Daily Egyptian

Faculty unsure about higher education’s future, Daily Egyptian poll finds

By Anna Spoerre, @annaspoerre

Seventy-eight percent of faculty said they are concerned about their job security — according to a poll conducted by the Daily Egyptian — reflecting the effects of Illinois’ ongoing budget stalemate between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and the Democratic Legislature. 

“I feel like Rauner doesn’t care–at all–about higher education,” one respondent said. “This is simply his political game, and he’s so far removed from the reality of most people that he doesn’t realize the effect it is already having. Southern Illinois will need years to recover from the damage already done.”

The straw poll — which was open on Desire2Learn from March 31 to April 15 — collected 88 anonymous responses from campus’ faculty via SurveyMonkey. In Oct. 1, the campus had a faculty head count of 543, according to a university report. 

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Of those 88 faculty who took the survey, 41 percent identified as non-tenure track, 16 percent as tenure track and 28 percent as tenured. The rest did not identify their job classifications.

“I am new to this university and town, but the news are [sic] very concerning and I am questioning my decision to join this university every day,” one faculty member said. “It prevents me from focusing on my research and teaching responsibilities.”

Thirty-eight percent of the poll-takers said they are actively seeking work elsewhere. Seventeen percent preferred not to answer.

“I’m not currently looking for other employment, but may go on the market for another tenure-track job in the fall if the budget impasse is still standing,” one professor wrote.

A majority of the individual responses pertained to job security and the effects of the budget crisis in their work.

Almost 74 percent of the faculty said they often discuss the impasse.

“While I am not seeking employment elsewhere, a lot of my colleagues in my department are,” another said. “Their departure will have a significant negative impact on our ability to deliver our curriculum and remain competitive in our field. Our students have been asking if they need to start looking elsewhere to complete their education, and that is truly disturbing.”

Although SIU has not yet laid any faculty off, other state schools — including John A. Logan College and Chicago State University — have already decided to let employees go.

“This is a dangerous political game to play with the livelihoods of university employees and the futures of our students,” another said. “If there is not budget until election season, I will move out of the state just on principle alone. I don’t want to live in a place that plays politics with our educational system.”

Some jokingly, or not, talked about leaving the education realm altogether.

“I’m being fitted for a blue vest, as we speak … “Welcome to Walmart!'” a faculty member said. 

Anna Spoerre can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325.

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