Thursday, November 30, 2017

Two Unbalanced Men Continue to Bring the World Closer to War


"...The US president’s remarks [on Wednesday November 29] were followed by UN ambassador Nikki Haley saying the ballistic missile launch 'brings us closer to war' at an emergency UN security council meeting, which would end the North Korean regime.
"Trump said in a tweet he had spoken with Chinese leader Xi Jinping about 'the provocative actions of North Korea,' and promised: 'Additional major sanctions will be imposed on North Korea today. This situation will be handled!'
"In remarks later on Wednesday at a public event in Missouri, Trump departed from a speech about tax cuts to aim a barb at the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who he has previously referred to as 'Little Rocket Man.' 'Little Rocket Man, he is a sick puppy,' the president said.
"Later Wednesday, at the UN, Haley said if war comes as a result of further acts of 'aggression' like the latest launch 'make no mistake the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed'..." (The Guardian). 

“…JUST WAR THEORY offers a series of principles that aim to retain a plausible moral framework for war. From the just war (justum bellum) tradition, theorists distinguish between the rules that govern the justice of war (jus ad bellum) from those that govern just and fair conduct in war (jus In bello) and the responsibility and accountability of warring parties after the war (jus post bellum). The three aspects are by no means mutually exclusive, but they offer a set of moral guidelines for waging war that are neither unrestricted nor too restrictive. The problem for ethics involves expounding the guidelines in particular wars or situations.

The Jus Ad Bellum Convention:

“The principles of the justice of war are commonly held to be: [1.] Having just cause, [2.] Being a last resort, [3.] Being declared by a proper authority, [4.] Possessing right intention, [5.] Having a reasonable chance of success, and [6.] The end being proportional to the means used.

One can immediately detect that the principles are not wholly intrinsicist nor consequentialist—they invoke the concerns of both models. Whilst this provides just war theory with the advantage of flexibility, the lack of a strict ethical framework means that the principles themselves are open to broad interpretations. Examining each in turn draws attention to the relevant problems.

“Possessing just cause is the first and arguably the most important condition of jus ad bellum. Most theorists hold that initiating acts of aggression is unjust and gives a group a just cause to defend itself. But unless ‘aggression’ is defined, this proscription is rather open-ended. For example, just cause resulting from an act of aggression can ostensibly be a response to a physical injury (for example, a violation of territory), an insult (an aggression against national honor), a trade embargo (an aggression against economic activity), or even to a neighbor’s prosperity (a violation of social justice).

“The onus is then on the just war theorist to provide a consistent and sound account of what is meant by just cause. Whilst not going into the reasons why the other explanations do not offer a useful condition of just cause, the consensus is that an initiation of physical force is wrong and may justly be resisted. Self-defense against physical aggression, therefore, is putatively the only sufficient reason for just cause. Nonetheless, the principle of self-defense can be extrapolated to anticipate probable acts of aggression, as well as in assisting others against an oppressive government or from another external threat (interventionism). Therefore, it is commonly held that aggressive war is only permissible if its purpose is to retaliate against a wrong already committed (for example, to pursue and punish an aggressor), or to pre-empt an anticipated attack.

“In recent years, the argument for preemption has gained supporters in the West: surely, the argument goes, it is right on consequentialist grounds to strike the first blow if a future war is to be avoided. By acting decisively against a probable aggressor, a powerful message is sent that a nation will defend itself with armed force; thus preemption may provide a deterrent and a more peaceful world. However, critics complain that preemptive strikes are based on conjectured rather than impending aggression and in effect denounce the moral principle that an agent is presumed innocent – posturing and the building up of armaments do not in themselves constitute aggression, just as a man carrying a weapon is not a man using a weapon, Consequentialist critics may also reject preemption on the grounds that it is more likely to destabilize peace, while other realists may complain that a preemptive strike policy is the ploy of a tyrannical or bullying power that justifies other nations to act in their self-interest to neutralize either through alliances or military action – such is the principle behind the ‘balance of power’ politics in which nations constantly renew their alliances and treatises to ensure that not one of them becomes a hegemonic power.

“It is also feared that the policy of preemption slips easily into the machinations of ‘false flag operations’ in which a pretext for war is created by a contrived theatrical or actual stunt – of dressing one’s own soldiers up in the enemy’s uniforms, for instance, and having them attack a military or even civilian target so as to gain political backing for a war. Unfortunately, false flag operations tend to be quite common. Just war theory would reject them as it would reject waging war to defend a leader’s ‘honor’ following an insult. Realists may defend them on grounds of a higher necessity but such moves are likely to fail as being smoke screens for political rather than moral interests.

