Broadside July 29, 2020
Dear fellow members:
William Reuter took office as Interim President of SUNY Erie Community College in early July, having recently held the position of Chief Financial Officer at Hudson Valley Community College. Within nine days of taking office, Bill had completely revamped SUNY ECC’s budget for the coming 2020-2021 academic year. This budget was approved by the County Legislature on July 23.
In the previous version of the budget, our former CFO Penny Howard projected an 18 to 25 million dollar shortfall, and allegedly proposed significant faculty, staff, and administrative layoffs. After carefully reviewing all the numbers, Bill’s budget projected a 2.4 million dollar shortfall. Yes, this is a serious gap, but it is something that our college can probably survive without resorting to major disruption of our operations or our staffing. Bill also announced at that time that the College has no immediate plans for any layoffs.
It’s important to understand that SUNY Erie is one of the very few community colleges in New York State currently spared layoffs, furloughs, and givebacks on the part of faculty and staff. We have all seen the horrifying news about the major faculty reductions at Canisius College. Niagara County Community College has announced layoffs. Broward County Community College in Florida has eliminated their entire counseling staff. Shortly before she left for her new job, our former CFO announced at a College Board meeting that faculty and staff layoffs were imminent (as you know, they did not occur.) We should consider ourselves fortunate to be employed, and to have an interim president who is opposed to layoffs and who is looking at every possible alternative. But this did not happen by accident.
Your union has been fighting hard all spring and summer to make sure that all our full time and part time members stay employed and continue to receive paychecks. We have also been very active in the political arena to make sure that our College has the possibility of responsible leadership going forward.
Of course, this does not mean that there will be no layoffs in the future. Our financial situation is very precarious and will be strongly influenced by student enrollment, future support from state and county governments, and possible federal assistance. We are in deep trouble, as is higher education overall, and many other segments of the economy.
Due to our past experience with Bill Reuter we are confident of the following:
In his past role as Chief Administrative and Financial Officer at ECC, Bill hated layoffs and did everything possible to avoid them; he has not changed his stance on this.
Bill will discuss important issues with FFECC leadership and tell us the truth.
Bill has always respected the section of our contract which obligates College administration to discuss alternatives to layoffs with FFECC before initiating them. If there is any chance of layoffs, we will know about it well in advance and have an opportunity to recommend other ways to save money.
Bill is smart, competent, and knowledgeable, and he cares deeply about our College, our students, and our community.
With Bill as Interim President, FFECC and faculty in general will have a voice at the table. He is someone we can work with.
This does not imply that Bill will agree with us on all or even many, issues. He never has. But he has always talked with us and clearly told us what his position is. This will be a refreshing change.
Bill will need a significant amount of time to change ECC’s course and correct past mistakes. To be blunt, recent leadership has come close to destroying our College. The problems and dysfunction go very deep. But we cannot think of anyone else who has the knowledge of our College, our culture, and our community required to do the job.
Some of our members have asked why FFECC’s member communications have been less frequent recently. Largely it is because many important questions were unanswered: the identity of our interim president, the status of our budget, and so forth. We were not in a position to provide you with up-to-date and accurate information because everything was changing daily. We apologize for our relative silence, which was unavoidable at the time. The situation, clearly, is different from this point on.
As with every summer, we have been working very hard. We have written MOUs to accommodate the new (and we hope temporary) reality of remote teaching; we have worked hard to be sure that all our members are made whole; we have discussed, approved, and soon will be extending the retirement incentive. As the college was slowly shut down in March and April, we advocated for our members to be allowed to work remotely whenever possible. As college reopening plans are gradually being initiated now, we have been fighting to make sure that all our members (and students) are kept safe and healthy. As always, the main obstacles have been a lack of good internal and external communication at the College.
FFECC political action will continue to play a significant role in saving SUNY Erie Community College and setting it on the right course. Right now would be the ideal time to donate to FFECC’s Political Action fund – contact Sara Riggie at firstname.lastname@example.org, 270-2938, especially if you are a recipient of the retirement incentive. And consider donating any sick hours you don’t plan on using to the FFECC Catastrophic Illness Bank.
The FFECC leadership team:
Andrew Sako, President email@example.com 851-1026
Patricia Kaiser, VP City firstname.lastname@example.org 270-5639
Adrian Ranic, Acting VP North email@example.com 270-5828
Michael Kozlowski, VP North firstname.lastname@example.org 851-1537
James Ruggiero, VP South email@example.com 851-1770
Michael Delaney, Grievance Chair firstname.lastname@example.org 270-5332
Jacqui Bollinger, Secretary email@example.com 270-2981