Higher Education Council

Idaho Federation of Teachers, AFT/AFL-CIO
Volume 19: Number 2, December, 2009 (labor donated)
Democracy in EducationBEducation for Democracy

Dave Delehanty (deledavi@isu.edu), Randy Berriochoa berrioch@csi.edu)
Lynn Lubamersky (llubame@boisestate.edu), Joyce Lider (jelider@nic.edu)
Bob Dickow dickow@uidaho.edu), Chris Norden (cnorden@lcsc.edu)
Kim Johnson, Vice-President (kajohnso@nic.edu)
Nick Gier, President (ngier@uidaho.edu)

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In this Issue:







We were very pleased that the Idaho State Board of Education withdrew what we considered to be ill-conceived changes to its personnel policy.  We want to congratulate Joni Mina, LCSC faculty senate chair, for her leadership on this issue and for articulating such clear objections to these revisions.  We are troubled to learn that new changes are being proposed for the Board’s December meeting.  (A PDF with these changes is attached.) Our national legal office should have an opinion about this new wording very soon.


For more go to www.home.roadrunner.com/~nickgier/Parma.htm

While recruiting on the BSU campus in early November, IFT President Nick Gier was able to attend a stakeholders meeting at the Parma Research and Experiment Station.  On the evening of November 4 the room was filled with 35-40 growers of nearly every crop raised in Southwestern Idaho.  The meeting was chaired by Parma’s mayor Maggie Watson.  John Watson announced that in a meeting with the station’s superintendent, they were able to reduce the station’s budget by $170,000.  Then, one by one, the growers orally pledged an additional $85,000 to keep the station open until June 10, 2010.  Written pledges in that amount were confirmed and reported in the Idaho Statesman on November 14.

Dean John Hammel had attempted to close the station in late May, but pressure from the growers and an IFT legal brief forced Hammel to postpone his decision.  A committee of growers is now negotiating a final agreement with the dean and a decision is imminent.


Since our last newsletter, the ISU Faculty Senate voted 19-5 to support Sadid and the principle of academic freedom.  You can read the hard-hitting resolution at www.class.uidaho.edu/SaidResolution.htm.  Overturning the appeal board’s 4-1 decision in favor of Sadid and the senate’s advice, ISU President Arthur Vailas sent Sadid a termination letter on October 30.  The senators rebuffed a request by Vailas to reconsider their decision, and we hope that they also reject a second request to do the same by Provost Gary Olson.  Why can’t they respect a firm decision of the faculty?

Sadid’s Boise attorneys will amend the suit that they have already filed, and they will also finish up an application for legal aid from our national office.  A negative resolution of Sadid’s case will undermine the free speech rights of every American professor.  For more on the case see the The Habib Sadid Case.


While most American faculty are facing pay cuts, furloughs, and lay-offs, faculty at Temple University will receive 3-4 percent salary increases each year during a 4-year contract that was ratified by a vote of 447-22. The Temple Association of University Professors (an AFT affiliate) also negotiated higher pension contributions from the university for nontenured faculty, as well as better procedures for notification of nonrenewal and for appointment, reappointment, and promotion in rank.  Faculty unions offer far better protection for their contingent faculty colleagues.


Note: During his visits to the ISU and BSU campus, IFT
President Nick Gier gave following talk on Oct. 23 and Nov. 5.

The full version can be read at www.home.roadrunner.com/~nickgier/HighEdCrisis.htm

The crisis in American higher education is not only a financial one but it is one of governance. In the late 1960s faculty all over the nation experienced a burst of new confidence as they elected their colleagues to faculty senates.

Institutions that were always run from the top down appeared ready to share university governance.  UI faculty were giddy at the promise that the “immediate governance” of the university (words from the UI Constitution) would be in their hands.

The experiment in shared governance has been a frustrating experience, because college deans can veto any faculty decision, presidents can overturn any campus decision, and the State Board of Education can veto any presidential decision.  In May of 1983 a professor at a board meeting mentioned the phrase “faculty governance,” and a board member exclaimed: “Faculty governance?  I thought that is what we did!”

