Monday, July 13, 2009

Furloughs: Yeah, right.

At our Friday, August 14, faculty meeting, the last weekday before classes began, we found out that we would be required to take three furlough days before December 31. Apparently, all other Georgia state employees were also being required to take such unpaid days of leave. But as professors, all our furlough days are make-believe.

Do you have any idea how furloughs work for college professors? My sister works at the local primary school, and to fulfill their furlough days, the board cut two days off pre-session planning. I'm not sure what the third day is for them, but it's something similar.

Today was one of our furlough days. Previously, it had been known as "the first day of fall break." In other words, we were not scheduled to teach today anyway. Our second day is the Wednesday before Thanksgiving--yes, another day we're not scheduled to teach. We get to choose our third day . . . as long as it's not a day that we're scheduled to teach. Many of us don't teach on Fridays, so we can take a Friday off. If we teach five days a week, we can take off the one of the days between final exams and Dec. 24. You guessed it--we're scheduled to have those days off anyway.

The long and short of it is that they're docking us three days' pay and giving us no time off. What's infuriating is that we have no option. This is my 11th year at Gordon College, and I've taken only two sick days in that entire time. I can't afford to miss class, because I need to cover a certain amount of material, and missing class would put me behind, and I don't want to do that to my students. So if they gave us the option of taking off teaching days, most of us wouldn't. Then the required furlough days wouldn't be so demoralizing, because they wouldn't be make-believe; we would be teaching on our "days off" because we chose to do so. Of course, I realize our administration can't do that because there are, in fact, faculty members who would choose to miss class days.

But get this: next semester is exactly the same. In spite of the fact that we have three pre-session meeting/advising days, we've been given three make-believe furlough days, just like this semester. I have to hope my administration won't find this blog before they make promotion decisions, because I'm up for promotion, but there seems to me to be no reason they couldn't give us one of those days. We have meetings one of the three days, but they could give half of us one of the other two days as a furlough day and the other half of us the other day. Our administration claims to be as irate as we are at the required furloughs, because our enrollment this fall is about 16% higher than it was last fall, but they've done nothing to soften the ignominy of the make-believe furloughs. If I've estimated correctly, I'm going to be docked about $266 for each of the six furlough days. (Remember, I'm actually getting none of those.) If the administration were to give everyone a token $250 bonus just as a show of support, I'd be encouraged. I'd feel that they really did believe the furloughs were unjustified for our institution.

I'm very, very frugal. And I'm making more money than I ever thought I'd be making in academia. I've paid off my car and my house, and I won't have to do without any luxuries, let alone any necessities. Money definitely isn't the issue. Most of us here understand that the economic crisis demands some sort of action, and quite honestly, most of us could have handled an announcement of a temporary pay cut. But to call these days when we wouldn't be working anyway "furlough" days, as if we were getting some sort of break to compensate for the lack of pay, is insulting and demoralizing. I go above and beyond for my students, as do most of my colleagues, but it's hard to keep pressing on when we get this sort of insult from the powers-that-be. And that's just what we need in Georgia, isn't it--yet something else to work against the educational system.

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