November 30, 2022

AAUP Update: Chapter Communications with Dr. Williams

Colleagues:

As previously communicated to all of you, on April 18 representatives of the three employee unions at Montgomery College wrote to Dr. Jermaine Williams about our concerns with the administration’s decision not to drop students who are unvaccinated from classes.  Allowing these students to attend classes weakens the safety net that we all agreed to create when we voted in favor of a COVID-19 mandate for all employees and students. A copy of that communication is posted on the Chapter’s webpage, mcaaup.org.

Dr. Williams responded to our concerns and explained the administration’s rationale for its decision.  We replied with a request that faculty and other employees who need flexibility to teach or work remotely be given that opportunity. We also requested that the administration rethink the unrealistic goal of 10% for remote classes for the Fall 2022 semester. 

Below is our reply to Dr. Williams. We sent this reply on Wednesday May 3. Directly below that is Dr. William’s original response to our April 18 memo.  Please take a moment from your busy schedules to read both.  

You can post any comments you may have about this on the Chapter webpage or you can send them directly to me.  In addition, we can discuss this at our virtual meeting during Professional Week on Wednesday, May 18, from 11:15 am to 12:15 pm.  Here is the Zoom link to our end-of-year meeting:  https://montgomerycollege.zoom.us/j/91786425815.

Thanks for your support. 

Harry Z. 


May 3, 2022

Dr. Williams:

We appreciate your thoughtful response to our concerns about the change in the vaccine mandate for students. The improvement in health conditions in Montgomery County and other areas around the country is encouraging.  We hope that Dr. Anthony Fauci is correct in his estimation that the U.S. is now in a “transitional phase” that may ultimately lead to a future in which COVID-19 is as controllable as the seasonal flu. 

But, as Dr. Fauci noted, the pandemic is still with us.  Vaccines have gotten us this far, and vaccines continue to be the most critical tool we have to fight this deadly disease. We have seen COVID-19 spawn many variants, each more contagious than the previous one. Although the rate of deaths has declined, new cases and hospitalizations have recently increased. The fact that the overall COVID death toll in our country will soon reach 1 million is a sober reminder to remain vigilant.  

Montgomery College currently employs many faculty and staff members who are at higher risk of COVID because of age, medical condition, or the condition of family members. As the union representatives of these employees, we should have been brought into the discussion before the decision to rescind the student mandate was made.  We have heard from many of our constituents who oppose the college’s decision. Here are excerpts from two letters we recently received:

“I will be returning to f2f classes this summer.  I have been teaching online and am freshly recovered (I hope) from cancer surgery this past Jan 24th.  I am not thrilled to be immune-compromised with unvaccinated students roaming the halls.” 

I “will not be returning to MC if this policy will be adopted as I have several health issues which take precedence. Just as other immunizations are required, COVID should be necessary to protect the health of all in the community. I also have disabled family members that I must protect.”

As leaders of the unions that represent almost all of the employees at Montgomery College, we respectfully disagree with the college’s decision not to drop students from classes for failure to get vaccinated.  Now is not the time to go backwards.  Even if students continue to be advised that vaccination is expected, the knowledge that they will not be dropped from classes if they do not follow through is a disincentive to comply. 

This decision is likely to undermine the safety net that all of us agreed to create when we overwhelmingly voted to support the mandate.

Therefore, we request that the administration make the following adjustments:

  • Employees at high risk should be given permission to teach remotely or do telework if they so desire.  The current policy allows for up to 3 days per week of telework, but in many offices, specifically Student Affairs, employees have been instructed that the limit is one day per week.  Considering the change in the student vaccination mandate policy, this is unacceptable.
  • The college should rethink its target of 10% for structured remote and online classes for the Fall 2022 semester.

The 10% limit will make it difficult for employees to get the flexibility they need to stay safe and do their work effectively. If this limit is imposed, there will be insufficient remote classes for all the faculty who will request them due to their medical and/or personal circumstances. A target of 35% for remote classes would be more realistic.

Thank you for considering our views and suggestions.  We look forward to your response.

