May 19, 2022

AAUP Update: Testimony to Montgomery County Council

Montgomery County Council
FY28 Operating Budget Public Hearing
Testimony of Karl Smith, MC F-T Faculty

April 19, 2022

Dear Council Members,


My name is Karl Smith. I’m a professor of history and political science at Montgomery College. I’m here today as a representative of the Montgomery College Chapter of AAUP.

I came to Montgomery College in 2004 for the work and the career opportunity. I stayed for the remarkable students and the chance to be a part of an institution that shapes lives and is an essential part of the community.

To be at MC is to be immersed in a sea of student success and diligent, persevering faculty and staff. Stories of student maturity and development abound. One such story is a former student of mine who went from MC to UMBC to Virginia Commonwealth University where she got her MS in genetic counseling and is now an investigator of clinical trials at NIH. She and her husband recently bought a house in Bethesda. I can’t tell you how energizing it is to see that kind of growth; from a student taking 100 level courses to a career professional, contributing to the health of our community and the county tax base. Or, there’s the student who went from MC to UMD to study pharmacy, and after working in Maryland for several years, is now working at an elder care facility in California. I have seen a former student wearing the MoCo police uniform. He joined the force about 10 years ago. Further, I have had several wounded veterans from Walter Reed/Navy Medical facility in my classes at the Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus.

These successes are facilitated by the work we do at the college. For years I have taught in the honors programs. Students doing honors work elevate their academic status, and as a result they become strong candidates (and often winners) of the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship for transfer students. These students are applying for and getting accepted to places like Cornell, Colombia, UMBC, Howard, Smith College and many more. Right now three of my former students are at Smith College. As far as I know, at least two are planning to return to the DMV when they are done.

Incidentally, I have lived in Montgomery County for about 16 years. I am struck by the number of my neighbors who have taken classes at MC, couples who met at MC, or have family member studying at MC. I believe a few members of this council have also taken classes at MC. This kind of community reach is deep and transformative.

All this success has not wavered in the face of the pandemic. On the contrary, I see all around me faculty, staff and, most importantly, students, who show grit in the face of overwhelming difficulties due to covid. To their credit, they persist.

With all these achievements in mind, I think this is a good time to express gratitude for the Council’s prior financial support of Montgomery College. I sincerely hope that the council will continue to support the college in the future and fully fund MC‘s FY23 operating budget and fund pay raises for AAUP members and all faculty and staff. With full funding we can continue to be an instrument for achievement, growth and personal success in Montgomery County.Thank you for your attention.

Professor Karl Smith
Montgomery College Faculty
Humanities Department

AAUP Update: Removal of the Student Vaccine Mandate

Colleagues:

On behalf of the three union Presidents, I am writing to inform you that Management has decided to remove the requirement that students be fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus to attend classes at Montgomery College or any on-campus services.  The administration will encourage students to be vaccinated against the virus, and students will be told that they are expected to upload their vaccination information. However, no unvaccinated students will be dropped from classes and all unvaccinated students are now welcome to take classes at MC. Meanwhile, staff and faculty remain vaccine-mandated.

The three union heads, Harry Zarin, President AAUP (MC Full-Time Faculty Union), Victoria Baldassano, Director, MC Part-Time Faculty Union (SEIU Local 500), and Lori Ulrich, President AFSCME (MC Staff Union) met with the Senior Vice Presidents last week and were formally told of this decision.  We expressed our displeasure with the decision and also with the fact that we were not consulted in advance. The decision has not yet been communicated to the employees of Montgomery College.  

While it is true that over 90% of our Montgomery County community has been vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, Senior Management has just opened the doors of MC to the unvaccinated community. They have made the decision to make our very safe environment less safe for all of us. During a time when other colleges and cities are bringing back their mask mandates, our senior leaders have decided to toss the student vaccine mandate out the window. 

As a result of this unwise decision to change a system that was working well to protect all of us, we sent the following message to the Dr. Williams and the Senior Vice Presidents this afternoon. 

The three unions heads, Harry Zarin, President AAUP (MC Full-Time Faculty Union),Victoria Baldassano, Director, MC Part-Time Faculty Union (SEIU Local 500) , Lori Ulrich, President AFSCME (MC Staff Union) respectfully request that the College immediately cease all communications and processes around the removal of the student COVID vaccine mandate and we request that you immediately reinstitute the student vaccine mandate.  

We are deeply concerned about the impact this decision could have on the health and safety of both our constituents and our college students.  We are also deeply concerned that the unions were not consulted about the decision to remove the student vaccine mandate in advance, despite the fact this this impacts our workplace safety and that a key legal role of the unions is to help promote a healthy workspace for our constituents.  Management clearly understands the safety implications of this decision, as they maintain a vaccine mandate for all employees.

