October 24, 2020

AAUP Update: Summer 2020-Related Issues

Colleagues:

This is the second in a number of updates that I planned to send out to all of you.  This update will focus on summer related issues.

Coordinator ESH Issue:

It has come to the attention of the Executive Committee that at least one Dean has made the decision to not provide summer Coordinator ESH to faculty within his unit.  This is the prerogative of the Dean.  We on the Executive Committee firmly believe that that faculty should not be asked to work for free.  If you are not being paid to work during the summer months then you need to refuse any attempt to make you participate in hiring committees, consultations with a Dean or a Chair on hiring of part-time faculty, or on scheduling issues.  If you are not being paid to work then let the Chair and Dean do the work over the summer months.  If you encounter any pressure to work for free during the summer and perform some of your Coordinator duties, please contact Tim Kirkner or myself.

Summer Training Concerns:

After the announcement about the summer training opportunities a flurry of e-mails were sent to members of the Executive Committee.  We received the message loud and clear that the differing messages faculty were receiving from various administrators and Chairs has caused quite a bit of confusion. I hope that the following provides you all with some clarity as it relates to summer training opportunities.

The Summer Professional Development Institute was created to help faculty obtain the training they need so that they are qualified to teach in a structured remote environment by the time classes start in summer session II.  In addition, more advanced optional offerings are provided for those faculty who are already qualified to teach in a distance learning environment but want to enhance their skill level.  If you click on the link below, you will be directed to the Summer Professional Development webpage.

https://www.montgomerycollege.edu/offices/elite/summer-institute.html

If you click on the Professional Development Opportunities link, you will see links to a summer schedule, an application form, a professional development flowchart, an infographic on structured remote teaching, and a syllabus for the structured remote teaching program. 

When you click on the application link, you will see that there are four different training programs being offered this summer.  Select the one that is appropriate for you and if you complete the program you will receive a stipend of $1,850.  These training programs are open to all full-time and part-time faculty members.  If you are not sure which program is best for you, click on the link to the flowchart and it will direct you to the program that is most appropriate for you.  The Structured Remote Teaching training is for faculty like me who have no Blackboard training or like many of you who have completed a portion of the part I training.   The advanced training options (Universal Design for Teaching, Outside the Box Assessment, and Emerging Technologies for the Classroom) are open to those of you who are already qualified to teach distance learning or hybrid classes. 

It is imperative that you complete the application and submit it to your Chair as soon as you can.  The Chair will review your application and forward it to your Dean for approval.  The application must get to the Dean by May 20. 

Please refer to the frequently asked questions link if you need additional information on any of the summer training offerings.

Please notify Tim Kirkner or myself if you are denied the right to participate in any of these training programs.

Technology Issues:

As you know, the Administration has decided that all summer session II classes will be taught in an on-line format or in a structured remote format.  We will start the fall semester teaching all classes in a similar manner.  With this in mind, I want you all to know that the Chapter has stressed to members of the Administration many of us do not have the technology in our homes that will enable us to do this.  In addition, many of us do not have the ergonomic furniture in our homes like we requested and received in our offices.  Members of the Administration are looking in the CARES Act funding to see how this funding could be used to help us meet the technology and non-technology requirements that would enable us to perform our jobs at home.

Professional Week

Next week is Professional Week and a series of guest speakers are schedule to present on relevant topics for many of us.  You must register if you want to “attend” any of these Zoom presentations through MC Learns.  Our own Dr. Collins Jones is scheduled to present on the topic of the COVID-19 virus on May 19 at 11:00am.  He is a terrific speaker and I encourage you to register for his presentation.

AAUP Closing Meeting

In my last update, I mentioned that we will be hosting a Chapter closing meeting for the faculty on Wednesday May 20 at 1:00pm.  Next week we will e-mail you a Zoom link invitation to this meeting.  Please look for this link in your e-mail and plan on attending if your schedule permits.

In closing, I hope you are all safe, and healthy, and that you are taking time to take care of yourself.  This is a very busy and stressful time for us and our students so please be good to yourself.

On behalf of the Chapter,

Harry Z.

