Mission Statement

The purpose of this blog is to deconstruct the rhetoric and strategies of faculty union advocates at the University of Illinois. A consequential decision like this must be based on facts, not spin. Right now only one side of the argument is being presented to faculty. This blog represents the other side of the argument.

Thursday, November 21, 2013



Dr. Howard Bunsis has visited this campus more than once to present his own analysis of our university budget. He is a professor of accounting at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, and the AAUP engages his services to go from campus to campus to present his own version of each campus's fiscal situation. He is in no way an objective or impartial analyst.

At campus after campus, his conclusion is the same: there is lots of spare money in the system, which could be used to hire more faculty and improve salaries -- but it is being hoarded by administrators who refuse to spend it except to expand administration and increase their own salaries.

That's what he said at Ohio State, he said it again at Oregon, at Washington, to faculty union organizers at the University of California, and to faculty union organizers at the UIC campus (see links below). As it turns out, according to Dr. Bunsis, at every one of these campuses administrators are lying to faculty and hiding money. Apparently that’s just how administrators are -- at least on campuses where union drives are going on.

If you assume that Dr. Bunsis's analysis of our own campus budget is unique, you might have the same response as our colleagues in CFA: How could our administrators hide away all this money to line their own pockets, rather than spending it on faculty and students? It's outrageous!

Of course it's outrageous, or it would be if it were true. But when one realizes that everywhere Dr. Bunsis goes he finds the same scandal, time after time, one might want to stop and think before giving in to the comfortable illusion that there is plenty of money out there, if only “the bosses” would share it with “the workers.”

What Dr. Bunsis and his supporters are asking us to believe is that, on our campus and all over the country, senior administrators and hundreds of professional budget staff are engaged in a coordinated effort of deceit and professional fraud, hiding money and distorting the real financial state of their universities. Are we really supposed to accept that all these people would risk their reputations in order to lie to their faculty? Especially if their fraud could be so easily detected and exposed by a lone accounting professor from Ypsilanti? Accepting this analysis requires the assumption that our campus and university are led by liars – but very stupid liars, because they also release financial reports that can easily be used to disclose their deception.

Of course, it makes no sense. Dr. Bunsis’s analysis -- and there is only one Bunsis analysis; only the details change from campus to campus -- appeals to emotion, not to logic; and it relies, like so much of the discourse we hear from faculty union proponents, on depersonalizing administrators into a faceless, nameless mass: Them lined up against Us. These presentations appeal to faculty union proponents because his message bolsters their feelings of resentment and mistrust toward the Evil Administration. We have already addressed the foolishness of this world view in other postings (HERE, HERE, and HERE). 

Dr. Bunsis's latest story -- unquestioningly spread by faculty union organizers -- is that our university not only has no fiscal problems, but actually is hiding a "billion dollar surplus." Campus and university budget officials have repeatedly tried to correct the inaccuracies and distortions in his analysis, but he refuses to make any corrections. Indeed, in his latest campus visit he has expanded his claims even more wildly. (We will have a more detailed analysis of his highly dubious numbers in a follow-up posting.)

It’s reassuring to imagine that there is plenty of money in the system to raise everyone’s salaries, hire more faculty, and pursue many other priorities all at the same time -- to fantasize that, despite everything you read in the press, the university lives in a world of plenty. No difficult budget choices or tradeoffs need to be made; there are boatloads of money and the faculty unions promise to make sure that everybody gets their share.

Financial statements of the entire University of Illinois, including all three campuses and the University Administration, may well show a billion dollars in held funds. But it is enormously misleading to describe this as a "billion dollar surplus," implying that these are unallocated, unneeded resources that can be redirected to new hires, salaries, and all the other things faculty union advocates are calling for.

The fact is that what reserves the university does have are largely earmarked for specific purposes, such as renovating and repairing our deteriorating buildings, keeping our workplaces safe, maintaining funds to cover our self-insurance, or preparing for the possibility that the university may have to assume more financial responsibility for employee pension payments. Spending this money now, just because we have it, would be foolhardy and shortsighted when things go bad and we need it later. No one knows when the state might hit a serious fiscal shortfall, and/or transfer even greater financial burdens to the university.

Furthermore, a considerable amount of this money is held by academic units, and part of these funds will be used to hire more faculty. In fact, a significant 500-person hiring program has already begun. (Faculty union advocates, who reflexively frame anything the Administration does as suspect, have dismissed this initiative because the number isn't even higher.) Another large amount resides in individual faculty research accounts. We doubt that those who say the university has plenty of cash on hand would tolerate administrators sweeping those faculty-controlled funds and using them for other purposes.

Dr. Bunsis's analysis obscures the differences between one-time and recurring money, between restricted and unrestricted university funds, and between funds that are held and controlled at the center versus funds that are dispersed throughout the budgetary system and can’t be simply recouped and reallocated. This is not news: this information was presented to the campus Senate last April

If people want to believe Bunsis, who tells the same story of administrative deceit and corruption wherever he goes, they can do so. Apparently some do: the CFA routinely cites his numbers as definitive and unquestionable. But this requires a level of credulity and lack of critical thinking that we would find unacceptable even in our own undergraduate students.

See what he has said at other campuses. It may sound strangely familiar: 








*** This blog is a jointly authored project by two people who believe that the campaign for tenure-track faculty unionization has damaged morale and divided our campus, and that a faculty union, if ever established, would erode academic quality and undermine our highly successful system of campus shared governance, which has earned nationwide praise.

We speak for ourselves. We have no organization behind us, we don’t ask for funding, we don’t pay national hired guns to come in and make the case for us.

We want to start a different campus conversation about faculty unionization, which we believe will be more thoughtful and substantive when people have all the facts.

We welcome and will consider postings from others expressing issues and concerns about faculty unionization. We know that many faculty are very upset about the possibility of working on a unionized campus.

If you see any information here that is inaccurate, please tell us and we will correct it.

If you share our concerns and want to help, please forward these postings to your friends and colleagues, and urge them to do the same. ***