Coffee heat rising

Is this worse than we think, even?

What a day!

Before I even parked my purse in the office, I made a run on HR. There I learned a) they don’t know how much COBRA will be; b) the state just posted a page showing the new COBRA costs, but they’re telling staff not to tell anyone about it (says a lot, doesn’t it?); c) yes, they have to pony up the so-called “extra” pay that will have accrued by the end of December, which is supposed to be paid in the January “extra” paycheck (snark!); d) they don’t know if I get dibs on any internal hires that may be happening, given my status as an exempt year-to-year contract worker; e) the maximum number of vacation hours GDU will pay me for is 176; and f) I probably will be eligible for unemployment benefits.

ohhhkayyyy…. Moving on…

Back at the office, I get on the phone to my passing acquaintance at the General Accounting Office, the one who informed me that HR’s reps were full of beans when they told both me and La Maya that we lose our RASL (more about which, onward) if we’re laid off instead of announcing unilaterally that we’re retiring. Clear it was that this woman was no friend of GDU’s Human Resources bots, and so I felt fairly confident that she would not rat on me for inquiring about exactly what Our Beloved Employer was trying to accomplish by secretly changing my associate editor’s job status from a nonexempt classified to an exempt contract worker…and trying to faze past me the idea that her offer letter for a classified position amounted to a “contract” for a “we can squash you anytime we please” job.

My Spy’s first instinct was that nonexempt workers are hired to be present for X number of hours, and exempt workers are hired to accomplish a job, no matter how long it takes. Thus, if they dump all our graduate student assistants and leave us with six (!) journals to take from manuscript to the compositor, they will not have to pay her overtime for the obscene number of hours she will have to work beyond the number for which she is paid.

Hmmm…good thought, said I.

And, said she, it’s a lot easier to get rid of exempt workers.

Yeah. Don’t I know it.

Moving on, Spy advised that I should be very careful to figure out exactly what is the hourly rate for the new contract OBE proposes to emit, come June 30. She pointed out that RASL—a kind of severance package based on the number of unused sick leave hours a state employee has accrued—is based on your hourly pay at the time you leave state service, not on the amount you made when you were being sort of fairly paid. Quite a few retiring workers, she reported, have been rudely surprised to learn that by accepting a pay cut instead of furlough days, they cut this retirement benefit significantly.

RASL is a feature that pays you for accrued sick leave, based on your years of service. You accrue sick leave separately from vacation time, and it builds rather slowly. After you’ve racked up 500 hours, you’re entitled to be paid about 30 percent of your hourly pay for each hour of accrued sick leave, at the time you leave your job. When you hit 1,000 hours, glory be! As your parting gift, the state forks over 50 percent of your hourly rate for each hour of accrued sick leave. This money drifts up because it is contributed to a state fund from your salary.

Well, I have almost 1,200 hundred hours, presently worth something over $17,000.

Spy pointed out that if they reduce my hourly pay with this new contract, it could drastically affect my RASL. So drastically, she advised, that it may be worth turning the contract down and walking if what they offer in June is a pay cut. She advised carefully figuring how much my RASL is worth at my present rate of pay and being prepared to calculate, quickly, how much I would lose if I accepted a pay cut.

So: add that task to the mix. And add to it another layer: figure out how to get by if I have to quit at the end of June instead of hanging around until the end of December. Gaaaaahhhhh!

Now Spy waxed garrulous. This is one of those government employees who knows how to function within and to operate a bureaucracy because of long, long service. Just listening to her made it clear that she’d been around forever. She remarked that she had several friends with over 30 years of service to the state, and that among them all, no one could remember anything remotely like what they’re seeing now. She said people are demonstrating in front of their office buildings and having sh*t-fits in the lobby, but all anyone could say to them is that there just. isn’t. any. money. left. to. pay. out. Staff can’t help, because they have nothing—literally nothing—to help with.

More spookily still, she observed that some people are beginning to talk seriously about the possibility that the state government could completely shut down. Not just close the prisons and the universities. No. Shut down everything. Go out of business.

After that conversation it took some hours to get a grip, and I will say, at this moment it’s still a pretty tenuous grip.

Back at the office, Her Deanship commanded another audience. Tomorrow I have to go in prepared to discuss which RAs will get the ax first, and which of our client journals will go away in what order. Took half the afternoon to compose a memo responding to that and to argue in favor of retaining our lead RA through the fall semester.

Just as I was wrapping up that little gem, said lead RA showed up and asked, “Am I going to be here in the fall?”

Oh shit.

So, I had to close the door and explain to her what is happening. By the time that discussion was over, I’d been clenching my jaw so violently I’d brought on a muscle tremor.

Her department has lost most of its graduate student support lines. There were nine lines to support 26 graduate students. They are now all distributed. OBE delayed so long in dropping the ax on our department that this exceptionally worthy mother of two has now lost her chance at any other assistantship. It’s not like they didn’t know. I mean, please! How many times has Her Deanship put me off since last freaking August when I have told her we need new client journals? Five? At least. I’ve sensed for weeks that the reason for the stonewalling is that she knew we weren’t expected to survive and she didn’t want to commit our services to faculty members, only to have to yank the rug out from under them.

Just another manifestation of the basic fact of academic life: a university’s administration does not give one thin damn about the welfare of its students.

In an attempt to get a good word in for my associate editor, I spent two or three hours laboring over the STUPID annual evaluation form, an enormous time-waster. Anyway, assuming Her Deanship accepts it and passes it along to HR, if the sidekick applies for a new job at GDU anytime in the more or less near future, a rave review will be sitting in her permanent files.

My jaw hurts. I’m going to go put a heating pad on my face.

Yours in eternal awe of Our Beloved Employer,


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