President’s Update: 5/15/14

LCC Faculty Colleagues,

I am writing to report on several matters; this is intended to provide an introduction to several key issues that we can discuss further in our Membership Meeting today and in other venues:

  • LCCEA Membership Meeting: Thursday, May 15, 2014 in CML 19/220
  • College Budget
  • Financial Aid Loan Default Death Penalty
  • Enrollment Capacity
  • Grievances
  • Diversity Education
  • OEA RA

LCCEA Membership Meeting
Our Spring All-Member Meeting is being held TODAY, Thursday, May 15th, 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. in CML 220 (i.e., 19/220).  Agenda topics include Tentative Agreement ratification results, nominations for LCCEA officers, and reports on local and statewide issues. Membership meetings are open to all LCCEA members.

College Budget
As I noted in my report to the Board of Education last evening, the College Administration has provided no information at all to our college about the key components of their budget proposal to the College Budget Committee.  Faculty who received notice to come to a meeting with their Executive Dean on April 28, no doubt to be informed of proposals to reduce/eliminate their program and/or of their layoff, had their meetings cancelled but have been given no information at all about what was planned, why their programs that make our college money, that educate students and prepare them for good and important jobs, were slated for elimination.  Nor has the Association (or even department managers/”deans”) been told the plans, despite our repeated informal and formal requests.

The new Administration budget proposed yesterday fortunately avoids the mistake made twelve years ago by not cutting faculty jobs that educate our community and raise more money for our college than they cost (often much more), but we still aren’t told what the Administration is proposing regarding tuition, program reductions are being made in response to President Spilde’s (illogical) call to respond to restrained state funding by reducing our revenue-generating programs and creating a “smaller college,” and a new “part-time section budgeting procedure” is being put in place with no discussions with the Association or the Budget and Finance Subcommittee, which will likely ensure sections aren’t “overbuilt” but will also likely ensure they are “underbuilt” as well.  All with no communication with employees and their representatives.  The Administration is proposing a better, more collaborative, less fear-mongering budget approach next year; why won’t they start that now?

Financial Aid Loan Default Death Penalty
The Administration has also not said a word to faculty and staff about a crucial issue that received significant coverage in the Register Guard on Sunday.  Despite a sub-headline threatening “the existence of the entire institution,” the Administration for some reason hasn’t chosen to say anything about it to the hundreds of employees that may legitimately wonder whether we’ll be employed in the next few years.  Losing the ability to provide financial aid to students really would be a threat to our existence as an institution, given how many students rely upon it.  What’s odd about the lack of communication is that the college has been working to address the threat, and even if not successful in avoiding going over the 30% default rate line three years in a row and facing the “death penalties,” most of us believe that the Feds would recognize that the penalty would far exceed the “crime” (and would recognize we have only little responsibility for that crime itself), and would smartly choose not to crush our colleges and communities with a tool really designed to go after for-profit “non-degree mills.”  Still, it would be nice to have a report to the faculty and staff that have given their lives to our college and who economically rely upon our work here so that we are all fully informed of the issue, what is being done, how serious a threat it is, etc., etc.  Perhaps we’ll receive an explanation soon.

Enrollment Capacity
The Association met with College representatives this week to begin the process of developing an agreement on how to implement the “Enrollment Capacity” plan that is designed to recognize the attrition that occurs in the first two weeks of the term by providing for initial over-enrollment of now clearly defined “assignable class sizes.”  The Association is establishing a committee to work on this, and will work with our Department Representatives to develop our response and proposal on how to make this plan work while protecting faculty interests.  We note for now that we believe the plan will protect class sizes, and is key to ensuring that class sizes are not unilaterally raised by the College over time, as it has tried to do in departments that don’t happen to be listed in Article 35.1.  The agreement does NOT increase assignable class sizes; in some cases it will likely actually reduce them.  It will also allow us to codify the class sizes, and to encourage and facilitate faculty not over-enrolling their classes, something that is vital, especially at a time of declining enrollment and Administration reduction of course sections.  We will work closely with faculty in all departments to develop a plan that all can support.

Grievances
After signing the Tentative Agreement and reaching an apparent agreement that the College was not going to close programs and lay off contracted faculty this spring, the Association proposed to the Administration that we sit down and see if we can similarly resolve many of the outstanding grievances and issues that we are currently processing.  The Administration rejected our proposal, as is their right, and instead proposed that the Association simply drop our grievances and issues.  We rejected their proposal, of course.  As such, we are moving forth aggressively with several grievances, including:

Faculty Vacancies:  We are moving to arbitration on our grievance over the College’s violation of Article 10.7.3 and 12.5 by their failure to fill faculty vacancies this year.  In previous years we have reached agreement with the College to fill a number of these vacancies, always more than the College planned to but less than all, recognizing the financial challenges we’ve faced.  This year for the first time the Administration wouldn’t even try to negotiate a grievance resolution and has simply chosen to proceed unilaterally (planning to post seven of the current 32 vacancies).  The Association had proposed both in a grievance resolution proposal and in the college budget work that the college fill 20 positions; and the College could make the current eight “Teaching Only” positions into regular 1.0 FTE positions at a nominal cost, for a total “new” 13.2 FTE.  The actual change in FTE from this year would likely be well less than that, given the regular retirements and other vacancies that occur; for example, our agreement last year to fill 20 FTE resulted in a reduction of only four contracted faculty vacancies this year.

