January 17, 2022

AAUP November Chapter Update

AAUP Update-Return to Campus Plans, Vaccine Mandate, Negotiations, Organizing Group Update

November 2021

Return to Campus Plans:

On November 8 all administrators, staff, and faculty counselors were expected to return to their offices five days a week and each employee can request the ability to telework one day a week.  The regular telework policy of allowing employees to telework up to three days a week has been suspended until later in the spring semester.  Whether you agree with this plan or not, we are back. 

Those of us who work in student service areas are very concerned that we are being asked to come to the office at least 4 days a week and possibly meet with current students or visitors who may be unvaccinated. The fact that instructional faculty and counseling faculty are being treated differently is problematic. Instructional faculty have been told that they can do their office hours remotely while we counseling faculty members are expected to work from our offices at least four days a week.   Despite the fact that all of us are vaccinated, we all know that breakthrough cases of COVID are being reported on a regular basis in the county and at the college.  I believe the administration is counting on the fact that the number of people in the county who are vaccinated is very high and that reduces the likelihood that we will be exposed to unvaccinated people.  We shall see if this plan works or not. 

On behalf of the faculty in the student services area I asked that this plan be revisited and that we be allowed to work with our respective Chairs/Deans to create a 5-day a week presence while at the same time allowing us to limit our individual on-campus presence.  We believe the on-campus demands of the students don’t currently require all of us to be here 5-days a week and we have the data to prove this. Despite knowing this data, the administration did not relent on their decision and we are expected to be here 5-days a week with the understanding that we can telework one day a week.  So much for saying that we are a data driven institution.

Employee Vaccine mandate:

A very important part of the return to campus plans was the Administration’s announcement that all employees, including student employees, were supposed to submit proof of their COVID vaccination to the posted website by November 8.  Requests for religious or medical exceptions were granted on an individual basis and those requests should have been submitted by October 29. 

An integral part of this return to campus plan, included the development of the Employee COVID-19 Vaccination, Safety & Disciplinary Action Protocols document.  See the attached.

employee-covid19-vaccination-compliance-protocols.pdf

Within this document are the discipline and discharge protocols the College developed for all employees who do not provide evidence of receiving their vaccination or those who do not receive a medical or religious exemption.  Several of us on the Executive Committee met with members of HRSTM a few times to help with the development of this document. It is important to note that the discipline and discharge procedures in this document do not comply with the discipline and discharge procedures specified in our contract. The Administration tried to come up with a one size fits all document, remember there are three different unions at MC, and the Administration has asked representatives for each union to sign off on a memorandum of agreement. Last week I received notification from HRSTM that 100% of the full-time faculty were fully compliant in submitting their verification of receipt of the COVID vaccination.  Based on this information I have signed off on the memorandum of agreement and submitted it to HRSTM. 

Student Vaccine Mandate:

The student vaccine mandate goes into effect on January 8 and this mandate only applies to students registered for face-to-face classes.  There is an expectation that those students who are registered for distance learning and structured remote classes who need to come to campus for student services, will also comply with the mandate.  However, there is no mechanism in place to ensure that this happens. 

On behalf of the full-time faculty I submitted a written request to Kevin Long, Chair of the RTCAT, asking that they recommend the Administration reconsider the student vaccine mandate and require that all registered students be required to submit verification of their vaccination status unless they receive a religious or medical exemption. I did this because any student can come to campus and use the services in the learning centers, the library, counseling and advising, the Financial Aid Office, etc. and no mechanism is in place to stop them if they are not vaccinated.  This policy is creating an unsafe environment for all of us.

Kevin brought my request to the senior leadership and as of the writing of this update no change has been made in the student vaccine mandate. I will continue to request that this mandate be changed whenever I meet with members of the administration.

Negotiations Update From Sharon Piper, Chief Negotiator:

Negotiations between AAUP and MC management started on Tuesday October 12. This year we are negotiating for financials (salary, overload and EAP) for the 2022-23 academic year. Both management and AAUP have brought some additional issues to the table, and we are currently in the process of sorting out which of those issues both sides are willing to discuss. In addition to negotiations, we are discussing a possible plan for a return to IBB (Interest Based Bargaining) in future negotiation sessions. The timing for this is optimal with a new management team to work with as we go forward. 

At our first session, we shared with management the 300+ signatures and support statement for the negotiating team organized by the membership. That act was much appreciated by the team and the statement and signatures have been entered into the session notes as permanent documentation of faculty support. 

We are preparing for at least three more negotiation sessions (and possibly four if needed) before the end of the semester. We will make a final report to the membership once negotiations are completed, and the contract is ready for a vote on ratification. Please reach out to any NT member if you have any questions and as always, thank you for your support. 

