Friday, February 26, 2010

Fulfilling Furloughs

If any of you academic readers have been furloughed, what did you do during your furlough time?

Were there certain prohibitions (e.g., you cannot go to your office, you cannot answer e-mail from students)? Did you follow the rules?

Did you work anyway or was there absolutely no way you were going to do anything work-related while not being paid?

If you had a choice, did you take furlough days when no one would notice or did you try to make your furlough times a bit more visible to the academic community? (even if you aren't allowed to cancel classes for a furlough day)

If you have students and/or a laboratory facility that can't manage without you, what did you do? Or are we all less essential than we think we are..?

As many of us explore the reality of being paid less to do our jobs, which in some ways are becoming more difficult to do, I was thinking of what I might (unilaterally) do to rebalance my time and effort. It makes no sense to decrease my research or teaching efforts, even if I wanted to, so the most obvious thing would be to quit some committees and spend less time doing service. I wouldn't quit all my committees or service activities -- some of these are a necessary part of my job -- but I do a lot of service and I could reduce this. Has anyone else done this or something else in direct response to changes in their salary/schedule?

40 comments:

Alex said...

Well, I'm supposed to furlough, but canceling lectures would just make my job harder: I have a lot of material to cover, and having less time makes it harder, not easier. I tried canceling a lab last quarter, but I felt guilty so I didn't do it again this quarter.

And not doing research? When the word "layoff" is being batted around and anybody with a survival instinct is on the market? Um, yeah, not gonna happen.

So, I show up to work on furlough days because, frankly, I work more efficiently in my office, and I have way too much research and teaching work to take a day off. I'm already working evenings and weekends, so how in the world am I supposed to take a day off? And I answer email because clearing it out of the way is easier than letting it pile up.

Service? Last year my performance review said "Service to the college and university is expected to increase in the coming year." So, um, I'm untenured, I'm at a school that's looking to get rid of people, and somebody many layers above me has just decreed that I should do more service. Yeah, I'm gonna keep doing service.

As to enforcement and rules, my school doesn't have the ability to enforce furloughs. They'd have to find somebody with enough time on their hands to go around and seeing who's working too hard. If they did that, I'd still show up, and if I got fired for showing up to work I'd list it on my CV under "Awards and Honors."

There's only one thing I can do about the furlough situation that might actually make up for the pay cut: Look for a better job. And I can assure you that I'm actively doing that.

Anonymous said...

I am at Arizona State University and we had furlough last spring. I am a jr prof and so asked my supervisor what I should give up. He told me service. I gave up nothing because I was putting my dossier together for tenure. He on the other hand, took the time off with impunity. We were told not to do any work at all, not eve check emails, while on furlough. We were also given an alternative plan where we just took the cut. We had to choose and electronically sign an agreement.

LabMom said...

I was furloughed this summer. (It was only one 8 hour day)
We were required to take the day off, the Med School was closed, classes were canceled. I worked the closed day (it was great since not many people were around so I actually got a lot done) and then took a more convenient day off. Quite a few faculty were working on furlough day, but definitely not all of them.

Anonymous said...

I canceled a weekly meeting with a senior design group and went on a day trip with the family on one. The others (today being one) I am/will stay home and keep up on email. 5% didn't sound like a lot, but it makes a big difference in a young single income family with children. Some at my school are planning a "day of action" to coordinate the furloughs to have a bigger impact, but it falls on a day I teach (and am guest lecturing for another class).

qaz said...

I've said this on other sites discussing furloughs and I'll say it again. It is absolutely critical that a furlough affect people outside the university. One of the problems with public-paid systems (like public-schools, fire, police, and state universities) is that the public wants all the services but doesn't want to pay for them. Because the services are critical (if the house is burning you help), the people involved don't want to reduce quality. But if you hide your furlough or have it only affect your things that people don't see, then they will think you can do the same amount for less. They're talking furloughs at my university (but haven't implemented any yet), but when they do, I'm going to make sure one of those furlough days is on a day when I'm supposed to teach a class. I will go in on that day to put up a sign "Today's class canceled on account of underfunding the university."

PS. If you are at a private university, then I guess it is necessary to impact the people who make the decisions.

ChemProf said...