Sincerely, 

Harry Zarin, President AAUP

Lori Ulrich, President AFSCME

Victoria Baldassano, Director SEIU

——————————————————————————————————————–

From: Jermaine F. Williams, President, Montgomery College <President@montgomerycollege.edu>

Sent: Friday, April 22, 2022 2:31 PM
To: Baldassano, Victoria A <victoria.baldassano@montgomerycollege.edu>; Ulrich, Lori A <Lori.Ulrich@montgomerycollege.edu>; Zarin, Harry <harry.zarin@montgomerycollege.edu>
Subject: Your recent message

Dear Victoria, Lori, and Harry:

Thank you for your April 19, 2022, email message communicating your concerns about the College’s decision to adjust the vaccine requirement for students. As I noted when we last met, I am pleased that the unions are engaged in these critical topics, and appreciate hearing your views, individually and collectively. Our conversations with the three of you prior to adjusting the masking requirement highlighted several coronavirus concerns among employees that were also considered in our decision to adjust the vaccine requirement for students. The two mitigation strategies both share some important impacts on classroom and workplace health, enrollment, and student success.

I want to assure you that the health and safety of the College community continue to be paramount, as they have been from the start of the pandemic. The College has demonstrated this commitment in multiple ways. We established one of the most rigorous requirements for student vaccination among community colleges in Maryland. Only one other community college required student vaccinations, and we were the only two colleges that removed students from face-to-face classes for failure to be vaccinated during the spring semester. As you may know, more than 700 MC students were deleted from classes for failing to comply with the student vaccine requirements.

The College’s recent decision to remove the penalty for non-vaccinated students in the summer sessions and fall semester was the result of careful consideration by my senior leadership team. At the same time, we are redoubling efforts to continue to educate and encourage all in our College community to be vaccinated, get boosters when eligible, practice good hygiene, and wear masks in certain venues. By informing students that they are expected to be vaccinated and directing them to our system to upload their vaccine cards, we contribute to the robust vaccination culture established over the past two semesters. These efforts build on the reported student vaccination rate of more than 90 percent accomplished thus far.

Our commitment to ensure equitable access and opportunity, as well as fuel the economy and drive economic mobility, rests on enhancing access for the diverse populations we serve and seek to serve. We believe the College can increase access in ways that continue to follow evolving health guidance, are safe and healthy, and meet the needs of our students and employees. As you know, masks continue to be required in classrooms and learning spaces.  Employees are also empowered to request masks be worn in their personal office spaces.

The process by which the student vaccination decision was made included consideration of the following.

• Health conditions are now very different than when the vaccination requirement was announced in September 2021: there is a high vaccination rate, medications are available for infected individuals, and state and county COVID conditions have vastly improved.

• The Montgomery County vaccination rate is very high: 95 percent of residents have at least one dose, 87 percent are fully vaccinated, and 54 percent are boosted—our students’ vaccination rates are comparable.

•  The transmission rate in Montgomery County remains consistently low.

•  The hospitalization and ICU bed utilization rates for COVID cases in Montgomery County are very low (and these are the key indicators informing updated CDC guidance).

•  Masks are required in classrooms, but even if the requirement is dropped in the future, a mask can be worn by anyone, anywhere, anytime.

We have also benchmarked what other higher education institutions are doing for comparison. And, most importantly, if conditions should change significantly, we are prepared to pivot as needed.

As health and safety conditions continue to change, we must appropriately respond. We look forward to engaging union leadership in this conversation.

As you know, the College has a full-time public health director whose expertise includes interpreting data on local conditions to inform real-time decision-making and advise senior leaders about evolving conditions. I have found her to be very adept with these issues, and well-equipped to guide us through directions from national, state, and local health authorities on topics such as masking.

We are dedicated to communication and transparency. Respective members of the senior team remain committed to meeting with each union to discuss matters of interest related to the collective bargaining agreements. Furthermore, I look forward to our meeting later this semester when we can continue our conversation about relationship building and a positive path forward that advances the mission of the College.