In the past faculty representatives were guaranteed a spot on the state board meeting agendas, but now they have to beg to be heard. When substantial changes to board policy were proposed in the fall of 2009, the board, rather than allowing extensive discussion on what faculty considered to be draconian measures, announced that they would limit presentations to one per institution.

Over 36 years I can count at least a dozen decisions, such as due process for non-tenured faculty and collective bargaining rights (a 2-1 vote on the UI campus), which have been ignored by the state board.

Sometimes we do succeed, as in the time we convinced the state board to rescind automatic 5-year tenure reviews.  Even more dramatic was the recent withdrawal of revisions to state board policies that would have given campus presidents unchecked power to change contracts and to reduce staff.  This was, however, purely the power of protest and not recognition of our right to govern ourselves.

Over 21 years Idaho general fund revenues have increased 318 percent, but higher education budgets (including the community colleges) increased only 201 percent.  In FY88 higher education took 16 percent of the budget but in FY09, it garnered only 10 percent.

Adjusting for inflation, tuition on American campuses has doubled since 1980, while salaries for middle class families have remained stagnant.  Since 1986 UI student fees have gone from $1,040 per year to $5, 236, a whopping 403 percent increase.  A rough adjustment for inflation would bring that down to a still unacceptable 200 percent.

Thirty years ago Pell grants to needy students covered 72 percent of their college costs, but today that percentage has dropped to 38.  During the Bush administration Pell grant funding was cut so severely that 375,000 qualified students failed to get stipends. The Nation magazine estimates that 400,000 young Americans do not attend college because they cannot afford to.

The Democratic Congress is now ready to strip away $90 billion in subsidies for student loans by private lenders, who have for years fleeced America’s college students with interest rates as high as 19 percent and opaque loan agreements.  I say good riddance to lenders who drew million dollar salaries, flew around on private jets, and bribed college loan officers to tell students that government loans were a bad deal.

The Reagan revolution convinced millions of Americans that government is bad and that increasing taxes is a mortal sin, but this has resulted in a massive failure to invest in both human capital and physical infrastructure.  We faced inevitable national decline if we do not increase funding in both areas.

In an editorial in the Lewiston Morning Tribune (9/26) Marty Trillhaase questions the wisdom of reducing higher education budgets during a recession and when enrollment is up on all our campuses.  ISU had the highest enrollment increase at 6.6 percent.

President Obama is doing the right thing, although the effort is modest.  He has proposed $12 billion over ten years to improve our community colleges and enable them to accommodate an increasing number of new students.

Former state legislator Ken Robison has reported that individual taxes up 105 percent past 10 years, while business taxes were up only 28 percent.  The first is breaking family budgets, but the second is hardly undermining people to do business.

When Jim Risch was governor in 2006, he signed a bill that cut property taxes by $260 million and added a penny to the sales tax that raised $210 million.  Marty Trillhaase has calculated that “wealthy families netted a $60 million tax cut, but everybody else paid $10 million more.”  All those earning less than $134,000 paid more in sales tax than they saved in property tax.

I therefore have a modest proposal: there should be an income tax surcharge on all Idahoans who make more than $134,000 until we make it through this financial crisis.

Responding to the crisis in higher education, Governor Butch Otter recently declared: “We can’t outbirth them, but we can outsmart them.” With regard to China Otter is actually wrong: China’s fertility rate is 1.79 per woman while our 2.05 is one of the highest in the industrialized world.  Although certainly capable, Idaho students will not outsmart anyone unless much more investment is made in higher education.

The U.S. has the highest college and university dropout rate in the world. We are the only industrialized nation with a declining college completion rate.  It is estimated that at the current rate the number of American college graduates will drop from 40 to 29 percent.

President Obama has an ambitious goal: “By 2020 America, will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.” If we do not make that goal, I will blame shortsighted and tax averse Congresses and Presidents who for 30 years have failed to make necessary investments in human capital.