I have scheduled my furlough days to all occur after the teaching portion of the spring semester is over. I did so on Fridays, 6 Fridays in a row, which will be easy to remember. Our Union told us not to be on campus on a furlough day because if we were injured by any chance, we would not be covered by Workman's Comp.
I have thought about cutting back on committee work but have not actually done so. I won't cut back on anything related to students but hope that on my furlough days there won't be any emails from students so I can say I didn't "work".

Anonymous said...

At my university a number of professors refuse to attend Ph.D. defenses during the summer because they aren't paid then, even if the student only wants to defend the week before the start of fall classes, while all the committee members are in town, to avoid paying tuition for the fall.

It is worth recognizing that although professors may occasionally be asked to make unreasonable but small sacrifices, graduate students are constantly asked to make unreasonably huge sacrifices for many years, and if there is a way a financially secure professor can go a little out of their way to make a huge difference for a graduate student, then it is the right thing to do.

Average Professor said...

I took a few furlough days over the semester break, when I was traveling for holidays and wasn't going to be working or checking email anyway. I'll take another few over spring break, when I might be hosting some visitors and can use the time to hang out with them.

I like my work, but not so much that I couldn't take a full day away from it here and there if somebody made me. So I was fine not doing a lick of work (as instructed: no work, no email, no stopping by, etc.) - and not feeling the slightest bit guilty about it.

albe said...

We have 8 furlough days for the next two years, and cannot use them on teaching days. I am pre-tenure, though, and none of the teaching, service, or research requirements for tenure have been diminished due to the furlough. So I just work through the furloughs. Having small children at home, I still work in the office. We have a couple of "set" furlough days and some floating days, and I still go in during the set days. It's nice because the office is empty. Nobody seems to care that we still work.

The thing that seems the silliest to me is that because I am paid a summer salary off of my federal grants, I have to take two furlough days in the summer. This doesn't save the state any money (that salary comes from NSF) and actually costs the state money in terms of losing out on our income taxes, among other things.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

We are forbidden from going to the office, answering e-mail, or doing anything even vaguely work-related on our furlough days. We are (on pain of disciplinary action) made to sign an affadavit to that effect. Of course, renouncing work like that is untenable.

Reducing committees -- that's part of it.

We're also supposed to reduce our grading by 10%, but without reducing student learning content. Huh. Wonder how I'm supposed to do that?

It's a huge fiction, and it makes me cranky.

Anonymous said...

I'm at a University of California campus where faculty are "furloughed". For me that's an 8% paycut and between 11 and 16 furlough days (not sure -- no one ever told faculty on an individual basis how many days we are suppose to take). Our furlough rules are -- no furlough days can be taken on days we are teaching or have scheduled student contact hours (office hours). No one on our campus in monitoring faculty furloughs at all -- there is no reporting process around furlough days. Basically, we can take our days out of research/service time on our own. So, for me, my "furlough days" just amount to a paycut. I should note that faculty with external funding which allowed it, could backfill their pay cuts. For me with only NSF funding, I had no funding available for this backfill since I had already used my allowed salary funding for summer salary last year. So -- just a paycut with no work reduction.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to be furloughed. Why couldn't I move to a state with its economy in the s!@#$er

Lynne said...

Ugh! Furloughs!

I am a postdoc at a public MRU, in a state where all state employees are required to furlough 8 days each for the next two years. I am considered a "public employee," even though my salary comes 100% from the NIH. So, in forcing me to furlough, the state actually LOSES money through my income tax, and I have less money to spend in my community. So stupid!!!

To answer the questions actually posed here, the furlough days I've taken so far were over the holidays or when my daughter was sick, so I've actually taken them off. I probably won't be able to get all my days in that way, but if I have to take a couple days off, I'll probably spend them doing something fun with my daughter.

John V said...

Furloughs are is only remote theoretical possibility in my case (so far).

I view (and think is the reality) that furloughs are simply the least painful way for some universities to cut salaries, as the money is not there to continue paying the full salaries, hopefully just for a year or so.

Alternatively, cutting the pay rate would be permanent, not "temporary" like the furlongs, and take a slice out of the pensions people are paid at retirement. Firing that fraction of the people would take eons to implement, cost a fortune in legal costs to enforce decisions, and more destroy morale.

These rules about not working on furloughed time are just legalities necessary to implement the furloughs. Personally I would continue to work during the time of furloughs unless facing job-threatening disciplinary action - it's really a temporary pay cut.

Anonymous said...

