01 June 2016

Putting the "Public" Back in "Public Employee"

"This great university system is not in danger of shutting its doors, but..." the wheels are off the bus, the train is off the rail, and the slow-moving wet garbage fire of the Illinois state budget is emitting ever more toxic smoke. We need new metaphors. Even more, we need a plan of action.

President Timothy Killeen domesticates the sh*t-show in today's MassMail. The doors will not shut.he reasssures us, while inviting us in to share his humble meal of advocacy: "significant cost-saving initiatives, structural reforms and prudent financial management." Our place is set, however, with a dire future:

All options are on the table as we go forward – layoffs, reductions of academic programs, closure of units and cuts in a health-care enterprise that provides critical care to underserved populations in Chicago. All would damage the very core of our mission to serve students and the public good, and erode a rich, 150-year legacy of academic excellence and economic impact that would be far more costly to rebuild than sustain.

The imperative to say something doesn't always mean that there is something to say. Let us grant that this particular MassMail is among the most straightforward administrative writing most of us have ever seen from the upper level of U of Illinois administration. Yet the core is hollow, and it doesn't need to be. "Tim" ends the MassMail as follows:

We will continue to do everything in our power to preserve the world-class quality that is synonymous with the University of Illinois, ramping up efforts that have been underway for well over a year to advocate at every turn for the interests of our students, our employees and the people and families of Illinois. I hope all of you will join us, and I will update you as the budget process unfolds.
That "we" again. Apparently the "we" that advocates for the university in Springfield differs from the "you" that receives MassMails. Yet as this MassMail boomerangs around academic Illinois Facebook, the solidarity is palpable. It is, after all, "our misson" under threat as faculty and staff share the link and the alarming "on the table" pull quote -- not just our livelihoods and benefits, not just our investment as Illinois citizens and taxpayers. We do our work because it matters.

"I hope all of you will join us"?!? We're in.

Now what?