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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Lawrence Lays Down the Law

This circulated by email throughout the University two weeks or so back, but deserves to be reproduced and archived here.  If you have not read it already, you should: 

From:  Anderson, Lawrence S. Sent:  Tue 9/1/2009 12:21 PM
 To:  Haggett, Rosemary Jacobs, Lloyd
 Cc:  # ARS - Faculty - Visiting Faculty# ARS - Faculty - New Faculty# ARS - Faculty - Lecturers;editor@independentcollegian.comMcClelland, ARS - Faculty - Full Time Tenure - Tenure Track Faculty
 Subject:  overall dissatisfaction with administrative methods
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Dear President Jacobs, et al-

Exactly how is this university being managed?  You can consider me as a lowly faculty member who can just be patted on the head with a “thank you for your input”, but there are some serious issues at stake here, and some serious mathematics.

a)  I just heard a story about post-doctoral fellowship personnel not being paid until they appear on some silly organizational chart.  Post-doctoral research fellows are paid for out of grants that bring considerable overhead into the university, just for the purpose of managing payroll accounts, among other things.  The time to approve hiring these fellows is when the grant is signed off on by the University during the submission process.  The same is true for equipment purchased by grants, and even equipment purchased out of the student tech fees.  Once the grant is approved, it is a contract.  Grants are between the funding agency, the University, and the investigator.  The University‘s job is to insure that the investigator has the resources to conduct the research outlined with the monies provided by the agency.  That does not mean requiring written approval for every paperclip.  If I were an investigator facing these roadblocks, I would write my agency and ask them to either cancel the grant or put pressure on the UT administration.  I would also seriously consider leaving UT for a more enlightened institution.

b)  About these furloughs.  How much are you saving?  Have you asked how much you are spending in administrative salaries to plan and actualize such furloughs?  Please provide the exact number of person-salary hours spent on this plan, including negotiations with the AAUP and anyone else involved.  Also include the salary costs of everyone down to the people who have to turn out the lights and adjust the heating valves to implement the plan: time that could have been spent more productively actually making money for the University.   Don’t you have anything better to do with your time?  If you don’t, perhaps laying off some administrators would do the job more effectively.  You suggest shutting down the university.  What happens to all the research labs (when a lot of research is often done, again paid for by outside agencies on contract)?  Who feeds the mice and keeps them warm?  Who maintains the vacuum pumps and temperature controls?  What happens to computers and e-communication with research collaborators?  Shutting things down and turning them back on will cost more in money and productivity than you are saving.  Are you planning on shutting down the life-support systems on the medical campus?  I don’t think so, but how are you planning on making this “savings” proportional across all campuses?  Oh, I forgot.  Medicine is more important than Arabic Studies.

I was under the impression that UT and individual faculty actually have national and international reputations in many fields.  The following statement would suggest that we are no better than machines that can be turned on or off at the will of a communist party boss:

“Employees on furlough during the week the University is closed are not allowed to work. This includes reading or responding to e-mails, calling or responding to calls from colleagues, and being on site of your work location at any time during your furlough days. If an employee does work during his or her furlough without permission, he or she will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination.”  --

You forgot public execution, a time-honored communist technique.

I suggest that research investigators send this quote to their funding agencies, and editors and paper and book reviewers working on deadlines send it to their publishing agencies.  I personally am going to respond to student/colleague e-mails, permission or no permission, dismissal or no dismissal.  And I am going to prepare for my spring classes.   I manage a graduate program wherein there is a flurry of (paying, mind you) applications in the two weeks before a semester starts.  I am supposed to not process those applications?  I will not have any support from the folks in the graduate college on whom I rely to set up new accounts and help students get started?  I am not even going to deign to write to my chair or dean to justify these actions.  As of now, my allegiance is to my students, not my president.  We faculty already work a lot more than 40 hrs per week, so what are a few extra days at the end of the year without pay?  Nothing.  What an insult.  if the Union tells me not to work, I might listen.  But if you tell me not to work, my response is not printable.

You may remember that in one of your first addresses about the declining budget more than a year ago when some of the first layoffs were being considered I suggested reducing everyone’s salary including all administrators by 10% on a temporary basis.  Actually, I now suggest reducing the take-home pay (not the salary, so retirement remains unchanged).   I.e., charge an involuntary donation to the University that we can take off our income taxes.  That is far less administratively expensive than shutting down a (wannabe) international institution.   The donation should be graduated, so higher salaried folk such as yourselves donate a higher percentage of your income.  I bet if you even made it voluntary, and honestly and transparently explained WHY it was necessary with full financial documentation, most folks would comply. 

c) Now about those wonderful bonuses.  It seems you have taken a page from the financial world’s playbook.  You can see where it got them.   I would think that bonuses might be given out for work above and beyond the job description, or for a job particularly well done, and then only when the institution is on sound financial footing.  So far, there is no evidence that any of these criteria have been met for the folks receiving bonuses.  Aren’t you paid to do this work already?  UT is a public institution, so all financial records and evaluations of performance should be available for scrutiny.  If an external review panel (you like them, right?) gives everyone A’s, then maybe bonuses are in order.  If you do get us on a sound financial footing without compromising our institutional competitiveness, then maybe bonuses are in order.  But asking everyone to go on furlough while you eat at a three-star restaurant in Lyon?  I don’t think so. 

d) Why is it that whenever this university gets it into its head to make sweeping changes in policy, records software packages, e-mail accounts (I still cannot contact all the students in my class), what have you, these changes are made on the spur of the moment without trial, and require new reporting structures completed the week before they are requested, thank you?  You seem like fish flopping out of the water.  These things keep happening over and over without respite.  But then maybe we will get a break from the onslaught for a few days in December.  That might be good…

lawrence s. anderson-huang 
-arts and sciences council executive committee member 
-graduate council member 
-faculty senate member


Anonymous said...

It's nice to know that this benighted university has faculty members willing to speak truth to power.

Cake Eater said...

To my knowledge, there was no response to this email sent by Lawrence. This is very typical of the "let -them- eat - cake" public relations style of the current UT administration.

Professor Demeritus said...

For what it may be worth, I contacted the office of Governor Strickland and several State Representatives right after the issue of the "bonuses" became public. I initially received an automatic reply from the Governor's office and kind of wrote it off as all I'd hear from him. However, this afternoon I received a more meaningful response.

"Thank you for your recent letter regarding the University of Toledo’s administration. I appreciate you taking the time to contact me about this matter.

I have forwarded your letter to the Board of Regents and I have asked that your concern be reviewed and addressed as promptly and thoroughly as possible.

Thank you again for taking the time to write, and please feel free to contact my office in the future."

I don't know how much good it will do, but getting it formally before the Board of Regents is a nice move.