We have to take one furlough during each of the four monthly pay periods of the current semester. I took my first one inadvertently when a morning trip to the dentist left me in pain the rest of the day; the second one will probably be spent doing work at home even though we've been forbidden from even checking e-mail on a furlough day (although we've also been explicitly told no one is going to check up on us), and the third and fourth days will come during spring break and after classes are over.

I'm tenure-track, and as other commenters have said, it's not like I'm going to have my tenure requirements reduced by 2% just because my pay is, so I'm still doing the same amount of work.

amy said...

I totally agree with qaz -- the effects of furloughs have to be visible to the public at publicly funded institutions. I think it's awful that institutions are forbidding people to take furloughs on teaching days, *and* not reducing research requirements for tenure at all. Basically, they're asking people to work for free (though I guess that's not unusual for academics).

I've been really lucky not to have furloughs yet. All we lost are travel funds. I'm still expected to go to 2 conferences a year, of course, but there's no money to cover them. So it's coming out of my pocket. It'll come out to about a 5% paycut, so it could be worse.

Anonymous said...

I read through your feminist rant blog. When you start on career issues on generalities, you make good sense and the blog is interesting. When you start loudmouthing on feminism, it is simply mind-numbing. Nobody is victimizing women nowadays. Women are always respected if they are good. There is no gender discrimination like you think. You are simply deluded and ranting on about trivialities. Even in the most rigorous subjects like math, there are women in the most prestigious places even. If they are good, they will get recognition. Why on earth are you irritating with this "more representation" crap? If you want more represenation, be better. Do the job. That's it.

Here's an answer to you, in the form of a joke I read once:

Blondes Deptt.

The Blondes at the university were tired of not fitting in. They were tired of other students assuming they were just stupid bimbos. They wanted somewhere where they felt they belonged.

So they pressured the administration to set up a new Department especially for them. The university agreed, and set up the Blonde Education Department.

The Blondes were ecstatic to have a department of their own where they could gather without being ridiculed. They felt they really belonged now.

They wanted other students to see that they weren't just stupid bimbos -- after all, they now had their own department at the university.

So they now all proudly wear the official sweatshirt of the Blonde Education Department, which sports the saying: "I Belong in B.E.D."

Anonymous said...

We had a furlough several years ago, but everyone took it at the same time. The university closed for the week between Christmas and New Years. I think it was sort of a mixed bag. No one really wanted to have their salary cut, but most people take that week off anyways. Classes were not in session and nothing much is regularly scheduled during that week. I did end up working that week and got a lot done because no one was around. However, it was pretty chilly because they had turned the heat way down since the university was closed. From what I heard, it saved a bunch of money, but they haven't done it again.

fubarator said...

Quiet, there's no discrimination against women in academia. AAAAAAAAnd, here's a funny funny joke about stupid women in academia!

Kevin said...

Well, I'm on furlough. All that means is I got an 8% pay cut---I'm still working 7 days a week 10-12 hours a day (I did take Dec 25th off). My teaching load is up this year (4.4 semester-sized classes, not counting my lab meetings) and likely to go up to 5.4 classes next year. Three of the classes were being taught for the first time this year, so I had to develop them as well. There was a TA (unpaid) for one of the classes.

Part of the problem is my fault---I decided to create one of the new classes at the last moment (it starts in 4 weeks and still hasn't been approved by campus committees).
Also, as a full professor, I was taking on some overload to shield the assistant professors.

As it turns out, I was the *only* person in my department who did not have grant funds to buy-out their furlough days (except one person on an H1 visa, whose salary could not be legally reduced).

I am looking forward to taking a sabbatical the year after next---I've got over a year's worth of sabbatical credit accumulated. Maybe I'll have some time then to write up the huge backlog of papers I need to write. (I've been wasting all my writing time on grant proposals that don't get funded---I think it is time to give up on that and just do research on surplus computers without grad student help.)

John V said...

Please delete "Blondes" post, which is a lame cut-and-paste from a poorly rated JokeCrazy post:
http://www.jokecrazy.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=540

This is a discussion of furloughs, and even if women's issues were central, which they are not, it adds nothing.

Anonymous said...

@2/26/2010 11:26:00 AM

Introducing yourself using a sexist joke might not be the best way to endear yourselves to those concerned with women's issues...

It's also possible someone might point out that it's a little funny to say that women are always treated equally and there is no sexism, and then to follow with a joke having the punchline that women are dumb and only good for sex.

female Science Professor said...