One final note: the negotiating team is sad to say good-bye to a longtime member, Robin Flanary, who retired from MC this past summer, and happy to welcome a new member, Carrie Fitzgerald, who joins Tito Baca, Ginger Robinson, and myself. We wanted to thank Robin for all her hard work in representing the FT faculty and AAUP, and to thank Carrie for her future time and efforts as a new member of the team. 

Organizing Group Update From Michael LeBlanc:

In September, organizers made one final push to get 300 signatures on our Negotiating Team Support Letter, and we met our goal exactly by the end of the month.  This is a fantastic achievement, and the membership deserves a pat on the back for speaking with such a strong and supportive collective voice.  The organizing email list continues to be a robust forum for collegial conversation around faculty issues.  Faculty exchange information and stories, ask questions of union leadership, and develop opportunities and strategies around faculty issues, especially return to campus issues.  For the rest of this semester and into the spring, organizing leaders will turn their attention to membership outreach, strategic planning, and election forums.  Stay tuned if you’re interested in becoming involved in these initiatives. 

The administration has to make a strong request for funding to support a raise for the employees. We are the only county funded organization that didn’t receive a raise this year. It is time for the Administration to go to bat for the employees. Declining enrollment can’t be used as an excuse to not ask for raises for us. 

ESH Limits:

Prior to the start of our winter session and spring semester I wanted to remind everyone about the ESH limits stipulated in our contracts.  When planning your winter and spring classes please remember that you may work no more than 20 ESH in any one semester, winter ESH counts towards your spring ESH load, and you may work no more than 36 ESH in any given academic year.  Exceptions to these ESH limits are granted in very rare cases by the Chapter upon request from Management. 

Future Chapter Forums:

The Executive Committee is planning on offering more Contract 101 type forums to help involve the faculty in learning more about Chapter activities, what it is like to serve in a leadership position for the Chapter, and about various articles in our Collective Bargaining Agreement.  Look for information about these forums in future Chapter updates.

Spring Opening Meeting:

In case anyone was wondering, our spring opening faculty meeting will be scheduled as a Zoom meeting.  A Zoom link will be sent out to all of you in early January.  The meeting is scheduled for the morning of Tuesday January 18 which is the day the faculty are due to return to work from the holiday break.

Meeting with Dr. Dukes:

Several weeks ago I was fortunate enough to have had an opportunity to meet with Dr. Dukes, Steve Cain, and the Presidents of the other two unions that represent the bargaining staff and the part-time faculty, Chris Standing and Victoria Baldassano.  We talked about a variety of topics that were of interest to each of us. 

During this meeting I took the opportunity to speak about our current negotiations and the fact that we are the only county funded agency that did not receive a raise this year. I stressed that it is important for our administration to fight for us and to make a very strong ask of the County and State for sufficient funds so that each of us can receive a substantial raise next year. We took the hit this year and it is another groups turn to take the hit next year. Below are examples of the raises negotiated by some of the employee groups in Montgomery County, Maryland state employees, and employees in the University System of Maryland.

  • All Montgomery County employees (union and non-union) received a 1.5% GWA (General Wage Adjustment) effective June 20, 2021.  Employee groups also received a 3.5% service increment for FY21.
  • The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved FY22 increases for MCGEO (County Employees) 3.5% or 4.75% increment plus a $1,684 GWA, FOP (Fraternal Order of the Police) 6%, and IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters) 5%, on April 27, 2021.
  • Maryland State Government Employees-2% GWA plus a step increase
  • University System of Maryland-2% COLA plus 1.9% increment
  • MCPS Step plus 2% in FY21 and Step plus 1.5% in FY22.

I don’t care if our enrollment is down. The amount of work we are all doing and have been doing during these crazy COVID times has not decreased due to the decline in enrollment.  In fact, just about everyone I have spoken with over the past two years has said they are working more now than ever before.  We don’t mind working hard but we deserve a raise and we need to be rewarded just like any other County funded agency. 

Thank you to the members of the Negotiating Team for fighting for us during these negotiations.

Personally, I hope that all of you and your families are staying healthy during these difficult times.  Please take some time to take care of yourself, get away from work, relax, read a good book, take a vacation, and just be good to yourself.

On behalf of the Chapter,

Harry Zarin, President AAUP

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.

 

AAUP Works for Me! – Faculty Voices

Many thanks to the AAUP leadership and members for their willingness to fight this worthy cause on behalf of full time faculty and the college community as a whole. Everyone benefits when all are treated respectfully and are appropriately rewarded.

