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Faculty Furloughs

     We all know that public universities and colleges are faced with huge budget cuts due to the recession. The state of Wisconsin, as well as other states, have implemented the furlough system (mandated unpaid time off) for faculty and staff to deal with the loss of revenue (see Chem. Eng. News, Aug. 24,2009). In the Wisconsin System, which consists of  thirteen  four-year campuses and thirteen two-year schools, the schools will be closed for eight selected days during the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 academic years. This amounts to a salary cut of about 3% for the employees. These are all non-instructional days and faculty are forbidden from taking furloughs on lecture days.

     For myself as a Senior Lecturer at UW Madison nothing really has changed except the pay cut. I still put in the same work time and I have the same duties.

     I would welcome the thoughts and contributions of others in the UW System and elsewhere especially from community colleges where the consequences of the furloughs may be more dire. Could partnerships between the 4-year and 2-year campuses be an effective way to deal with these new challenges?

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New Contributor

Re: Faculty Furloughs

This has affected our Winterim program and our Summer program plans, since our 2-year UW Colleges have selected January 4 and July 5 as mandatory furlough days.  This means that our instructors will have to lengthen classes in those short terms in order to accomodate the lost instructional days.  Our regular terms have not been affected, but faculty and staff are struggling to find meaningful work days to use for furlough.  Basically our pay is cut; no relief from the work goes along with it.

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Re: Faculty Furloughs

As Kim has indicated above, the biggest impact we are experiencing on our campus has to do with scheduling Summer and Winterim courses.  Mandating certain days for furlough requires adjustments to course schedules that are already compacted into the available weeks for the term.  There is no real change to Fall and Spring semesters.  Furlough cannot be used during times when lectures are scheduled, so classes should not be affected.  Using furlough time does not impact the amount of time needed to grade, prepare for class, answer student questions, or engage in research and professional development, so the same work is being done.  More than anything else, it is simply an inconvenience.  If I am to designate a period of time in which I am normally grading, preparing for class, etc. as a period in which no work will be done, I must find another time to do those things.  Taking a furlough day simply means I become busier on the days surrounding it because I need to catch up on the work.

I suppose furloughs might be meaningful or have some real impact if our jobs adhered to the 40-hour work week.  The reality is that they don't.  I know very few people on my campus who do not work more than 40 hours a week.  We don't punch a clock, we get the job done.  This requires more than 40 hours a week as is.  Taking an 8 hour furlough really means nothing more than I'm not supposed to start my grading before the end of the standardized work day.  It doesn't mean I work less hours that week; it means I work different hours.  In other words, it's a pay cut with a bonus of added hassle in scheduling.

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Re: Faculty Furloughs

As indicated by my colleagues, Penny and Kim, nothing has changed-we are still responsible for the same quantity and quality of work.  The only thing that will impact my work is the scheduling of a Spring 2010 course; it will begin later to accommodate a "mandatory furlough day."  I cannot really take any time off so I suppose I won't.  Like the rest of my colleagues we will do the same high-quality work for a little less compensation.  It seems like a big bureaucratic mess that may end up costing more in management than saved in salary cuts.

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Re: Faculty Furloughs

Sorry my post is much later than everyone else's, but we just finished an academic year at Southern Oregon University where all of our furlough days were mandated to be instructional days per our bargaining contract. As you all have said so well, furloguhs on non-instructional days does not change the amount of work we do and the pay cut associated with the furlough days is transparent to the general public (i.e. the taxpayer). So although it wasn't a step we particularly relished, we agreed to have our bargaining team work with the University administration to go to three 9-week quarters.

Now, as far as the chemistry courses I taught, I was fortunate to teach a three credit-hour analytical chemistry course twice a week. Our class officially ended at quarter past the hour so I was able to lecture past the official time. The class and I agreed that I would lecture for an additional five minutes each period. However, my general education courses and other elective courses lost a week's worth of material due to the shortened quarter.

This year, we will have fewer furlough days. By the time we reach the spring term, we will have our full complement of instructional days. I wasn't happy about fewer instructional days last year, but it did make our sacrifices visible to the rest of the state and in most cases, we actually tied pay reduction with work reduction.

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Re: Faculty Furloughs

I don't know how many this would apply to; however, I don't think many are 'getting it'?

