August 19, 2017

Speech to Board of Trustees 04/08/2013

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you tonight.

This week, Dr. Pollard will be presenting all of us with the State of the College as she sees it through her lens. We would like to provide you with the perspective of the faculty this evening.

The level of dissatisfaction, feeling of marginalization, and anger among the full time faculty is the highest that I have seen in my 17 years at Montgomery College. This assessment is based on comments made at an emergency meeting of the AAUP, numerous emails received from faculty across disciplines from all 3 campuses, emails and statements from faculty leaders representing the views of their constituents, and, in a first for me, having been on the receiving end of a letter writing campaign in which several faculty each sent the same letter demanding the union more forcefully represent their concerns. It is on behalf of all of these colleagues that I speak tonight.

The proximate cause of this anger is the process and apparent direction of the ongoing academic area restructuring, and I will share the faculty’s concerns with this effort shortly. However, it is a pattern of recent decisions and decision making processes that has led us to this point. In a survey conducted earlier this academic year by the HRDE office in conjunction with the Employee Engagement Advocacy Group, only 53% of faculty agreed with the statement “I am comfortable participating in forums on college-wide issues without fear of reprisal,” only 39% of the faculty agreed that “the administration appreciates the contributions I make toward achieving Montgomery College’s mission,” and only 30% stated that they believe their input is appropriately considered in reaching a decision. The impact of this atmosphere extends beyond faculty morale and affects our students too.

We have been undergoing rapid large scale change at the College. The faculty do not deny that some change is good and necessary, but we are left with the impression that everything that made Montgomery College a successful institution is no longer valued or considered before changes are made. We have a culture of outcomes and evidence, but the change is happening so rapidly that there is no way to assess its effectiveness. Will the change allow us to better serve our students? To operate more effectively or efficiently? The Student Services side of the College was completely restructured just last year. Yet the counseling faculty have not been contacted to ask what has worked and what has not worked with the new structure before analogous and even larger scale changes are implemented on the academic side. Nor, to the best of our knowledge, has any other research been conducted or planned about the impact of the changes on the services provided to our students.

Last year the College abandoned the shared governance which we had had for many years to implement a participatory governance which greatly diminished the faculty’s opportunity to contribute its expertise in decisions made at the College. The change was forced on the faculty over strong objections and even required changes in the P&P to terms which had previously protected faculty interests.

This year, the decision was made to remove institutional credit from the AELP courses. We recognize and respect that well meaning people could reach different conclusions on the correct decision in this matter, especially if they approached it from different vantage points and with different areas of expertise. The union’s concern here is not with the decision to remove institutional credit itself, but that the decision was reached in a way that was disrespectful and even dishonest to faculty who were charged with researching best practices and then had their research summarily dismissed.

Where faculty have been included in committees lately, a new and disturbing trend has emerged in which administrators are selecting which faculty can represent us. Even more distressing are the times when administrators claim that they themselves, based on their faculty backgrounds, represent the faculty viewpoint in decision making processes. The impression is that we have little to contribute, that whatever we would contribute can be anticipated and represented by an administrator and that our individual backgrounds, experiences, and areas of professional expertise cannot contribute to a better decision.

Given this background, it is not surprising that faculty are wary about the academic area restructuring. At the forums where the models under consideration were first unveiled and the college community was asked to offer constructive criticisms, the details were so lacking that we were unable to draw meaningful conclusions. Many left with the belief that once again their input was not truly desired as they were not given sufficient information to provide useful input. One intended outcome that was clear, however, was that the role of the department chair would either be given a new name and turned into an administrative position or stripped of much of its current responsibility, allowing the position to remain a faculty one but transferring the actual responsibilities to the administration.

Well into the restructuring process the task force set the criteria by which it would evaluate potential models, and included a criterion stating that the chosen model should “relieve faculty of administrative duties and increase faculty teaching time”. “Administrative duties” still has not been defined, and we worry that responsibilities which have long been fulfilled by chairs and coordinators as necessary elements of the academic leadership they provide could be removed as “administrative”. The wording of this criterion further gives the impression that time that we spend outside of teaching contributes little to the College, our students, or our own professional growth.

