January 16, 2014

January 2013 APAC News Vol. 7, No. 1

Pension Law Will ‘Adversely Impact’ Employees

Governor Patrick Quinn signed the new pension law Dec. 5, 2013.
By Christy Levy, UIC News
And William S. Bike, APAC News

THE ILLINOIS General Assembly passed pension legislation Dec. 3 that University leaders said would “adversely impact public university employees, place higher education in Illinois at a competitive disadvantage, and ultimately weaken the state’s economy.”

THE BILL passed the Senate 30-24 and the House 62-53 just minutes later. Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan and Republican Senate leader Christine Radogno, among other top legislators from both political parties, pushed for the plan.

“IN A statement regarding the public pension funding crisis a year ago, the University of Illinois called for a pension system that would be reasonable, responsible, sustainable and competitive with those offered by our peer institutions,” said a statement issued by U of I President Robert Easter, UIC Chancellor Paula Allen-Meares, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise, and University of Illinois at Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch.

THE PENSION measure “fails to meet those basic principles,” the statement said.

LAST APRIL, heads of all 14 Illinois public universities sent a six-point proposal to Gov. Pat Quinn and legislative leaders as a long-term solution for reforming the university pension system.

“WE ARE profoundly disappointed that in nearly three years of engaging the legislative process on this crucial issue, the State’s nine public universities’ counterproposals will not be included,” University leaders said.

THE MEASURE passed by legislators in December is complex, said Katherine Laing, executive director of the University’s Office of Governmental Relations. How it would affect UIC employees and retirees “really depends on your particular circumstances,” she said.

“IT WILL severely upset the status quo,” Laing said.

THE PENSION law would reduce cost-of-living adjustments, increase the retirement age for some employees, and put a cap on pensionable earnings.  “The likely changes arguably lessen the retirement commitments made to employees and retirees, and their net effect also will harm the public higher education sector in Illinois,” University leaders said in their statement.

THE PLAN would mean less money for University employees and retirees, said David Merriman, professor of economics and public administration.  “It’s potentially a very large cut in benefits,” said Merriman, faculty member in the Institute of Government and Public Affairs.

THE PENSION plan also includes a reduction in employee contributions for some participants and stronger legal requirements that the State makes its pension funding commitment.

“IT WOULD certainly improve the funding of the pension plan and move it toward stability, but it’s difficult to tell exactly how much,” Merriman said.

EXPERTS SAY the measure will be challenged in court because the Illinois Constitution says state retirement benefits “shall not be diminished or impaired.”

THE WE Are One Illinois Coalition, a labor coalition working to protect public employees’ pensions, noted in a Dec. 4 statement that the bill is 325 pages long and passed just 24 hours after legislators received it. The coalition said the bill “robs teachers, nurses, caregivers, police, and other public employees and retirees who faithfully made their pension contributions. It’s unfair, unconstitutional pension theft legislation.”

THE STATEMENT went on to say, “Make no mistake—we will sue to protect retirement security and seek justice.”

FOR MORE information, visit:

APAC, SUAA to Host Pension Reform Town Hall

APAC and the State Universities Annuitants Association (SUAA) will host "Illinois Pension Reform: How it Impacts You Now and After You Retire" on Wednesday, Jan. 29, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Student Center West, 2nd Floor, Michelle Thompson Room A, 828 S. Wolcott Ave.  

PRESENTERS WILL be Jeff Houch, Legislative Liaison, SURS (State Universities Retirement System of Illinois), and Brenda Russell, President of the UIC Chapter of SUAA.
PANELISTS WILL address SURS retirement plan design change details as provided by Senate Bill 1 (Public Act 98-599) and what it means for SURS members (both current employees and retirees), legislative challenges trying to overturn SB1, and retiree health insurance issues.

THE PRESENTERS will address questions submitted via the registration form. They will also allow time at the end of the presentation to answer the audience's questions. Registration is required. Go to:  https://illinois.edu/fb/sec/4045729

APAC Meetings Scheduled

ALL APs are invited to the monthly APAC meeting at 12:30 p.m. on the second Wednesday of the month. Meetings are held either in Room 5175 of the College of Medicine Research Building, 909 S. Wolcott, or Room 2750 of University Hall on the East Campus. Next meeting is February 12 in Room 5175 of the College of Medicine Research Building. For information, call (312) 996-0306.

APAC Provides Sriram with Deeper Understanding of Chicago Campus Issues

APAC Member Uma Sriram.
By Monica M. Walk

A PERSONAL invitation from University colleague and Academic Professional Advisory Committee Chair Michael Moss brought Uma Sriram into active APAC service last summer.

“I HAD heard of the committee, but didn’t pay a lot of attention,” Sriram recalled of her APAC exposure prior to May 2013. “Michael Moss—he’s a good friend—sent out a call for volunteers, and asked me to attend a couple of meetings and see if I liked what I saw.”

