Chicago State’s Sudden Layoffs Include A Tenured Philosopher

Chicago State University has been facing a financial crisis. It relies on the state of Illinois for about 30% of its budget, but, owing to the previous financial and budgeting decisions the university’s administrators had made, along with the state’s “budget stalemate that left higher education without a dime for most of last year—and then provided only partial funding,” it has had to lay off hundreds of employees, reports The Chicago Tribune.

Among them are 10 faculty members who were laid off just last month and told they would not be returning in the fall. The Tribune says:

The university, however, provided no severance to [them], saying a provision in the faculty contract that would have required a year’s notice did not apply because the school has declared financial exigency…

While administrators received severance, the faculty members did not. According to their union contract, tenured faculty are allowed to work for at least one academic year after being given a layoff notice except in cases of “extreme and immediate financial exigency.”

Philosopher Ephraim Das Janssen was one of those laid off, receiving neither severance pay nor a terminal year. He had received tenure in the spring of 2015. In addition to his role as associate professor of philosophy, he had also been slated to become coordinator of the Liberal Studies major. I wrote him and asked about the layoffs. He says:

The manner in which the layoffs occurred is a bit remarkable: At the end of February, everyone at the university received notice of layoff due to financial exigency, with effective dates that varied according to position and length of service.  The nine of us who are laid off are the ones who received notice in July that we would not be recalled and we are laid off as of 15 August 2016. The remainder of the Unit A faculty has been recalled to serve as usual.

I understand that the university has now received funding equalling some 90% of its 2015-16 budget through the end of the calendar year but has not put an end to its self-imposed state of “financial exigency.”  This is no longer about the stunning refusal of a governor to sign a budget.  

In short, successful faculty members who have fulfilled our obligations to our employer are being terminated with less than we would have gotten if we had failed at our jobs (a terminal contract for a year in which to search for another position), while the administrators who were terminated have been provided with generous safety nets.

CSU is not a wealthy school, by any means, and it has been experiencing a decline in enrollment in the past few years.  And it is not a “top school,” or a prestigious institution.  What it is is a sorely needed second chance for non-traditional students from Chicago’s South Side, it is a bastion against poverty.  If only top schools are to be saved, then who gets to have an education?

Grievances are being filed. Those interested in contacting Chicago State’s president, Thomas Calhoun, can reach him at [email protected]

(Thanks to Dale Miller for bringing this news to my attention.)

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