I was able to make it to the Rockville meeting last night, and I just wanted to chime in with those below and encourage everyone who couldn’t make it to that meeting to attend the TP/SS meeting tonight. There is a lot of new information about what is happening with both our contracts for 2017-18 and future contract negotiations.

I agree that we need to stand united as a faculty union right now. We discussed ideas about how to show support, and I hope—with many faculty engaged—we will see actions as well.

Hello, I also attended the AAUP meeting last night.  I am so proud of the work our executive committee is doing on behalf of Full Faculty.  We support their efforts 100% and will continue to attend update meetings where we discuss all matters related to the important role the Faculty play in the success of the College.  Please take the time to attend the TPSS meeting this evening.  Our team has important information to share with you.

AAUP Works for me.

I too attended last night’s update meeting in Rockville. Our AAUP chapter is in an important battle for our rights against an administration uninterested in negotiating in good faith. The chapter executive committee representing us works tirelessly to make sure that each of us is paid fairly, receives decent benefits, and that we are able to work under as favorable conditions as possible. We have MUCH to be grateful for in terms of the committee’s work and unflagging support. We are also fortunate to have a competent attorney representing the chapter. NOW is the time to support them in return, to become informed, and to get involved in your own future here at MC.

I would like to chime in with my faculty colleagues and emphasize the fact that we all need to stand behind our union at this time and show solidarity as one united body of faculty who care about our students and about each other.  I attended the AAUP meeting last night and learned so much!  I would like to urge everyone who could not attend the meeting last evening to please, please attend the TP/SS meeting tonight.  It is crucial that the administration sees that we stand together.

As faculty, we were supposed to receive a 6.25% raise this year, 3.5% increment and a 2.75% GWA. As chief negotiator, our team signed this contract 3 years ago with Management and the BOT in good faith.  Management and the BOT decided last year not to honor our contract, because of their claim of no funds. However, look at all the contacts that were signed recently after our contract was in place, including IT contracts, coaches for our classes and probably many others. Management and the BOT had a fiduciary duty to honor our contact first before signing any other contract. This is truly an administration and BOT uninterested in negotiating in good faith.

Thank you all.  Last night’s meeting was very important. I encourage all faculty to keep Bill’s salary percentages in mind and do the math. This is very serious. Thank you Harry and the whole team for your tireless efforts on our behalf.  Our AAUP attorney is outstanding, seasoned, and clearly concerned about the legality of the College’s avoidance tactics. It’s unfortunate that it’s gotten to this point.  It didn’t have to.

I would like to add my voice to those urging faculty who were unable to attend last night’s AAUP meeting to attend the meeting tonight at TPSS to learn more about the status of negotiations for both our 2017-2018 contract and our 2018-2019 contract. Last night’s meeting was very informative, and it’s more information than could be easily communicated in an email.  Our union reps have been working tirelessly for us. I am grateful for their diligent work to ensure fair contracts and treatment for faculty.  These negotiations affect us all, and we need to stand united with our union. 

I didn’t see many of my Germantown colleagues last night at the AAUP meeting, and it really was important information about several different initiatives. One of the major points was how important it is to be visible in our support of AAUP and its leadership right now. (Also, having done the reverse commute to DC for years, I can vouch for 270 South not being bad at the end of the day when you’re going against traffic.) I think it’s well worth the trip!

Thank you to the union leadership for advocating so fervently on behalf of the faculty. The meeting on the Rockville campus last night was very informative. Please try to attend the Takoma Park meeting tonight if you were unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting. Our strength comes from our solidarity.

If you weren’t able to go last night, go tonight. Spending the time listening to colleagues and leaders helped clarify much of what has been happening.

Yes the meeting was fantastic, great information provided. I really enjoyed meeting the attorney. Please attend tonight if there is anyway you can.  Your paycheck depends on our support for AAUP!

I can’t echo enough the appreciative comments that have been offered to our AAUP team, or the sense of urgency that goes along with the issues discussed last night.  There’s no better time than now to ask questions, talk with one another, and generally keep on top of developments.  I think those sorts of activities will have a useful momentum of their own.

I support AAUP.  They speak for me and I am incredibly thankful for all there hard work.

Thank you to the AAUP, which in serving faculty, serves our students and the well-being of our institution.

Now is a crucial time for all of us to be aware and to support our union. AAUP works for me.

I also want to echo the sentiments of my colleagues.

The AAUP Team has represented us well and they have our full support.