I very much appreciate your concern for the health and safety of faculty, staff, and students. My senior leadership team and I hold this as our highest priority and welcome your collaboration on meeting our shared goals—empowering students to change their lives and enriching the life of the community.

Regards,

jfw

Jermaine F. Williams
President
Office of the President
Montgomery College
9221 Corporate Boulevard
Rockville, MD 20850
240-567-5264
Jermaine.willams@montgomerycollege.edu  

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: 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: Follow-Up to Meeting with SVPs and MC Union Leaders

From: Zarin, Harry
Sent: Friday, January 14, 2022 4:44 PM
To: Rai, Sanjay K <sanjay.rai@montgomerycollege.edu>; Brown, Monica R <monica.brown@montgomerycollege.edu>; Collette, Sherwin A <Sherwin.Collette@montgomerycollege.edu>
Cc: Ulrich, Lori A <Lori.Ulrich@montgomerycollege.edu>; Standing, Christopher G <chris.standing@montgomerycollege.edu>; Baldassano, Victoria A <victoria.baldassano@montgomerycollege.edu>
Subject: Follow-up to Our Meeting

Monica, Sanjay, and Sherwin:

Thank you for taking the time to review our memo of concern and for having a meeting with us yesterday during this very busy time. We appreciate the open discussion and the fact that you gave serious attention to what you described as our “legitimate concerns.”

In the area of telework, we understand, as Sherman stated, that you “encourage flexible work schedules” and will ask supervisors to honor the policy that was originally agreed to for staff and counseling faculty.

Most importantly, we appreciate the fact that you heard our request that all face-to-face classes (except hands-on labs and a small list of other classes) be changed to structured remote for a period of time, possibly two to four weeks, until case numbers, hospitalization, and other factors in Montgomery County indicate that it is safe to proceed with in-person instruction. We understand that the administration is monitoring conditions and COVID infection rates in the area and uses this information to help make informed decisions.

Moving forward, however, we have one concern that we feel was not fully addressed at yesterday’s meeting.  It has been said in a number of meetings that we are a data-driven institution. We use data to make decisions that are in the best interests of the students and the employees. Classes start in two weeks. Only 40% of the students registered for face-to-face classes have submitted their vaccination records and have had those records processed by the vendor. We recognize that another 4,000 students have submitted their records, but those have not been processed yet. What are the magic numbers that need to be reached before the administration announces that we are switching face-to-face classes to structured remote for a temporary period of time because a sufficient number of students haven’t submitted their records or submitted records haven’t been processed?   We expect that there would be some exceptions to the requirement that face-to-face classes switch to remote; lab science and so on.

Unfortunately, all our efforts to encourage students to do their part to help protect themselves and this community may not work, and a decision has to be made sooner rather than later about moving face-to-face classes to structured remote. Requiring everyone to prepare for SRT formatted classes a weekend prior to the start of classes, for example, is unprofessional and disrespectful to the faculty and the student service areas.  Most importantly, students need time to adjust to this temporary switch from face-to-face to structured remote.  Advance/early communication regarding the numbers and the plan to respond to those numbers affects more than just the classroom; a myriad of student services will be impacted and may need to be shifted, even if partially, to remote for a period of time as well.  We have demonstrated that we can turn on a dime and serve students well in the process, but it does not come without anxiety and loss of morale.  The ability to plan should not be undervalued.

MCPS, local colleges. and colleges and universities around the country have already announced a delay in having students come to campus to take classes and they are starting their semester in a remote format. We need to continue to take the necessary steps to protect our employees and we are hopeful that at the opening meeting we will hear something other than what we have already heard.

