of the community.

Jeannie Ludlow, coordinator of women’s studies, said when she first saw the proposal it broke her heart.

“I think this proposal makes very concrete just how effective the governor and the General Assembly’s bullying of EIU and in specific higher education has been,” Ludlow said.

Ludlow said she was optimistic before she saw the proposal, but when she read it she was able to see how awful the situation is.

She said while she was in a privileged position being an associate professor with a partner who has a job and an independent son, she knows how it feels to be an Annually Contracted Faculty member at her previous institution.

Ludlow said when she was an ACF, if someone had told her $900 of her paycheck would be taken away she would have been done.

“I wouldn’t have been able to feed my child,” Ludlow said. “I wouldn’t have been able to have health care for him.”

She said what breaks her heart is people whose pay are lower and whose positions are less well-compensated than hers, who will be hurt by the salary reduction.

Ludlow said members had diverse opinions about the situation, with some storming out of the meeting.

“All we can do is sacrifice to try and make things better,” Ludlow said. “We’re at the point where we have to decide, are we going to pay our electric bill? And it’s an awful place to be, but you can live through it.”

Ludlow said one of the things discussed in the meeting was the idea of people who could give more giving more, and people who could not afford to do so giving less.

Any changes have to be decided on by Friday.

Billy Hung, media coordinator for UPI, said the members had very legitimate concerns on whether to accept the proposal or not.

He said most of the concern came not because of the proposal itself but because some felt it was poorly put together, and it was difficult to see what the full impact will be.

One glaring issue Hung noted was in the repayment provisions, as members would only get their deferred pay back if the university gets its FY16 appropriation.

Hung said this means if Eastern does not get money for FY16 but the state gives the appropriation for FY17 and any excess money, the faculty will not see that money either.

Some also said there was a wording issue, with some concepts being unclear.

Hung said there was a strong consensus among members about which parts were problematic, but there was some disagreement on what to do about these problems.

He said some said it was too ambiguous to accept, but others said they might be taken advantage of in the long run but they still need to support the university.

“Nobody said they don’t want to give up money,” Hung said.

Hung said people need time to digest the information, and the anger was not at the proposal but at the structural and historical factors that led to the situation.

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