LCC Faculty Colleagues,
I hope this message finds you well. I’m writing with a number of updates regarding: bargaining and organizing, retrenchments, college budget, faculty FTE, an unfair labor practice settlement, suppression of faculty speech rights on campus, shared governance, and more.
Support and Safety Response
Thank you to all the faculty who participated in the survey with recommendations for safety and support after the lockdown on main campus. LCCEA officers summarized the feedback from faculty and presented this memo outlining faculty concerns, questions, immediate needs, and especially the need for training as well as improvements to the physical infrastructure. Given the report at today’s all campus meeting that it may take 3-5 years or more for safe locking devices to be installed in all classrooms, your LCCEA representatives will continue advocating actively for the support and safety our campus needs in a more timely fashion. In addition, we will advocate for regular training provided during all campus in-service times that do not conflict with other scheduled events. (The one training provided last Fall was scheduled during the afternoon reserved for union meetings under our contract.)
Bargaining and Organizing
LCCEA finalized an agreement regarding the workload impacts of the transition to Moodle 4 last week. In addition, we will begin bargaining soon over the workload impacts of Common Course Numbering as well as a new MOA on campus working conditions to take effect after this Spring when the current COVID MOA expires. Thank you to the roughly 200 faculty members who participated in the working conditions survey. The results will inform bargaining goals and advocacy. While there have been some delays on the part of the College due to administration transitions, we anticipate finalizing both agreements before the end of Spring term.
In addition to the interim bargaining issues, your LCCEA Bargaining and Action Teams are preparing for the main contract negotiations that will begin next Winter 2024. LCCEA has been awarded a $50,000 grant from our national union, the National Education Association (NEA), to support bargaining preparations and organizing, centering the common good. This term’s preparations have included meetings, forums, and surveys with part-time faculty, newer contracted faculty, and student groups. In Spring, we will conduct a comprehensive All Faculty Survey in order to gather faculty interests and evaluate bargaining goals so that, together, we can create the college our community deserves. If you are interested in getting involved, please contact LCCEA, your department rep, or complete this form.
Speech Suppression on Campus – Protecting Faculty Rights and Academic Freedom
LCCEA is tracking several incidents of attempts to suppress faculty speech on campus, which have impacted both individuals and groups of faculty. The particular incidents relate to managers or administrators directing or suggesting that faculty members refrain from sharing ideas with colleagues, seek management permission to discuss topics, discuss ideas only with management, refrain from discussing specific topics, and similar directives or suggestions. Some of these incidents seeking to limit faculty speech have come about when faculty members expressed opinions that do not align with managers’ or administrators’ points of view.
Faculty do have professional rights, specifically around the exercise of First Amendment speech rights as outlined in Article 15.3 of the contract (below), which protects our rights to state our opinions and share our views.
15.3 Professional Freedom. The professional freedom of faculty includes the right to explore and discuss controversial issues and divergent points of view, including evaluating, criticizing, and advocating their point of view concerning the policies and programs of the college, ….
Relatedly, LCCEA resolved an informal grievance regarding a faculty member’s academic freedom rights, which had been abrogated. Academic Freedom is not only protected by our contract, it is also “a special concern of the First Amendment,” according to the US Supreme Court. It is especially important in these times to protect academic freedom for the benefit of our students, our community, and for our vibrant democracy because it is being challenged, for instance, with laws and regulations seeking to limit or ban critical race theory and critical gender theory in other locations (e.g., Florida). (See this interactive tracker from UCLA: https://crtforward.law.ucla.edu/ )
While it may be very disconcerting to hear about this or to experience efforts to silence, it is important to understand our rights, to affirm them, and to know that LCCEA is here to support all faculty facing similar pressures. Please do contact LCCEA as soon as possible if you experience any directives or suggestions to limit your speech or your course materials. We will stand with you.
