President’s Update: Does anyone read Orwell anymore?

LCC Faculty Colleagues:

An update on several things:

1. Faculty Layoffs
2. College Budget
3. Faculty Vacancies
4. Part-time Faculty Steps
5. Course cancelations
6. Diversity Education policy
7. Governance “review” and survey – deadline April 8
8. Administration Salaries

1.      Faculty Layoffs

Regarding the previously announced Administration notice to the Association regarding possible “layoffs” of contracted faculty effective this coming fall, we met with the Administration in mid-March in an attempt to learn more about the College’s plans/intentions, but we were provided no details, plans, scope, intended savings from layoffs, etc.  As such, our ability to discuss “alternatives” to layoffs, as required in Article 10.2, was impossible, as it’s not possible to discuss “alternatives” when we have no idea of “alternative” to what.  We did reach an agreement that the Administration would provide the Association a list of proposed program cuts and layoffs should they pursue it, but we haven’t been provided any dates for even that communication, so at this point it is impossible to know what the Administration is planning at all.  We can only suspect that the Administration is finding as they are (hopefully) “running the numbers” that our programs and faculty pay for themselves, and then some, as President Spilde publicly acknowledged last spring.  As such it makes no sense to try to balance the budget by cutting revenue-producing programs, and most such cuts would actually increase the deficit, reducing more revenues than expenses. 

However, the same was true in 2002 when the Administration’s proposed program cuts consciously ignored both the lost student tuition and state student FTE reimbursement (the Administration’s list had a column labeled “General Fund Savings” that only measured expenses to be cut, with a “General Note” below that “Estimated savings does not take into account lost tuition revenue as a result of reductions,” while not even noting the “Estimated savings” ignored the “lost state reimbursement”).  We are, of course, reminding the Administration of the need to factor in all revenues into any plans to balance the budget, a factor that should lead anyone to conclude that eliminating our college’s programs would not only eliminate a program that students and our community count on, but it wouldn’t actually reduce the projected deficit and in many/most cases would actually increase it.

The deadline for College notice to individual faculty remains May 1.   We will update the faculty as this develops. 

2.  College Budget

The College Budget and Finance Subcommittee, on which Adrienne Mitchell (ALS) and I represent the Faculty, has met several times in recent weeks.  We’ve reached agreement that our budget recommendation will have two scenarios, both with further enrollment declines, given the current trends and data (-7% and -12% additional reductions next year); as such, the projected deficits previously announced by the Administration have risen somewhat, although we also have tentative agreement on recalculations of some projections that would slightly reduce the projected deficit.

At our most recent meeting last week, we reviewed the “levers” used or considered last year to balance the budget, several of which are not relevant/possible this year.  We then discussed new such “levers” and asked the Administration what their proposed “levers” were, and only received a general, philosophical response about wanting to “protect jobs and minimize costs.”  Bob Baldwin, President of the classified union, asked a similar question at the start of the meeting, and received a similar, “we’re working on it, no details available” answer.  As such, it is impossible to report substantively on the Administration’s plans, since apparently they are intending to bring them to the Board of Education first, rather than to the college’s Budget and Finance Subcommittee.  We will report on what we learn at the Board of Education meeting tomorrow.  The Board has a “work session” on the topic, scheduled to begin after the 4:30 p.m. Executive Session ends, so perhaps 4:45 or 5:00 p.m.  All Board meetings other than Executive Sessions are open to the public.

3.  Faculty Vacancies

Our proposal to resolve our “annual” Faculty Vacancies grievance was rejected (annual because each year the Administration violates our contract by failing to post faculty vacancies and by backfilling them with part-time faculty).  With no counterproposal from the Administration, we moved the grievance to Level 1, the formal written stage, prior to going to Arbitration.  We had proposed that, just as we agreed last year, the Administration would post a minimum of 20 faculty vacancies of the approximately 36 vacancies currently, and noted that the College would still experience significant savings from the remaining vacancies and additional vacancies that occur each spring/summer.  They could also increase the savings by transforming some (or all) of the current so-called “Teaching Only” temporary contracts into permanent positions, since Teaching Only positions receive full benefits and 85% of permanent faculty pay; thus, the additional cost of such transformation is less than 10% of the total cost of a regular faculty position.  Given this, the “20 postings” proposal could “cost” as little as 13.2 faculty FTE. When one factors in the typical turnover every year, 13.2 FTE would cost little different than the current year’s cost (even after filling 18 positions last year, the number of faculty vacancies remained largely the same this year).  We also noted that if this ends up in Arbitration, we will be proposing that ALL vacant positions are filled.