“War should always be a last resort. This connects intimately with presenting a just cause – all other forms of solution must have been attempted prior to the declaration of war. It has often been recognized that war unleashes forces and powers that soon get beyond the grips of the leaders and generals to control – there is too much ‘fog’ in war, as Clausewitz noted, but that fog is also a moral haze in which truth and trust are early casualties. The resulting damage that war wrecks tends to be very high for most economies and so theorists have advised that war should not be lightly accepted: once unleashed, war is not like a sport that can be quickly stopped at the blow of a whistle (although the Celtic druids supposedly had the power to stop a battle by virtue of their moral standing) and its repercussions last for generations. Holding ‘hawks’ at bay though is a complicated task – the apparent ease by which war may resolve disputes, especially in the eyes of those whose military might is apparently great and victory a certainty, does present war as a low cost option relative to continuing political problems and economic or moral hardship. Yet the just war theorist wishes to underline the need to attempt all other solutions but also to tie the justice of the war to the other principles of jus ad bellum too.

“The notion of proper authority seems to be resolved for most of the theorists, who claim it obviously resides in the sovereign power of the state. But the concept of sovereignty raises a plethora of issues to consider here. If a government is just, i.e., most theorists would accept that the government is accountable and does not rule arbitrarily, then giving the officers of the state the right to declare war is reasonable, so the more removed from a proper and just form a government is, the more reasonable it is that its claim to justifiable political sovereignty disintegrates.

“A historical example can elucidate the problem: when Nazi Germany invaded France in 1940 it set up the Vichy puppet regime. What allegiance did the people of France under its rule owe to its precepts and rules? A Hobbesian rendition of almost absolute allegiance to the state entails that resistance is wrong (so long as the state is not tyrannical and imposes war when it should be the guardian of peace); whereas a Lockean or instrumentalist conception of the state entails that a poorly accountable, inept, or corrupt regime possesses no sovereignty, and the right of declaring war (to defend themselves against the government or from a foreign power) is wholly justifiable. The notion of proper authority therefore requires thinking about what is meant by sovereignty, what is meant by the state, and what is the proper relationship between a people and its government.

“The possession of right intention is ostensibly less problematic. The general thrust of the concept being that a nation waging a just war should be doing so for the cause of justice and not for reasons of self-interest or aggrandizement. Putatively, a just war cannot be considered to be just if reasons of national interest are paramount or overwhelm the pretext of fighting aggression. However, ‘right intention’ masks many philosophical problems. According to Kant, possessing good intent constitutes the only condition of moral activity, regardless of the consequences envisioned or caused, and regardless, or even in spite, of any self interest in the action the agent may have. The extreme intrinsicism of Kant can be criticized on various grounds, the most pertinent here being the value of self-interest itself.

“At what point does right intention separate itself from self-interest – is the moral worthiness of intent only gained by acting in favor of one’s neighbor, and if so, what does that imply for moral action – that one should woo one’s neighbor’s spouse to make him/her feel good? Acting with proper intent requires us to think about what is proper and it is not certain that not acting in self-interest is necessarily the proper thing to do.

“On the one hand, if the only method to secure a general peace (something usually held to be good in itself) is to annex a belligerent neighbor's territory, political aggrandizement becomes intimately connected with the proper intention of maintaining the peace for all or the majority. On the other hand, a nation may possess just cause to defend an oppressed group, and may rightly argue that the proper intention is to secure their freedom, yet such a war may justly be deemed too expensive or too difficult to wage; i.e., it is not ultimately in their self-interest to fight the just war. On that account, the realist may counter that national interest is paramount: only if waging war on behalf of freedom is also complemented by the securing of economic or other military interests should a nation commit its troops. The issue of intention raises the concern of practicalities as well as consequences, both of which should be considered before declaring war.

“The next principle is that of reasonable success. This is another necessary condition for waging just war, but again is insufficient by itself. Given just cause and right intention, the just war theory asserts that there must be a reasonable probability of success. The principle of reasonable success is consequentialist in that the costs and benefits of a campaign must be calculated. However, the concept of weighing benefits poses moral as well as practical problems as evinced in the following questions:

“Should one not go to the aid of a people or declare war if there is no conceivable chance of success? Is it right to comply with aggression because the costs of not complying are too prohibitive? Would it be right to crush a weak enemy because it would be marginally costless? Is it not sometimes morally necessary to stand up to a bullying larger force, as the Finns did when Russia invaded in 1940, for the sake of national self-esteem or simple interests of defending land?

“Historically, many nations have overcome the probability of defeat: the fight may seem hopeless, but a charismatic leader or rousing speech can sometimes be enough to stir a people into fighting with all their will. Winston Churchill offered the British nation some of the finest of war's rhetoric when it was threatened with defeat and invasion by Nazi Germany in 1940. For example: ‘Let us therefore brace ourselves to do our duty, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Commonwealth and its Empire lasts for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.’….And ‘What is our aim? Victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.’ (Speeches to Parliament, 1940). However, the thrust of the reasonable success principle emphasizes that human life and economic resources should not be wasted in what would obviously be an uneven match. For a nation threatened by invasion, other forms of retaliation or defense may be available, such as civil disobedience, or even forming alliances with other small nations to equalize the odds.

“The final guide of jus ad bellum is that the desired end should be proportional to the means used. This principle overlaps into the moral guidelines of how a war should be fought, namely the principles of jus In bello. With regards to just cause, a policy of war requires a goal, and that goal must be proportional to the other principles of just cause. Whilst this commonly entails the minimizing of war's destruction, it can also invoke general balance of power considerations.

