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July 2023 update

July 27, 2023

Fellow FFECC members,

Post-pandemic we have been through hell, from the changing college leadership and the storms, to the anti-union, anti-humanistic antics of the former president and his enablers that contributed to a negative public image of SUNY Erie. South campus has been greatly devalued by the “deactivation,” to use our former president’s term, of South Campus and the construction of the new stadium. All community colleges statewide have suffered enrollment challenges, but this combination of events led the Board of Trustees and local politicians to question the need for a South campus or even three campuses. Currently, that attitude has shifted and we are working to be innovative in our approach to gaining and serving students in conjunction with administration and the Board.

Throughout this crisis FFECC leadership has been coordinating with the Area Labor Federation, and our PAC has been very active; we have gone from potential elimination of South Campus to having support for a Southtowns presence. People dislike the phrase “Southtowns presence,” but semantics aside, we are not closed and are still pushing for more offerings at South. We have turned the corner in the last year of chaos; however, we must be realistic in our expectations for our current South campus footprint.

We are continuing our advocacy for a commitment to the Southtowns. We have been asked by the college administration to discuss options for the South Campus without a funding model in place: discussions have included everything from a smaller footprint to new structures and locations. This is not something that is contractual in nature, nor do we have a final say, it is more of an open dialogue to better unite the college overall. Nothing to date has come of these preliminary conversations. Currently, according to members of the SES, there are no long-term plans or options in discussion for potential Board of Trustee approval. We have been working on MOUs to minimize confusion for faculty movement between campuses as well. When approved, Sara will post on our website.

The FFECC leadership understands your frustrations, we have been equally frustrated with the lack of movement. I believe that nothing will happen until after the Presidential search.

With all this said, the role of the FFECC is to protect all things covered within the CBA terms and conditions and pay. To clarify, the college has the right to deactivate programs or discontinue programs under SUNY guidelines with specified conditions, which include the requirement that they confer with the FFECC President for alternatives. A faculty member under our CBA has a right to be moved to another unit where qualified or to alternatives to teaching assignments if available in these cases (Article 32). There is no language within the contract regarding location of office space, other than to assure faculty is provided with access to offices, classrooms, laboratories, and storage areas where we have primary responsibilities (Article22).

The college has always had right the move campus offices and classrooms. No one wants to move – it's disruptive and inconvenient -- but the FFECC cannot stop the reorganization. We can only request that departments have input, and the moves should be educationally sound. The college, before my tenure, had rented out space to organizations for years, which I have always objected to due to exclusivity. In both these cases we have no contractual ability to push back on this agreement signed off on by the previous college President.

Despite the perception of some members that we have not advocated for South, many times issues were resolved through dialogue with administrators, board members, politicians and other labor leaders through back channels. The fact that we still have a South Campus to discuss is due to this consistent FFECC advocacy for over a year. The changes to the college SES leadership post-Pandemic were due to our presenting the facts regarding inept management of SUNY Erie to our board, exposing our former president’s destructive actions.

The FFECC, and others pushed back on the conduct of the previous president’s comments and actions: his deception, slashing and burning in order to dismantle the college and rebuild it into a low-rate trade school, and ten months of blaming the FFECC, and the old, lazy faculty for any and all problems at SUNY Erie. We fought until the board and others saw his true colors and realized they hired the wrong person!

This is a time for working with the union leadership. Unnecessarily pointing fingers when not fully aware of the actual work that is being done on the members’ behalf has created a log jam to progress in monthly Labor -Management meetings. After slow, steady progress addressing complex issues with purposeful focus, it can be damaging for members to promote insignificant issues or misinformation to the administration or members, without first communicating with FFECC representatives for clarification as to the accuracy of their concerns.

For long-term success in both the presidential search and the beginning of our open contract negotiations we require member solidarity. “We can hang together, or surely we shall hang separately” (Ben Franklin).

We must focus on a solution to improve enrollment and maintain a presence in all areas of this large, diverse county with changing expectations of higher ed. I know together, as in the past, we will prevail and move on to what we do best: serving and educating our students.

In Solidarity,

Andrew Sako and the FFECC leadership team

Andrew Sako, President 851-1026 Angela Crocker, VP City 270-5275 Michael Kozlowski, VP North 851-1537 James Ruggiero, VP South 851-1770 Joan Bukowski, Grievance Chair 851-1522

Jacqui Bollinger, Secretary 270-2981

Melissa Lebedzinski, Treasurer 851-1082


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