Finally, like much else of the Administration’s “responses” this year (e.g. bargaining, layoff discussions, budget work, etc), their “responses” have been very late in coming and almost always non-responsive substantively.  It is very late in the year for faculty searches to start, a point we have raised with them.  We will press this matter in the days to come.

4.  Part-time Faculty Steps

As previously reported, your Bargaining Team learned this year that the Administration was not implementing our current Main Agreement’s provision dating back to July 2011 that, like contracted faculty, part-time faculty eligible for a step increase would receive one-half step when eligible and receive the second half of the earned step at the end of the year so that they start the next year at the step they had earned.  We have identical language for contracted and part-time faculty on this issue, and yet the Administration somehow believes it only applies to contracted faculty.  When we raised this with them after they divulged their practice and the results of our information request confirmed it, they requested that we hold off on communicating this to the faculty so that they could respond to it first, which typically means they recognize they had made a major mistake and wanted a chance to fix it before we communicated about it.  We honored their request and pressed them for their proposal to fix it and received their answer yesterday:  they claim that failing to move part-time faculty the second-half step at the end of the year is not inconsistent with the contract (again, despite the fact that they DO move contracted faculty at the end of the year, and the language is identical). 

We immediately requested that we move this issue straight to Arbitration, waiving the Level 1 step, in order to expedite the resolution and get part-time faculty’s steps corrected and full back pay provided.  The Administration rejected our proposal and insists that we go through the formality of Level 1, even though they know exactly what our position is and regularly simply reject Level 1 filings, a pattern that if repeated means this will serve only to delay Arbitration and delay paying part-time faculty what we agreed to in our current contract.  Faculty may want to raise this issue with the Administration and Board of Education at all opportunities.  We will update you on all developments as we take this issue to Arbitration. 

5.  Course cancelations

As everyone is likely well aware, the Administration has been cancelling far more courses this year, and using much more aggressive “rules” in doing so (e.g. canceling courses that were as much as two-thirds full).  Their apparent goal is to have most/all classes maxed out, and they assume, often falsely, that students enrolled in canceled classes will simply enroll in other available classes.  This also ignores the reality that many students attempt to register for classes after the point that the Administration has canceled them; one can’t sign up for a class that doesn’t exist.  We have no way of measuring how much of the enrollment decline this year is due to course cancelation, but we will be sending a survey out to faculty members to get a better sense of what is happening.  Please look for it and complete it when it’s announced.  And all faculty should recognize that it was one thing to take students beyond the course maximum during the “enrollment surge”; it’s another thing to do so when courses are being canceled and our colleagues are losing assignments.  We strongly encourage faculty to maintain their course’s maximums except in extraordinary cases, and to ensure that your department is following the established parameters in our contract.  And note, contrary to Administration claims, our contract does, obviously, provide limits on “class sizes”:

Article 35 – Workload

35.1           The following per term, normal workloads are examples of the equivalencies which can be used to demonstrate an annual workload of 36-48 credits.

35.1.1       Social Science:  Fifteen (15) credit hours, or 450 weekly student contact hours at the beginning of the third week for large lecture classes with a maximum of three (3) preparations.  Four (4) different course preparations is a full workload. 

35.1.2       Health Occupations:  Twenty-two (22) weekly contact hours in a laboratory situation.  Number of students determined by number of lab stations or by program requirements. 

35.1.3       Biology:  Three (3) combination lecture and laboratory courses with twenty-four (24) students each, which meet for six (6) hours per week for four (4) credit hours (18 contact hours per week).  Maximum of two (2) preparations.

35.1.4.      Writing:  In cases where three (3) credit lecture courses are taught, four (4) lecture courses with twenty-four (24) students each, which meet for three (3) hours per week for three (3) hours of credit (12 contact hours per week).  Or, in cases where four (4) credit lecture courses are taught, three (3) lecture courses with twenty-four students each, which meet for four (4) hours per week for four (4) hours of credit (12 contact hours per week).  Maximum of three (3) preparations.