“For example, if nation A invades a land belonging to the people of nation B, then B has just cause to take the land back. According to the principle of proportionality, B’s counter-attack must not invoke a disproportionate response: it should aim to retrieve its land and not exact further retribution or invade the aggressor’s lands, or in graphic terms it should not retaliate with overwhelming force or nuclear weaponry to resolve a small border dispute. That goal may be tempered with attaining assurances that no further invasion will take place, but for B to invade and annex regions of A is nominally a disproportionate response, unless (controversially) that is the only method for securing guarantees of no future reprisals. For B to invade and annex A, and then to continue to invade neutral neighboring nations on the grounds that their territory would provide a useful defense against other threats and a putative imbalance of power is even more unsustainable.

“On the whole, the principles offered by jus ad bellum are useful guidelines for reviewing the morality of going to war that are not tied to the intrinsicist’s absolutism or consequentialist’s open-endedness. Philosophically, however, they invoke a plethora of problems by either their independent vagueness or by mutually inconsistent results – a properly declared war may involve improper intention or disproportionate ambitions. But war is a complicated issue and the principles are nonetheless a useful starting point for ethical examination and they remain a guide for both statesmen and women and for those who judge political proceedings…”





Monday, November 27, 2017

Ban on Assault Weapons/Open Carry Left Intact by U.S. Supreme Court



“The U.S. Supreme Court steered clear of the intensifying gun debate after the mass shootings in Nevada and Texas, turning away two appeals from firearms advocates, including one that sought a constitutional right to own a semiautomatic assault rifle. The justices, without comment Monday, left intact a ruling that upheld Maryland’s ban on assault weapons. In a separate case, the high court refused to require Florida to let handguns be carried openly in public.
“The Supreme Court has repeatedly rebuffed gun advocates since it ruled in 2010 that people across the country have the right to keep a firearm in the home for self-defense. That case represents the last time the high court heard arguments on the reach of the Second Amendment. Opponents say easy access to guns is to blame for continued mass shootings in the U.S., including the Oct. 1 massacre of 58 people at a concert in Las Vegas and the slaughter just a month later of 26 people in a Texas church.
“In the Maryland case, a federal appeals court said assault weapons, including the popular AR-15, aren’t protected by the Second Amendment. The appeals court pointed to the Supreme Court’s 2008 Heller decision, which included a line suggesting that states and cities could ban the M-16 rifle, a military version of the AR-15. ‘We have no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the weapons of war that the Heller decision explicitly excluded from such coverage,’ Judge Robert King wrote for the majority.
“The appeals court voted 10-4 to uphold the ban. Maryland enacted its assault-weapon ban after the 2012 shooting that left 20 children and six educators dead at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. The measure also bans detachable magazines that have a capacity of more than 10 rounds…” (U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Assault Rifle, Open-Carry Appeals). 


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thinking about donating your money to charities?



This is a partial list. They are highly reputable organizations according to Charity Navigator. In other words, more than 90% of your donation will go to the cause and not program, administrative, fundraising, and CEO expenses:


Alzheimer's Foundation of America, 322 Eighth Avenue, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10001 (866) 232-8484 
http://www.alzfdn.org/ 

Central Illinois Food Bank, 1937 East Cook Rd., Springfield, IL 62703 (217) 522-4022 
https://www.centralilfoodbank.org/Default.aspx    

Donorschoose.org (Teachers ask Teachers choose) 134 W. 37th St., Floor 11, New York, NY 10018, (212) 239-3615 
http://www.donorschoose.org/

Environmental Defense Fund, 257 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10010 (800) 684-3322 
https://www.edf.org/blog/2016/06/22/we-just-got-biggest-environmental-law-generation

Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation, 110 East 42nd Street, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10017 (800) 259-4636 
http://www.alzinfo.org/

Medical Teams International, 14150 Southwest Milton Court, Tigard, OR 97224 (800) 959-4325 
http://www.medicalteams.org/

Midwest Food Bank, 1703 South Veterans Parkway, Bloomington, IL 61701 (309) 663-5350 
http://www.midwestfoodbank.org/home

National Alliance to End Homelessness, 1518 K Street, NW, Suite 410, Washington, DC 20005 (202) 638-1526 
http://www.endhomelessness.org/

Natural Resources Defense Council, P.O. Box 1830, Merrifield, VA 22116-972 (212) 727-2700 
https://www.nrdc.org/

Northern Illinois Food Bank, 273 Dearborn Court, Geneva, IL 60134 (630) 443-6910 
http://solvehungertoday.org/ 

P.A.W.S. of Chicago (70/70), 1997 N. Clybourn Ave., Chicago, IL 60614 (773) 475-4242 
http://www.pawschicago.org/

P.A.W.S. of Tinley Park, 8301 W. 191st St., Tinley Park, IL 60477 (815) 464-7298 (Though not rated by Charity Navigator, my dear friend John Dillon, works there…) 
http://pawstinleypark.org/index.html

