5th BOT Speech, June 24, 2014
Good evening. Before I begin, at last week’s special BOT meeting, I shared with you the Formal complaint we have filed with the HLC. I hope you’ve had a chance to read through that. While much of the information is no doubt familiar to you from prior reports from the WCCEA leadership, I want you to know that we are deeply concerned that the college is in violation of its own BOT policies and that we fully understand that HLC is not a mediation service. It is our primary accrediting body. We have reached out to them because of your inaction to address the issues noted in the complaint.
Here is a fact: In years past, Department Chairs would normally have had the budget for the upcoming fiscal year in hand by mid-May. There would have been conversations between Deans and Chairs before that, so that Chairs knew ahead of time which of their requests had been approved by the dean, and what they were likely to be able to count on as they prepare for staffing the Fall semester, which quickly approaches. As you will no doubt recall, a wide variety of groups across campus where called in for a ‘courtesy’ power point presentation which summarized general budgetary information for the upcoming year (this was shown at your meeting May 27th). At the presentation I attended, assurances were made that the budgets had not been cut. As President of the Faculty Union, I’ve asked several times for a copy of that power point. Here’s an example of a lack of communication – I still don’t have that power point.
I learned from my Dean, Dena Blair, this morning, that she now has the budget and will be reviewing it this week. Next week, she plans to meet with her Department Chairs to go over what the budgets will be. I’ve never been a department chair, but over the last weeks I’ve spoken with many of them, and have heard from many of them that not having those figures until the beginning of the new fiscal year puts them at an enormous disadvantage. I know Chairs in areas which need staffing for labs are particularly concerned about having the funds to staff these areas appropriately. Here are some facts –last year, 2 Classified Faculty positions that provide vital student safety and security, went unfilled for the entire fall term. 1 remains unfilled, in an area where student safety is at risk. My understanding is that the one remaining full time Classified Faculty member in that area has recently turned in their notice. There has been no assurance that position will be filled – I fervently hope that is will be though. Increasingly, the trend here seems to be to not replace key student support positions once they go vacant.
An understandable result of this is that staff and faculty all over the college have no idea today what funds will be available to their departments for the next year. DL staff learned just last week that once Dean Egan steps down, interim VPI Abernethy will be adding supervision of their entire area to his list of duties, as there are seemingly no plans to replace Dean Egan. Here again, a position directly related to helping faculty meet students’ needs is not being replaced. At a time when our DL enrollments are strong, it is hard to understand why we would revamp a system that has produced quality instruction that works. Despite being the chair of the Faculty DL-Bb committee, I know of no conversations about this that have included faculty or staff. Before he left to get his new hip, I offered several times to collaborate with VPI Abernethy on a new Faculty evaluation system, since the SOQ system is void. I understood from him that though he would like to do just that, he didn’t think that was where the college was going right now. Upon his return, I have hopes that we will be able to make progress with doing just that. As we’ve asked you to note before, Dr. Bellanca has created a leadership system that doesn’t include the faculty, and which insures that faculty have a lot to be uncertain about. Despite the ‘courtesy’ power point presentations, there has not been clear or transparent or even much communication with faculty about the budget process, and few Chairs have a sense of which of their needs and wants for the next year have been deemed worthy.
To close, I was contacted by WEMU several weeks ago, by a reporter whose boss had seen or read Dr. Bellanca’s response to faculty at the May 27, 2014 BOT meeting. He understood that Dr. Bellanca had vowed to have meetings with the faculty to improve the caliber of her communication with us, and was calling me to find out how those meetings were going. I told him that if I heard of such meetings, I’d be sure to let him know.