Thank you,

Lori Ulrich, President AFSCME

Victoria Baldassano, Director SEIU

Chris Standing, Immediate Past President AFSCME Harry Zarin, President AAUP

AAUP Update: Letter of Concern from MC Union Presidents to SVPs and Provosts

From: Zarin, Harry
Sent: Monday, January 10, 2022 2:20 PM
To: Rai, Sanjay K <sanjay.rai@montgomerycollege.edu>; Collette, Sherwin A <Sherwin.Collette@montgomerycollege.edu>; Brown, Monica R <monica.brown@montgomerycollege.edu>
Cc: Cain, Stephen D <stephen.cain@montgomerycollege.edu>; Payne, George M <george.payne@montgomerycollege.edu>; Latimer, Margaret W <margaret.latimer@montgomerycollege.edu>; Stewart, Brad J <brad.stewart@montgomerycollege.edu>; Kelley, Kimberly B <kimberly.kelley@montgomerycollege.edu>; Standing, Christopher G <chris.standing@montgomerycollege.edu>; Baldassano, Victoria A <victoria.baldassano@montgomerycollege.edu>
Subject: Letter of Concern

All:

I am sending this e-mail to all of you on behalf of the MC Presidents of AAUP, AFSCME, the Director of SEIU, and our constituents.  

We are very appreciative of all the Administration has done to help protect Montgomery College employees and students since the start of the pandemic. Providing us with appropriate training and technology has allowed us to perform our jobs from remote locations, and this has been beneficial for all of us, and most importantly, for our students. From the moment the college switched to remote instruction following spring break 2020, we have proven our flexibility as well as our dedication to the college’s mission. We accepted the challenges of embracing emerging technology, participating in necessary training, and providing high quality instruction and remote services to all of our students. 

We also appreciate the efforts of senior leadership, in consultation with the Return-to-Campus Advisory Committee, to follow COVID-19 trends and other factors in determining the operational status of the college. However, it has become increasingly difficult to make decisions and plans based on a moving target. Information we receive about COVID may change multiple times over a period of days, and this makes it especially difficult to create a coherent schedule of classes for students and instructors. Omicron continues to spread rapidly throughout the state and hospitals are reaching capacity.  In fact, Gov. Larry Hogan recently noted that “the next four to six weeks are really going to be a terrible point in this crisis” (Delkic).

We all need to be flexible and willing to adjust at a moment’s notice during this ever-changing pandemic. Unfortunately, it appears that in some cases the Administration has abandoned flexibility in favor of expediency. Suspending a long-standing telework policy and requiring all staff, administrators, and counseling faculty to be on campus four days a week makes no sense.  We have shown since the start of the pandemic that we are capable of performing our jobs from remote locations while providing student services, teaching, and counseling students, and protecting ourselves against ever-rising COVID numbers and mutations of the virus. We ask that the Administration immediately restore the telework policy that allows eligible MC employees to work from a remote location up to three days a week. A return to this policy will enable us to further protect ourselves while continuing to be open for business and serve our students.

We also ask that the Administration allow for more flexibility regarding where and how classes are taught this semester. The initial goal of teaching 70% of our classes in a face-to-face environment made sense last fall when the schedule was finalized, but COVID has changed, and the new, highly transmissible Omicron variant has the ability to infect those who are vaccinated. The massive number of positive cases and resulting hospitalizations have already placed an immense strain on our health care system. We are aware that some face-to-face classes have been switched to structured remote instruction, but we need to do more than change a small number of classes.  Many of our faculty have children who are too young to be vaccinated, and bringing them on campus into a more populated environment is not a good or safe idea.  These faculty agreed to teach face-to-face classes prior to the current mutation of the virus and spike in COVID numbers.  We recognize that MC has a student vaccination mandate in place, but we are very concerned about the low percentage of students who have uploaded their vaccination records.  This low number indicates that the faculty and staff who work face-to-face with students are being asked to work in a potentially unsafe environment.  For this reason, we ask that the Administration allow the faculty to switch their classes to SRT instruction if they and their students agree that this is something they prefer. Let’s give our faculty all the options necessary to protect themselves while at the same time providing safe and quality instruction to their students. 

We would like to discuss these requests with you before the Spring 2022 semester begins. Thank you for your consideration.

Harry N. Zarin, President AAUP

Victoria Baldassano, Director SEIU

Chris Standing, President AFSCME

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

https://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