Pesticide Action Network North America 1611 Telegraph Avenue, Suite 1200, Oakland, CA 94612 (510) 788-9020 
http://www.panna.org/

Sierra Club, 85 Second Street, Suite 750, San Francisco, CA 94105 (415) 995-1780 
http://www.sierraclubfoundation.org/ 


Source:
  
Charity Navigator, 139 Harristown Road, Suite 101, Glen Rock, New Jersey 07452 
https://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=search.alpha


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The So-Called Illinois “Pension Crisis”



“…While Illinois has very real challenges, it is not for the reason anti-pension actors claim… Illinois receives a lot of criticism because of the sheer size of its unfunded pension liability. According to some estimatesIllinois’ total unfunded public pension liability may add up to $251 billion. That is a significant amount of money, but an unfunded liability that large doesn’t happen overnight.

“The poor state of Illinois’ public pension plans is the direct result of decades of gross mismanagement by the state government.

“Public pension plans work when they are properly funded. As [the National Public Pension Coalition] discussed in a report last yearmaking the full pension payment each and every year is the single most important thing a state can do to properly manage its pension system.

“Unfortunately, in Illinois, the state has not fully funded its pension payments in almost eight decades.

“Let that sink in for a minute. For seventy-eight years – the length of the average American life expectancy – Illinois has ignored its obligations to public employees and taxpayers and avoided its responsibility to fully fund its pension promises.

“Illinois’ budgetary and financial problems go beyond public pensions though. The income tax collected by the state is flat and lacks a progressive structure. The state could be collecting millions of dollars more in revenue each year if it adopted a more progressive tax code.

“Voters approved a measure in 2014 calling on the state legislature to collect a 3 percent tax on incomes above $1 million to fund education. Unfortunately, the state legislature failed to pass the millionaires tax. Furthermore, many corporations in Illinois avoid paying their fair share – or paying any tax at all. Illinois’ pension problems are a symptom of, not the cause of, its large financial troubles.

“It is not the nature of defined benefit pensions themselves that are causing Illinois’ problems. Wisconsin, the state’s northern neighbor, has a fully funded public pension system. New York, another large state with multiple public pension plans, has very well-funded pension systems.

“Even within Illinois, the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund (IMRF) is well-funded. IMRF provides retirement security to employees of towns, villages, park districts, and counties across the state. The participating employers in IMRF are required by law to make their full pension payments each year. For this reason, the IMRF weathered the recession and remains well-funded.

“Illinois does face real challenges with its public pension systems, challenges that will take years to resolve. There is no magical solution to fix the state’s problems. Anyone who says that closing the pension plans and putting new employees in 401(k)-style plans will solve the state’s problems is wrong…

“Illinois’ pension problems are the direct result of years of mismanagement and deliberate underfunding by governors and legislators of both parties. Resolving these problems will take the commitment of lawmakers from both parties to fully fund the state’s pension obligations every year.

“Don’t let the pension critics fool you. When they hold up Illinois as an example and say, ‘see, pensions don’t work’ – don’t believe them. Pensions work when they are properly managed and properly funded.

“Across the nation and even within Illinois, there are examples of well-funded public pension plans. The problem with the other pension plans in Illinois is that they were deliberately underfunded by an irresponsible state government for decades. This is why it is critical that supporters of public pensions remain vigilant to protect pensions from irresponsible politicians and misleading anti-pension critics” (The Pension Crisis Is a Myth, Part Three).


Commentary:


Many Illinois citizens are aware that state legislators have not fully funded the public pension systems throughout the years; that instead of paying into the pension systems, they have used that money to pay for other services. Thus, without having to pay for services, state legislators have created an enormous pension debt (or unfunded liability) for the public pension systems in Illinois. The pension debt is, indeed, exorbitant.

Approximately one-third of the total pension payment each year is for “normal costs” to the system; the other two-thirds of the payment is the interest owed on the debt the state incurred for not fully funding the pension systems.

“The greatest cause of the state’s unfunded liability has been borrowing against the pension systems. This borrowing meant that the state’s contributions were not sufficient to pay for both benefits earned by current employees and interest on the pre-existing unfunded liability. Without sufficient contributions, an unfunded liability annually grows by a retirement system’s investment rate assumption (which ranges from seven percent to eight percent among Illinois’ five state systems).

“The state’s annual contribution to the retirement systems for debt service can be thought of as having two components: one part goes to pay down principal and the other is for interest on the principal. This is similar to paying down a credit card bill or home/car loan.

“The significant debt owed to the pension systems is the core cause of the systems’ cumulative unfunded liability—a situation that did not arise overnight. In fact, Illinois lawmakers essentially borrowed against the pension systems for several decades by under funding what was owed, and instead diverted the revenue that should have gone towards pensions to fund the delivery of current services—like Healthcare, Education, and Public Safety” (Center for Tax and Budget Accountability).