Harry N. Zarin, Professor/Counselor

President-AAUP

AAUP Update: Nominations, Voting, End-of-Year Meeting, April Testimony

Colleagues:

This is the first of several updates that I will be sending out as our very unusual semester comes to a close.  I decided to send out several updates rather than a very long update which many of you just don’t have the time to read. 

I hope that this update finds that all of you are healthy and are doing well under the current circumstances.  This has been quite a stressful semester for all of us, especially for our students.  We have all had to deal with so many different personal issues while at the same time fulfilling our responsibilities to our students and our committee assignments.  Tim Kirkner and I sit in on Sanjay Rai’s weekly Senior Leadership Team meetings and it has been mentioned many times that the Administration is very pleased with how we have worked to move to a remote teaching environment with such short notice.  Our efforts are very much appreciated. 

Please make sure that you take some time to take care of yourself and your family.

Nominations:

The Chapter’s Constitution requires that the membership vote on who will be the elected officers of the Executive Committee at our annual end-of-year meeting.  The elected members of the Executive Committee consists of a President, three Vice Presidents (one from each campus), a Secretary, and a Treasurer.  Members of the Executive Committee serve a one-year term and are elected by simple majority of the votes cast by dues paying members of the Chapter.  Faculty in the bargaining unit who are paying a voluntary collective bargaining service fee are not members of the Chapter and therefore, are not eligible to vote in this election. 

If you would like to nominate someone to serve in one of these positions, or if you are interested in serving in one of these positions, please send your nomination to Julie Levinson, Counselor Takoma Park/Silver Spring. The nominations period will close at the close of business on Wednesday May 15.

All current elected members of the Executive Committee have indicated that they are interested in continuing to serve in their current positions next year.  Please see the Chapter’s webpage, mcaaup.org. for a list of the current Executive Committee Members.

End of Year Meeting:

The Chapter’s Constitution also requires us to hold an annual meeting which we have typically done at the end of each academic year in May.  Due to the current situation, we have decided to hold a Zoom end-of- year meeting at our usual meeting time of 11:00am on Wednesday May 20.  A link to participate in this meeting will be sent to you at a later date. During that meeting we will announce the results of the election, hear a Treasurer’s report, discuss several important issues that we have been working on  this year, and respond to any of your questions.   We hope that many of you will join in and participate in this meeting.

My Testimony:

Annually the President of the College submits a proposed operating budget to the County Executive in mid-February.  Shortly after that, the County Executive makes a recommendation to the County Council to either fully fund our request or to reduce the County contribution to our operating budget.  Following this request, the College continues to lobby the full Council by meeting with individual County Council members and by having members of the College community testify at the County Council operating budget hearing.  This year we were allowed to submit video or written testimony.  On behalf of our membership, I submitted written testimony in support of our operating budget request. A copy of the testimony I submitted is below.


Harry N. Zarin, President

American Association of University Professors

Montgomery College Chapter

Operating Budget Testimony

April 16, 2020

My name is Harry Zarin, and I have been a counselor/professor at the Germantown Campus of Montgomery College for almost 27 years. I am submitting this testimony today in my role as the President of the full-time faculty union, the AAUP.

I want to start my testimony by stating that I would have preferred to be sitting in the County Council Building giving this testimony in person as I have done numerous times.  Considering the circumstances with the pandemic, I want to thank you for giving me an opportunity to submit this testimony in writing. 

When the spring semester started, I looked forward to life as usual at Montgomery College where I have worked for almost 27 years.  Life as usual means seeing students individually or in groups on a regular basis, attending some important and not so important meetings, attending faculty meetings, attending the terrific nursing pinning ceremony, and finally attending graduation.  Unfortunately, a virus got in the way and life as we all know it changed for everyone.

Two days before the start of our spring break, an appropriate decision was made by the Administration to shut down the campuses in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.  The faculty were told that all teaching would be done on a remote basis after our return from spring break.  We had two days to prepare, along with the time we were off for the break, and create all that was needed in order teach remotely.  This was a daunting task for the majority of the faculty who had never taught a distance learning class before. 