By ceasing all processes around the removal of the student mandate and reinstituting the student vaccine mandate, we hope that adequate time might be granted for the unions to properly research the topic on behalf of our constituents, to speak with our constituents about the impact this will have on them, and to begin the conversation with the administration that should have been conducted before this decision was made.

In Solidarity,

Harry Zarin, President AAUP (MC Full-Time Faculty Union) 
Victoria Baldassano, Director, MC Part-Time Faculty Union (SEIU Local 500) 
Lori Ulrich, President AFSCME (MC Staff Union)

We will keep all of you informed if and when we receive a response to our request.

AAUP Update: Union Dissent on Face-to-Face Instruction

From: Baldassano, Victoria A
Sent: Friday, January 21, 2022 10:21 AM
To: Full-Time Faculty <Full-TimeFaculty@montgomerycollege.edu>; Part-Time Faculty TP/SS <Part-timeFacultyTP_SS@montgomerycollege.edu>; Part-Time Faculty GT <Part-timeFacultyGT@montgomerycollege.edu>; Part-Time Faculty RV <Part-TimeFacultyRV@montgomerycollege.edu>; Takoma Park Staff <TPStaff@montgomerycollege.edu>; Rockville Staff <RVStaff@montgomerycollege.edu>; Germantown Staff <GTStaff@montgomerycollege.edu>
Cc: Collette, Sherwin A <Sherwin.Collette@montgomerycollege.edu>; Brown, Monica R <monica.brown@montgomerycollege.edu>; Rai, Sanjay K <sanjay.rai@montgomerycollege.edu>; Anne McLeer <mcleera@seiu500.org>; Tropin, Mitchell J <mitchell.tropin@montgomerycollege.edu>; Edwards, Cynthia A <cynthia.edwards@montgomerycollege.edu>; Wilson, Priscilla M <priscilla.wilson@montgomerycollege.edu>; Sawyerr, Elizabeth M <elizabeth.sawyerr@montgomerycollege.edu>; Benton, Elizabeth M <elizabeth.benton@montgomerycollege.edu>; Weston, Charmaine L <charmaine.weston@montgomerycollege.edu>
Subject: Union Dissent on Face-to-Face Instruction
Importance: High

Dear MC Colleagues,

Over the past two weeks, representatives of your Full-Time Faculty Union (AAUP), your Part-Time Faculty Union (SEIU Local 500), and your Staff Union (AFSCME), have been talking with members of the administration regarding our concerns about a return to face-to-face instruction this semester. We presented our issues via email and in two Zoom meetings with three representatives of the administration: Sherwin Collette, Senior Vice President for Administrative and Fiscal Services, Monica Brown, Senior Vice President for Student Affairs, and Sanjay Rai, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs.  

To protect MC students and employees from the very contagious Omicron variant, we requested that the college convert most of its face-to-face courses to structured remote for a limited period at the beginning of the spring semester, perhaps 1 to 4 weeks, before gradually easing back into face-to-face instruction. Local universities and several major school systems around the country are trying this approach, including MCPS. We conferred with our union Executive Committees, and we polled our members during union meetings held Jan. 18. Although a vocal minority disagreed with our approach, an overwhelming number of members of all three unions supported our proposal

Unfortunately, the administration rejected our request.  We have read the directive from Interim President Charlene Dukes. We understand the administration’s rationale and will comply with the decision. However, we respectfully disagree.  

While we can all celebrate the recent decline in cases in Northeast cities such as New York and Washington, D.C., it would be a mistake to think that Omicron is about to disappear. This dip in case numbers is happening even as Omicron continues to produce “more than 800,000 new infections” each day, the New York Times Coronavirus database reported. “About 150,000 coronavirus patients are hospitalized nationwide, more than at any previous point in the pandemic” while…“1,900 deaths are being announced each day, a 50 percent increase over the last two weeks.” 

We would also caution our colleagues not to embrace the notion that Omicron is a “mild” form of COVID.  As Katherine J. Wu noted in the Atlantic, “That the variant is less of a danger too often gets misconstrued as the variant is not a danger at all.” A healthy, vaccinated and boosted MC instructor who recently contracted the virus remarked that it seemed like having a mild form of the flu. He was looking forward to getting back in the classroom. But Montgomery College has a very diverse workforce, and Omicron has created an unfortunate dichotomy between younger and older employees, and between those who are relatively healthy and those who have (or whose family members have) medical conditions that could make exposure to Omicron dangerous or fatal.  