Last fall the chairs groups on all three campuses jointly issued the following statement:

In any academic structure, department chairs are the primary academic leaders providing direct leadership and support for students, faculty and the discipline as well as providing a bridge between faculty and administration. Department chairs should be faculty leaders who routinely teach in their discipline and facilitate curriculum development and academic initiatives. As Montgomery College re-envisions its academic structure, it is essential in any model that faculty leadership in the chair role is maintained.

The AAUP endorses this position. We would further add that the structure long used at MC is not only a workable model, it is entirely consistent with the one-college focus which was ostensibly the original impetus for the restructuring. The vast majority – 85% – of multi-campus colleges and universities in which the faculty are unionized with the AAUP include department chairs in the bargaining unit. And while some specific obligations of a chair are necessarily going to be different at a research university than at a community college, the roles associated with the chairs at these other institutions share many similarities to those currently fulfilled by the chairs here. These chairs provide leadership and advocacy for academic areas; they are described as resources for the faculty, points of contact for students, and advisors to their deans on program, discipline, and course matters; they manage course schedules and teaching assignments; they serve on and fill faculty search committees; and they coordinate and communicate on such matters as textbook selection, adjunct observations, and peer review processes.

The AAUP leadership recognizes that the specific duties of the chairs at MC have evolved over time, including in some ways that we the faculty have requested be re-examined. Some of these past changes may well have legal implications, and the union welcomes the opportunity to discuss and hopefully resolve these through negotiations or other less formal labor-management collaboration. But this restructuring is not the appropriate place, nor does it have the appropriate involvement to address these. To be fair, I do want to thank Dr. Pearl for agreeing during our conversation this past Friday afternoon to commence this discussion with the AAUP executive committee. In the meantime, however, I hope that the charge to relieve the faculty of administrative duties will be removed from the consideration of the restructuring task force.

Each of the models under consideration requires the hiring of several new administrators. It was even stated at the forums that the question was not if, but where, these new administrators would fit into the overall structure. This will clearly cost a significant amount of money. And yet there has never been sufficient money available to fully fund the chair/coordinator ESH formula. Inequities in chair compensation was actually pinpointed as a flaw in the current system, but it would be much more cost effective to directly remedy those inequities by revising and fully funding the formula than to create numerous additional administrative positions. Many faculty have also expressed the concern that using the College’s limited resources to hire additional administrators would keep funds from being available to fill needed faculty and other student focused positions. We are below the 60/40 ratio that both the Board of Trustees and the County Council have long emphasized. And it is more faculty, not more administrators, by which we will fulfill our mission of empowering our students to change their lives.

Beyond the concerns I have shared this evening, there are numerous others that have been raised by faculty over the past several weeks. Many of the concerns have been collated and are now available on the AAUP website. I encourage everyone to read them.

In conclusion, the marginalization of the faculty that has taken place over the past couple of years has not only taken a significant toll on morale, but has led, and is still leading, to decisions being made without the 2-way exchanges of information necessary for making the best decisions for the future of our students and our College. On behalf of the faculty, and with the best interests of our students and the College in mind, we respectfully request that this problem be addressed.

Thank you,
Rick Penn
President, MC-AAUP

Update on the Restructuring

Colleagues,
Thank you for the steady flow of concerns regarding the academic restructuring that you have shared with the AAUP leadership before, during, and since our meeting last week. We take these concerns very seriously and are doing our best to fully and effectively represent them to both the senior administration and the Board of Trustees. I’d like to share some of the efforts that we have undertaken and plans that we have going forward.

This coming Monday, April 8, is the next meeting of the Board. I have requested time to speak during the open comments period at the beginning of this meeting to relay those concerns that we have heard so clearly and share. I encourage each of you to attend in a show of strength and solidarity. The meeting is scheduled to start at 8:15 pm in the Board Room in the Mannakee building.

Yesterday morning I met with Dr. Pollard. During this meeting we talked at great length about how angry so many of the faculty are regarding both the process and apparent direction in which the restructuring is headed, and I emphasized the feeling of marginalization that is so prevalent. I have also been continuing the research I mentioned last week on practices at other multi-campus, unionized institutions and expect to have more to say based on that by the time of the Board meeting.