We quickly had to become experts in using a combination of technical options that would enable us to remotely  teach, counsel, and advise our students. Blackboard Collaborate, Zoom, Google Voice, Face time, establishing VPN lines so that we could remote into our desktop computers, etc. became the order of the day. Imagine how difficult it was for our faculty to try to create an on-line chemistry, biology, or biotech lab with a few days notice.  How do you teach a studio art class or an auto tech class remotely?  These were just a few of the hurdles our faculty had to overcome in order to teach for the remainder of the semester. The efforts being made by the faculty to teach remotely this semester under stressful and ever changing circumstances has been tremendous. 

If you think this has been a stressful time for our staff and faculty, imagine how stressful this has been for our students. Many of our students have suffered academically, financially, and mentally during this difficult and unusual time.  Numerous students and their families have lost their jobs or had their hours at work severely reduced.  Finding the money to pay their bills and deal with having to learn remotely has caused tremendous increases in anxiety and mental health issues for many of our students and their families. How do you work, if you even have a job, if you have no day care options for your children? 

Imagine that you are a student who has never taken an on-line class and you are suddenly told that you have to learn remotely. How do you accomplish this task if you have no computer in your residence or access to the internet? How do you continue being a successful student with a disability when you can’t see or you are deaf? As a student with a learning disability how do you learn remotely if your learning disability is a hindrance to your ability to learn via a computer?  All of our students, especially those with disabilities, have had to adapt very quickly to this new learning environment and we have had to respond by modifying and adjusting our student support services everyday.

Our Administration and Foundation have done a wonderful job of providing for the needs of many of our students by providing them with additional financial recourses and/or vouchers so that they could receive a laptop computer.  However, there is no way we can meet the financial needs of all of our students and this is where we need the assistance of the County Council. 

Our hope and request is that you approve the College’s requested operating budget.  We want our students to return in the fall, with a budget that does not require us to increase tuition during this difficult time and so that they will have optimal resources in place to make their return successful.   We support our students and your continued support will help us help them achieve their hopes and dreams during these most difficult times.

Thank you.


In Closing:

Towards the end of next week, I will send out another update that will focus on a variety of topics. I will announce our slate of nominees for the Executive Committee and describe how voting will be done in this remote environment. I will describe some of the very important issues that we have been working on as we advocate for our contract and your rights, and will mention several other topics that I believe will be of interest to all of you.

Please take care of yourself and try to be as flexible as you can when working with your students who have struggled to get through this remote learning environment. 

AAUP Update: Summer Scheduling-Follow-up With Sanjay Rai’s Senior Leadership Team Meeting

All:

Several of us in Chapter leadership have received a number of e-mails regarding summer scheduling.  Based on those e-mails and some comments made about summer scheduling in the meeting yesterday, I feel compelled to send each of you this e-mail on behalf of the Chapter.  The e-mail focuses on five specific points.  Please understand that we do recognize the difficult situation that is facing the entire College community and that difficult decisions have been and will continue to be made during this crisis, but we do believe that several issues need to be dealt with in order to try and improve the summer scheduling situation.

