Dear fellow members:
The first five weeks of this semester have been fast and furious – I can’t recall a previous semester when so many things have been thrown at us so rapidly. I no longer think the College’s current problems are simply a matter of “growing pains”. I see a lack of coordination at the Senior Executive Staff level, but I also see a failure to understand why it is crucial to involve our members (faculty in the broadest sense - all our members) in solving the College’s problems. Frequently the right people are not in the room together to solve problems, whether it be decision making administrators or those whose work will be impacted. We are the people who have been here the longest, and who will be around when much of the current leadership is gone; who best understand our students, our college, our community, and our culture, and who create the value for the institution – we empower our students to transform their lives. “Student success” is far too weak a description of what we do for many of our students – we help them become new people. Our members have a lot to offer College leadership that will benefit both sides, and, what is more important, our college and our students. But it often seems to me that there is lip service paid to collaboration, but real collaboration is not desired.
I was on the verge of sending a letter to all of you that was much more critical of College leadership. And then we had a labor-management meeting on Monday of this week, and we actually got a few things accomplished. (Looking back on that meeting, though, I realize that we got verbal agreement on only two out of the thirteen items on the agenda - the rest were commitments to future discussions. Make of that what you will.) There may be a shifting in attitude. I hope so.
I’d like to address some of our recent issues:
Saturday Open Houses: We are working with management on an agreement which will compensate FFECC members who volunteer to work the Saturday Open House. Contractually, activities outside Monday-Friday would require FFECC consultation and approval. In the future the college has agreed to discuss issues that impact our contract prior to making announcements to the public.
The suspension of additional duties for General Studies advisement and the reassignment of General Studies advisees to Liberal Arts faculty. Despite the Provost’s statement at the recent Board of Trustees meeting that FFECC leadership “collaborated” in this new plan, I don’t agree we collaborated in any way. The Provost discussed reverting to the explicit language in the contract. The FFECC leadership had offered several different suggestions on advisement. The main objective, from both sides, of course, is to serve our students’ needs most effectively.
FFECC leadership has been studying and making proposals about improving General Studies and other student advisement at the College for at least the past 12 years, ever since a team of ECC faculty, counselors and administrators were sent to the NACADA conference in Austin by the Title 3 grant and came back with a consensus proposal about improving advisement, which we have discussed with College leadership ever since, and no action has ever been taken on it. The FFECC leadership has requested from both the current and former Provost that conversations that effect our members work life include their input.
Our Provost has determined in consultation with our Chief Financial Officer that the current system is too costly. Is the colleges financial decision truly student centered? There are numerous new hires in AAECC and SES, along with very few replacements within our bargaining unit (FFECC).
We believe that our Provost did not provide proper and timely notification to our affected members that these additional duties would no longer be available to them.
We have expressed to the Provost and the Deans that we think their current plan is likely to result in less and worse advisement for these students. As of now, it is still under discussion over the next few weeks.
Our contract does state that General Studies advisement is the responsibility of all faculty. The intent of that clause at the time It was negotiated was to provide General Studies students with the opportunity to explore other programs and majors within the college, something the College has never implemented. Please refer to Article 41 #3 of the FFECC contract.
The academic calendar: We discussed the last minute changes by administration in the academic calendar with the Provost, and the problems these created for both our members and our students. Both sides are in agreement that this sort of change at the last minute, after the start of the semester, must never happen again. We are working on ways to make sure that it doesn’t. By the way, we all agree that future Monday-Tuesday switch days are unacceptable.
I have had a problem with the lack transparency of this administration in communicating with the College community about our College’s enrollment and financial positions. We have agreed in principle that this information will be shared as soon as possible with our members and with the college community. I hope this happens.
I fail to understand the hesitancy of the current administration about accepting help from our union leadership or from our members in solving the College’s problems. I have personally offered to assist in lobbying, in arranging conversations with County officials about more funding, and in creating partnerships with businesses and governmental organizations to increase the College’s enrollment. I have usually been rebuffed. I have gone ahead and done some of these things anyway. Many of our members have connections and expertise that could help solve our enrollment and financial difficulties, who would be willing to help if asked. I detect an unwillingness to collaborate – I don’t know where this comes from.
My advice to our members: Respect your colleagues. Work with each other and help each other. Avoid fighting with each other. Work within the confines of the contract. If you are asked to do things that you believe are not within the contract, contact your FFECC campus Vice President or me. We are willing to discuss changes with management if needed, but they must be negotiated. Changes to our working conditions or our contract must always be negotiated. We are going to get more funding for student-centered personnel and activities at the College whether College administration is working with us or not. We would prefer to work with them, and they may find it more advantageous to work with us. We don’t care who gets the credit, but we will not be cast as the enemy. Maybe we can work together to find solutions. I sincerely hope so, but I still have some reasons for doubt.
Andrew Sako, President firstname.lastname@example.org 851-1026
Patricia Kaiser, VP City email@example.com 270-5639
Adrian R. Ranic, VP North firstname.lastname@example.org 270-5828
James Ruggiero, VP South email@example.com 851-1770
Michael Delaney, Grievance Chair firstname.lastname@example.org 270-5332