August 20, 2018

E-mail from Faculty Member Following 6/22 Roop Memo

(published with permission)

Dear Mr. Roop.  I wrote this as soon as I received your email regarding the AAUP contract agreement and the court’s decision to deny arbitration.  I hesitated to send it for obvious reasons, but when I sent a draft to several colleagues on the faculty, they urged me to do so.  Typical of their responses was Well said sir. I agree with every word. In fact, I think you stated it fairly mildly. Thanks for sharing.”

So I am sending the letter without the hope of it accomplishing anything, but I thought you might like to understand what some of us on the faculty are feeling.

I suppose congratulations are in order.  By refusing to honor a signed agreement with the AAUP and obtaining the support of the courts, you have destroyed the effectiveness of our union.  The recent Supreme Court decision allowing non-union members to opt out of paying union dues will drive the final nail into the coffin. You may already be planning to replace our AAUP chapter with a company run union that will allow your employees to petition for minor changes in the circumstances of their employment.

This is the culmination of a trend that I noticed shortly after I began teaching here in 2005.  In my first couple of years, I felt the administration was here to support its teaching staff. Thirteen years later, I feel I’m a distrusted employee of a growing and apparently insatiable administration, which seems to feel that my teaching load is too light, my teaching methods are poor and I’m not sufficiently focused on student success, which MC seems to narrowly define as going on to a four year college.

Montgomery College now mirrors other contemporary American institutions, with increasingly high salaries for its senior executives and lower and lower pay for what you seem to consider your work force.

I only have experience in three other educational institutions, Reed College in Oregon, Bennington College in Vermont and Columbia University in New York City. Reed and Bennington, which were effectively faculty run, provided by far the best educational experiences. There was no HR, no elaborately expensive commitment to faculty training, no unresponsive administration with requests for self-serving and largely useless self-evaluations and other measure of success.   I do come with a bias. We teachers in the classroom actually know better than you folks in administration how to effectively teach our students and prepare them for the difficult future they face. That’s what we do while you have meetings, send emails, and think up new things for the faculty to do.

MC is far too large to be faculty run, but it could be faculty oriented. The only way to ensure that orientation is to make sure the faculty has real power over its working conditions through its union.  There is a great deal of evidence that the healthiest institutions in our country are those with strong unions.  Of course, there’s also a lot of evidence in our country that institutions without unions offer cheaper (but frequently inferior) goods and services for their consumers and higher salaries for their executives. A cheaper shirt or the indifferent service of a minimal wage employee may not make much difference, but it’s not the same with teaching.

Someone in the administration told one of my colleagues who was trying to get the contract honored, “if you don’t like it here move on to somewhere else.” It’s a comment that speaks volumes about MC’s administration.  I had a similar experience when I contacted a senior administrator about an exciting new educational software I’d discovered at a conference. He told me I could come and talk to him, but he wasn’t going change anything. I didn’t expect a dramatic change, but I did expect curiosity and respect.

I’ll stay at Montgomery College because I have a commitment to my students. I can’t really praise it to the skies as I once did.  I think in time you’ll realize this union busting was a mistake, a truly serious blow to teacher morale that will inevitably (even if unconsciously) be passed on to our students.  I’m sure you’ve all convinced yourselves that this isn’t union busting, but a inevitable result of insufficient funding that you also feel terrible about.  It’s not.  It’s about an allocation of resources and decisions about what’s important.

Respectfully,

Christopher Koch

___________

To: Montgomery College Colleagues
From: Robert Roop, Chief Human Resources Officer
Subject: Montgomery County Circuit Court Ruling on AAUP Lawsuit
Date: June 22, 2018
The College and the College’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) have worked collaboratively since April 2017 to resolve a disagreement regarding the contracted full-time faculty compensation increase for FY18. The disagreement arose because the College was, regrettably, unable to meet the original negotiated salary increase for FY18. These financial constraints are primarily linked to a shortfall in the College’s funding from the county, despite spirited advocacy by the College leadership and faculty representatives, coupled with a contraction in enrollment.

In February, AAUP asked the Montgomery County Circuit Court to force the College to resolve the issue via arbitration, under Article 3 of the collective bargaining agreement between AAUP and the College. In March, the College filed a motion to dismiss AAUP’s lawsuit based on the position that the “financial exigency” clause of the contract applied to this situation, not the grievance process. This past Tuesday, June 19, a Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of the College and agreed with the College’s interpretation of the dispute resolution process, saying that the disagreement should be properly dealt with under the “financial exigency” provision of the agreement.

Following this ruling, the College will continue to work with the AAUP negotiating team to resolve the salary issue through direct negotiations and/or with the assistance of a neutral, third-party mediator, as stipulated in the collective bargaining agreement. Doing so expeditiously is critical since the fiscal year ends in eight days, when we risk losing the funds for any salary enhancement for this fiscal year.

The work of the College’s full-time faculty is essential to the success of our mission. I am hopeful that we can soon craft a resolution that is fair and fiscally sustainable and allows us all to remain focused on our common mission of supporting our students.

 

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