I have been to local school board meetings where the 28% increase in health care costs have been automatically

covered by the tax payers.  In many Universities we have the 'protected' groups that may go on strike if they feel

unjustly treated.  In many school districts, government workers, unions and universities, there has been little pain

regarding the economy.  In the public sector, many chemists can be 'down sized' without much notice or compensation.

Many pensions have been eliminated by the 401K accounts that are primarily funded by the employee.  This imbalance

of compensation when the 'protected' groups are compared to the more public groups is no longer sustainable.

The 'middle class' has not kept up with inflation for 10 or so years.  If you have received automatic pay raises for the last

10 or 15 yrs, you have been much like the highly compensated wage earners who have that extraordinary tax break.

The country needs jobs.  Currently, the only way out of our national debt problem is some combination of higher taxes

or budget cuts.  That's it.  The universities with mostly(?) 'protected' employees must cut budgets somehow.  This is

in the form of the cuts discussed here.  Next, there will be cuts in faculty.  The same trend will probably be evident in

local school boards.  Pension costs will be unacceptable and unsustainable also.  Why is college education cost

increasing at rates faster than the inflation rates.  Looks like it is due to salary, benefit and pension costs.

I just hope this is received as an opinion of a retired industry chemist who did not make it to the 'defined benefit'

pension promise due to the ease of eliminating employees in the public sector.   Now, we watch the 6-figure pensions

and 'buyouts' for many employees.  Watch out for the required pension costs coming up for government and teaching

institutions.  This may just be the reflection of some grumpy old guy - but I share this opinion with many others.

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Re: Faculty Furloughs


I appreciate your point of view, but faculty salaries (even with benefits) at many small four-year colleges and universities are not above middle class, as you suggest. This will be my first year, after teaching college chemistry for 11 years, that my salary has exceeded $60K. I have many colleagues with similar levels of education and work experience who currently work in the private sector making much more than I do. I don't have a pension - I have a 401K. Luckily, my employer and the state help make it a reasonable sum of money to use during retirement, but it won't be enough on its own. If you want to look at rising costs at universities, you should spend more time looking at increases in salaries for college administrators. Where I work, faculty don't get buyouts and six-figure pensions. I'm not sure what you mean by protected - do you mean tenure? As far as I can see, even tenured faculty work hard because we enjoy educating young men and women to be productive citizens.

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Re: Faculty Furloughs

I wanted my message to get thru and make people think.  I do not know the salary levels throughout the academic profession.  Certainly, there are some who are not highly compensated.

My wife taught in a religious elementary school - we certainly know the indirect contributions she made.  Her pension is not great.  My initial motivation was some study of our local school district salary and benefits.  The average salary for the K-12 teachers is $75K with significant benefits.  The salary and benefits for many government workers fit my target audience.

In a recent New York Times article, the following were mentioned:

>Univ. of Hawaii, professors accepted a 6.7% cut.

>Albuquerque has trimmed pay for its 6,000 by 1.8% (average).

>New York government seeks a 4% wage rollback (most employees)

>Vermont, state troopers agreed to a 3% cut.

>California, two school districts accepted salary cuts.

Industrial Relations Professor (Clark University): Outsized pension costs and

         balanced budget requirements are squeezing.

>National League of Cities:

     +51% of cities have cut or frozen salaries

     +22% have revised union contracts

     +19% have instituted furloughs

>Bureau of Labor Statistics: wages have been flat for the last 18 months.

>Hotel (Providnece, R.I.) failed to reach new union contract, sliced wages 20% due to  


>General Motors pay new employees $14/hr, half the rate of long-term workers.

>Wisconsin appliance manufacturer: Take a 20% pay cut or we will close plant with 500


>Maine peper mill:  460 unionized employees accepted an 8.5% pay cut.

>Apple juice plant in New York: Employees are overpaid.  Target $14/hr., not $21/hr.


I think the main message is that we are in a new economy.  The middle class is being

squeezed (not keeping up with inflation).  Less money for everything - including tuitions

that increase faster than inflation (in most places).  Why?  Primarily the major component

of costs is the total of salaries, benefits and pensions.  Can this continue?

Recall the bust.  Recall the mortgage bust (included excess comsumption).

Doesn't the compensation items above suggest that things are out of balance and that

citizens must begin to speak out at local school boards and elsewhere.

I will again check the latest job situtaion for chemists.  Pressure there also.

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