That is exactly why I allowed the off-topic comment with the recycled not-funny "joke" that undermines the comment writer's delusional belief that sexism does not exist (and that this is a feminist rant blog).

Anonymous said...

Well I must say that my belief was that this comment was never going to be allowed. I am rather suprised that you let it past. I have now a bit more regard for you.

Now in less rancorous tones: Doing things for "more representation" for the sake of it is not a good idea. Try instead to achieve higher quality. Please do not sacrifice sincere and motivated individuals who are devoted to their subject, for the sake of promoting under-represented groups. This should be possible.

Anonymous said...

I am still working on furlough days, during the time I am not taking action against them. The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign campus has a Campus Faculty Association that has named "common furlough/action days" and I am one of the organizers. We have had a teach-in so far and are planning a rally on March 4th (the natl day of action), organizing training on the third day, and lobbying on the fourth day. We are trying to maximize furlough impact rather than minimize it, because it doesn't make sense that we keep having to do more with less.

I don't say this because I am completely opposed to furloughs, I'm saying it because the faculty at my university have had their trust eroded over the last several years by an inefficient and dishonest administration. Why do administrators keep their high salaries when returning to faculty posts? Why has corporate relations gone from two employees to thirty seven in the last eight years? Why have we cut facilities employees after claiming furloughs were to PREVENT layoffs?

So I'm not skulking at home on my furlough day. I'm joining my colleagues in protest regarding our lack of shared governance.

inBetween said...

Furloughs... not allowed on teaching days, not allowed to affect students of any shape or form. We were to take furlough over the semester break when the university was closed. Cute. For our other faculty furlough days, no one is monitoring. However, there is a form going around asking some faculty to report the specific days they took for their furloughs. I think it's a legal ploy -- the administration knows most of the faculty didn't really take furlough (afterall, when do we take any days off?!). They want us to sign something saying that we did so that they have a legal out if/when this is contested in court. My new year's resolution was to stay home on Sundays. I still read and do email, but that's as close to "furlough" as I get... nice.

Janice said...

We were furloughed in the 90s when I was tenure-track. Like many others, here, we were told that furloughs couldn't be taken on teaching days and that was about it. We were supposed to take the days when it wouldn't "inconvenience anyone." Any attempts to actually take a furlough day was usually made impossible by service duties that were scheduled by a more senior colleague taking a different furlough schedule.

In our case (Ontario) the furloughs were very visible to the public because they were also legislated for doctors and nurses. When your family physician closes offices one Friday a month or your physiotherapist cancels appointments for a furlough, people notice.

As qaz said, if you can take the furloughs without anyone noticing, you're just enabling a more permanent cut to your own position or future hirings so tenured faculty ought, at least, to support untenured and furloughed colleagues from being doubly exploited through an expectation that they work as normal while furloughed!

Anonymous said...

Like several others, I am at a state university doing 8days/year for 2 years..

We were originally told the no e-mail/work or we would get in big trouble. Then the faculty senate got clarification - since we aren't hourly, there really is no way they can tell us when to take furlough.

Translation: just take the pay cut, but keep working.

Anonymous said...

My university (university system, actually) is required to take 4 furlough days, one per pay period, for the rest of this semester. We are allowed to take them on any day we want, and some faculty have talked about taking them on the same day in order draw attention to the problem rather than hide it.

We have been told not to check e-mail, log on to Blackboard, come to campus or do any work on our furlough days. The chancellor actually told us this was a legal requirement so that the university has no obligation to pay us back for those days in the future. I guess we can't get paid for work we didn't do, even though most people I've talked to have continued to work on their furlough days.

My first furlough day, sadly, occurred on the same day I had to leave town for a family emergency, so I didn't do any work. My next furlough day is next week, but with papers to grade, two manuscripts I am working on and two upcoming conferences I need to prepare for, I don't see how I could possibly take the day off.

I am a first-year faculty member, and this has really exposed some ugliness among our faculty. I know that the people sending out the name-calling and sarcastic e-mails don't really represent most of the faculty, but it has been quite disheartening to read all the mud slinging on a daily basis. My wife (who also has a Ph.D.) and I moved here with high hopes and didn't really want to move again so soon, but we have been looking for new jobs.

Anonymous said...

I got laid off, so I envy people who are furloughed.

Anonymous said...