The public pension systems were not and are still not the cause of the state’s budget deficits. The state’s budget deficits were triggered by past policymakers’ corruption, arrogance and irresponsibility (and currently by Bruce Rauner, et al.).  The state's pension debt and revenue problems should be the focus. Moreover, to break a constitutionally-guaranteed contract with the state’s public servants has been and will continue to be a flagrant disregard of the State and U.S. Constitutions, and it will also not address the State’s increasing unfunded liability and revenue problems.  


Roman Catholic Colleges and their enrollment challenges and lack of financial resources (Inside Higher Ed)



“…A quick look at recent announcements shows that many colleges closing or cutting back are Roman Catholic, and many are located in the middle of the country -- the Midwest and Appalachia.

“Those aren’t necessarily independent variables, though. There is a large number of small Roman Catholic colleges in the country, and many are located in regions where demographics are shifting with declines in populations that have traditionally attended Catholic institutions. The Roman Catholic institutions are likely caught up in trends affecting higher education more broadly -- trends like enrollment challenges, tuition discounting and a lack of financial resources at small institutions.

“‘A lot of our national data really indicate that some of these small Catholic colleges, as well as small private colleges throughout the country, are really struggling because of their finances,’ said Heather Gossart, director of executive mentoring and coaching and a senior consultant with the National Catholic Educational Association.

“Families are increasingly worried about tuition rates at colleges and universities, Gossart said. Some seek alternatives, such as public colleges that they think will be less expensive than Roman Catholic institutions. Others may not even consider small colleges because they don’t think a college small in size can offer as much financial aid as a larger university -- regardless of whether that perception is true.

“Many Roman Catholic colleges are doing very well, even if some are struggling, Gossart said. Yet she acknowledged a potentially grim future. ‘I think unless every one of our Catholic institutions begins thinking outside the box and looking at new and creative ways to recruit student populations and to create affordable tuitions, I think we are going to see the demise of some of our smaller Catholic colleges,’ she said.

“‘And it’s tragic, because each one brings a charism from its founding congregation. It brings a measurable value to the community that it exists in. But the reality is that it comes to a point where some of these smaller institutions are no longer viable.’

“There’s another possible explanation for what seems like a large number of Catholic colleges closing or making major changes. Their shared religious identity -- the connections between board members and specific perspectives fostered by their common faith -- might make them more likely to be early movers when it comes time to respond to pressures. If that’s the case, it could be an indication that other institutions are likely moving toward the brink but have yet to act…

“No matter their religious affiliation, colleges under the most pressure tend to be saddled with a mix of problems like financial issues, academic programs that don’t stand out, declining enrollment and difficulty fund-raising, said James M. Hunter, who is the chief academic officer and senior vice president for business development at Emerge Education, a consulting group. Many are also located in rural areas…

“Signs point to the Midwest being under significantly more enrollment pressure than other parts of the country. Many Midwestern admissions officers, even at elite institutions, also reported struggling this year.

“A Moody’s tuition survey released last week found that enrollment growth is projected at less than 1 percent across public and private universities nationwide in 2017. But 61 percent of institutions in the Midwest reported enrollment decreasing this fall. The portion projecting decreases in other parts of the country proved to be much lower, in the 40 percent range…

“CIC earlier this year released a report showing colleges and universities have recovered significantly since the Great Recession. It also showed colleges with fewer than 1,000 students have performed worse financially than larger institutions. Several colleges and universities have been closing every year for decades, Ekman said. Still, he acknowledged that there seems to be a slight uptick so far this year. ‘I don’t know that it’s the beginning of a trend, but I certainly hope not,’ he said.

“The current spate of closings doesn’t necessarily mean more will follow faster, said Peter Stokes, managing director at Huron Consulting Group. But it should serve as a wake-up call telling colleges and universities they need to be smarter about facing mounting challenges.

“There are likely ways for many to navigate those challenges. New types of student can be welcomed to classes, whether they be minority students who have traditionally been recruited in smaller numbers, adults or others who have historically been underserved. New donors can sometimes be found. Debt can often be managed better. Programs can be better tailored and colleges can carve out more unique identities instead of blending into the crowd.

“A key question remains whether it’s too late for some colleges to successfully follow new strategies. Another is whether their leaders will tell themselves that their colleges have a unique story that couldn’t possibly end in closure -- until the many pressures build into a crisis and it’s too late...”


For the entire article, Days of Reckoning by David Seltzer, click here.




Monday, November 13, 2017

The Teachers’ Retirement System of the State of Illinois

The Teachers' Retirement System of the State of Illinois was created in 1939 for teachers outside of Chicago. The Teachers' Retirement System of the State of Illinois provides its members with retirement, disability, and survivor benefits.

