Response to President Bellanca

On August 25, 2014, Maryam received a memo from President Bellanca indicating her desire to communicate more effectively. The original letter is attached in pdf form to this post. The response to this memo, crafted by the WCCEA Board, was sent September 12, 2014. Please contact any of your representatives if you have questions. Memo from the President

Dear President Bellanca
I want to assure you that my Board members and I have considered your suggestion very carefully. As I hope I said at last week’s General Faculty meeting, the current toxic environment is not good for any of us –most especially it is not good for our students. For all of us, it is a struggle to move forward in an environment without trust. The longer we remain in a climate without trust, the more our school becomes damaged. The FMCS link you included for my board members clearly states that the Mutual Gains/IBB mode will only work in a climate of trust – which is what we don’t have.

Mutual Gains bargaining/IBB is pretty much what we had before your arrival on campus. The union leadership prided itself on helping the administration solve its problems, and in being proactive about resolving our members’ problems. We reliably had few, if any, grievances, and were generally able to negotiate contracts well before they expired. It confuses me that your suggestion involves negotiation, when we have not yet had problems with negotiations. Some of my members are concerned that your proposal indicates that you anticipate us having negotiation problems later this year. While last year’s negotiation of the adjunct contract came as close as I have ever experienced to not being good faith bargaining, we did manage to complete negotiations. Similarly, we were able to yet again complete adjunct negotiations just recently in August. Our negotiations are not what is broken, or at least, they have not yet been broken. The college’s problems as whole are not related to pay or benefits – items typically dealt with in negotiation.

Of course I agree that our current climate is not one of communication or collaboration. Back in May, I wrote you with my suggestions about what I thought you would have to do to heal the rift between your administration and the faculty. It doesn’t appear that you found any of those suggestions worth considering.

Before your arrival, faculty leadership (chairs and union) were included in the conversations college wide about the life of the college, and its future. We no longer are. I urged you to use the department chairs, and CI and Liaison meetings to work to regain the trust of the faculty. I expressed my concern that slowing down enough to include faculty voices in the conversation would be challenging for you. I don’t see that anything has changed in how you communicate with us since then.

Given the concerns I’ve expressed about your administration’s use of consultants, I don’t see the value in hiring a negotiations consultant at this time. Last year the WCCEA asked you (via the BOT) to consider hiring an outside mediator, as our concerns were and remain that there is no longer any real shared governance here at WCC. By a lack of shared governance, I mean that decisions are repeatedly made without conversation with those most directly affected by the decisions. I appreciate that you want to do something to make things better – but again, our negotiations process is not yet broken and we sincerely hope that it won’t become broken.

I’ve raised the issue with interim VPI Abernethy several times over the last year that it would serve our college to be collaboratively working together to replace the now defunct SOQ system. Your memo suggests that as a starting place too. We’re frustrated that we haven’t already begun the process on this and would be happy to begin working on it this semester.

In closing, this college has a great deal of instructional excellence here at hand and yes, mutual gains bargaining is most obviously the preferred way of working. From our perspective, we miss it. At this time it strikes me as fiscally irresponsible to bring in consultants and we have no confidence that this will in any way shape or form begin to address the lack of leadership, transparency, and respect the faculty are experiencing from the upper administration.

Maryam Barrie
WCCEA President

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