Great meeting last night! I am grateful to have AAUP representation in the current climate nationwide.  We must not take our union team’s hard work  for granted.  Let’s advocate for ourselves and our students with one voice through support of our MC AAUP.

Montgomery College AAUP chapter speaks for me and I will not fall for any external “divide and conquer” tactics.

I want to thank AAUP and all the faculty that are pulling together to allow us to work in a productive and healthy atmosphere. We deserve respect. We deserve dignity. We deserve honesty. Let us strive to hold those in power accountable so that those after us won’t have to fight these same battles.

I’m wearing the button.  I urge the union to stay strong in this extremely urgent and difficult situation.

Thank you to all of our AAUP representatives for your efforts.  Thank you for keeping us informed every step of the way through this unfortunate series of events.  Lets hope at some point responsibility to agreed upon commitments will prevail in the mindset of the college.

I have always been impressed by and happy with the college, Administrators, Staff, and Faculty all working in a collaborative effort for the good of the college and the students.  Student success, College success, Employee success and a harmonious friendly work environment have always been the hall mark of Montgomery College.  We don’t want an “us or them” atmosphere to infect our college.

The AAUP supports me and I support it.  My hope is that we can arrive at an expeditious resolution within the scope of integrity.

I also support  AAUP and I would urge those who are paying just the service fee (which is $7.70 per pay period) and not the full membership dues to consider filling out the paperwork to do so. Here is the link

http://mcaaup.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/AAUP-Dues-Service-Fee-Deduction-Form-AY-2017-2018-Reader-Enabled-Fillable.pdf

I’ve repeatedly heard MC leadership profess a commitment to social justice, but negotiating in bad faith and questioning the integrity of union leadership undermines that commitment. Social justice is more than a talking point. It’s more than catchphrase. A genuine commitment to social justice mandates that the administration honor our contract and treat our well-organized faculty with respect.

Many of us walked paths through life and encountered obstacles that aren’t dissimilar to those faced by our students. Our students know those stories and are inspired by them. They’re hopeful that if they persevere, they, too, will achieve comparable levels of professional success and recognition. What message do they receive about their potential—and their power—when they see the administration devalue our contributions by dishonoring its commitment?

Like so many others, I support our union and appreciate the efforts of Harry and the rest of the executive committee. AAUP stands for social justice, and I stand with AAUP.

The irony of their social justice initiative and how they are treating faculty might be lost on them but I encourage you to echo these sentiments at our AAUP closing meeting. You articulate this so very well and other faculty members should hear this too as we are dealing with these types of inconsistencies way too often.

I also support AAUP and encourage my colleagues to become full members.  Thanks for all you do.

I would like to echo my colleagues’ thanks to our AAUP leadership for keeping us informed and working on our behalf for a fair outcome to our contract situation. I greatly appreciated getting such a clear explanation at our meeting last week of the events that led to where we are now. After hearing that, I’m even more confident that the AAUP executive committee is doing the right thing by us. I will be there at our meeting in May. I encourage my colleagues to attend as well, and to join our AAUP chapter as full dues-paying members.

I really praise the hard and dedicated work of AAUP leadership to guard and improve our working conditions and compensation. I felt so sad to see the humiliation that our representatives have been through during the process of negotiations. On the top of this, it is a very challenging task to contest a court against this management. Brett: Harry Zarin is going to post the complaint and the management’s motion to dismiss on the union web site that will answer your questions.

For many years, the management has cancelled or reduced our contracts and I am hoping that justice will prevail on June 14th. This looks so unfair that they the management mostly argue that they have power not to honor the contract.

Now that we are doing so much more work, including

  • Enhancing face to face classes with blackboard
  • Having additional office hours
  • Substituting for our colleagues when they are called by the supervisors for additional
  • tasks (such as search committees)
  • Sacrificing our winter break to teach the winter sessions
  • Creating course materials to eliminate the cost of text books
  • and in return the management does not even want to honor a contract that they signed.

United we stand

I am grateful, professionally and personally, for the work of the union leadership and the tenacity of the negotiating team. Thank you!

As a daughter of life long union members (garment workers, railway), I am grateful for AAUP representation and its defense of my professional welfare.  Thank you.

A heartfelt thank you to AAUP for all the work they have put in to have fair practices in place here at MC.

AAUP – Presidential Perks Story: FT Faculty Response to Survey

As all of you know by now, the News 4 I-Team ran a story on the travel expenses of Dr. Pollard.  Based on the e-mails and phone calls that members of the AAUP Executive Committee received we decided to conduct a survey in order to obtain your comments on the report.  The survey results were sent, unedited, to Dr. Pollard this past Saturday.  We felt it was important for her to have the results prior to the Board of Trustees meeting that was held last night.  At that meeting the Chairperson of the BOT read a prepared statement which voiced their full support of Dr. Pollard.  Dr. Pollard made no public comment at the meeting about the report.