  • In yesterday’s meeting it was made clear to us that the criteria for assigning summer I and II classes has not been fully determined, yet messages from the Deans to the Chairs and to the faculty have already been sent that indicate that decisions have already been made.  In one particular case, the Chair is providing little to no response when questions are posed to her. None of this should not be happening.  We hope that future communications will be the same, and if the Deans and Chairs are being given some discretion when creating their summer schedules due to specific programs in their areas, the communication needs to state that this is the reason for the decisions that have been made.  Chairs and Deans should to respond to all questions posed to them by the faulty in a reasonable period of time.
  • We all know that we are currently in a very anxiety-provoking crisis. People are worried about their health, their families, their job security, their loss of income, and their students.  It is absolutely necessary that clear and consistent messages come from all administrators and managers regarding summer scheduling.  Please remember that, as of today, the only group of employees at the College who will be losing thousands of dollars due to this tragic situation are the faculty.  The Chapter hopes that future communication will convey some understanding for and compassion for those who will lose significant summer income during these difficult times.
  • Based on what we heard yesterday, it appears that faculty who have been teaching hybrid classes will be treated differently than faculty who have been teaching fully on-line classes, even though they have been deemed to be qualified to teach fully on-line classes. This needs to be fixed in the criteria for assigning classes so that they are treated the same. The faculty need to be given more time to convert their hybrid class to a fully on-line class, not less time. Let us not forget that quality matters training is mostly based on good instructional design and not solely on technology. Faculty who demonstrate good design should also receive consideration regardless of their experience teaching online. In addition, many faculty use Blackboard as a supplement to their face to face class and this too should be taken into consideration. What we heard from Sharon made no mention that anything but previous online teaching would be considered.
  • The criteria for summer scheduling should state that no chairs will be assigned summer classes since they are being paid a 12 month salary whether they teach or not and during this very unusual time they should not be allowed to take money away from a faculty member.
  • Assuming things are back to normal for summer II, the priority for assigning summer II classes should go to those faculty who were not given an opportunity to teach during summer I.

Chapter leadership appreciates all that is being done by the Administration to keep the College afloat and all that is being done to protect the employees.  We also appreciate being give a “seat at the table” during the Wednesday meetings.  The decision to do remote teaching and learning until the end of the semester was a difficult decision to make but it was the correct decision.

On behalf of the Chapter,

Harry Z.

President-AAUP

AAUP Update: Working Remotely

Colleagues:

For the next several weeks, the College will be operating under emergency remote protocol procedures. Faculty will be teaching remotely, counselors will be offering counseling and advising services remotely, and tutoring and coaching will happen remotely. Access to all buildings on all campuses will be very restricted.  All of the employees of the College and our students will have to adjust to this very trying situation. 

As a faculty, many of us are being asked to do something that we have never done before and are not prepared to do, that is teach remotely. Many of us have never had any Blackboard training and have avoided it because our thrill as a teacher comes from being in the classroom with our students. Many of our students know that on-line learning is not for them and therefore, they only register for face-to-face classes.  It is time for all of us to make some major adjustments in how we teach and work with students.

For the next several weeks it is very important that we continue to provide our students with the very best instruction we can offer under these unusual and difficult circumstances. Please keep in mind that we must all be flexible when working with our students, many of whom have never logged onto Blackboard before.  Be flexible when requiring that assignments be due on specific dates, be flexible when working with students with disabilities who are used to a very specific set of accommodations when they are on-campus.  Look to the memo that Sue Haddad sent out today for recommendations on how to work with these students for the next several weeks. 

Please remember that you do not need to create an entire semester’s worth of materials on your Blackboard site over the next few days.  All you have to do is be ready to go on March 23 and have your materials ready for that week. During that week, prepare for the next week and so on.  Please work with each other and support each other during this difficult time.  It would be best if you create all of your documents in Blackboard so that they are accessible to our students who use assistive technology to access information in Blackboard. If you are an experienced Blackboard user, offer assistance to those with little or no knowledge of Blackboard. Look to Elite for assistance as you develop your on-line resources for your students, for additional training, and also refer to the following webpage on emergency remote teaching guidelines:

https://www.montgomerycollege.edu/offices/elite/emergency-remote-teaching-guidelines.html

On March 23 you may want to start your class by providing your students with some general information about what to expect for the next several weeks and encourage them to check their MC e-mail and Blackboard course mail daily for updates about the College. Providing them with an overview of what to expect will help to reduce their stress during this difficult time. Please notify your Dean and Chair if any of your students tell you that they do not own a computer or have internet access at home.  The College has some limited resources available and may be able to loan these students laptop computers on a short-term basis. 

Members of the Administration are very aware that spring break is generally a time when the instructional faculty are not required to do anything related to their classes and that many of you will be working throughout the break to get ready for March 23. Dr. Rai’s memo this afternoon spoke to this and to the work that many at the institution have done over the past few days to get ready for the next few weeks.

Please take care of yourselves and stay healthy.

On behalf of the Chapter,

Harry Z.