Contracted Faculty FTE
LCCEA settled a grievance in 2022 when the College did not hire enough full-time faculty. The settlement resulted in the addition of eight extra positions beyond the minimum full-time faculty FTE required by the contract. As reported at the union meeting in February, LCCEA and the College are collaboratively discussing the possibility of postponing some of the extra positions in order to have more stability from one year to the next, which will help increase faculty job security for both full-time and part-time faculty.
Unfair Labor Practice – Settlement Reached
After a successful arbitration award from August that provided retro pay to Dental Hygiene faculty for uncompensated instructional time, the College unilaterally made changes to Dental Hygiene faculty instructional time in the LCC dental clinic in September without negotiation. Making such a change unilaterally was an unfair labor practice (i.e., ULP). In addition to impacts to faculty, the change negatively impacted the dental clinic operations, the healthcare provided to patients, the instructional time students receive, and the ability of the clinic to meet its obligations to outside partners such as the Oregon Health Plan, potentially impacting dental clinic revenue as well.
Last Wednesday, the night before a hearing on the ULP complaint was scheduled to begin, LCCEA and the College reached a settlement. It restores the regular clinical instruction schedule with full compensation for Dental Hygiene faculty for all student contact time, requires the College to reimburse LCCEA for the ULP filing fee, and requires LCC to provide $10,000 in tuition waivers for Dental Hygiene students in the program this year, who were impacted by the sudden reduction in clinical instruction time. We’re happy to have reached this settlement, which mitigates harm suffered by faculty, students, and the community served by the dental clinic.
There has been considerable disruption to operations in LCC’s budget office and Finance department due to administrator turnover and positions that have not yet been permanently filled after many months. Reports about the state of the budget, including accounting of actual expenditures from fiscal year 2022 (July 1, 2021- June 30, 2022) have varied from month to month from November to present even though the fiscal year ended last June.
In addition, the official budget audit document was finally released in February, approximately three months later than normal, and has not yet been presented publicly to the Board of Education. The College was cited in the audit for overspending in the “Special Revenue” (i.e., grants) fund. Oregon budget law allows that expenditures may vary up to 10% in broad categories, but spending exceeded this allowance by $1.8M in grants funds last year. Thus far, no explanations have been provided about the overspending that was so substantial it resulted in a note in the official audit.
Furthermore, the Budget Development Subcommittee (BDS), on which faculty member Gary Mort and I serve as your representatives, has struggled due to lack of accurate data provided in a timely manner. For instance, one figure (i.e., the net revenue generated by increasing tuition by $1/ credit) had to be corrected because the original figure provided was 18+% more than what it should have been. In addition, projections of the budget deficit have also varied widely over the past few months. If history is any guide, deficit projections are substantially overestimated. For example, in January 2022, the budget office projected that the FY22 year would end with an annual deficit of $2.9M (in Funds I & IX) , but it ended with a $1.5M surplus instead – a variation of $4.4M.
The BDS successfully reached consensus on budget balancing options last week. However, many stakeholders have expressed a lack of confidence in the data, questions about whether full and accurate information will be presented to the Board of Education before the official budget document is drafted, and concerns about long-term structural issues impacting the budget, which remain unaddressed, such as the $17M debt LCC still owes on the Titan Court apartment building, which has to be subsidized by the general fund, syphoning much needed funds from the core instructional and student services mission of the college.
Faculty Recruitment and Retention
The LCCEA Racial Equity and Social Justice committee continues its focus on recruitment and retention of faculty from historically oppressed groups and will be working with members of administration on a plan. Once finalized, the College will implement the plan as required by an unfair labor practice and grievance settlement from last summer. In addition, the committee conducts exit interviews with any faculty member who is choosing to leave LCC. Thank you to committee members: Jessica Alvarado, Wynona Burks, Susie Cousar, Rosa Lopez, Edrees Nawabi, Wendy Rose Aaron, and Lawrence Rasheed for their commitment to this ongoing work.
Shared Governance Update
Faculty, both via Faculty Council and LCCEA, express ongoing concerns about changes to shared governance, which would re-frame governance council decisions as “recommendations,” to be forwarded to the College President for decision-making. This misunderstanding of the rules of our shared governance system would reduce the role of all stakeholder groups, including faculty, classified professionals, and students and undermine the primary purpose of shared governance.
