I hope your term is going well. I’m writing with some updates regarding: membership, faculty survey results, workload, college budget and statewide legislative issues, policy/ contract questions, bargaining and more. This term has been an incredibly busy and also exciting time for the Association!
Membership and LCCEA Executive Council
A brief update on membership — LCCEA currently has more than 91% of contracted faculty and more than 80% of part-time faculty as active members with, at last count, 411 active members working this term and 475 active members on our membership roster. According to OEA, the LCCEA’s membership increases outpaced all other community college locals in the state. Collectively, public employees across the nation renewed our commitment to collective action and to public service for the common good, and Lane faculty have done so unequivocally. Please thank your department reps as well as the Membership Committee: Chair Wendy Simmons, Aryn Bartley, Gerry Meenaghan, and Nancy Wood.
In upcoming terms, the Membership Committee and department reps will shift their focus to newly hired faculty each term. The Association also continues to welcome new department reps and new part-time reps, so please do not hesitate to let us know if you are interested in serving in this capacity, which has significant impact without requiring a huge time commitment. Also, if you are unsure of your membership status or if you have not updated your contact information, please contact Wendy at email@example.com.
In addition, the LCCEA Executive Council voted unanimously to appoint Membership Chair, Wendy Simmons to the vacant VP for Learning Advancement position through the next election. Welcome, Wendy!
Faculty participation in the LCCEA’s survey in October was robust, with more than 225 faculty members submitting responses, including part- and full-time faculty, members and non-members. While LCCEA does not generally report survey results about issues that are likely to arise in bargaining, the results are used to inform goals in negotiations on behalf of faculty. In this survey, we requested feedback on a large number of matters and will strive to meet faculty interests, regarding frequency and preferred method of communication (email, for example) and topics of greatest interest to faculty (bargaining, grievances, budget, statewide legislative issues, for instance), including those specific to part-time faculty.
This survey also included a number of questions about the shared governance system at Lane. Key results from respondents include the following.
Shared Governance: 94% believe it is important or extremely important for the college to have a shared governance system that includes the faculty. However, only 50% think that the “important questions” impacting our college are being made within the governance system.
The Association’s Role in Governance: 82% value the role of LCCEA in making appointments to LCC governance councils highly or very highly.
The Association’s Role in Budget Development: 98% rated the LCCEA’s representation of faculty interests on the Budget Development Subcommittee (BDS) important or very important; the BDS is responsible for developing a balanced budget for the College annually.
The Role of Faculty Council: 85% rated as important or very important maintaining the authority of Faculty Council in decisions about grading policy, academic policy, and the campus-wide student evaluation instrument, as outlined in Article 39 of the contract
Other Association Work at the College: Also very highly rated (79-88%) were the role of faculty in decisions about: the College’s organizational structure, whether faculty positions are filled, whether new management positions are created, and ensuring that growth in faculty positions is commensurate with growth in management positions.
Joint Workload Taskforce
Your current LCCEA representatives on this Taskforce are: Workload Chair Marge Helzer, Adrienne Mitchell, Steve Selph, and Mel Stark. Jointly with the College, these faculty, along with past members — Chris Crosthwaite, Julie Pfaff, and Jim Salt — developed and conducted a survey of all faculty workloads and have been working for a number of years to document maximum assignable workload parameters for all programs in the college, including class size, in a binding MOA. The work was essentially on hold last year due to numerous changes in Administration, but began meeting again this year to complete the work as required by the Workload and Class Capacity MOA reached in 2014.
The College and Association representatives to the Joint Workload Taskforce have met several times this Fall with one more meeting scheduled for December. While the first couple of meetings were somewhat bumpy, the College representatives led by VP Paul Jarrell, have embraced the work after reaching an agreement on how to quantify and format workloads for the ultimate MOA. Your Association reps, working with program leads, have drafted and presented language for: Academic Learning Skills, Adult Basic Skills Education, Aviation Academy, Aviation Maintenance, Cooperative Education, Counseling, Dance, English, ESL, Health, Languages, Math and Engineering, Nursing, Social Science, Speech Communication, and Theater (with more in the works). Program leads and department reps, please keep an eye out for communications from your LCCEA reps on the Taskforce as we consult on language drafts for the remaining programs.
College Budget, Enrollment, and Statewide Issues:
The College Council Budget Development Subcommittee (BDS), including your LCCEA representatives Lee Imonen and Adrienne Mitchell, began meeting in order to prepare the annual college budget. Data and information shared with the LCC Board of Education and the BDS can be found at: https://www.lanecc.edu/budget/19-20-budget-development . The College has not yet released an estimate for next year’s projected budget deficit, but it is likely that it will exceed the one for this year. Your LCCEA representatives have made a number of information requests about the budget, some of which have been posted online already, including a request for details about expenditures and revenue in funds both in- and outside the general fund.
