Research and Education in Illinois

The State of Illinois has withheld $2.2 billion from public universities, according to the bond rating agency Moody’s, since the start of its ongoing budget battles.

States typically subsidize research and education through fiscal appropriations for public universities and financial assistance for college students. Students’ tuition and fees, in other words, only cover some of the cost of their education, and the rest of the costs are covered by states.

Illinois public universities have reduced programs and terminated employees, as reported in the Chicago Tribune. At NEIU, employees have been furloughed again, which means that faculty will have donated two and one-half weeks of income to subsidize the research and education that we’re expected to do for Illinois.

An Open Letter On The Illinois Budget Battles

An Open Letter to Illinois Politicians on the Budget Battles:

My university last year asked for furloughs, which cost me $2,500, and it has recently requested another series of furloughs this spring. The reason, according to my union, is that the university spent $3.5 million for MAP grants in the fall, which had been promised to students by the State of Illinois but were never provided, and another $3.1. million in the spring.

My co-workers and I, in other words, have been asked again to accept pay cuts to compensate for broken promises by the State of Illinois. Moreover, we’ve been asked to cover these costs at a time, we were told, that the State of Illinois has reduced its support of public university education by 54% from 2008-2015, which is the second largest reduction in the nation, and 70% over the past two years. Continue reading “An Open Letter On The Illinois Budget Battles”

Groundhog Day

Illinois politicians have a few days before beginning a second year without a state budget, which means that its public universities are in the same, or worse, situation. While these politicians seem aware of and committed to these universities, they have effectively reduced their state appropriation by seventy percent last year, which has had a negative impact upon these universities. Prospective students and their parents were less likely to consider Illinois public universities, for example, and my university reportedly lost 20 faculty while I lost more than $2,500 of my salary. Such collateral damage will remain long after the budget battles between the Governor and the Legislature are won and lost.

Economic Fairness and April First

A recent Tribune editorial characterizes the Chicago Teachers Union call for an April first job action as a “Tantrum Day,” and it dismisses this call by suggesting that most Chicago workers cannot whimsically decide to stay home because they’re “upset about conditions.”

CPS teachers in fact have been asked to join other educators, social service providers, nursing home employees, and other workers in a coalition that foregrounds the costs of the current budget impasse in Illinois and calls for fairer funding for these public services and public goods. As such, this action is part of a larger debate about the future of both the State of Illinois and, some suggest, the public sector more generally.  Continue reading “Economic Fairness and April First”

Hidden Pleasures

Scott (2016)A. O. Scott (2016) promises more with the title of his new book Better Living Through Criticism: How to Think About Art, Pleasure, Beauty, and Truth — than he provides in its pages.

I was intrigued near the end when Scott explores the relationship between criticism and scholarship. I’ve long wondered about the usefulness of studying literature in schools where, at least in my experience, teachers too often ruin the experience for students.  Continue reading “Hidden Pleasures”