eKC feature
June 22, 2007

 


Politics — not money —
suspected as the reason for axing
the labor institute at UMKC

by Tom Bogdon

Editor's Note: In a Sat., June 23 email from Judy Ancel, it was noted that at a late afternoon Friday meeting between UMKC Chancellor Guy Bailey, Business Manager of the Greater Kansas City Building & Construction Trades Council Garry Kemp and Missouri state Sens. Victor Callahan and Chris Koster, Bailey stated he would not close The Institute for Labor Studies "for now." Ancel stated that Bailey will be talking with her further about "restructuring" and what is agreed upon will be put before the labor community for approval.

University of Missouri-Kansas City Chancellor Guy Bailey points out that as a young man he worked in a union-organized Alabama glass factory and that an uncle served on the executive board of the Brotherhood of Railway Carmen. But those connections didn’t deter Bailey from suddenly pulling the plug on the Institute for Labor Studies (ILS) and the program’s director for the last 18 years, Judy Ancel.

Students and former students regard Ancel, who has been with the Institute since 1988, as an excellent, dedicated teacher of such courses as Labor History and Collective Bargaining. She is also considered a reliable resource on labor/management issues by journalists.

“Every day you make decisions you’d rather not make,” said UMKC Chancellor Guy Bailey about his decision to eliminate the Institute for Labor Studies at the university. (photo courtesy of UMKC)

Ancel learned UMKC would ax the Institute when she received a carbon copy of a one-paragraph letter from the UMKC provost to Longview Community College, which co-sponsors the program. The letter said UMKC would terminate ILS effective in 30 days. She requested a meeting with Bailey to appeal the decision. That meeting happened June 13. Bailey promised to reconsider the matter and told Ancel that he would let her know his decision on June 20.

However, Ancel learned about Bailey’s decision a day sooner when she received a call from Kansas City Star reporter Mara Rose Williams, who had just interviewed Bailey by cell phone at a Washington D.C. airport. Bailey confirmed that the ILS would be shut down.

According to The Star’s story, Bailey said he thought the ILS, a certificate program, “should be offered without the administrative structure of the institute,” through the university’s continued education program. And he suggested that perhaps the UMKC Department of Economics would hire Ancel as a member of its faculty.

“But that would be up to them,” Bailey told The Star.

Bailey, apparently considered the newspaper article sufficient notification to Ancel of his decision to eliminate the Institute, and did not call Ancel on June 20, as he had promised, nor did Ancel hear from the chancellor on following day or the next.

“I find that highly unprofessional and typical of UMKC,” remarked Garry Kemp, business manager and executive secretary of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater Kansas City, an umbrella organization for construction unions.

Ancel said, “My reaction to the chancellor’s decision is I’m enormously disappointed in his failure to appreciate the importance of working people — including union members as well as his own employees.”

In an interview with eKC online, Bailey said elimination of the Institute for Labor Studies was the first budget cut in an effort to comply with a mandate from the University of Missouri Board of Curators that each of the four campuses — Kansas City, Columbia, St. Louis and Rolla — cut spending by 1 percent each year for the next three years to help fund salary increases for faculty.

Bailey said the UMKC budget stands at about $210 million to $212 million, which means that the university must slash its budget by about $2 million. But it became evident in the interview, which took place June 20, that Bailey had only the most vague idea of how much money would actually be saved by eliminating the ILS.

Bailey also seemed to think that ILS involved a large budget for administration, when in fact Ancel is the only staff member, with the majority of her time spent on teaching and research, in addition to promoting the Institute and hosting a weekly labor and community affairs radio program on KKFI.

There is little or no administrative expense at all, according to Ancel “I administer my own budget,” she said.

Commenting on this reporter’s request for budget information that would include exactly how much money would be saved by terminating ILS, Bailey said he would ask UMKC finance officials to gather this information. Bailey said this information should be ready the afternoon of June 21, and suggested that this reporter contact John Allen, the university’s public information officer that day to obtain the information.

“Every day you make decisions you’d rather not make,” Bailey said. “It’s just part of the job.” Bailey also said he would be available to answer follow-up questions once Allen had provided the budget information.

On June 21, Allen claimed not have the budget information, saying he had been unable to contact the finance officer who had the information. The information was not available the next morning, either. Nor was the chancellor available for the follow-up interview he had suggested. His schedule was too packed from morning to the end of the day, according to Allen.