The full AAUP executive committee has remained very involved in the efforts. We have had numerous discussions on how to best advocate on this matter, and have scheduled an emergency meeting for tomorrow. In addition, we are working on a compilation of the written and oral feedback that we have received. Our plan is to edit these only to remove references that may identify the speaker or other specific individuals and then post these to our website. If you shared anything that you would rather not be made public even anonymously please contact me by email ASAP, and we will respect your wishes. Should you prefer, you may also contact me at president@mcaaup.org or my personal email address, profpenn@yahoo.com. Please also consider sending to me, if you have not already done so, specific issues and actions that I could include when I speak before the Board. The more examples I am able to include which illustrate why we are feeling angry, distrustful, and marginalized, the more effective our case will be.

Your union leadership genuinely appreciates all of the feedback we have received and wants to assure you that we are working diligently to represent your concerns as effectively as possible.

Union Meeting on Academic Restructuring

Colleagues,
Thank you to the many of you who have shared your thoughts and concerns on the academic area restructuring with the union. I hope you have also taken the opportunity to communicate directly with the task force and Dr. Pearl. In response to the many requests that the AAUP has received to further discuss this issue, and in recognition of the significant impact that the restructuring will have on our jobs, the executive committee of the AAUP invites all members of the AAUP to a special union meeting on Thursday, March 28, from 4-5 pm in the Theater Arts Arena on the Rockville Campus. At this meeting we will share the specific concerns that we have as a union and discuss the feedback that we have received from you.
I hope to see many of you then. In the meantime, please keep the feedback coming, and have a great spring break.

Rick Penn

Volunteers needed

MC-AAUP is in need of 2 volunteers.  Please consider serving in one of these capacities.

First, as Stephanie Pepin announced at the opening meeting, the Chapter is seeking to create a liaison to the College’s Board of Trustees.  This person will help foster communication between the Chapter and the Board, and will observe the Board’s open meetings on behalf of the Chapter.

Also, the AAUP has been asked for a volunteer to serve on a new “Common Employee Experience” committee. The committee will meet on Friday afternoons starting 2/8.
The charge of the committee is to:
Assist Montgomery College in becoming a destination employer by defining and recommending the adoption of a common employee experience – what it will mean to belong to the Montgomery College employee community; what employees should expect from their employment experience at Montgomery College. Utilize a process to accomplish this objective that emphasizes reliance on data, examination of best practices, adherence to Montgomery College’s values, and collaboration.

If you might be interested in serving  in either of these roles, please contact your campus AAUP vice president or me ASAP.
Thank you.

Rick Penn

Negotiations – tentative agreement

As Bill Talbot recently e-mailed, the AAUP and the administration have come to a tentative agreement on compensation for the next two academic years. His memo is copied below. The text of the contractual terms can be found in the Chapter Documents section of this site.

These negotiations were quite contentious, but we did eventually reach an agreement everyone could get behind.  It does not have any additional money for this year as many of us had hoped for, but it does provide reasonable COLA’s for the next two years; real improvements for those at the top for the first time in many, many years; improvements for those at the very bottom of the scale; and for the first time a structure to make progression through the salary scale more predictable.  And, contrary to the way things appeared to be headed as of the last update, this agreement was reached without requiring fact finding.  My sincere thanks to Bill for all his efforts to make this happen, and to Sharon Piper, Tammy Peery and Rose Sachs for all of their contributions.

We will have the opportunity to discuss the terms of this tentative agreement at the AAUP meeting when we return in January, and the ratification vote will take place after that.

Happy holidays to everyone,

Rick Penn

 

 

Colleagues:
The College and the Union reached a tentative agreement for FY 13, present academic year, FY14, and FY15 which is subject to ratification by the faculty and approval by the Board of Trustees in January 2013:

FY13, present academic year, no change.

FY14, 3.5% increment compounded with a 2.25% COLA in your base pay starting with your first paycheck in Sept 2013. Minimum salary $53,838, maximum salary $100,947
Faculty members who currently fall below the new minimum of the range will have their salaries adjusted to the minimum of the new range prior to receiving the 3.5% increment compounded with a 2.25% COLA in your base pay.