In addition, there is a lack of clarity around Board of Education policies, especially policies derived from the OCCA library, that the Board is reviewing and which could supplant existing college policies; contravene contractual provisions; and touch mandatory subjects of bargaining (i.e., issues that legally require negotiation). Many of these new OCCA policies are more operational in nature and should be the purview of the governance system, not the Board. (The OCCA policy library is a subscription service that provides policy templates originally written for the California system.)
Finally, Faculty Council has authority over academic and grading policy – a right guaranteed in our contract between LCCEA and the LCC Board of Education. Providing administrators or the Board authority over such policies would not be allowed by our contract.
The College provided formal notice to LCCEA in early January about plans for retrenchments in Political Science and Sociology. After meetings with LCCEA, the reduction in Sociology will be 0.5 FTE rather than 1.0 or more FT faculty FTE. For Sociology, we were unable to reach an agreement on an alternative plan with the Administration. One faculty member was willing to take a voluntary, unpaid leave in order to allow the least senior faculty member the opportunity to teach a small portion of their assignment in Sociology, which is important for the long-term stability in the discipline. Even though LCCEA offered flexibility and asked the administration to work together to craft language that would meet their needs, the College declined the offer of voluntary unpaid leave, and as a result, will not receive the savings on salary and OPE that were offered. Discussions are ongoing regarding Political Science. Affected faculty members in both disciplines will retain their full-time jobs with partial transfers to other programs.
Oregon Legislative Session and Community College Funding
The State legislature began its biennial “long session” in January, and Governor Kotek released her recommended budget last month, which provides that community colleges will see an increase of at 7% for the 2023- 2025 biennium, and our statewide union Oregon Education Association, LCCEA, and many other partners are advocating for more. We anticipate the final allocation will be determined in June.
In addition, Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) is revising the community college funding formula to include “Student Support Factors” based on student demographics and course of study (i.e., low-income, adults age 25+, underrepresented groups, and CTE/Workforce training) as well as “Student Success Factors (i.e., completion of 15 credits and 30 credits, non-credit completions, and college level Math, English or Writing completions). These new factors will not take effect until the 24-25 year, and will increase incrementally as a percentage of overall funding from 3.5% to 10% in the 2027-2029 biennium. Details about the new formula are not yet finalized, and concerns about its implications include: institutional data integrity, metrics, impacts on historically oppressed groups.
Oregon Education Association Representative Assembly
Congratulations to members: Jessica Alvarado, Wynona Burks, Don Easton, April Myler, Tricia Unrath, and Meggie Wright who will join me in representing LCCEA at the OEA-RA where we will participate in the democratic process that guides the work, advocacy, and legislative objectives of our statewide union.
A Final Note
It is a tremendous privilege to work with you all as colleagues. I greatly appreciate all the solidarity among faculty both broadly at LCC and within divisions as we together navigate ongoing transitions. It is a great honor to stand with you all and to participate in our collective work for the benefit of our campus and our community.
Dates for Your Calendar
March 13 and 16, LCCEA Department Rep meetings
April 6, 9:30-11:00, Coffee & Donuts at LCC Downtown Campus, hosted by LCCEA Membership Committee
April 21-22, OEA Representative Assembly
May, LCCEA Spring meeting, date TBD
June 8, LCCEA-hosted Eugene Ems baseball game (details forthcoming from the Membership committee)
More ways to get involved:
LCCEA is Made Up of You – the Members
Did you know that more than 65 faculty members volunteer on LCCEA committees or in LCCEA roles, not including LCCEA appointments to councils, college wide committees, or Faculty Professional Development?
Are you interested in serving on an LCCEA committee? A statewide committee? Committees to which LCCEA makes appointments such as Faculty Professional Development committees, or other college wide committees or councils? Faculty are most cordially invited to fill out this form.
LCCEA highlights faculty work at meetings with the Board of Education, among others. Have your own successes to share or accomplishments of your colleagues? Please submit them here.