As you can see, the Social Science parameter, used in many departments, provides a maximum class size of 30 students per class (30 students x 3 credits x 5 courses per week = “450 weekly student contact hours”), while biology and writing classes are 24 students. 

If your classes are above the parameter of the workload example used for faculty in your department, you should instruct your department manager to ensure your courses are consistent with these parameters and grieve this if it isn’t corrected.  If you are unsure about which example applies to your department, please contact the Association (lccea@lanecc.edu).

6.  Diversity Education policy (fairly lengthy, but necessarily detailed; see highlights)

Our last update noted that we were close to finding agreement on a new college policy that would establish an expectation that all college employees regularly engage in “diversity education.”  The Task Force assigned to develop a policy that all members of the College Council could/would support reached agreement among the representatives of the faculty, classified staff, and students; only management representatives were not in support at the time, and only over the question of whether only the Administration held unilateral responsibility for the program versus whether such authority was collaboratively shared. 

When the proposal (attached) came to the College Council it was supported by all faculty representatives (myself and Russell Shitabata), all classified and “mid level” management representatives, and the ASLCC (i.e., student) President.  It was vetoed by the Administration, a position supported by the ASLCC Vice President even though she had supported the proposal the previous week in the Task Force.  The Administration then proposed that we replace the language providing shared responsibility for the program with language providing that the Administration had unilateral responsibility for it, and that was rejected, including by the two faculty representatives on the council.  No further proposals were made, and therefore it stands as such, with no college policy on this matter.

It became clear at the next meeting that the Administration (and ASLCC Vice President) have no intention, and had no intention all year, of supporting a policy that doesn’t give the Administration sole responsibility for what they acknowledge is a “professional development” policy, a practice that makes no sense for any employee group and is at fundamental odds with the idea of “professional development” and is anathema for a college faculty.  The Administration (and ASLCC Vice President) vetoed the proposal and claimed, falsely, that “no college policy is necessary” because there is now a Board policy on the matter.  However, the Board policy simply directs the President to “ensure” that such a program is developed, that it requires participation, and that an annual report is made by the President to the Board on participation and effectiveness.  The original “directive” to the President was, of course, written by the President (the whole issue was brought to the Board by the President and ASLCC reps in an attempt to usurp the authority of the governance system), but was amended by the Board to limit the directive to “ensuring” this happened, recognizing the need to have this policy developed within the governance system. (President Spilde herself commented that she was concerned that an Administration usurpation of the governance system’s role in establishing college policies would “blow up the governance system,” a point the Board was apparently well aware of in revising the policy to only direct her to “ensure” that it happens). 

As such, we are in the exact same position we were in May 2013 (with one exception, below):  the Association supporting a proposal to establish a policy requiring regular employee participation in diversity education, and the Administration demanding that the Administration have unilateral control over the program, a position that the Association will not agree to as it is at fundamental odds with the nature of a faculty:  the Administration is not responsible for educating us, as professional development is primarily the responsibility of the faculty (to say nothing of the far greater expertise within the faculty on this subject than within the Administration, a point that we have made as privately and respectfully as possible, but with the Administration saying they are “going ahead with this,” one that needs to be communicated).

It has been difficult to understand just why the Administration (and some ASLCC members) have been so adamant that the program be controlled unilaterally by the Administration.  For students, it appears that they have been led (again, falsely) to believe that the faculty are far less advanced on this topic than we are (last year’s student President said “how can the faculty be part of the solution when they are the problem”), and to conflate the Association’s requirement that this be organized as Professional Development with explicit roles for the faculty, FPD, employee unions, etc. with opposition to the policy.  We do NOT oppose the policy; we’ve proposed far more robust and meaningful roles for the faculty, FPD, and the Association than anyone has.

But the Administration’s position has been odd.  They shouldn’t conflate policy differences with opposition to a policy, and we’ve made our position clear time after time, so it must be something else.  And it can’t seriously be, as President Spilde announced at a meeting this spring, that only the Administration can control this because the Board policy holds her responsible for it and she “could be fired” if it’s unsuccessful, an argument that I’m sure no one would entertain as credulous. 