At the very least, we think the administration should show more flexibility toward employees who cannot or should not be teaching or providing services face-to-face this semester.  Instead, in its enthusiasm to return to in-person teaching, the college has denied requests from several employees to teach remotely – particularly part-time faculty members.  These include a 78-year-old instructor with a medical condition who has been teaching remotely for several semesters and an award-winning art instructor who has a child with multiple disabilities and a seizure disorder. To protect her child from Omicron, this instructor requested a medical accommodation to teach remotely, which was denied because the accommodation applies to employees only. Montgomery College has done an admirable job in promoting social and racial justice, but a policy such as this ends up discriminating against caretakers (mostly women) of family members with disabilities. Names of these employees have been provided to the administration. 

We are pleased about the vaccine mandate for students, but booster shots are the most effective defense against Omicron, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recently vaccinated students will have to wait “at least 5 months after completing [their] primary COVID-19 vaccination series” to get a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna booster shot.   

We are also pleased that the college will have KN95 masks, but we request that there be sufficient masks available for ALL students and employees who want them. 

Finally, we wish the best of luck to those who will be teaching or offering in-person counseling or other services to students or MC employees this semester.  If you have any issues or concerns that cannot be answered by your chair, dean, or supervisor, please do not hesitate to reach out to the representatives of your unions.  We will do our best to get back to you as soon as possible. 

In solidarity,  

Harry Zarin, President AAUP (MC Full-Time Faculty Union) 

Victoria Baldassano, Director, MC Part-Time Faculty Union (SEIU Local 500) 

Lori Ulrich, President AFSCME (MC Staff Union) 

Chris Standing, Immediate Past President AFSCME 

AAUP Update-RTCAT Responses and the Summer Professional Development Institute

Colleagues: 

After we held our full-time faculty meeting on July 21 the Executive Committee forwarded nine questions to the RTCAT Committee.  Below are the answers the Executive Committee received from the RTCAT to our questions.   If you were unable to attend the meeting and you would like to listen/watch the meeting, go to mcaaup.org, click on the July 14 update, scroll to the bottom of the page, and you will see a link to the recording of the meeting and the appropriate password. 

On behalf of the Chapter, I would like to extend our thanks to the members of the RTCAT who attended our July 21 meeting and to the entire team for providing us with a very timely response to our questions.