The Presidents of the three unions; AAUP, SEIU, and AFSCME, and Rick Penn, representing the Faculty Council, have been asked to attend a meeting with Dr. Pollard regarding the recent media report.  The meeting will be held on Wednesday afternoon (December 14, 2016).

The members of the Executive Committee would like all of you to have an opportunity to review the results of the Presidential Perks Survey.  The survey prompts, the I-Team report, Dr. Pollard’s contract, Dr. Pollard’s response to the report, and the I-Team follow-up report, are posted in the Survey section of the Chapter website.

Read the unedited and anonymous results of the survey.
.

On behalf of the Chapter,

Harry Zarin, Chapter President

Faculty Response to Governance Connections Newsletter

Dear fellow AAUP members,

I’m writing to call your attention to a recent essay appearing in MC’s Governance Connections, authored by Mr. Jason Rivera, College Council Chair.  A link to the essay is found here:

http://cms.montgomerycollege.edu/EDU/Department.aspx?id=56199.

Mr. Rivera reminds his readers three times in the first three paragraphs that “Academic Redesign is a Management right”.  He also reminds us that redesigns need not be done “in a collaborative or inclusive manner” and that Management is to be commended for having nonetheless conducted the redesign in such a manner.

The essay as a whole gives cause for concern on several fronts.  For one, it is clear that, contrary to Mr. Rivera’s assertion about the Redesign process, significant portions of the campus community in fact do not regard the process as inclusive or collaborative.  Also, his (strained) analogy between the circumstances surrounding the Federal Government Shutdown and those surrounding our Academic Redesign is troublesome; if I read it correctly, Mr. Rivera’s argument is that concerns about the Academic Redesign are somehow akin to the government shutdown tactic.

Leaving aside these issues, though, there is another concern raised by the essay that may be more substantial.  It involves Mr. Rivera’s repeated emphasis on Management rights.

Since their beginnings American colleges and universities have, for better and worse, shied away from embracing a Management/Labor dynamic, even to the extent of pointedly avoiding those very terms.  There are a lot of reasons for this aversion, but mostly it boils down to a sense among those involved in Higher Education – staff, faculty and administrators alike – that our enterprise is unlike that of other organizations.  To define a college’s key players as “Management” and “non-Management”, it has been assumed, causes problems.

Not the least of these problems is that Management is typically associated with a set of objectives – profit, cost reduction, ensuring easily replaceable labor, enhanced control, efficiency, to name a few – which, while more or less accepted in the world of commerce, have not been seen as appropriate to the mission of Higher Education.  Also, when they are invoked, these categories (Management/Labor) engender an oppositional stance in organizations, as Management’s objectives are usually at odds with workers’ interests.

And yet Mr. Rivera in his essay is unabashed in defining us here at MC via a Management/Labor relationship.  It is not a stretch to surmise that our Montgomery College administration is coming to see things that way as well.  This path is inconsistent with more than a century of Higher Educational culture.  What is worse, I fear it is recasting previously productive relationships in terms that can only lead to entrenched camps.

If staff and faculty are urged (as Mr. Rivera urges us) to see administrators – many of whom are former faculty or staff – as capital-M Management, it imperils a good deal of what our college – what any college- is all about.

Regards,

Daniel Santore, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Montgomery College – Rockville
Daniel.Santore@montgomerycollege.edu

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

Academic Restructuring – Chair’s Statement

Here below is the statement forwarded to Dr. Pearl to create a statement of consensus among the chair of chairs:

Dr. Pearl,

Representatives from the chairs’ groups on each campus got together at the end of the Fall semester and created a statement that we would like to share with the restructuring taskforce.  As we have been discussing various models we thought that it was important to define how we thought the chair position should work in any model that is considered.  It is just a few short sentences and we are happy to read them and answer any questions at our next meeting.

The statement is:

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.

Academic Area Restructuring – Faculty Comments

Listed below are many of the comments and questions that faculty have brought to the AAUP over the academic area restructuring.  These are the views expressed by the faculty, and as such some may disagree with others.  That is fine, and a healthy debate is to be encouraged on such important matters.  No comments were excluded due to the AAUP leadership disagreeing with their content; however, comments that attacked individuals, or were otherwise deemed too inflammatory to include in such a posting were removed.  Other comments were edited only to preserve anonymity. 

Thank you once again for all of your feedback.

  [Read more…]

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