The Furlough Fandango                                                                     July 30, 2009

 

            First I wish to say that I can accept a pay cut in the context of the fiscal disaster we inherited from the Bush administration.  However, I cannot accept the furlough game that is being imposed on all State employees.  I have been a full-time faculty at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse for the past 31 years and while I have, on previous occasion, had a zero pay raise, I have never had a pay cut until now.  All that I am asking for is honesty and truthfulness from the Governor and the State.  What is happening in the 2009-2010 fiscal year is that my colleagues and I are receiving a 5 percent pay cut whether we like it or not.   This is a fact that cannot be disputed.  How so?   Well two years ago we were given a biennial contract that specified a modest raise that included a 2 percent increase in the second half of the current year.  This has now been rescinded.  In addition to that we are mandated to take a furlough pay cut of 3 percent of our annual salary for this year and the next year also.  A furlough, by its classic definition, is “a vacation granted to a military man [of one month duration]”.  Furloughs are in this traditional context not imposed and do not involve any pay cuts.  What is now being imposed is not voluntary and very simply is a uniform pay cut.  We are here required to select (voluntarily) those days for which we will exercise our furlough; however, we are not allowed to select any days during which we are officially required to be at our place of employment.  These are in effect unregulated work days.  Four of these days have already been mandated for us and include, for example, the Friday during the University’s Thanksgiving break.   Now is this or is this not a normal work day?  Presumably it is because it is now a designated mandatory furlough day which, under the existing guidelines, are forbidden work days.  Based on my experience as a college professor, this arbitrary restriction deeply offends me.  Our profession has always expected us to work many days for which we are not explicitly paid, including week-ends, holidays, and summer breaks.   During this time we voluntarily labor on scholarly enhancement, doing research, planning future lectures, etc..  So, it is obvious that the so-called furlough days will not actually reduce a faculty member’s workload because we have no real choice but to do what we have been doing for our entire careers; namely, to immerse ourselves in our profession without any attention to the number of hours or days involved.

 

            So, let’s abandon the charade of pretending that professors are hourly workers in the way that factory workers are.   We have always been paid a salary for an aggregate calendar unit of months of scholarly work and if we want or need to work more than that, it has always been a matter of our own discretion to resolve.  So let’s abandon this contrived invention of the furlough as something that has relevance and application to university faculty, because it doesn’t.  We are professionals who work hard and long hours and who wish to continue doing so without a politically contrived impediment.  Please just cut our pay by whatever percentage the State feels necessary and stop this insanity of imposing this furlough concept on us.  It violates everything I have based my life around; namely, honesty, integrity, dedication, and the love of my profession.

 

Jac D. Bulk 

2322 Winnebago Street

La Crosse, Wisconsin   54601

608-784-4757