The Carbondale Observer

News and commentary about Carbondale, Illinois and SIUC

Furlough Follies: Cheng Will Take Six Days

with 8 comments

Last week I wrote two posts (one, two) criticizing SIUC Chancellor Rita Cheng for refusing to follow President Poshard’s lead and take six furlough days. Friday, in an email to SIUC students and staff, Cheng reversed herself:

After considering input I have received from many of you, I plan to take six unpaid closure days. Each vice chancellor will take five unpaid closure days.

This was the right move. I’m glad Cheng is willing to acknowledge mistakes and change course. I wonder if Cheng came to this decision herself, or if Poshard intervened behind the scenes. Either way, I am satisfied with the result.

In the same email, Cheng announced a program to help the employees most hurt by furloughs:

In addition, the SIU Foundation Board of Directors is providing a one-time grant of $10,000 to the University to serve as a source of emergency funds for employees during the current fiscal year.  Board members have agreed to take this unprecedented action to respond to the possible need for emergency relief.  The maximum amount available to an employee is limited to the value of the four closure days. Specifics about this program will be available early next week through the Human Resources office. Any funds remaining at the end of this fiscal year will be transferred into the new scholarship program.

I’m pretty surprised at this use of Foundation funds. I’m not necessarily against it, but it is unusual. I’m glad the University is making an effort to blunt the impact furloughs will have on SIUC’s lowest paid employees, but I think a better option would have been simply exempting the lowest paid employees from furlough days.

There hasn’t been any communication from the unions. I hope the unions still fighting the furlough days will admit the need for labor cost reductions and agree to take the days. I’ve posted previously about over-staffing at SIUC. Furloughs are a way to reduce labor cost without permanent layoffs.

If the unions want to avoid layoffs, they should agree to furloughs.

Comments are welcome.


8 Responses

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  1. If you are going to do this kind of blog, it is better to get it right. Just writing off the top of your head, without the research makes your opinion have much less value.

    When thinking about the university, you need to remember that there are three camps – first, people who are paid more than market value (all administrators; professors in business, music, art and law; most support staff); second – people who are paid correctly; third – people who are paid less than market value (mostly technical professors and liberal art professors who aren’t artists).

    Now run the furlough through that filter. Generally, union supporters at SIU are paid too little. Generally, administration/anti-union people are over paid.

    I’m hoping that the Chancellor is working very, very hard. I’m also hoping that she has balls of Ti, because that is what is going to take to turn SIU (people who call it Southern are idiots) around. I’m happy to have her be callous in public. Few organizations on Earth need to kick in the rear more than SIU.

    You need to have more original thoughts that are correct to really succeed. Good luck with the blog and think before you post, it helps. If you really work hard, you might replace me as the top blog for Carbondale on Google? 🙂



    November 28, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    • Thanks for the comment. I think I’ve got this issue right. If you read some of my other posts – on this issue and others – you’ll see that I do considerable research for the blog. I also think if you read the blog, it’s obvious that I do think before I post (and after, too).

      I’m aware that many SIU employees are underpaid and some others are overpaid, but pay rates aren’t really the the issue here. The issue is over-staffing. Enrollment has declined over the past ten years and employment has grown. This is obviously unsustainable.

      I hope Chancellor Cheng can be effective in turning SIUC around. I disagree that being callous is the way to succeed. Remember Teddy Roosevelt’s words. As Chancellor, Cheng has a big stick. She should speak softly.

      You write that I “need to have more original thoughts that are correct to really succeed.” I’ll let others be the judge of originality and correctness. As for success, the blog is already successful by my standards.

      Thanks again for the comment, and for wishing me luck – although I thought you didn’t believe in luck. 🙂

      The Carbondale Observer

      November 29, 2010 at 10:36 pm

      • I don’t believe in lucky (vs. good) working long-term. I do believe in luck. 🙂

        To get the over staffing under control, you are going to have to fire a whole lot of people. Think “Up In The Air” numbers. I wouldn’t wish that burden on anyone. I think callous is the right word here. As I wrote in the other comment, people at SIU that don’t have a PhD are grossly overpaid. Hard to see it any other way. A friend, who is much more reasonable than I am, says that Illinois purposely placed SIU in Carbondale as an employment center and it has always been accepted as having too many employees and paying them too much.

        I’m wondering, since the tax rate has to go up to cover the money owed to state employees and their retirements, is it true that the proper tax rate of Illinois should be over 20%? Smart people I trust, say that the number is 28% for the state income tax. Can’t be good.

        Little tidbit from Oregon – Outgoing governor suggesting a 6% cut in state worker pay. It is coming people, don’t kid yourselves.

        I thought you needed some comments (or readers). You are welcome. 😉


        December 2, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    • PeterG,

      Perhaps you could do some research yourself and provide us with details of those people who are paid more than market value. I mean, who sets the scale? What is the threshold for being “overpaid?” Who decides who is paid correctly? I’m guessing it’s YOU. So cut the self-serving BS.

      Lets look at which union supporters are “underpaid,” you know that many make more than $100,000.

      Let’s say there’s a proposal to salaries of all SIU employees those who make more than $100,000, by let’s say 3 percent. The FA would be howling till kingdom come.

      Bottom line, PeterG, you know very little of what you’re talking about, although you’re rhetoric probably sounds pretty good to the perpetually pissed off. I urge you, too, to think before you post. I’ll be watching.


      November 30, 2010 at 9:07 am

      • Let me suggest that if there is one person in this discussion qualified to talk about an economic issue it is me.

        Simply – if you don’t have a PhD and work at SIU, your compensation is 50% to 100% greater than working in private industry in Southern Illinois. Pretty easy, salary, benefits and retirement are a big, big, big number. Won’t bother to get into number of hours worked, where it really gets stupid.

        If you are a technical PhD at SIU, you can do much better, financially, in industry. So, $100k per year is below market. There are trade offs in lifestyle though. On the other hand, music, art, law and business (and many other fields) professors can’t do better in industry.

        Hope that helps.


        December 2, 2010 at 12:01 pm

  2. Gosh, I’d be more inclined to praise the CO (or whatever we are to call her or him) for willingness to change course than to say that a blogger, of all people, needs to do enough research to get things right before postings. If the CO can praise Cheng for having the belated wisdom to take a couple of extra days off from her $350,000 salary, we can praise CO for flexibility on the furlough issue.

    I also agree with the CO that exempting the lowest paid from any furlough costs would be the smart thing to do. By the CO’s estimate Cheng makes 17 times more than the lowest paid employees here: so her two extra days already save 34 days for the poorest. If Poshard and Cheng and other high paid administrators take extra time off (especially were they to take the 10 days administrators took at the U of I), we would quickly accumulate enough money to total rather more than the $10,000 this fund is supposed to have, and could soon remove any need for the lowest paid employees to be furloughed.

    Even if we grant that a furlough is necessary, there’s more than one way to do one. Cheng clearly failed to think through more than one way. Giving shared governance a try is one way for more alternatives to come to the surface.

    You go, CO. Carbondale needs a good blog–especially now that Peter G has abandoned us.


    November 28, 2010 at 7:58 pm

  3. […] Cheng is serious about turning SIUC around. She stumbled a bit on the furlough issue, but she reversed herself. Cheng has also shown a willingness to remove administrators if […]

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