LCC enrollment is down slightly this Fall, but it appears to track at a lower decline compared to other community colleges in the state, which according to data (attached here) from the state Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC), averages -3.3% for student numbers and -3.6% for student FTE across the state. While any decrease in enrollment will place pressure on the College’s budget, of course, the fact that Lane’s enrollment is declining at a rate less than other community college is incredibly good news and represents a significant shift from recent years when the opposite was true. I believe this can be attributed, in part, to the work of the BDS last year in helping to shift paradigms for both: section management at the department level, allowing sections more time to fill and obviating unnecessary or detrimental class cancellations, as well as a focus on college-wide enrollment growth rather than program cuts as a means to balance the budget. (Also see attached HECC data on higher education staffing by institution in Oregon, but note that average salaries for part-time faculty at Lane are lower than the amounts reported on the attachment.)
The LCC Board of Education voted on Thursday night against adopting the HEPI (Higher Education Price Index) as the measure for inclusion in annual budget development. Their vote does not preclude another Board discussion of the HEPI, nor does it preclude a tuition increase for next year; however, it is unclear whether the Board will or will not discuss the matter further prior to budget discussions in early Spring. The Administration had recommended that the Board include the index as a reasonable placeholder, which would help fulfill the intent of the Board’s own policy to mitigate significant tuition increases in any single year. Without inclusion of the HEPI as both a placeholder and an actual nominal increase, there will be considerable additional pressure on the budget, and consequently, the budget development process. The Association supports the Administration’s recommendation and also advocated for adoption of the HEPI by the Board of Ed.
Your representatives will continue to advocate for a balanced college budget – one developed on a rational basis, which allows for fulfillment of the College mission – at both the BDS and the Board of Ed.
In the Oregon legislature, State Senator Michael Dembrow is leading a coalition of lawmakers and others, including the OEA, AFT, and AAUP, to support a bill in the upcoming legislative session that would provide medical insurance for part-time faculty across the state. The funding would be on top of the regular CCSF (Community College Support Fund). For this reason and because Lane is one of the few community colleges that provide health insurance for part-time faculty, we believe the net annual increase in the allocation from the state to LCC would be in the $1-1.5 million range. The OEA has made this one of its primary legislative goals this year, and the OEA Community College Council voted unanimously to support the forthcoming bill.
Questions regarding policy, contract, and law:
Following the recent all-faculty email discussion, you may have read VP Paul Jarrell’s email citing College policies. You may have also read LCCEA Grievance Chair Russell Shitabata’s email regarding contract language about faculty professional rights. Since then, I have received some questions about the contract and policies as well as about the interface between college policy, contract language, and law.
Briefly, contracts are legally-binding and supersede policy. Law, either as developed through the legislative process or as ruled on by the judiciary, supersedes both contracts and policy. To provide a hypothetical and an entirely unlikely example as a means to illustrate this, consider the following. If the College were to develop a policy that all employees must report to work six days per week, but the contracts required that employees report to work five days per week, but the state enacted a law that no employee shall be required to work more than four days per week, the four day per week rule would be controlling. Absent a conflicting law about number of workdays, the contract language would be controlling. This is, of course, an oversimplified example, because, in many instances, interpretation is much more nuanced because there are often questions as to what the language of a particular law, contract, and/or policy means. However, the principle is an important one. Our contract is legally binding, so if there are any conflicts between the contract and policy, the contract language supersedes the policy. And if there are any conflicts between the contract language and law, (e.g. the recently-revised Article 31 of our contract which had allowed fair share fee deductions), the law supersedes the contract.
As for faculty discussions of controversial issues or expression of divergent viewpoints, the faculty contract protects these most precious gems — academic and professional freedom, which are the fundamental tenets upon which higher education and its goals are based and whose importance becomes more salient with the backdrop of current political discourse at the national level. College policy on its face does not contradict these freedoms, nor could policy ever supersede contractual or legal rights. The Association, of course, fully supports the rights of faculty to engage in email discussions on subjects of interest. (Also, we note specifically that the college policy suggests considering using the BC field rather than the TO field in group emails but does not require it.)
Bargaining continues with plans for a one-year economic agreement for the period retroactive to July 1, 2018. Please watch for updates from your LCCEA Bargaining Team members: Kelly Collins, Adrienne Mitchell, Jim Salt, and Russell Shitabata. We anticipate progress this week and expect the College to come to the table in good faith by no longer proposing disparate treatment for faculty compared with other groups at the college.
Announcements and dates:
LCCEA is seeking volunteers for its Action Team as well as statements of interest from additional faculty interested in serving on Diversity, Finance, and Learning Councils.
LCCEA extends a warm thank you to Communications Chair, Anne McGrail, who has been updating our website (https://lccea.org/), connecting to social media (LCCEA Action Team on Facebook and LCCEA@college_lane on Twitter), and working with Graphic Design Instructor Tom Madison and his team on a new LCCEA logo (forthcoming).
Feb 18 and March 25, Educator Lobby days in Salem
April 26-7, OEA Representative Assembly (OEA-RA) in Portland with LCCEA delegates to be elected by the membership in Winter term.
I hope you all enjoy the upcoming four-day weekend.
President, Lane Community College Education Association