Faculty Questions Submitted to RTCAT with Responses

  1. Can we dismiss students who show signs of symptoms during class? What if the student refuses to leave the classroom?
    • Faculty who observes a student with clearly observable signs of illness that are uncharacteristic for that student or may be negatively impacting that student’s or other students’ performance should discretely speak with the student and advise the student to go home if they are ill. Remember to maintain confidentiality when speaking with others about a student’s health.\
    • Students who refuse to leave the classroom and appear to pose a disruption to class or a risk to the health and safety of other students should be reported through the appropriate channels for a possible Student Code of Conduct violation. If the student poses an immediate risk to the health and safety of others, please contact Public Safety.
    • The best guidance/advice to both students and employees is to stay home if you are sick and contact your primary care physician.
    • Everyone is required to take the Daily Health Assessment – anyone with visibly observable signs of the symptoms listed should stay home. Students should contact their instructor about any missed work, and instructors should be flexible regarding excused absences including providing students the ability to make-up missed work due to illness.
    • It is recommended that instructors link to the on-campus orientation training for students via their course Blackboard page to increase awareness and empower students to self-monitor their health.
    • Please keep in mind that a cough, sneezing, or other minor symptoms are not automatically indicators of Covid-19. A student could have allergies or another chronic condition.
    • There are existing guidelines from last year that are still valid and useful for these situations.
  2. Can a faculty member dismiss class if, during class, it is discovered that someone in the classroom has tested positive for Covid?
    • Should a student notify a faculty member, or an instructor become aware that a student in class has tested positive for Covid, the instructor should discretely have a conversation with the student. If confirmed, the instructor should announce that there has been a possible infection, dismiss class, immediately notify Public Safety, and use the course Blackboard site to announce any next steps or contingency plans.
    • The first priority is to maintain classroom safety.
    • There are existing guidelines from last year that are still valid for these situations.
    • Remember to always maintain confidentiality and not identify the individual who may have tested positive.
    • There may be cases where a student mentions they were with someone who tested positive. Do not panic. This does not automatically mean that student has been exposed. A general reminder to all students to take the Daily Health Assessment, monitor themselves for symptoms, and contact their health care provider if they have any concerns.
  3. Can faculty put up plexiglass in their office when meeting with students?
    • The RTCAT does not recommend that individual faculty install plexiglass themselves as it could pose a safety risk.
    • The use of plexiglass as a safety precaution will depend on the situation.
    • The use of plexiglass in a smaller, enclosed space may limit ventilation and air circulation.
    • The best defense is still wearing a mask. Faculty who chooses to do so may request and wear a face shield via their campus facilities office.
    • The RTCAT encourages faculty to use larger, more open spaces to meet with students should they feel uncomfortable.
  4. Are there any FT faculty members or members of the AAUP on the Return to Campus Advisory Team?
    • Since the AAUP is a bargaining unit, it is not a good Labor Relations practice to specifically include unions at this level of discussion.
    • Since the RTCAT was meeting and working regularly over the summer, there was no ESH budgeted and no expectation that faculty would be expected to work over the summer.
    • There are multiple avenues for faculty involvement, especially as we get closer to the start of the semester and the resumption of governance activities.
    • Faculty are welcome and invited to submit questions and topics for discussion to the RTCAT, invite members of the RTCAT to attend meetings, and form committees with RTCAT representatives, if so desired, to assist in creating and vetting classroom guidelines.
  5. Will MC require vaccinations at some point?
    • Yes, MC will require vaccinations once the FDA has given full approval. Currently, there is only one appellate court case that has upheld a vaccine mandate at an institution of higher education.
    • Upon FDA approval, students and employees will have 60 days from the date of approval to get vaccinated to be on campus.
    • Discussions are currently underway on how the College will monitor and track vaccination status, possibly using a third-party vendor.
    • It is anticipated that vaccinations will be required in the spring, pending FDA approval.
    • We are also monitoring actions at the county level, including negotiations with county collective bargaining units on mandatory vaccines.
  6. What should we do to maintain social distance in the classroom? What do we do if the classroom does not allow us to maintain an appropriate 6 feet of distance in the classroom?
    • Currently, the College has suspended social distancing guidelines pursuant to county, state, and CDC guidelines.
    • The current best protection against the spread of Covid are vaccinations and masks. The College has reinstituted its mask mandate effective August 2. Each campus has an allotment of 5,000 cloth masks that will be distributed and available in classroom scheduled for use this fall.
    • Most in-person classes were scheduled this past spring with a cap of 12-14 students.
    • In situations where social distancing is not possible, masks and sanitizing are still effective protections. Students and instructors should avoid, when possible, congregating in large groups.
  7. What sorts of signage will be provided to promote public safety?
    • There will be a large array of signage in all buildings on all campuses reminding people to wear a mask, get vaccinated, and follow basic hygiene protocols.
    • The focus is primarily on county metrics, since most of our students are in-county residents; however, we do consider proximity to other jurisdictions and that data in making decisions. Please note that our decision-making authority is somewhat limited by what is happening in the county and any restrictions or flexibility that the county may put into place.
    • The College and the RTCAT examine county and regional metrics daily for changes and concerns.
    • While we do look at global trends, the CDC has recommended localized decision-making and local data in making decisions.
  8. How might the college provide return to campus guidelines unique to the classroom setting?
    • A dedicated Faculty FAQ is currently being developed with input from faculty and RTCAT.
    • There is a faculty-led group developing classroom guidelines consistent with all collegewide guidance.
    • Additionally, standardized syllabi template language is also being developed by faculty with input from RTCAT.

Summer Professional Development Institute:

Many of us participated in the Summer Professional Development Institute.  If you participated in the Institute and want to receive the $1,850 stipend, you need to submit an Action Plan that is reflective of your learning by August 15, 2021.  Below is an e-mail follow-up that we all received from Paul Miller on August 4 regarding this requirement. 

Thank you for your active participation in the Summer Professional Development Institute. 

Just a friendly reminder, you are required to submit an online Action Plan reflective of your learning at the end of your chosen Learning Pathway to be eligible for the Summer Institute Stipend. The Action Plan can be found by clicking on this link. The Action Plan should take you up to one hour to complete and is due on or before August 15, 2021. 

If you have already submitted your Action Plan, please disregard this email. 

The Action Plan contains three sections. An outline of the Action Plan is below – please do not reply to this email with your action plan included in the table. Once you submit your Action Plan through the web, an email will be sent to you to confirm receipt. 

Section  Purpose Questions Asked Note 
Personal Information What is your M#?  Include the M at the beginning of your number. 
Learning Pathway Which Learning Pathway did you participate in?

 

 
You will select one of the three learning pathways – Dialogue Circle, Series, or Workshop.   If you select the Workshop Learning Pathway, you will be asked to identify the sessions that you did and did not attend.  

