September 23, 2020

AAUP Update: The highs, lows, and disappointments

Welcome back!

On behalf of the Executive Committee, I want to welcome all of you back for another interesting year of work at MC.  We hope that you and your family members had a safe and healthy summer.

The Highs:

I, for one, felt that we ended the spring semester and made it through the summer on a high note. Here are some positive actions and initiatives instituted by the Administration.

  • Moving to remote instruction, counseling and advising, and the provision of other services before Spring Break due to the COVID19 virus was a decision that protected all of us. This was a difficult decision to make but it was the correct decision.
  • Paying all student workers and casual temps through the end of the academic year.  This was an easy decision to make and it was the right one.
  • Creating the SRT training (whether you liked it or not, at least we had some training) and using the CARES Act funds to pay those of us who successfully completed the training.
  • Providing ESH for approximately 30 faculty mentors to assist those of us who participated in the SRT training.  Without them, many of us would not have successfully completed the training.
  • Sound fiscal management has enabled Management to honor this year’s negotiated increases in salary.
  • We have had no furloughs or layoffs due to the COVID-19 virus and its effects on the College.
  • Payroll processed over 650 vouchers and paid the faculty our stipends for successfully completing the SRT training by the August 28 paycheck.

In short, we came together as a community, supported each other, served our students, and did so because we care about what we do.  Most importantly, we care about our students. As a faculty, we should be proud of all we did last spring and throughout the summer.

The Lows:

I had hoped the high we ended on would continue into the fall semester.  Unfortunately, this didn’t happen.

A number of us learned at the Academic Affairs Retreat that there were several proposals on the table to modify the Spring 2021 schedule as a way of trying to help counter the expected drop in enrollment. Four proposals were presented at the retreat.  My hope and expectation was that these four proposals would be presented to the faculty at various Professional Week meetings.  It just made sense to me, and to most of us, that the Administration would want to hear our opinions and ideas before they made a final decision on possibly modifying the spring 2021 schedule.  If the Administration truly respected us why wouldn’t they want to hear our thoughts and ideas about how to help use scheduling to improve enrollment and student success.  The Administration and the faculty share responsibility for what happens in our classrooms, and by eliminating our voice in the decision making process, they eliminated/denied that shared responsibility.

Many of us were terribly hurt, frustrated, and concerned that the final decision to modify the Spring 2021 schedule was made without the benefit of consultation/discussion with the faculty.  I am starting my 28th year at Montgomery College and I could not imagine  any other administrators that I have ever worked with doing something like this. Don’t get me wrong, the Administration had the right to make this decision but most of us do not believe it was the right thing to do.

How will this decision impact the faulty?  We have to finish building our fall semester Blackboard sites (building a Blackboard site is a first for many of us) while at the same time making massive changes to these classes in order to accommodate an accelerated format for the majority of the spring offerings.  And we are doing this despite the fact that many of us do not believe this is best plan for our students.

How will this decision impact the students?  A few faculty members recently ran some numbers on the DFW rates for students in several Fall 2019 15-week versus 7-week courses. The results demonstrated that in:

  • ENGL102:15-week courses had a 27% DFW rate; 7-week courses had a 57.5% DFW rate.
  • CMAP120: 15-week courses had a 15% DFW rate; 7-week courses had a 38% DFW rate.
  • BSAD101: 15-week courses had a 10% DFW rate; 7-week courses had a 31% DFW rate.

If this is an indication of what’s to come when most of our courses will be offered in a 7-week format we are about to see an increase in our DFW rates.

No one will ever convince me that taking a developmental math class in 7 weeks is better for a student than taking it in 15 weeks. The same can be said for the majority of classes that we teach. I spent part of my day yesterday and today helping a student move from an accelerated class to a 15-week class.  He signed up for the accelerated class and realized after a very short time that this was the wrong thing to do, and this is a student who arrived here with over 25 AP credits. The reduction in 15-week classes in the spring will reduce this option for many of our students.

Others outside the college are also concerned about this change in our spring scheduling.  Below is a portion of an unsolicited e-mail that was sent to me from a Program Director at a local four-year university.  He has worked with many of our students who transfer into his program.

“I really feel for your faculty and for your students. There is so much diversity at MC that I do not want your students to suffer as a result of this decision. I sure hope they carefully researched this teaching format and are going to prepare your faculty well to make the teaching adjustments. I simply was floored when I heard that news and immediately I thought of the former MC students who transferred[to a local 4-year university] and then came to see me after less than a year saying the courses were too fast paced. That school has a history of teaching online so they may have been able to adjust somewhat easier, but MC has so many faculty who’ve taught for years and with the pandemic this March had to quickly move to online and now they all will have to adjust again and try to condense their teaching even more into a 7 week format. Hopefully there will not be any snow blizzards if the pandemic is cleared up, because this decision will be very tough on everyone.”

The Disappointment

During the opening meeting Counseling and Advising was the subject of a public dressing down by Dr. Pollard in her video message.  This dressing down was unnecessary, sad, and incredibly disrespectful.

The end of the Spring 2020 semester and the summer of 2020 was trying on all of us.  Counseling and Advising switched to e-mail, phone and zoom appointments very suddenly in March.  The counselors adapted and worked very hard to support our student’s academic and emotional needs.  Remember, they are not just advisors like they are at many other community colleges they are also counselors. Our students depend on them for emotional support during difficult times and believe me when I say these were and still are difficult times for our students and their families.

Counseling and advising added functionality to their online apparatus to support and answer students in as timely a way as possible, including a live chat function, phone/zoom appointments, and then finally walk-ins. Switching from appointments to remote walk-ins enabled them to serve a larger number of students in a trying and complicated time.

Many counselors worked overtime and thanklessly, while watching some administrators on the ‘academic side’ disparage or ignore their contributions.  Starfish was implemented so that students could make appointments to see counselors as opposed to sitting in endless lines. Starfish also helps us record notes regarding our meetings with students and store academic plans and other important documents.  This information helps ensure consistent communication among the counselors and other faculty who have access to Starfish. This communication helps us work together so that we can support our students.

When this investment in an advising tool is ignored, it communicates how much counselors and counseling is not valued, along with perpetuating confusion for the students.  This occurred because the Academic Affairs unit implemented their own advising system.

We as a faculty believe in the mission of MC.  We are here to educate our students, to do our part to help close the achievement gap, to help the students successfully reach their academic goals and to make a positive difference in the lives of the students we work with. To be ignored or publicly humiliated after one of the most difficult summers we all have ever experienced was at best, disrespectful and unnecessary.

The decision to make substantial changes to the Spring 2021 schedule without involving the faculty and publicly embarrassing Counseling and Advising speaks to a pattern of disrespect and a lack of collegiality towards the full-time faculty at Montgomery College. We hope the Administration will eventually recognize that as valued members of this college our opinions and ideas should be consistently sought after because we can help improve the services, programs, and academic offerings at MC.

On behalf of the Chapter,

Harry Z., Counselor/Professor
President AAUP

Speak Your Mind