FFECC President's message
April 1, 2021
Dear FFECC members,
This has been a strange and trying year, with the pandemic changing all our lives in so many ways. Some have battled COVID and survived, while many have not. This has also been a year of bitter political division which has led to polarization within our Country, within families and among friends. There have been high levels of frustration and mistrust of the news media. Despite all of this, FFECC members have worked to serve our students and meet our obligations under challenging conditions.
While our members have proven themselves to be dedicated, creative and effective in their roles, SUNY Erie, as an institution, has many systemic issues that must be addressed so that this College may finally be recognized as a gem of Western New York higher education.
We were all aware of an enrollment freefall and major financial problems due to Workday. I knew that former President Hocoy and his leadership team had generally mismanaged all facets of the College. It was far worse than even I believed.
Since last March, when the College went remote, our reality has changed.
We now have a new Interim President with whom we have mutual trust and respect. Since his arrival, the FFECC Leadership Team has worked with Bill Reuter and the SES to maintain member employment and keep the College functioning.
The Board Chair and Vice Chair, along with Bill Reuter, meet with me every two weeks. Our Union additionally has a seat at the table for the BOT Committee, as well as a scheduled report at every Board Meeting. Our relationship with the Board of Trustees is more open than any FFECC President has ever had.
For our members, we negotiated “temporary pandemic language,” allowing many the ability to provide student services and teach remotely. For those members who could not work remotely, we insisted upon the College providing appropriate social distancing, PPE and requiring masking per SUNY guidelines. We negotiated “partial return language” this past Fall, which has continued this Spring, for all face-to-face labs: reduced capacity with appropriate social distancing, masks, PPE, and weekly testing for anyone on campus for more than one hour.
To protect our members, we negotiated a temporary MOU for Evaluations, adapting to remote modality. This MOU was much more cumbersome than necessary due to some in the SES allowing non-decision-makers unnecessary input, and not following through on deadlines.
We did not suffer staff reductions, due to two rounds of a retirement incentive.
The FFECC and some members have produced two promotional videos that have been posted on social media platforms and were distributed to area high schools through NYSUT.
We finally have seen some SUNY Erie commercials prior to the start of the Spring semester. Enrollment, as I have said many times, solves all problems. As we look to the Fall 2021 semester we cannot just hope for normalcy and more students, we must be actively involved in the recruitment and marketing process. The FFECC has consistently pushed for a marketing plan with some local radio and television spots.
The most recently passed Federal Stimulus legislation intitled The American Rescue Plan will greatly enhance the SUNY Erie’s financial picture over the next year.
As part of the NYSUT lobby effort, I was given the opportunity to give testimony to both the State Assembly and Senate for Community College funding. Much of what we advocated for in the lobby effort is currently in the two one house budgets. The New York State One House budgets include a funding floor tied to the 2020-21 funding and an additional $250 per/FTE to account for increases in enrollment above the funding floor. There is currently funding for infrastructure and capital funding of Community Colleges. The State funding level should be clearer by April 1st after negotiations between the Assembly, Senate and Governor’s office and the budget is approved.
SUNY Erie submits a BOT-approved budget to the County which is the next part of the 2021-22 budget process. The Erie County Legislature will vote on the College budget at the last regularly scheduled meeting in June. Members of the FFECC PAC committee, officers, along with several students, will be participating in a virtual legislative breakfast.
We will be actively discussing the guidelines for a September 2021 return to in-person learning on campus with the College.
I look forward to a time very soon where we can all be back on campus with our students and colleagues.
President, Faculty Federation of Erie Community College