We will let you know when the Arbitration is scheduled so that you can find ways to support this vital issue.  The Administration now claims, contrary to our contract language and negotiations history, that they can leave any and all vacancies empty for as long as they want, a position that if upheld would facilitate the Administration’s goal of moving us even further down the road to the Phoenix model.  Several faculty members have reported that President Spilde and Executive Dean Maurice Hamington have recently said that our union is the only thing stopping the College from doing what they need to, moving to a one-full-time-faculty-per-program-model and shifting the rest of the work to underpaid and “underbenefitted” part-time assignments.  This issue truly is the most important one we face as a college and as a faculty.

Part-time Faculty Step Advancement: The Administration alerted us in bargaining this spring, unintentionally apparently, that they had not provided part-time faculty the delayed second-half of the steps earned each year during the 2011-2013 years, as provided by our contract.  After initially indicating they intended to rectify the matter, they now offer a startling and unfounded defense of it and have refused to correct the error.  They also inaccurately told us that they were providing full steps as earned to part-time faculty this year, as required by “status quo” provisions of state labor law when a contract expires and is being negotiated, which we discovered last week was not true; when we informed them of that fact it was clear they already knew it and they said they were making plans to fix this year’s failure to provide full steps to part-time faculty.  We therefore have dropped the new grievance for this year’s failure, since they agree to rectify it, and will be proceeding to arbitration over their failure to follow our contract for the 2011-2013 years.

Insurance Out-of-Paycheck Contributions:  We also discovered during bargaining, while looking back over the changes in employer and employee responsibilities for insurance rate hikes, that the College picked up a lower percentage of the insurance rate hike in 2010-2011 than they were required to do by contract.  Rather than picking up 17 percentage points of the (huge) 24% rate hike the year after we went into OEBB, the Administration increased the employer’s contribution by 17%, a clear misapplication of our contract language, and less than called for in our contract.  We raised this issue with them two weeks ago, and will be proceeding with this new grievance.  The difference in what they should have picked up and what they did is about 2.1 percentage points that year, and each year since.  While many of us have paid zero dollars out-of-paycheck in recent years, and therefore were not overcharged by this error, it will lower contributions for those that have made payments and will protect all of us in the future.

There are other grievances we are processing as well, and we have several meetings scheduled this week; we will report on the status of all grievances as the work proceeds.

Diversity Education
I was out of town for other meetings on “Spring Conference Day,” and so have only heard reports that I, personally, was the focus of a number of President Spilde’s remarks to the college (unnamed directly of course, but obvious to all); I’ve also heard that President Spilde denied her plan for “testing-training-retesting” faculty and staff “competence,” as several faculty members who heard her make that proposal had reported to the Association.  We’re glad that exposing this plan has apparently led her to rethink and reject it; anyone doubting it was her plan need only ask the faculty and staff members who heard her say it at her group table at the two “input” meetings.

And regarding “input,” the Administration is famous (infamous?) now for creating “opportunities” for faculty and staff to “feel like they have been heard”; but that is obviously a very far cry from actual collaboration, from actually sitting at the decision-making table and developing programs and plans that we can all support.  Few people don’t see through that any more.  And this issue of “input” versus actual partnership is ALL that has prevented an agreement from being reached to establish a new program of diversity education for all employees, despite repeated misrepresentations of our Association’s position on the matter.  One need only compare the Association’s proposal at the last College Council meeting that was supported by the Association, Faculty Council, Classified Federation, and management representatives and ASLCC President, only to be vetoed by the Administration because it doesn’t give the Administration sole authority over the program (they then proposed virtually the same proposal but giving themselves unilateral authority, and that was rejected by the Association and Faculty Council representatives).  To present this as “one person standing in the way” when we have supported a proposal that everyone could support except an Administration bent on sole control, and when their proposal has been rejected by every member of the Faculty Council and the Faculty Association Executive Committee and their respective representatives on the College Council (and usually by the Federation representatives as well), is nothing less than untruthful, designed to falsely malign the character of faculty representatives, and is, at its bottom, an attack on our Association and college unions.  It’s beneath the Administration, and no one should confuse what we have actually done, said, and proposed with the Administration’s attempt to mislead the college on this important matter.  As on many matters, the Administration should start working with the “stakeholder representatives” in our college; we’d get a lot more done that way.

OEA RA
The OEA Representative Assembly (OEA RA) met May 2-3 in Portland, to set OEA policy and plans, elect officers, and conduct the business of our union.  Thanks to the LCCEA delegates who attended and hung in there over a very long but important meeting.

The OEA Community College Council (of which I am currently serving as President) was successful in bringing and passing new language on several matters key to community college interests, including establishing the following OEA “Legislative Objective”:

Ensure that the appropriation for community colleges be sufficient to maintain existing programs, including growth and additional programs mandated by the Legislative Assembly, and to reduce the overuse and exploitation of part-time faculty and education support professionals.

Such “Objectives” are binding on the OEA and become their official goals, requiring OEA support and action.  This new language will be key in getting the OEA to make addressing full funding and the overuse of, and exploitation of, part-time faculty a central part of their and our work.

Jim Salt,
LCCEA President

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