ATTENDING THOSE initial meetings showed Sriram that the group included many people she already knew, while offering the opportunity to meet more from across the University.

“THE ABILITY to network and the chance to meet other Academic Professionals and talk about things on a campus level—to understand issues and needs on the Chicago campus” spurred Sriram’s decision to join the committee, she said.

LEARNING MORE about the Chicago campus particularly interested Sriram, whose work as Assistant Director of Accounting Consulting Group takes her to all University of Illinois campuses. The consulting group is part of University Accounting and Financial Reporting, which serves all three campuses and is responsible for the University’s financial reporting and accounting, including setting up funds and ensuring units understand the policies and procedures for funding use. The consulting group, which Sriram joined in November 2007, provides assistance to units for these functions and goes into units as needed.

“I REALLY do enjoy it,” Sriram said of her APAC participation.  “When I was not part of APAC, I had only a small understanding of issues. When sitting on the sidelines, I didn’t realize what was happening. I now realize a lot more, and I have gotten to know all the APAC members and have established contacts I can reach out to.”

ELECTION TO the subcommittee for professional development is proving especially fulfilling for Sriram. “This is of particular interest to me,” she said. “I always look for ways to improve myself and learn more, so this seemed a natural fit.”

SHE CITED a well-attended and successful “Speed Networking” event in November 2013 that provided in-person connections for Academic Professionals from the East and West sides of the Chicago campuses. The 90-minute session featured three-minute meetings for all participants—and resulted in requests to repeat the event. A two-part session focusing on the art of persuasion and featuring techniques, strategies and case studies is currently underway. Sriram said the committee is aiming to hold additional professional development events in upcoming months.

PRIOR TO her current position in the Accounting Consultant Group, Sriram served as Assistant Director of Finance in Campus Auxiliary Services for six-and-a-half years.

MARRIAGE BROUGHT her to Chicago from Cochin, on India’s southern tip, in 1989. Sriram had already studied accounting and earned a master’s degree in India. Once in the U.S., she completed the Certified Public Accounting (CPA) exam, and later also completed the Certified Management Accountant (CMA) credential, which demonstrates command of critical accounting and financial management skills. 

ALONG WITH her spouse, who works as a self-employed IT consultant, Sriram raised two children: a daughter who is attending Tufts University for both veterinary medicine and public health, and a son who will graduate in May from the University of Michigan with a degree in mechanical engineering and a plan to earn a master’s degree in biomedical engineering.

“I LOVE to travel,” Sriram said, citing journeys to Costa Rica, Peru, Austria, Hungary, Germany, Switzerland, and Greece. She also returns often to India, including two trips recently to help siblings care for their mother and her home.

AND YES, people frequently inquire if her name is the same as a well-known American actress. “‘Is it like Uma Thurman?’ they ask.  And I tell them, ‘Yes,’” Sriram said.  “Otherwise, they call me ‘Yoo-ma.’”

TO CONTACT Sriram, email usriram@uic.edu.


Editor’s Note: “The Continuing Crisis” is a section of APAC News which links to news pertinent to the State budget crisis and other financial matters as they affect the University and Academic Professionals. These news outlets are not affiliated with or endorsed by APAC.

SUIT FILED to void new pension law. Reuters, Dec. 27, 2013: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/12/27/usa-illinois-pensions-idUSL2N0K618D20131227.

A PUBLIC pension plan that works—right here in Illinois. State Journal-Register, Dec. 26, 2013: http://www.sj-r.com/article/20131226/NEWS/131229714?template=printart.

SURS POSTS solid investment results. SURS website, Nov. 6, 2013: http://www.surs.com/news-article/111913/surs-posts-solid-fy-13-investment-results.

RICH MILLER has written a summary and analysis of the current status of litigation challenging the constitutionality of the new pension reform law on the Capitol Fax.com website; click the word “website” to get to the link.

HOW THE Government Could Make Public Colleges and Universities Free for All Students. ThinkProgress, Jan. 12, 2014: http://thinkprogress.org/education/2014/01/12/3151391/cost-public-college-free/.

UNIVERSITY MAY provide supplemental pension program. News-Gazette, Jan. 14, 2014: http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2014-01-14/ui-seeks-pension-balm-employees-stung-state.html.

Vol. 7, No. 1, January 2014

ISSN 1946-1860
Editor: William S. Bike
Staff: Neal Lorenzi, Gail Mansfield, Susan S. Stevens, Monica M. Walk
Vice Chair: Ahlam Al-Kodmany
Chair: Michael Moss
Secretary: Mary Berta
Treasurer: Agnes Kawalec
Web Chair: Jeff Alcantar