FFECC President's message
March 1, 2022
Fellow FFECC members,
The current crisis at SUNY Erie is now public, and evident to all, but the FFECC leadership has consistently been sounding the alarm to college administration as to what needs to be addressed, and how we could have been effectively saving this institution. We have not been silent, nor inactive, during all of this. Please be aware of the diverse causes of this crisis and the ways we will be addressing it.
The recent message from our new President indicates what we already knew, that the college is facing drastically reduced enrollment and significant financial challenges. Years of financial neglect from our partners in the state and county have resulted in this current situation. Our institution has been weakened by poorly maintained facilities, a lack of purposeful marketing, failure to develop professional partnerships within the WNY community and irresponsible hiring and spending. Enrollment is essential to any college’s success, and our institution has not been marketed as it should have been for years, while our administration ignored this need, and incompetence was allowed to prevail.
Our facilities have not been updated or maintained to the optimum level for years. We have only one new, state-of-the-art building, while repairs to roofs, windows and HVAC’R equipment throughout the three campuses only occur when near-catastrophic conditions require attention. Renovations of bathrooms are now in place, but only due to an ADA violation.
The college has never had a comprehensive marketing plan. Other community colleges market themselves through campaigns that can be found on billboards, in TV commercials and on social media.
Partnerships with local professionals and businesses are not developed when they would offer our students greater opportunity and enhance their education.
The past administrations of Quinn and Hocoy, along with the Board of Trustees, have allowed unnecessary hiring and spending. In fact, the Hocoy administration would have bankrupted the college were it not for the one-time $27 million dollar stimulus package. This misspending was happening as student enrollment steadily declined.
While the county has been somewhat helpful in the last 6 years, the state has never met its statutory obligation, with its archaic enrollment-based funding model. In fact, the state cut funding to community colleges when we had our highest enrollment!
Cutting course sections due to Covid-related enrollment, without regard to other aspects of student need, such as courses required by their major, convenient times, or preferred modality, will ultimately reduce revenue at the college. We will lose students to colleges that accommodate them. Those of us who have lived through all of this understand why students are choosing not to attend SUNY Erie. While we know that students who come here recognize the value of their education, we are not drawing in enough students to take advantage of what we have to offer. The new College President and our Provost have spoken with me about the many challenges our institution faces: enrollment being the number one issue! I have always said that enrollment will cure all our ills. I have, as your President, always looked at the broad, long-term picture in the FFECC’s dealings with the college and will continue to do so. It is imperative that all members work as a unified body to strengthen and promote SUNY Erie. We cannot remain focused solely on our classrooms, departments, programs or units. Nor can we get tangled in discord and dysfunction with our colleagues, or disregard and violate load limits or other provisions of our CBA. FFECC membership must participate in political action, promotion of our college and enrollment initiatives, standing united to ensure that SUNY Erie survives this critical time, and thrives for years to come. We are the best advocates for this institution; we are the foundation of this institution! The President and the Provost are in the process of taking action college-wide regarding resource reductions. The Fall schedule reductions in seated courses was the first set to attain 70-75% capacity. Contractually, the college does have management rights to dictate course scheduling. The FFECC will continue to enforce the terms and conditions of our contract! We will be reviewing our options, if any, with NYSUT, state leaders and community allies, regarding these scheduling cuts, the impact on full and part time members and stabilization of funding for the college. At this point the President has committed to be a partner in these discussions to work toward alternatives to layoffs and consolidation, and minimize job loss. On Opening Day in January it was announced there is a study evaluating college offerings, levels of administration, and the current campus footprint. We are supposed to have input within this study. I will keep pushing for our professional involvement. Trust in the FFECC advocacy for its members and be an active participant in addressing the challenges ahead! Let me assure those of you who are concerned, any reduction in staff or programmatic deactivations and consolidations would require impact bargaining under our CBA as well as the Taylor Law.
President, Faculty Federation of Erie Community College