However, the Administration’s demand for unilateral control became far more clear (and the Association’s opposition far more important) when President Spilde shared her “dream” at last term’s two “input sessions” of how this program will work:  in President Spilde’s vision, all employees will be “tested” for their “different levels” of “cultural competency,” then “trained” according to their “levels” based on the tests, and then “retested.” 

This “dream” goes far beyond even the idea of “required training,” as limited a notion of how the goal of greater awareness of social inequalities/difference/diversity/etc. is promoted.  The idea that all employees will be “tested” by the Administration, then “trained” and then “retested” raises so many, and so obvious, concerns, that one has to wonder if people have stopped reading George Orwell’s Animal Farm, or have any idea of how a college and a faculty actually work.  Who would identify what the “levels” are, the goals for each “level,” how to measure them in valid and reliable ways, who would have access to the data, what would happen to people who don’t meet the “levels” that the Administration has defined as “passing”, how would the “data” be used in employee evaluations and retention practices, etc., etc., etc., not to mention the threats to academic freedom and even basic constitutional rights.   

President Spidle’s “dream” would clearly be other people’s nightmare, which may partially explain the Administration’s long resistance to having responsibility for the program shared, as the Association would never, and will never, agree to such a plan.  We remain committed to working assiduously and collaboratively with all parties to establish a true diversity educational program that is based on a professional and academic model, but we will not support such an Orwellian “vision” or any other unilateral Administration “training program.” 

Finally, it isn’t clear how or even when the Administration plans to try to implement their plan, or even who they are claiming is responsible for designing and implementing it.  The “open sessions” were clearly labeled as only “input,” and there wasn’t any discussion of how or who would actually be designing the “program,” nor has the Association received any communications from the Administration as to how they envision this, or how it would be consistent with our contract language (e.g. Articles 35, 23, 9, etc).  We have reminded the Administration that contract language takes legal precedence over any college or Board policy (the old adage capturing this:  “law trumps contract language, and contracts trump policy”); for example, our language in Article 35 that provides that contracted faculty members choose what “non-teaching work” they engage in “without prejudice” prevents the College from telling us what such work we “are required” to do, while part-time faculty aren’t required to complete any non-teaching work at all.  In short, employer requirements of faculty haven’t changed because our contract hasn’t changed, and its language is controlling over any college or Board policy. 

As such, we’re in the same place we were last spring, trying to get all parties to work together to support establishing a new policy, but with no agreement and no change in employee requirements, only an Administration plan to “test” and “train” and “retest” all college employees, regardless of the lack of the contractual authority to do so.

7.  Governance “review” and survey – deadline TODAY

Some of the same proponents of the diversity policy proposal that would give unilateral controlled to the Administration have since raised objections to the Faculty Association and Faculty Council’s rejection of said proposal within the governance system (although they conveniently ignore the fact that the Faculty Council voted unanimously to oppose the policy as well and save their public criticism for the Association).  Ignoring their insistence on a particular and problematic framing of the policy, they objected to our objection to one element of their proposal, and then proposed to the Board of Education that the governance system be stripped of employee group representation, among other “demands” because of it.  Ignoring the fact that the criticism was coming from one group over one policy debate, the President initiated a “governance review” outside of the normal review methods and that is clearly geared at using the policy debate to limit the role of employee representatives within the college’s governance system and to enhance Administration control of the governance system.  The “survey” that has been distributed (and is DUE TODAY) largely reflects the interests of such parties in punishing the faculty and classified unions for insisting that the diversity education policy be multilaterally and collaboratively organized.  An examination of the survey will show that many of questions will make little/no sense to those who haven’t served on a governance council, or are otherwise confusing and will provide no useful or meaningful data.  But that doesn’t, ironically, mean that the data won’t be used for political purposes by the Administration to challenge the role of the Association and Federation in the governance system.    

8.  Administration Salaries

Finally, we had planned to share a comparison of Administration and faculty salaries; however, the College has failed to provide the data consistent with our Information Request rights (Article 11.11), and therefore instead we are filing a grievance and considering other matters.  We do expect our rights to the information to be met, and will share the results when we have them.

Jim Salt
LCCEA President

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