How would you rate your Learning Pathway learning experience? You can select up to 5 stars (1 being the worst) 
SMART Goal and Action Plan What is your goal? Create a goal and action plan to apply the summer learning into your professional context. To make sure your goals are clear and reachable, each one should be: Specific (simple, sensible, significant). Measurable (meaningful, motivating). Achievable (agreed, attainable). Realistic and Timely. 
What do you need to do to achieve your goal? Be as specific as possible. Focus on the things you can control. 
How will you identify your success? Be as specific as possible. What data can be collected to provide you with feedback on your desired outcome? 
By when do you need to complete the tasks identified in question 5? Be as specific as possible. Remember, this action plan is self-monitored. You are accountable to YOURSELF. 
What or who can help you complete your tasks identified in question 5? Be as specific as possible. Remember, you have a professional network and systems of support (e.g., deans, department chairs, ELITE, etc.)
What additional PD will you engage in to support your goal (PD topics should be chosen from the connections made in your Learning Pathway). Be as specific as possible. ELITE will use this information to identify new PD topics for the upcoming year. ELITE will evaluate all responses and generalize them into new topics or existing opportunities. 
Would you like for ELITE to contact you about your goal progress throughout the Fall semester? If you select yes, a member of the ELITE team will contact you throughout the fall to discuss your progress.  
Do you have another goal you would like to work on? If you select no, you can submit your responses, and you are done with the Action Plan.   If you select yes, you can repeat Section 3, and set up to two more goals reflective of your summer learning.  

Please let me know if you have any questions. 

Dr. Paul D. Miller
Professional Development Director 
Montgomery College
Office of E-Learning, Innovation & Teaching Excellence (ELITE)
Mannakee Building #325J
Rockville, MD 20850
Cell: (717) 602-3304

As our summer vacation/work comes to a close, we are all making plans for a partial return to campus to teach, counsel, and advise our students.  It is important that we all take care of ourselves, both mentally and physically, during this continued unusual period in our MC lives.  We also need to remember how stressful this period of time has been and will continue to be for our students. Many have lost jobs, income, family members, and friends, and they are trying to figure out how they are going to continue being a student and take classes, whether they are remote or f2f.  If there was ever a time for us to be flexible, compassionate, and understanding with our students and our colleagues, now is the time.  Please don’t hesitate to refer students to a counselor if you feel a student is in need of assistance or to seek assistance for yourself.

On behalf of the Chapter,

Harry Z.

Harry N. Zarin, Professor/Counselor

President-AAUP

AAUP Update: AAUP Update: Solidarity Statement, Nominations, Testimony and more.

April 21, 2021

Colleagues:

Each semester I generally teach a class called STSU122 – Principles of Academic Success.  Students who have not performed very well academically and need to learn how to become a better student typically populate this class.  In Chapter 6, Gaining Self-Awareness, we discuss the scripts that make up of our core beliefs.  Our core beliefs are described as unconscious judgements that dictate what we consistently think, feel, and do. They are that invisible part of a script that contains our view of other people, the world, and ourselves. Our core beliefs are made up of our emotional patterns, our behavioral patterns, and our thought patterns. 

One exercise I do with my students is to ask them to complete the following sentence stems according to their core beliefs.

            The world is______________.

            People are_______________.

            I am____________________.

I didn’t teach this semester, but I imagine if I had the responses I would have seen to these three sentence stems would have been different from those I have seen in previous classes.  Why, the reasons are obvious. The COVID-19 pandemic has made the world a very scary place, a place where just going to the store or meeting with friends could result is someone becoming very ill and possibly dying.  Our students have lost the safety they feel simply by coming to campus daily because their home life is very unsafe. I could go on.

In addition to dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the violence we have seen in this country over the past year gives all of us cause to be concerned about our own safety.  Much of this violence has recently focused on members of the Asian American community. The Executive Committee and the entire Chapter stands in solidarity with the Pacific Islander and Asian American community after the recent violence in Georgia and the on-going harassment of that community.  These events emphasize the importance of having continuing discussions on racial violence and injustice and the impacts on all communities, and for union purposes, the impact on the faculty.

Last semester I announced that the Chapter planned on hosting a spring dialogue to discuss the importance of race from the perspective of our full-time faculty and to better understand how race affects their experiences at the College. The Chapter’s goal in hosting this dialogue is to facilitate a collaborative conversation that helps Chapter leadership understand how it can better support the faculty and that helps faculty understand how they can better support each other. This dialog, “Discussing Race and Labor in Academia,” will be held today from 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. We hope you will join us in a conversation in the spirit of the World Cafe, which seeks to provide large groups with a comfortable space to build community knowledge through a series of small-group dialogues. The event is open to all members of the full-time faculty regardless of union affiliation. Members and nonmembers are welcome.  Register now.