FY15, 3.5% increment compounded with a 2.5% COLA in your base pay starting with your first paycheck in Sept 2014. Minimum salary $56,840, maximum salary $106,575.
The 3.5% annual increment will serve as a progression through the salary scale and is intended to be continued in future years, so that in subsequent negotiations only the COLA and possible adjustments to the scale will need to be negotiated.
Examples:
Present
Salary FY14 FY15
48,000* 56,976 60,445
56,000 59,264 62,872
64,000 67,730 71,853
72,000 76,197 80,835
80,000 84,663 89,817
88,000 93,129 98,799
95,850 100,947 106,575

*48,000 is below $53,838 so it is first adjusted to $53,838

Travel, will be available to faculty in both FY14 and FY15 equal to up to $1000 per faculty member for one approved conference in each FY, provided that the total College benefits payable shall not exceed $100,000 in the fiscal 2014 academic year and $100,000 in the fiscal 2015 academic year. Approve and encumber your funds prior to attendance at the conference to assure reimbursement.
This is an increase from the current $500 which was available only once over the last two years, FY12 and FY13.

EAP
EAP is increasing by $200 per faculty in the academic year starting Sept 2013 to $2220, The total benefits paid under this will be limited to $324,522.
EAP is increasing by $100 per faculty in the academic year starting Sept 2014 to $2320. The total benefits paid under this will be limited to $364,522.
Additionally, for faculty members who undertake graduate coursework beyond the Master’s Degree level, the maximum EAP benefit can exceed the specified dollar amount for that year such that total reimbursement would be equal to the University of Maryland College Park rate for in-state tuition and fees for graduate coursework up to a maximum of nine (9) graduate credits in FY14 and twelve (12) graduate credits in FY15 All benefits provided in any fiscal academic year shall be used only for payment of tuition, fees and required instructional materials for approved courses. This is not a change but will be continued in FY14 and FY15.

Overload Pay
Overload Pay – Fiscal Academic Year 2014
Consecutive years of service Salary per ESH
Less than 6 years $1,160
6 years or more $1,283
Overload Pay – Fiscal Academic Year 2015
Consecutive years of service Salary per ESH
Less than 6 years $1,231
6 years or more $1,361
For details, see attachment with specific contract language. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

I want to thank the negotiating team for their wisdom and their time in this especially difficult contract agreement, Rose Sachs, Sharon Piper, Tammy Peery and Rick Penn.

Bill
AAUP Chief Negotiator

Student Complaint Process Committee Recommendations

As discussed at the end of the year AAUP meeting, here are the recommendations from this committee. Please share your thoughts/concerns with the members of the committee, with Dr. Pollard, and here.

Student Complaint Process Committee Recommendations
Committee Members: Dr. Debra Bright, Carmen Poston-Farmer, Dr. Michelle Scott, Dr. Jim Snieziek, Dr. Clemmie Solomon, Dorothy Umans, Dr. Beverly Walker-Griffea, Dr. Eun Woo Chang


Montgomery College Should:
Centralize all student policy and processes on the website that students need to lodge a concern with college personnel. The area would have its own portal from the front page. We suggest it be identified with the symbol of a shield. The portal would contain information about each policy and process that defines the type of concerns that can be submitted with the linked form. Equity and diversity information and forms will be linked to this site from the portal.
Develop a form that will encompass all student concerns except the grade appeal process and equity and diversity issues.
Ensure every office has copies of these three forms for distribution.
Provide training for front office personnel so they understand how to complete the form and have a level of reference for any questions they may be asked.
Add to the Acceptable Use Policy a statement about the use of social media.
Develop a process so that students will read the Acceptable Use Policy before they register each semester.
Adopt a college civility policy.
Add three student processes for concerns or complaints to the college for supporting student success.

 

Student and Public Concerns Procedure
Status:
No clearly Defined Written Policy/Procedure at Montgomery College

Definition:
This procedure is designed to address issues such as written concerns about customer service, food service, parking availability and similar concerns. This process will not forego the necessity of all offices being actively participatory in resolving student or general public concerns. Each College member has the duty to assist students or the general public through this process or act on their behalf.