As qaz said we must take the furlough days during teaching days. It's the only way for people to see the consequences of the actions of "lower my taxes" rhetoric.

If you recall, it worked for Clinton when he let the Republican congress shutdown government. People came to realize just how much they depend on services provided by the Federal Government.

Anonymous said...

About furloughs: I'm in one of the very first universities to impose furloughs on faculty (already mentioned in another comment), and we were told not to use any university resource (including e-mail). We couldn't not do anything that affected students, and we couldn't take furloughs while travelling to conferences, seminars etc (when the university insurance covers you).
Therefore, I couldn't see any option that would send a message out, and because I didn't want to affect my research I worked as usual. The university couldn't care less that I was working for free (it would have been interesting if one of us had an accident during the days we were supposed to be unemployed), so for me it was basically taking a pay cut. I could have applied for unemployment (and some colleagues did out of spite), but for me it was too much of a hassle.


Regarding the blonde comment. I want to thank you for leaving it here for us to see that we are not delusional when we say that many people today are completely blind to the issue.
Although... how do I know that this is a real post and not something you made up just to support your feminist rant blog? It is clear that you need material for your ridiculous posts, and since gender issues have been solved decades ago, it wouldn't be surprising that you make stories up (including the blond post).
Aghhh...Thanks so much for blogging. I followed you during most of my untenured years (I'm putting my packet together in a few months), and you've been the best mentor one could ask for. I have a 'real' mentor, but I wouldn't be surprised if he is the author of the 'blonde' post!

Alex said...

As qaz said we must take the furlough days during teaching days.

Yeah, well, I'm untenured and trying to avoid winding up in the situation of anon at 2/27/2010 03:21:00 AM. Doing less work, or work of lower quality (and covering the same amount of material in fewer lectures is work of lower quality) is not an option for me.

I get what qaz is saying, I just can't do it.

Anonymous said...

We are tenatively to take 8 days furlough during the next academic year, also without canceling classes since the governor declares that teaching classes makes us essential employees during that time. There is some discussion in our union to take the furlough days during the week after finals before graduation, i.e., when we would normally be grading finals and certifying students to graduate. Several of us are conflicted about this, since it will impact students and possibly delay or cancel graduation. On the other hand, we agree that this needs to be visible to the public. At a minimum, it could be funny to have the governor officially issue an order that grading exams is an official essential duty to the survival of state government.

Anonymous said...

My school hasn't instituted furlough days yet, but I can see it coming. For me, it would just be a paycut. I am tenure track, with a 4/4 teaching load and research expectations. Needless to say, I already work 7 days a week. Taking any days off from working would just hurt my tenure case.

Anonymous said...

of course you keep on working as usual during your furlough time, do you want to fall behind in your work?? so many things to do and deadlines that don't wait for furloughs to end - grant proposals, manuscripts, preparing lecture notes....if your univeristy prohibits you from doing certain specific activities like teaching or being in your office then fine, don't do those! but a professor's job is so varied because we wear so many hats, that it's nuts to think that just because it's a furlough day that there isn't anything you CAN do, or that by not working you will still come out OK and able to fulfill all your varied responsibilities.

Just think of it not as a furlough but as a pay cut - same amount of work but just for less pay. (and you should keep your productivity up if you want to keep your job)

Leaky Pipeline said...

Yet another reason I'm taking my spectacular engineering education to industry and not attempting the tenure race.

Anonymous said...

Faculty at my university are supposed to be furloughed for one day this year and up to five days next year. This year, they designated the Friday before Memorial Day as the day to be furloughed. My question is, Since we are under a 9-month contract, and this date is not within that window, how can we be furloughed on that day? Perhaps the state was thinking about state employees in general and not universities when they chose this date, but it's still unclear what will happen.

Bonnie said...

So, my question, perhaps naive is that don't we have to redo all NIH budgets reflecting this "paycut" that furloughs are inducing? I can't imagine the university can collect my "pay" (and indirects from that pay) from NIH and then keep it? Have any of you seen anything from NIH on their policy about this?

EnderWiggin said...

I was allowed to cover my salary shortfall from furlough with grant monies. I did so. My total furlough was 14 hours, and my position description reads 30% teaching. Therefore I cancelled one lecture class when I was out of town on business anyway as a result of the furlough. I'm untenured, but I think that it would be illegal for me to teach during the furlough when I'm paying myself from federal grant money.