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UIS Faculty Frustrated By Contract Talks

Kristi Barnwell
Some UIS faculty hold signs to demonstrate their request for a new contract at the chancellor's picnic in August. Barnwell is wearing blue jeans and half-kneeling in the front row.

Faculty at the University of Illinois Springfield have been negotiating for a new contract. Talks have been going on more than a year, and they haven't even started talking about dollars.

Kristi Barnwell, an associate professor of history, is vice-president of UIS United Faculty and a participant in negotiations.

“Every year, the campus does an analysis of where our wages sit compared to other universities and campuses of similar size and profile, and every year, we come up well below the median for professors’ salaries at every rank," she says.

"So faculty here are, the last I checked, we were ranked 11th out of 14 comparable sort of small-size Midwestern universities. So we’re well below the median in terms of what faculty get paid…. We have faculty members who have been here for 10, 12, 15 years who are making in the mid-50s and haven’t seen any significant raises in 10 years.”

Interview highlights

On administrative salaries:

“Our highest executive within the academic affairs is the office of the provost. Our interim provost is making $193,000 a year. Our chancellor, who is a vice-president of the U of I system and sort of the public representative on campus here, she makes $288,000 a year…. This is part of a national trend that we have seen is the growth of administration and the growth of administrative salaries comparable to actual resources dedicated to the main mission of the university, which is directed at education. Faculty salaries on this campus have been remaining stagnant for 10 years. In the meantime, administrative salaries have been sky-rocketing.”

On the university's system-wide 2017 wage increase, and why it doesn't apply to tenure-track professors:

“In December, President (Tim) Killeen sent out an email stating that there would be a mid-year wage program available to faculty and staff at the university unless their raises were governed by a contract. We don’t have a contract, because we’ve been negotiating for 18 months and are not near being done yet. So we’re not eligible, as tenure-track faculty, we’re not eligible for raises. That’s the university’s position. We sent an email in December asking if they would be willing to work with us to talk about applying that wage program to us, and then we sent a follow-up email in January. But they did not respond.”

On the role the state budget impasse plays in negotiations: 

“They actually haven’t invoked the state budget impasse as a problem  for negotiations. We haven’t even started talking economics. We’re talking about policies that have been the policies that we’ve been living under for decades, that we just want preserved in a contract."


On the history of faculty unions at UIS:

"Before UIS became a U of I school, we were Sangamon State University. And that campus was organized under the University Professionals of Illinois, UPI No. 4100. And they had a contract that was supposed to go through '96-’97 academic school year. But that year is when they  were folded into the U of I system. The union was disbanded, and the terms and conditions of our employment were turned into a faculty personnel policy that guides how we’re appointed, who serves on what committees, sort of determines our day to day life within the university. So really what we’ve been trying to do is preserve those policies, which came out originally of a contract from 20 years ago. We’re not asking for all kinds of new and amazing things; we’re asking for the preservation of these policies that were well-established since the last contract in the 1990s.”

On the frustrating pace of negotiations:

“The chancellor has said over and over again that she wants this contract done soon. But her team of negotiators does not seem to be pressing on that issue, or does not seem to be moving forward. We’re getting frustrated with papers getting ‘lost’ across the table…. It seems needlessly complicated to just get dates on the calendar.”

On the faculty members who are getting raises:

“We are really excited that non-tenure track faculty are getting a raise. They’re not organized, so they’re not under a contract.”


In response to our inquiries, university spokesperson Derek Schnapp emailed this statement:“The university administration is anxious to get a contract agreement just as faculty members are. Any time you craft a first contract with a newly formed union, negotiations take considerable time. It is the university's practice to negotiate with all unions at the bargaining table rather than through the media, as we believe this is most conducive to constructive, good faith collective bargaining.”


After a long career in newspapers (Dallas Observer, The Dallas Morning News, Anchorage Daily News, Illinois Times), Dusty returned to school to get a master's degree in multimedia journalism. She began work as Education Desk reporter at NPR Illinois in September 2014.
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