Naliyah Kaya, Sociology, TP/SS, Michael LeBlanc, VP, TP/SS, Ginger Robinson, Negotiating Team, Katya Salmi, Sociology, Rockville, Jarvis Slacks, VP, Rockville 

As the semester progresses to a close in a month, please take some time to take care of yourself and your students.  Please recognize that many of your students may need some additional time to complete their assignments because they are having a very difficult time being a good student for a variety of reasons, including living the isolated COVID life, taking classes remotely, and dealing with a loss of income, increased stress, illness of self or family, etc.

Return to Campus Plans:

Numerous members of the faculty have contacted members of the Executive Committee and have asked us when we are going to return to campus, to our offices, to our classrooms, learning centers, etc. Several committees have been established to determine what the return to campus will look like and Dr. Pollard has spoken about this several times in her weekly messages.  Members of the Chapter serve on these committees and members of the Executive Committee have had regular meetings with members of the administration on this topic.  We represent you during these regular meetings when we discuss the plans that are being made to bring us back to campus in a safe manner.  The safety of our students and employees guides all of the plans that are being put in place to help us return to campus. 

Technology Requests:

Please don’t forget to submit your hardware requests if you need a laptop, a scanner, a Mac Book, or other technology in order to perform your job from home. 

Hardware Request Form

Nominations and the Closing Meeting:

Our closing meeting will be held on Wednesday, May 19th right after the end of the President’s closing meeting.  Our meeting should start around 11:15 a.m..  A zoom link will be sent to all of you with additional details about the meeting later in May.

At the closing meeting we will discuss the activities of the Chapter for the past year and our treasury report, we will vote on whether to increase our dues or not, we will listen to your concerns and questions, and we will announce the results of our election of Chapter officers for next year. 

An announcement about nominations for next year’s Chapter officers will be coming out in the next week or two and after the slate is announced we will hold our election electronically.  You must be a dues paying member of the Chapter in order to vote in our election of officers.  All Chapter officers serve a one-year term of office and nominations will be solicited for all positions.  The elected Chapter officers consist of the President, Secretary, Treasurer, and three Vice-Presidents, one from each campus.  One Vice-President, Michael LeBlanc-TP/SS, has indicated that he will step down from his position as the Vice-President for the TP/SS campus at the end of this year. Our previous Treasurer stepped down earlier this semester.  All other elected Chapter officers have indicated that they would like to return next year. Therefore, we need people to step up and join the Chapter leadership next year by running for office this May.  We hope that some of you will consider joining the small but active and dedicated group of faculty leaders. 

County Council Budget Hearing Testimony:

The County Council holds operating budget request hearings in April and typically, representatives from the College testify at these hearings. This year Jarvis Slacks English-R represented the Chapter by testifying on our behalf.  Below is the testimony he submitted to the County Council.

Jarvis Slacks, Vice President Rockville Campus
American Association of University Professors
Montgomery College Chapter
Operating Budget Testimony April 7, 2021

My name is Jarvis Slacks and I have been an English professor at the Rockville Campus of Montgomery College for 9 years. I am testifying today in my role as one of three Vice Presidents of the full-time faculty union, the AAUP.

I am sure that all of can agree that this past year has been anything but normal. Approximately a year ago, the entire faculty at Montgomery College had to start teaching their classes remotely and all students were expected to attend their classes remotely. This sudden shock presented us with an unparalleled task. We were expected to create remote versions of our face-to-face classes, including lab science, applied technology, studio art, physical education, etc. in one week. And to make matters more complicated, the majority of the faculty had no training on how to teach classes remotely and many didn’t have the technology at home that would enable them to do so.

Faculty counselors had to come up with a mechanism to provide remote counseling and advising services for our students.

While all of this was taking place, we had to deal with the stress of trying to protect ourselves and our families from a virus that we still didn’t understand and for which there is no cure.

Many of our students were experiencing similar stressors. Many of them didn’t own a computer at the start of the COVID crisis and had no internet access at home. Many were and still are living in some not so nice environments and had figure out how they were going to study in an environment where they had no place to study. Many of our students and members of their families contracted the virus and students still managed to attend and complete their classes.

Despite all of the negatives, our enrollments were up in the summer, we survived the fall semester, our enrollments were up in our winter session, and our spring enrollments are stable. Our students are being taught their classes by some very creative and competent faculty and they are being counseled and advised by some very dedicated faculty counselors.

