Maryam’s 20th Speech to the BOT

20h BOT Speech 17 November 2015
Good afternoon.

First, I need to offer you my apologies because I think I have promised at last month’s BOT meeting to not make such a lengthy speech again. Whoops!

At last month’s BOT meeting, VP Johnson updated you on the ruling from this summer’s Office of Retirement Services that release time used for union purposes will no longer count in their eyes as active service credit unless the cost of that service credit is recompensed back to the school by the member or union involved. There have been administrative meetings about what the cost of my 9 hours of union release time will be for this coming academic year and I was given the estimate of a bit over $16,000 for this year, I don’t know when, how or if the college plans to give me and the union that bill.

Complicating matters a bit more are two recent bills that were approved last week by the State Senate, SB 279 and 280. If signed into law, SB 270 will prohibit any union related release time being earned, whether or not the cost of that retirement is paid back to the school. SB 280 prohibits the negotiation of any union release time being bargained once contracts currently in place expire. The WCCEA full time contract will expire in August 2018.

I go into all of this not to whine to but give you a faculty perspective on the current climate in this state, and at this institution, for unions, and at a deeper level, towards teachers and education. Since the release time is now clearly under threat, here are a few of things that I do with the 9 hours of release time I currently have:

*I work with a variety of administrative staff to create agendas and schedule meetings for ongoing weekly and monthly meetings.
*I work to try to transparently communicate to my members (full time and adjunct) what is happening at the college, and to try, believe it or not, to calm paranoia and upset that occurs when this administration leaves faculty out of many different sorts of conversations they ought to be included in.
*Whenever possible, I work closely with the Academic Deans to support a variety of initiatives and proposals they are working with.
*I have long been the chair of the now OLFaculty committee which works in an advisory capacity with the folks creating, maintaining and supporting our ever growing online and mixed mode courses, to ensure that the faculty, the content experts, have oversight of the course content and assignments, whatever the delivery mode of the course is.
*When faculty facing challenges run afoul of their supervisor or colleagues, I work as their advocate.
*I appoint faculty members to a variety of contractual committees to ensure that there is diverse and inclusive faculty involvement on the Curriculum, Assessment, and Faculty Professional Development and sabbatical committees, as well as appointing faculty members to hiring committees across the school.
*I’m responsible to approve FT use of the union Sick bank, which often involves supporting personnel who require FMLA documentation.
*I’ve worked closely as a liaison between the bookstore and the faculty. A wide range of faculty reach out to me weekly for help or guidance in dealings with their peers and supervisors.
*I get to think long and hard about what to say to you, the BOT, and I’ve chosen to be as transparent with those comments as I can.
*As much as possible, I work hard to treat all of my co-workers, whether they are staff, administrators or fellow faculty with respect and kindness. That is the work that is currently under fire by the state Senate and Office of Retirement Services.

I’d ask each of you to think seriously about how that work helps our school move forward. Though there are several reasons to believe this administration shares the anti-union, anti-teacher agenda that is currently unchecked in our state, I still hope that they will consider showing support not just for the WCCEA, but for other unions in our community. I’d ask you to consider charging them to do just that.

On a different note, in the most recent liaison meeting my Chief Negotiator and I had with Dr. Bellanca and VP Nealon, I urged her to share with faculty the letter she signed earlier this year urging HLC to reconsider applying the rigor of assumed guidelines appropriate to the Ivory Tower of the Academy to Community Colleges. I still believe that it would matter to faculty to know what steps WCC Leadership took to push back against this recent effort. Two of my WCCEA Board members attended a special Statewide MAHE session last Friday on the HLC qualifications concern. I hear from them that many rural community colleges view this not as an attempt to standardize what ought already be in place, but to put them out of business, and to further privilege the 4 year institutions. I was heartened to know that the MEA shares our view that the current WCCEA contract protects our members until it expires in August 2018.

I was very pleased to learn in last night’s CI meeting that the administration thinks that none of the faculty members will need to gain additional credentials in order to remain employed at the college. That is reassuring news and an outcome that makes sense, given the quality of the faculty in place at this institution. We’re concerned to know that a few will not be able to continue teaching courses that they have been, and will be limited to lower level coursework. As an association, we are concerned about what the college will provide, if anything, to those full timers and adjuncts who may now be viewed as unqualified to do the work that they have been doing. Letters are supposed to be sent to all of the full time faculty members within the next week, and ideally the adjunct members will receive their letters by the end of the month. My initial understanding from Dr. Bellanca and VP Nealon was that each of those members would be able to have conversations with their Dean and with union leadership to discuss what this will mean. We very much hope that this commitment will be honored.

Lastly, faculty are concerned about the apparent switch in our college-wide curricular agenda to Guided Pathways, without adequate involvement of the Curriculum or Assessment Committees or Department Chairs. My understanding has long been that while the scheduling process belongs to the administration, the curriculum belongs to us, the faculty members. I don’t see how a top down decision to change direction on this deeply vital issue, without including the resident content experts, the “highly qualified” faculty, is a sound choice. I hope to be able to thank you for directing this administration to involve the faculty in the conversations and decisions which most directly affect our work with students. Your guidelines in BOT Policy #5080, Staff Collaboration and Governance spells out what I want beautifully:

“The governance structure provides four modes of staff involvement in decision-making: consensus, collaboration, consultation and notification. The first is the most desirable.”

Thank you.

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