Recommended Procedure:
A concern that remains unresolved through informal means may be resolved through a formal process for resolution. The formal procedure is as follows:

1. All written concerns will be accepted and investigated as long as the concern contains the complainant’s name and contact information. The Student and Public Concern Form will be available on-line and in paper format in all offices.
2. Concerns will be addressed to the Associate Dean of Student Services on the various campuses and the Director of Operations, WDCE.
3. The Associate Dean of Student Services and/or Director of Operations, WDCE will forward the written concern to the appropriate administrator for review and follow-up.
4. College administrators will maintain a file with all written concerns received within their area of responsibility and send to the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Senior Vice President for Student Services at the end of each academic term.
5. The Student Services Operations Director will review the written concern logs to ensure:
Each concern was addressed in a fair, consistent and timely manner
Tracking occurs when specific issues occur repeatedly and/or at multiple locations
Changes or adjustments are made to lessen or eliminate specific issues or problems
6. The Student Services Operations Director will provide a report to the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Senior Vice President for Student Services following the end of each academic term. This report will provide a Collegewide summary of all written student and public concerns and will be available for review to the College community on MyMC.

 

Student Academic Complaints

Status:
No Clearly Defined Written Policy /Procedure at Montgomery College

Definition:
An academic complaint is defined as an issue related to classroom instruction (other than a grade dispute), including concerns about acceptance or non-acceptance of late assignments, faculty absenteeism, or lack of faculty responsiveness.

Recommended Procedure:
A student who has a specific academic complaint involving a faculty member that remains unresolved through informal means, may enter a formal process of problem resolution. A student wishing to initiate a formal academic complaint must follow the following procedure:

1. Schedule an appointment with a Counselor to discuss the problem and receive guidance on how to move forward.
2. The student may request a meeting with the appropriate department chairperson, if so advised. Prior to scheduling the appointment the student may complete an Academic Complaint Form including a written description of the problem and the resolution the student is requesting. The Academic Complaint Form may be obtained from the Counseling/Advising Center on each campus, any academic department, the Office of the Dean of Student Development, the Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, any WDCE Customer Service Office, or on-line.
3. The appropriate department chairperson will review the case, and the decision will be communicated to the student via formal correspondence. If the problem is not resolved at the department chair level then the Academic Complaint Form and the chairperson’s recommendation will be forwarded to the appropriate dean.
4. The appropriate dean will review the case, and the decision will be communicated to the student via formal correspondence. If the problem is not resolved at the dean’s level, then the Academic Complaint Form, the chairperson’s recommendation, and the dean’s recommendation will be forwarded to the College-wide Academic Appeals Committee for review.
5. The College-wide Academic Appeals Committee will review the case, and the decision will be communicated to the student via formal correspondence. If the student is not satisfied with the decision of the Academic Appeals Committee, s/he may appeal to the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs. At this point, the student has a right to meet with the Senior Vice President to provide additional support for his/her case, but is not required to do so.
6. The decision of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs is final. The decision will be communicated to the student via formal correspondence.

*Adapted from Howard Community College

Revised: 5/1/12

 

Student –vs- Student Complaints

Status:
Policy/Procedures exist at Montgomery College via Student Code of Conduct
*See Montgomery College Student Code of Conduct – page 10 – Section XII – Case Referrals

Any faculty member, staff member or student can file a complaint concerning a student or student organization suspected of a violation of the Student Code of Conduct with the appropriate Associate Dean of Student Development or the designated Instructional Dean of Workforce Development and Continuing Education.

Current Procedure:

1. Student complaint is filed with the Office of Safety and Security (for emergency situations) or the Associate Dean of Student Development (for non-emergency situations).
2. The Associate Dean of Student Development or designated Instructional Dean of WDCE initiates investigation within 5 business days.
3. After preliminary investigation the Associate Dean of Student Development or Instructional Dean of WDCE may dismiss the complaint as unfounded or initiate disciplinary proceedings. Any decision will be communicated to the student via formal correspondence.
4. Depending on the severity of the charges (charges subject to possible suspension or expulsion), the student shall be afforded the right to a disciplinary hearing. All other cases shall be resolved after an informal disciplinary conference.
5. If a disciplinary hearing is necessary, the student will be notified in writing of the findings and conclusions within 10 business days after the hearing. The notice will inform the student of any sanctions to be imposed and about any right to appeal.
6. For cases resulting in a disciplinary conference, students will be notified in writing of the decision and any applicable sanction within 5 business days (by the Associate Dean of Student Development or appropriate Instructional Dean in WDCE).
7. If the student is not satisfied with the decision, s/he may appeal to the Senior Vice President for Student Services. At this point, the student has a right to meet with the Senior Vice President to provide additional support for his/her case, but is not required to do so.
8. The decision of the Senior Vice President for Student Services is final. The decision will be communicated to the student via formal correspondence.