 FY 2016 Membership:
Active Members – 159,735
Inactive members – 129,470
Annuitants/Beneficiaries – 117,650
Oldest Retiree –106 (as of August 24, 2017)
Oldest Active – 84 (as of August 24, 2017)

TRS Investments: 

2017 Return +12.6%

2016 Return +0.1%

2015 Return +4.0%

2014 Return +17.4%

2013 Return +12.8%

2012 Return +0.76%

2011 Return +23.6%

2010 Return +12.9%

2009 Return -22.7%

2008 Return -5.0%

(TRS Investments Totals Net of Fees)

30-year Return +8.1%
20-year Return +6.9%
10-year Return +4.8%
TRS Funded Ratio at 39.8%  
TRS $48.8 Billion, as of June 30, 2017

from Rich Frankenfeld, Director of Outreach 
Teachers' Retirement System of the State of Illinois


Friday, November 10, 2017

On Academic Precarity of the Faculty Adjunct by Ali Colleen Neff



“…Academic precarity is the year-to-year or class-to-class, contingent, underpaid and labor-intensive employment status most Ph.D.s now have to navigate while seeking a protected tenure-track position.
“After, say, eight years of graduate school, this tacks on another two to four to ten years at a $20-$40,000/year salary. [College adjuncts] have crossed over into [their] thirties and forties in sustained poverty, now separated from [their] graduate communities and parceled into departments and towns in which [they] have no belonging or protection. 
“All the while, [they] must stay on the academic job market, an extremely demanding labor that costs up to 800 unpaid hours a year and expensive attendance at conferences and interviews. These jobs are unprotected, shorter-term, and often require moving to far-flung college towns from year to year. 
“The precariat is charged with developing entire new courses on short notice…, teaching large classes of students whom they'll never see again, and biting their nails in hopes this will be the year they are going to get chosen. 

They are more than thirsty: they have been drawn into the academic shell game long enough and far enough to have, semester by semester, staked their financial, physical, familial and mental health on it.
“Yet with every passing day, they see that the career they had invested immense loans and a decade of work to build is hostile, empty, and dangerous to the most vulnerable in the Wild West of rapid defunding and administrative power grabs. 

This is not because they are suckers; this is because higher education is in undeniable crisis. It is imploding, suddenly, leaving then scrambling to understand the circumstances in which [college adjuncts'] lives [are] unfolding…
Precarity is the phenomenon of being on the edge: one lost contract, one departmental bully, one nasty student evaluation and there is no job… Can [they] switch careers on such short notice, in a different town, with no savings? Jump on a contract--any contract, anywhere, for any pay–until [they] can sort it out on nights and weekends. Do [they] retrain to do HR or Admin or tax preparation and forfeit the research [they] have done, or do [they] follow the conventional wisdom that if [they] are tough enough to hang in there, and brilliant enough to shine through, [they'll] be the one who gets the job and gets to be the professor?
“Precarity is a holding zone that entails more overwork, more debt, and the expiration of passionate graduate research for the day-to-day tasks [college adjuncts] take on in order to show [their] department that [they] are worthy of a good recommendation, even as they treat [them] as day laborers. 

Precarity is hope that sustains the past promise of hope and into the immediacy of survival. Precarity is humiliating. Precarity quickly becomes a stigma when [college adjuncts] are not-good-enough for too many semesters in a row…”
For the complete article, On Academic Precarity by Ali Colleen Neff, click here. 
For 58 articles on the plight of adjunct faculty, click here. 


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Virus



































This is a computer-generated image of a virus. 

"A virus is a microscopic organism that can replicate only inside the cells of a host organism... Viruses infect all types of organisms, including animals and plants, as well as bacteria and archaea."

This is another virus that is infecting the entire world:






Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The Continuing Demoralization of University and College Adjunct Faculty




It is well known that adjunct faculty work without job security, without the benefit of healthcare, and without an ethical living wage. Most universities’ priorities are their development of building projects and technology, renovation of infrastructure, management of revenues and investments and reducing operating costs, administrative/bureaucratic positions and salaries, and athletic programs and their resources. “…The truth is that teaching is a diminishing priority in universities. Years of American Association of University Professors (AAUP) reports indicate that budgets for instruction are proportionally shrinking. Universities now devote less than one-third of their expenditures to instruction. Meanwhile, administrative positions have increased at more than 10 times the rate of tenured faculty positions. [Of course], sports and amenities are much more fun [and profitable]…” (Birmingham).  

There is no equity for adjunct instructors. Courses staffed with contingent adjunct faculty cost the same student tuition and provide the same credits staffed by tenured full-time faculty. Adjunct faculty grade compositions and tests, write recommendations and advise students, devise and develop classes, create lesson plans and course materials and improve curricula, among other unpaid responsibilities. 

There are no due process protections for adjunct faculty. There is no equal pay for equal work. There is no professional advancement. There is no equity in the lack of health insurance and retirement benefits available for adjunct faculty. There is little to no inclusion in the way higher education’s formal decision-making procedures and structures are made. Indeed, adjunct faculty are simply part-time contractors, “lecturers,” or non-essential “marginalized” hires who are disenfranchised from high-level governance and required to carry out most of the responsibilities of the full-time faculty (and sometimes at multiple institutions), but for less than one-fifth of the salary of the full-time faculty and without meaningful job security from one semester to another. “The insecure, overworked adjunct lecturers employed en masse at most institutions of higher education… have been reduced to an army of indentured wage slaves, with little or no power [and] benefits” (Giroux, “Why Teachers Matter in Dark Times”).  