The above chart, compiled by Institute for Labor Studies director Judy Ancel, indicates that UMKC contributes just $15,000 to the Institute’s $106,917 annual budget. According to Ancel’s figures, eliminating the program will actually cost UMKC considerable revenue brought in by the program.

According to Ancel (see chart), UMKC contributes just $15,000 to the Institute’s $106,917 annual budget. In fact, according to Ancel’s figures, eliminating the program will actually cost UMKC considerable revenue brought in by the program.

Kemp, of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater Kansas City, said: “Why cancel the program for $15,000? It makes no sense. If the total program costs the university $15,000, why would they be doing this?

“I believe that the university system has intentionally targeted labor to eliminate the only labor education program in the area to further weaken the labor movement in the metropolitan area of Kansas City, Missouri,” Kemp said. “There’s still a high percentage of labor households in the Kansas City area.”

Kemp said a well-rounded university offers curriculum that has a broad range of educational opportunities.

“Kansas City should have a labor studies program in the area,” Kemp maintained. “People should not have to look for labor education opportunities at Harvard or Cornell or other universities. They should be available at our local university.”

Bailey’s move against ILS has attracted the attention of members of the Missouri General Assembly, which funds the University of Missouri system

State Sen. Chris Koster, a Cass County Republican, said, “My concern about this stems from my longstanding relationship with the labor community of Kansas City. I believe that the state of Missouri has placed a difficult challenge before UMKC to cut one percent of its budget. However, my hope would be that various departments could share equally in the pain rather than see the elimination of any single unit.”

Koster said the ILS provides valuable educational and economic services and research, and that it would be “a loss to the entire metropolitan area” if the Institute goes out of existence.

Koster added that he has asked Bailey to extend the program if at all possible.”

Democratic state Sen. Victor Callahan of Independence also regrets the chancellor’s decision.

“The University of Missouri-Kansas City is supposed to represent the community,” Callahan said. “It’s unfortunate that they’re sending a message to a huge component in the community — working people — that they’re not important.

“This decision smacks more of politics than policy. The university is sending a message. I look forward to sending them a message back.”

Hugh McVey, president of the Missouri AFL-CIO, whose office is in Jefferson City, keeps a close eye of all aspects of Missouri government.

“Obviously, as a state federation, we’re very concerned about UMKC doing away with the only labor program we have at that university,” McVey said. “That particularly concerns us because of all the labor movement has done for UMKC and the entire University of Missouri system.

McVey said he has actually participated in labor classes that were tied together, by closed circuit television, linking together the University of Missouri campuses in Columbia, St. Louis and Kansas City. McVey said he answered questions asked by students in Kansas City.

“My reaction to the chancellor’s decision is I’m enormously disappointed in his failure to appreciate the importance of working people — including union members as well as his own employees,” said ILS director Judy Ancel (photo by Ron Johnson)

“I think it’s safe to say that I will exhaust all channels to see that the UMKC labor program continues to exist,” added McVey.

State Sen. Tim Green, a St. Louis County Democrat who came out of the St. Louis labor community, was taking part in an all-day session of the Missouri State Employees Retirement System Board, of which he is a trustee. Green asked Janson Thomas, his administrative assistant, to comment on his behalf.

“It’s very unfortunate that one of the first things that the university looked to for cuts is labor and labor education,” Thomas said. “Higher education and providing affordable access to higher education has been a top priority of the senator’s. Obviously decisions for budget cuts are made at the university level.”

Thomas, speaking for Sen. Green, said that if the Republican-dominated Legislature had provided for easier access for students to higher education, rather than passing Gov. Matt Blunt’s “flawed plan” for the Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority (MoHELA) plan to sell its assets, “I believe universities around the state wouldn’t have had to raise tuition and institute budget cuts.”

Thomas said Sen. Green is ready to help save the program.

A number of Kansas City area labor leaders have contacted UMKC on behalf of ILS and Ancel, including Jim Stoufer, president of United Auto Workers Local 249 at the Ford Claycomo Assembly Plant; Sherwin Carroll, president of the Service Employees Kansas/Missouri State Council and Judy Morgan, president of the Kansas City Federation of Teachers and School Related Personnel.

The UMKC Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) circulated a petition urging Chancellor Bailey to retain Ancel and the ILS. Within a couple of days, the petition was signed by 50 faculty members plus 270 members of the Kansas City community, business leaders, students and others.

Tom Bogdon can be contacted at tjbogdon@yahoo.com.


              
              
                 

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