Footnote:
A Disciplinary Conference is defined as a meeting between the appropriate dean and the student.
A Disciplinary Hearing involves a review by a campus-based panel consisting of 3 faculty members and 2 students.

Revised: 5/1/12

Academic Freedom

Colleagues,

Earlier today we received memos from Mr. Sorrell, counsel for the College, and Dr. Pollard on the issue of political activity taken by college employees. The AAUP is very concerned about some of the points raised and their implications to our academic freedom. We have been discussing this with our legal counsel, and are planning a meeting with College representatives to discuss our concerns in more detail. We will report back to you after that discussion takes place.
To be sure, some aspects of the policy contain common sense rules that we all can support. For example, I doubt any of us believes that we should be coercing our colleagues into supporting our choice of candidates or issues. It is not as clear, however, how some of the other sections should be interpreted in regards to faculty and our educational mission.

Below is a copy of Policy 58003 from the P&P, the Board’s affirmation of the importance of academic freedom. It is well worth every faculty member’s time to become familiar with it.
Thank you,
Rick Penn

 

Policy 58003

A sound educational environment requires a secure framework of academic freedom. Academic freedom establishes the right and implies the obligation of a scholar to examine all data and to question every assumption. Academic freedom has to do with methods of inquiry rather than with the personal views of the inquirer. It debars one from preconceived conclusions. It obligates a teacher to present all information fairly, because it asserts the student’s right to know all aspects of the facts. Academic freedom does not require neutrality on the part of either an individual or an institution but it does require candidly declared efforts to advance a particular point of view, as well as complete access to the facts underlying an argument and plain distinction of personal or institutional opinion from objective inquiry. To restrict the availability or limit the presentation of data or opinions, even though they may be considered erroneous, is to impinge upon academic freedom. Regardless of whether faculty members hold probationary initial appointments or are on extended contract or permanent tenure, the same principles of academic freedom must apply to all.
Board Approval: June 26, 1978.

Testimony Before County Council

Last week the County Council took public comments as it prepared its FY13 budget. Several people spoke on behalf of Montgomery College, testifying as to the great work that we do here, and the importance of the County’s support toward our being able to continue this work. In times such as this, I am proud that the Chapter is able to work as a partner with the administration in showing the important role we all play in empowering our students to change their lives. That is not to say that we always agree with the administration on the best way to do this. We will continue to press the case with the administration when we believe that its spending priorities are not optimal. However, the importance of our students to us, and the importance of our work to our students, is something that we all share, and can stand behind together.
Among the speakers before the Council were 4 MC students – one representing each of our 3 campuses, and the student member of our Board of Trustees. I know of the old show-business adage about never following a dog act, but I can’t imagine that would be any harder than following the wonderful speeches these students gave. Each told a compelling tale of their journey to and through MC that visibly moved members of the Council. When I had the opportunity to speak, I too emphasized our students, and in particular a few of the students that I personally have worked with over the past year. My testimony is copied below.

 

April 12, 2012
Good evening,

My name is Rick Penn. I am a professor of mathematics, and represent the faculty of Montgomery College as president of the American Association of University Professors.

I was very pleased to see that the County Executive proposed a budget fully funding Montgomery College’s request of level funding, and encourage you to maintain this funding in your budget. As a native of Montgomery County, and a life-long resident of Rockville, I know of the Council’s long history of recognizing the value that Montgomery College adds to our community. I thank you for your past support, and hope that it will continue.

In preparing my remarks for this evening, I came across a study of the economic impact that community colleges provide to the state of Maryland. This report, produced a couple of years ago by CCbenefits, Inc, calculated a ROI to the taxpayers of 9.8% for money invested in community colleges, in the form of avoided negative social costs and increased tax revenue from the resulting income growth. The economic benefit to the students themselves is significantly greater. As a mathematician I would be happy to discuss such numbers, but as I’ve learned from my students sometimes it is helpful to step back from the theory, and look at specific examples. With that in mind, I’d like to share with you stories of a couple of students with whom I’ve personally worked over just the past year, to illustrate who is directly benefiting from Montgomery College.