“The abysmal conditions of adjunct faculty are not byproducts of an economy… They are intentional. Universities rely upon a revolving door of new [M.A.s and] PH.D.s who work temporarily for unsustainable wages before giving up and being replaced by next year’s surplus doctorates” (Birmingham).  

It is unfortunately verifiable that universities and colleges do not make long-term commitments to adjunct faculty. “Based on data from the American Community Survey, 31 percent of part-time faculty are living near or below the federal poverty line. [Moreover], according to the UC Berkeley Labor Center, one in four families of part-time faculty are enrolled in at least one public assistance program like food stamps and Medicaid or qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit” (Fredrickson). 

“Adjunct professors earned a median of $2,700 per semester-long class during the 2012-13 academic year, according to an AAUP survey of thousands of part-time faculty members. [Most adjunct faculty at Benedictine University, where I have taught part-time for 8½ years, currently earn $2,700 per semester during the 2017-18 academic year]. While varying class loads make it difficult to calculate the typical adjunct’s annual earnings, NPR reported in 2013 that the average yearly pay for [cheap contingent appointments] was between $20,000 and $25,000, and a March 2015 survey conducted by Pacific Standard among nearly 500 adjuncts found that a majority earn less than $20,000 a year from teaching…” (McKenna).  

Though it is said that this economic privation is the result of budget rationalizations, what undoubtedly exists is the perpetuation of academic, corporate welfare. Most recent data reveal that “in 2016-17, the average salary for presidents [at a typical corporatized university] was $334,617… The average salary for chief academic officers in 2016-17 was $202,048… [Conversely], the average salary for full professors in 2016–17 was $102,402; the average salary for associate professors was $79,654, and the average salary for assistant professors was $69,206. Part-time faculty members—the largest segment of the academic labor force—saw their average total pay from a single institution [at] $20,508 in 2016–17…” (“Visualizing Change: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2016-17”).

Equally demoralizing is that most full-time faculty do not sympathize with the adjunct faculty’s plight. Adjunct faculty are generally without help in their hardship. The “tenure-adjunct divide has bifurcated the faculty between the older craft producers and… [low-] waged laborers. [Privileged] tenured faculty, whatever their stated level of solidarity or sympathy for the struggles of… proletarianized academic workers may be, are reluctant to directly intervene or ally with them…” (Siegelbaum). What is more, most tenured faculty are unconcerned about the slow moral dissolution of higher education and the threats to their own security, even though these debasing administrative trends and practices persist. 


Not surprisingly, at Benedictine University where there is declining student enrollment but increasing student tuition ($33,900 a year—though only a fraction of this amount pays for college adjunct instruction), full-time tenured faculty are given priority for available classes each semester; thus, an adjunct faculty member’s originally-designed course will be dropped from the core curriculum, no matter how competent and dedicated the adjunct instructor is and respected by students.

Nevertheless, if the reduction of courses taught by adjunct faculty is one of Benedictine University’s severe budgetary constraints, “when contingent appointments are used, they should include job security and due process protections. Contingent faculty appointments, like all faculty appointments, should include: the full range of faculty responsibilities (teaching, scholarship, service); comparable compensation for comparable work; assurance of continuing employment after a reasonable opportunity for successive reviews; inclusion in institutional governance structures; and appointment and review processes that involve faculty peers and follow accepted academic due process. 

“The proportion of faculty appointments that are on the tenure line should be increased. This can be done by changing the status of faculty members currently holding non-tenure-track appointments. Individuals holding contingent appointments are offered tenure-eligible reappointments. Creating new tenure-line appointments. New tenure-line positions are created and open searches are held for candidates to fill them. 

“In both cases, transition to a higher proportion of tenured faculty should be accomplished primarily through attrition, retirements and, where appropriate, ‘grandfathering’ of currently contingent faculty into tenured positions. Faculty in contingent positions should not bear the cost of transition…” (Background Facts on Contingent Faculty). 

It is reprehensible that universities are becoming “increasingly oblivious to the demands of a democracy... [Universities]… disregard [their adjunct] faculty and resemble institutions governed by myopic accountants who should be ashamed of what they are proud of. The university needs to be reclaimed… where administrators… can imagine what a free and substantive democracy might look like and what it means to make education relevant to such a crucial pedagogical and political task. This could be the first step in taking back higher education as a precondition for developing a broad-based social movement for the defense of [any university’s mission for ‘Dignity and the Common Good’], one capable of both challenging the regime of casino capitalism and re-imagining a society in which democracy lives up to its promises and ideals” (Giroux, “Beyond Neoliberal Miseducation”). 

It is stated in the Benedictine University Center for Mission Identity, “[that the university’s] curriculum, policies and activities draw on the wisdom of the Church regarding ways to build a just society and live lives of holiness in the modern world. To that end, the university engages key themes of modern Catholic social teaching identified by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: life and dignity of the human person; call to family, community, and participation; rights and responsibilities; option for the poor and vulnerable; the dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity; and care for God's creation…” (University Mission, Vision and Commitment Statements).  

