Guest Editorial: Mandatory staff furloughs prove unreasonable for faculty

How would you feel if your boss suddenly demanded that you work two days without pay? And how would you feel if your boss justified this demand by insinuating that your pay – which is modest by industry standards – is a significant contributor to the business’ budget problems? This is the situation that now confronts teaching and administrative faculty, Student and Campus Life Department members and other employees at Geneseo and across the State University of New York system. New York State imposed a “Deficit Reduction Program” that requires teaching and administrative faculty to take two days off without pay in the interest of solving the state’s budget problems.

This demand is unreasonable and unjust for several reasons. First, it implies that we are somehow responsible for the state’s budget problems. The reality, however, is quite different. According to a 2012 study by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Geneseo salaries are below the 60th percentile rank for masters’ level institutions, indicating that our compensation is reasonable and even modest given the prestige of our institution.

Second, the nature of our work makes it impossible for us to take unpaid days off. Even if we choose to stay home for two days, there is nothing in the state’s demands that reduces our workload or responsibilities. Teaching faculty must still conduct research, finish committee work on time and mentor students. Administrative professionals must still meet deadlines for budgets, reports, programs and other responsibilities.

Interim President Carol Long has worked diligently and conscientiously to mitigate the negative effects of the state’s unreasonable demands, but there is a limit to what she can do.

She cannot change the nature of our work – nor would we want her to – nor can she alone make the state government understand how unreasonable its demands are.

This forces us to make a very difficult choice. We can submit to the state’s demands and work without pay, thus acceding to the lack of professional respect paid to us by the state – perhaps encouraging them to use this tactic against us again in the future. Or, we can take some sort of symbolic action, such as cancelling a class, review session, office hours or other academic activity.

This course of action will not fully compensate us for the salary the state deducts because we will still have to meet other important responsibilities such as research and committee work. In addition, if we take this second option, students will be negatively affected. But many of us feel that this is the only way to fully publicize the injustice of the state’s demands.

If we go on with our work as usual, will anyone notice this injustice?  Will this lead to continued and even stronger attacks on SUNY funding, of which the assaults on our salary are an important component?

What would you do?

We invite you to discuss this issue with any Geneseo employee.


- College Faculty Affairs Committee