Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Ma Vie en Robe

Or, Being and Furlough-ness

Another item in the Roxie's World series, Excellence Without Money: Hard Times in Higher Ed

My typist is grappling with a complex existential dilemma, a dilemma exacerbated by her close following of the situation unfolding in the University of California system, where faculty are organizing a walkout to protest an order by system administration that none of the 26 furlough days faculty will have to take this year may be taken on instructional (i.e., teaching) days. (For blow-by-blow coverage of the California crisis, go here.) As we noted here a couple of weeks ago, faculty at Queer the Turtle U are also going to have furlough days this year. Procedures for this second round of unpaid days "off" haven't yet been announced, but the expectation on campus is that QTU faculty will also (and again -- as they were last spring) be ordered to take their (up to 10, depending on salary) furlough days on non-teaching days. Because, of course, we wouldn't want "the public" to get the idea that draconian cuts have any effect whatsoever on the quality of the educational product. Because, you know, we wouldn't want to do anything to upset the applecart of belief in the wholly delusional notion that a civilized society can function without adequate levels of taxation.

Wevs, kids, here is the problem for my typist: She is on sabbatical this semester (actually, she is on leave for the whole year, but don't hate her -- she hasn't had time off in a decade) and is having a heckuva time deciding a) what to do on her furlough days and b) how to register her strenuous objection to the idea that students shouldn't have to see that it takes money to staff classes. If you cut faculty pay, you cut back on all that they are able and expected to do. Period. It is insane to demand that faculty take furlough days on non-teaching days when it's perfectly obvious that they will perform non-teaching duties (i.e., research and service) on those unpaid days, knowing full well that there will be no decrease in the expectation for productivity in those areas when performance reviews are conducted next spring. How beautiful is that, darlings? I mean it's some crazy academic version of money for nothing and your chicks for free, ain't it?

By the way, tenured and un-tenured worker bees, here's a little furlough fun fact for you: Do you realize that you should not even be on campus on furlough days, because you aren't covered for workplace accidents on those days? (Sorry we don't have a link on this point, but a colleague in the sciences told Goose it had been discussed in her department. Here's a link to the state of Maryland's fun-filled furlough page, though.) Which means, of course, that last spring, when Moose paid no attention whatsoever to when her five furlough days actually occurred, she was at risk of injuring herself -- perhaps boinking herself on the head with some hefty, madness-inducing report on Learning Outcomes! -- and she would have had no recourse against her employer for exposing her to such grave dangers.

This year, Moose will be more prudent. This year, she vows to stay off campus and perform absolutely no work on furlough days. This year, she won't even get out of her bathrobe on furlough days! She will sit in her red chair and eat bonbons and help me blog about the idiocies of a "progressive" political leadership so bereft of courage that it will trot out specious conservative analogies suggesting that states, like families, must tighten their belts in challenging economic times -- as if states, unlike families, did not have recourse to measures such as, you know, tax increases to distribute the pain of economic sacrifice broadly and equally among citizens. She will exhort her colleagues who are teaching this semester to challenge the administration to reconsider the policy precluding taking furloughs on teaching days. She will urge them to join with their brave compatriots on the opposite coast in the effort to show the public that the last drop of blood has been squeezed from the academic turnip. Sing it with me, comrades: You get what you pay for, and you ought to pay for what you get!

Yeah, maybe she'll do that -- Or, well, um, maybe she'll take off the bathrobe, pull on some jeans, pack up the car, and get the hell out of Dodge for awhile to put some salubrious distance between herself and her beloved, troubled Turtle. She's got work to do, the clock is ticking, and in her heart of hearts she doesn't care whether she gets paid for it or not.

Stay tuned, kids, for the unfolding adventure of a Moose on the Loose. Someone is about to bust out of Roxie's World!

(Excellence Without Money: One, two, three, four, five.)


  1. Anonymous10:20 AM EDT

    Dear Rox,
    How eloquently you put the angst of working without adequate compensation. Where furloughs in education are just that. I don't work in education, but in business, and there they do this same thing by laying off skilled and highly competent workers and then expect that ALL the work will still be done by those remaining - regardless of how much of their personal time it takes to do it - thus decreasing their overall pay by the increased number of hours they have to work to make up for their lost comrade.
    Sadly, it is hitting us all.

  2. Love the purple robe! I recommend buying a closetfull of stylish bathrobes in which to lounge on your furlough days.

    To heck with this "furlough" business, which always raises more questions than is necessary. Let's just call it a "pay cut," and stop pretending like they're giving everyone a skip day. I think if this budget mess continues for much longer, my department might need to revise our tenure standards, and upon your words here, our annual review process. We just recruited a bunch of new people whose research is all over the world--how can we hold them to the same tenure standards when we have no real support to offer them to assist with their research and conference travel?

    Hang in there, Roxie.


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