We did it and how did we do it? Among other things;

  • The counselors made major modifications to our appointment system and created an on-line chat feature to help funnel students to appropriate counselors and to respond to their on-line questions in an efficient manner.
  • Our disability support service counselors modified our website and internal processes so that our students could be served remotely in a very effective manner.
  • Approximately 700 full and part-time faculty members registered for a specialized seven-week summer 2020 training program so that we would be better prepared to teach our student in a remote environment. This was an intense training program which many of us were required to participate in after the end of our regular workday.
  • We modified our spring 2021 schedule in order to better accommodate some of our students by offering 7-week classes in addition to our regular 15 and 13- week classes. This meant that a large number of faculty who were just trained to teach remotely and were still in the process of building their fall 2020 15 and 13 week classes, now had to modify those classes and make them 7-week classes.
  • Through the use of the CARES Act funding, fundraising by our Foundation, and other emergency funding, hundreds of students were provided laptops by the College so that they could attend their remote classes.
  • Hundreds of students were provided emergency funding to help them pay some of their bills and purchase food.
  • We modified our academic regulations in order to accommodate students who could not complete their classes due to COVID related reasons.

For the past year, we have continued to our part to adapt, serve, and educate our students. Now we need you to do your part and support our Administration’s FY 2022 operating budget request. We have educated many current county employees, the very ones who are going to get a raise next year. We are educating future county employees, police, fire fighters, health care workers, teachers, etc.

We have supported the College and the County over the last year and despite the increased workload, adapting courses, adapting services, as well as dealing with the personal stressors and sacrifices we experienced, we have agreed to no increase in salary for next year. Let me repeat, while other county employees negotiated an increase in salary for next year, we agreed to no increase in salary for next year. We hope that this sacrifice and degree of cooperation is recognized and appreciated by both our Administration and the County because we will be asking for and expect an increase salary for the full-time faculty for the 22-23 academic year.

Thank you

I hope all of you have a good rest of the semester.  Please look for future Chapter e-mails regarding our call for nominations and the closing meeting.

On behalf of the Chapter,

Harry Z.
Harry N. Zarin, Professor/Counselor
President-AAUP
Montgomery College

AAUP Update: County Council Operating Budget Hearings

Colleagues:

Annually the President of Montgomery College submits an operating budget request to the County Executive.  After receiving that request, the County Executive makes a recommendation to the County Council on all County funded operating budget requests.  This year the County Executive recommended that the Council fully fund the College’s FY 2022 operating budget request.

The County Council holds operating budget request hearings in April and typically, representatives from the College testify at these hearings.  The schedule and links to this year’s hearings are listed below.  This year Jarvis Slacks English-R will be representing the Chapter by testifying on our behalf.  I’ve attached a copy of his testimony to this e-mail.  I encourage each of you to take the time to read his testimony and to tune into the hearings that are happening this week. 

DATE /TIMETESTIMONYLINKNOTE
April 6 at 1:30pmMike Knapp, MC Board of TrusteesLINK 
April 6 at 7:00pmGermantown StudentLINK 
April 7 at 7:00pmJarvis Slacks, AAUP Rockville Student
View Testimony
LINK
April 8 at 7:00pmTPSS Student Chris Standing, AFSCME Mitch Tropin, SEIU Link is not posted yet. Look on this site for the link

On behalf of the Chapter, I’d like to extend our thanks to Jarvis for representing us at these hearings.  I would also like to extend our thanks to the other representatives of the College who will be testifying in support of our operating budget request. 

Harry Z.

AAUP Update: Contract 101 Seminars, Negotiations, Schedules, and More.

I hope this update finds that all of you are healthy and well.  All of us have had to make considerable adjustments to our daily lives and the students appreciate all that we are doing to support them during this most difficult time. 

This year the Executive Committee is planning to host faculty meetings several times during the academic year. We would like to use these meetings as an opportunity for you, the members, to check in with us.  You can ask questions about issues that concern you and you can give us information about any issues you would like us to know about. 

One issue we will be focusing on this year is succession planning.  Many of us on the Executive Committee and the Negotiating Team have been involved in Chapter leadership for a long time.  As with any organization, succession planning is an important issue that needs to be addressed.  We look forward to meeting with members of the Chapter and hope that many of you will consider taking on a role in leading the Chapter in the years to come.

Contract 101 Seminars:

As a service to our membership, the AAUP Negotiating Team will be sponsoring two virtual discussions this semester on the AAUP contract.

The first session will be held on Wednesday November 11, at 7:30pm and will cover the contract

  • Article 2 – Management functions,
  • Article 4- Faculty appointments,
  • Article 5 -Workload.

The second session will be held on Wednesday December 9 (time TBA) and will cover

  • Article 6- Leaves of Absence,
  • Article 7- Chapter Rights and
  • Article 8- Salaries.

We will try to schedule these sessions during times that will allow for maximum attendance.  Zoom links and other information will be sent in a separate e-mail at the beginning of November. 

Update on Negotiations:

Negotiations started on Monday, October 19, 2020.  In this initial meeting with Management, we discussed ground rules and AAUP interests. Financials (salary, EAP and overload) are on the table for this round of negotiations.