This past year the mathematics discipline completely revamped its developmental program in an attempt to help more students pass this traditional stumbling block and prepare for college level courses. This fall, in the first semester that this was offered, my students achieved a level of success that gives me great hope for this program. One young woman in particular, who like most in her class had always struggled with math, took advantage of the self-pacing to work ahead, finished the course early, and then nearly lived in the lab for the last month of the term until she successfully completed a 2nd course as well, saving herself a full semester. She is now taking statistics, and doing quite well.

MC is also fortunate to serve a large population of very successful students. Last spring I taught an honors seminar in game theory, a mathematical analysis of how people, businesses, countries, or even animal species with conflicting goals can best achieve the most favorable outcome for themselves. The students in this seminar were incredibly bright and motivated, and they pushed each other – and me- much harder than I had ever experienced in a course at this level. One student, for example, wrote a term paper researching game theoretic decision making in oligopolies. He has since transferred to Cornell University where he is studying business and mathematics.

Finally, many MC students participate each year in a national math competition for students in 2 year colleges. Even though many of the students initially participate in response to arm-twisting by their professors, quite a few discover a real enjoyment in solving mathematical puzzles. While this year’s results are not official yet, MC looks likely to once again have a team finish near the top in the mid-Atlantic region. I will be joining a colleague in bringing 4 of the students who were among the most successful in this competition to compete against students from other local community colleges next weekend.
While the examples that I have shared tonight are all from my discipline, students in all fields, and at all levels, are transforming their lives and achieving their goals at Montgomery College. Please support our level funding request and help us to continue to provide the innovative programs and support services that they need to succeed.

Thank you.

What is the Role of the Faculty?

Thank you for coming out to the campus Q&A sessions over the past couple of weeks. While the specific concerns raised varied, a couple of themes have clearly emerged. Faculty are very concerned that their voices are not being heard. A related and broader concern is that recent statements and actions by constituencies throughout MC have demonstrated a general lack of understanding of what the role of the faculty should be within the College community.

Before you read on, I’d like you to give some thought to this:

What is, or should be, the role of the faculty in a College community?

This is an important question, and we can’t expect others to understand and appreciate the role that we play if we aren’t clear on it ourselves.

I don’t claim to have the answer as to what our role should be, but I have an answer that I’d like to put forward for discussion. This proposal isn’t mine, it is excerpted from the AAUP’s Redbook, a collection of recommended policies published nearly 50 years ago. While some aspects of this recommendation are more directly relevant at a research university than for us in a community college, the idea behind this is powerful enough to merit being copied verbatim:

“The faculty has primary responsibility for such fundamental areas as curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction, research, faculty status, and those aspects of student life which relate to the educational process. On these matters the power of review or final decision lodged in the governing board or delegated by it to the president should be exercised adversely only in exceptional circumstances, and for reasons communicated to the faculty. It is desirable that the faculty should, following such communication, have opportunity for further consideration and further transmittal of its views to the president or board.”

Note that while this statement is taken from an AAUP publication, it was jointly written by the AAUP, the American Council on Education (ACE), and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) – it is an ideal endorsed by organizations representing faculty, administrators and the Boards of colleges and universities nationwide. The full Redbook can be accessed through links on our website; the statement on governance, from which the above was copied, can be found at http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/policydocs/contents/governancestatement.htm#b5 .

Undoubtedly, in general the faculty at MC are allowed to lead in areas such as curriculum, subject matter and methods of instruction. Recently raised concerns, however, bring into question whether the lead of the faculty is given the weight of “primary responsibility” – i.e., is there a recognition that the will of the faculty should not be taken as advisory, but rather the final word barring extremely compelling reasons to the contrary?


My questions to you, then are twofold:

  1. What do you see as the appropriate role for the faculty at MC?
  2. And, is that role currently fulfilled by the faculty?

Employee Engagment Survey – Deadline Approaching!

On behalf of the Employee Engagement Advisory Group, a reminder that the annual employee engagement survey is currently available. The deadline to complete this survey is rapidly approaching – this Friday – and as of now fewer than half of the faculty have done so. Please consider taking the couple of minutes necessary to help us collect this valuable information.

The faculty survey can be accessed at:

http://appserv.montgomerycollege.edu/Questionnaire/facultyEngagementSurvey.aspx .