Friday, February 13, 2004

Lights! Camera! No action! 

The negotiations over faculty contracts in the MnSCU system are still at a standstill, and the union is calling for action, which in his view is letter-writing. So our Scholar Dave wrote a letter, though not perhaps what was expected. Here it is:
I share with you my dismay at the stance taken by (and even the existence of) MnSCU. Since its inception I have noted:
  • a serious "dumbing down" of academic standards toward mediocrity at what used to be our flagship state university here in St. Cloud,
  • a growing siphoning of taxpayers' dollars away from our students to fund a largely redundant and ever burgeoning administrative bureaucracy in St. Paul,
  • evidence of finger-pointing between the Chancellor's office and SCSU's Administration with respect to accountability for the settlement of lawsuits,
  • a failure to establish quantitative goals against which progress can be assessed,
  • an alarming and growing collectivist bias toward micro-managing our local affairs (down even to the level of seeking to design our university's transcripts),
  • an apparent lack of respect for the unique talents and efforts that university professors bring to our profession, and
  • an apparent unwillingness to bargain in good faith.

Over the past two weeks I have expressed these feelings in two separate e-mails that I sent to the IFO ( My hope was that they would be added to you website's list of comments ...

My first question, Mr. Brown, is why have my comments not yet been posted? In my first e-mail to the IFO I identified myself as a "fair-share" member of the IFO. Is it possible that your office is choosing not to post opinions from those of us who, for various reasons, decline to become "full-share" members of your union? I note on the IFO's audited financials for FY 2003 that of the roughly $1.55 million in dues collected last year, almost 18% represented "fair-share" collections and that fair-share dues are 85% of those for "full-share" members. That means that there must be a "fair" percentage (> 20%?) of your members who are being assessed a "fair share." Will all "fair-share" members be allowed to post their opinions on your site? I would assume so . . . and yet I had naively also assumed that those of us who choose to be "fair-share" members of the IFO would not be estopped from serving on university committees whose work is not even tangentially related to potential issues of contract negotiation.

My second question deals with the IFO's net assets of more than $1.1 million as of June 30, 2003. Do you have plans for the more than $300,000 of that total that is designated as a "crisis fund?" Should a new 2003-05 contract not be finalized by this June 30, would the IFO consider waiving its collection of dues from us at least until a settlement is reached?

Lastly I would ask whether or not the IFO might ever entertain the radical notion of attempting to negotiate a contract that included the concept of "merit." Until and unless efforts are made to measure, recognize, and reward individual excellence, I must decline on principle to become a "full-share" member of the IFO, choosing instead to be taxed at 85% of your $652.50 annual assessment.

Thank you in advance for responding to these questions...