Tito Baca, Ginger Robinson, Robin Flanary and Sharon Piper (lead negotiator) are representing the Chapter as members of the Negotiating Team. 

All activities that take place at the negotiating table are confidential until both sides agree to the release of information. We will provide you with updates as best we can while negotiations are taking place.

The Winter Session:

This is just a reminder that if you are teaching during the 5-week winter session, your winter session ESH counts towards your spring load. 

Important Reminders:

  • The maximum workload you are allowed in any given semester is 20ESH.
  • The maximum workload you are allowed in any academic year, August to May, is 36ESH.
  • The minimum workload you need to carry in any academic year, August to May, is 30ESH.

Spring Scheduling:

The spring schedule has been posted and spring registration for students who have earned at least 30 credits began on November 2.  Registration for all other students begins on November 9. 

Like it or not, this year’s spring schedule is like none we have ever seen before.  The number of 15-week classes has been drastically reduced and the number of accelerated classes (primarily 7-week classes) has been dramatically increased.  The link to the Spring 2021 FAQ that was previously published is below.  Please refer to this FAQ for information on what changes were made to the spring schedule and the why.

Many of us have been meeting with students to help them figure out which classes they should take in the spring.  It is very important that all of us work with the students to help them understand the ramifications of the new schedule. Many of the students I have met with do not understand the schedule and the implications of trying to complete a class in 7-weeks.  Please encourage them to carefully consider the combination of classes they take and how many credits they plan on taking prior to actually registering for classes. 

Academic Planning Sessions:

The Academic Affairs Division will be conducting academic planning sessions on Nov 5 and 6.  During these sessions, extensive discussions will be held on the shape of future academic semesters at MC. College leadership, including Dr. Pollard, the Senior Vice Presidents, Chairs of major College-wide committees, AAUP leadership, and Faculty Council chairs have been invited to attend these planning sessions. We hope these sessions will give us a forum to talk about what a post-pandemic MC will look like.  I will be representing the Chapter at these academic planning sessions.

Parking Fees:

A number of inquiries have come to several members of the Chapter’s Executive Committee regarding parking fee assessments.  Faculty want to know if they should or could cancel their parking fee assessment.  Considering that we are all working remotely this question makes sense.

I had a private meeting and subsequent conversations with Donna Schena, Vice President for Administrative and Fiscal Services regarding this issue.  She said that she would issue a statement to the College community on this subject and she did so on October 8.  In her memorandum, she provided all of us with information about why the parking fee exists and how the revenue is used.  With that information in mind, she stated the following regarding cancelling your parking fee assessment:

”I ask you to consider what the parking revenue covers and the context of the College’s fiscal circumstances, when making your decision about whether to cancel your parking pass and the fee associated with the pass. If you wish to stop your payroll deduction for the upcoming year, you should send an email to: parking@montgomerycollege.edu. The effective date of the cancellation will be the first payroll period after receipt of the notification. “ 

You are free to request that your parking fee assessment be cancelled by following the directions Ms. Schena provided in her memorandum. In addition, you need to return your parking placard to the Central Administration building.

Open Enrollment has started:

The following is a message from the Benefits Office.

“Open Enrollment for benefits has started and runs through 5 pm on Monday, November 16th.  There are no changes to any of the benefit structures (with the exception of specialty drugs on the Cigna POS plan), and no increases to any of the paycheck deduction amounts for 2021.  Just a reminder that if you are not making any changes, then no action is required.  The one exception would be if you are electing a flexible spending account for 2021.  This requires re-enrollment in Workday every year.  Please log into Workday through My MC and click on your inbox (envelope in top right corner) to view and open your Open Enrollment event.  You must review all the pages, read the disclaimer, and click “I agree” at the end and submit.  Please save and print a copy of your changes as proof.  If you wish to change a Supplemental Retirement Annuity deduction amount (pre-tax money going to TIAA, Voya, Equitable, and/or Valic), this must be done in a separate event (Change Retirement Savings), also through Workday.  HRSTM will be offering both pre-recorded and live sessions on the different benefits, as well as virtual office hours.  Please watch for the email blasts, visit the Open Enrollment website, and visit Alex, your virtual benefit advisor, while on the site.”

Please stay healthy and well during these difficult times and take the time to take care of your own physical, emotional, and mental health.  Also, remember that if you need to take sick leave for a COVID related reason, you may be able to take COVID sick leave which will not deduct from your regular sick leave.  Please click on the link below for more information on COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave.

https://info.montgomerycollege.edu/offices/human-resources/covid-19-emergency-paid-sick-leave-request.html

On behalf of the Chapter,

Harry Z.

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