Indeed, “[f]or the [Catholic] Church, there is no distinction between defending human life and promoting the dignity of the human person. Pope Benedict XVI writes in Caritas in Veritate [Charity in Truth] that ‘The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized’” (no. 15) (Human Life and Dignity).  

Surely, flagrant indifference to the mental and physical well-being of adjunct faculty is incompatible with the adage “cura personalis” (care for the entire person). What remains to be seen at universities like Benedictine and across the nation is the rejoinder to an essential ethical question: “To what extent can universities be considered [moral and just] while engaging in practices or ideologies that run contrary to [their Mission, Vision, and Commitment Statements]? ...Catholic universities have to decide whether or not running a [consumerist/capitalist academic structure] that utilizes [and exploits their core adjunct faculty]… fundamentally contradicts Catholic teaching [and its ideals]. Adjunct pay, [their lack of benefits and precarious job security… are] not just a [Benedictine] issue — it is an industry wide issue...” (“The Fordham Ram Unfair Adjunct Wages Go Against Jesuit Values”).

-Glen Brown
Adjunct Faculty Instructor


Works Cited:

“Background Facts on Contingent Faculty.” American Association of University Professors. https://www.aaup.org/issues/contingency/background-facts.  Accessed 26 Oct. 2017. 

Birmingham, Kevin. “The Great Shame of Our Profession.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 12 Feb. 2017, http://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Great-Shame-of-Our/239148Accessed 23 Oct. 2017. 

Giroux, Henry A. “Beyond Neoliberal Miseducation.” Truth-Out, 19, March 2014,  http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/22548-henry-giroux-beyond-neoliberal-miseducation. Accessed 28, Oct. 2017. 

Giroux, Henry A. “Why Teachers Matter in Dark Times.” Truth-Out, 10 May 2016, http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/35970-why-teachers-matter-in-dark-times. Accessed 26, Oct. 2017. 

“The Fordham Ram Unfair Adjunct Wages Go Against Jesuit Values.” Editorial. Fordhamram.com. 5 Oct. 2016, 

Fredrickson, Caroline. “There Is No Excuse for How Universities Treat Adjuncts.” The Atlantic. 15 Sept. 2015, 

“Human Life and Dignity.” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/index.cfmAccessed 25 Oct. 2017.

McKenna, Laura. “The College President-to-Adjunct Pay Ratio.” The Atlantic. 24 Sept. 2015, https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/09/income-inequality-in-higher-education-the-college-president-to-adjunct-pay-ratio/407029Accessed 23 Oct. 2017.

Siegelbaum, Sami.  “Once More the Values of the Humanities.”  Counter Punch. 21 Oct. 2016,  https://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/21/once-more-the-value-of-the-humanities/Accessed 23 Oct. 2017.  

“University Mission, Vision and Commitment Statements.” Benedictine University Center for Mission Identity. http://www.ben.edu/center-for-mission-and-identity/identity/index.cfmAccessed 25 Oct. 2017.

“Visualizing Change: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2016-17.” American Association of University Professors. March-April 2017, https://www.aaup.org/file/FCS_2016-17_nc.pdfAccessed 24 Oct. 2017.


This essay has been published on the following websites:

Brown, Glen. “The Continuing Demoralization of University and College Adjunct Faculty.” Web blog post. teacherpoetmusician. 1 November 2017, https://teacherpoetmusicianglenbrown.blogspot.com/2017/11/the-continuing-demoralization-of.html

Facebook: “Adjunct Professors United for Justice.” 19, November 2017, https://www.facebook.com/groups/AdjunctProfsUnited/

Facebook: “Badass Teachers Association.” 15, November 2017, https://www.facebook.com/groups/BadAssTeachers/

Facebook: “The California Part-Time Faculty Association.” 27, December 2017,

Facebook: “Con Job: Stories of Adjunct and Contingent Faculty.” 19, November 2017, https://www.facebook.com/groups/conjobdoc/

Facebook: “Kalamazoo Valley Community College Federation of Teachers (KVCCFT),” 27, December 2017, https://www.facebook.com/KVCCFT/?hc_ref=ARRT75d8s6EtijiAZu-plcwTTCcqg8lCFIYol3ViJ7RqWD8-jB-rDUF7D0py_r4eOwU




Facebook: “Precariat, Contingent-Adjunct-Labor Under Siege.” 16 November 2017, https://www.facebook.com/AdjunctContingencyPlan/?hc_ref=ARTankMrSDdcmyTWGBXwmEo-W6MV3Wa54YEp9DLsxClNHpOULFe9Xz__So4qgQF5Qcw

Facebook: “Precarious Faculty.” 22, January 2018, 
https://www.facebook.com/precariousfacultynetwork/https://www.facebook.com/precariousfacultynetwork/ 

Facebook: “Remaking the University.” 16, November 2017, https://www.facebook.com/groups/RemakingtheUniversity/

Facebook: “Workplace: A Journal for Academic Labor.” 16, November 2017, https://www.facebook.com/groups/217153971653241/

Substance News: “Adjunct Faculty Exploited… The Continuing Demoralization of the University and College Adjunct Faculty,” 23 November 2017, http://www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=6839&section=Article