On behalf of the NCCFT Executive Committee, I want to thank all of you who voted to support the Chairs, Senate and Union leadership with your “Vote of No Confidence” in President Astrab’s ability to continue to lead this College. After the tally indicated that over 89% of you voted in favor of the resolutions, the Executive Committee met with Claudia Schacter-deChabert, our NYSUT Labor Relations Specialist, to discuss the NCCFT’s next steps.
It just happened that the next step involved a prior agreement to meet on Friday morning with Dr Astrab and the Administration, to follow up after our August 16 meeting. As you are aware, the NCCFT Executive Committee believes it has identified millions of dollars in savings and has been trying to reach an agreement with the College whereby we could see these savings come to fruition. NCCFT President DeSanto mentioned this at the June meeting of the Academic Senate, when she described how we had reached out in early April to discuss possibilities. It would be inappropriate to discuss the details because as in any negotiation, there is no deal until there is a complete deal, but in this case we can say that it appears a deal will not occur at all. Across the table from our Executive Committee and our Labor Relations Specialist was Chairman of the Board Mike Freeman, College Attorney Donna Haugen, Executive Vice President Ken Saunders, AVP for Finance Jim Behrens and Board of Trustees’ John Gross, from the law firm of Ingerman and Smith. We all sat down and opened our pads. Dr. Astrab came in, said good morning, wished us luck and a nice weekend and left the room. With that, John Gross informed us the College was not willing to discuss any proposals. Instead, they will “bite the bullet” for the next two years and meet with us at that time for “full blown negotiations”. What can one surmise from this? “Bite the bullet?” For those of you that believe that Dr. Astrab inherited a bad situation, not of his doing, and that the faculty should try to work with him, please keep this in mind: It is true that the bad situation existed before Dr. Astrab took over, but it is not true that the faculty are not trying to work with him. Clearly, he does not want to work with us.
Following that summary rejection, we took a break and then met later in the morning to discuss LINCC. As you recall, we have been in mediation regarding the terms and conditions of employment for LINCC Lecturers since declaring impasse last winter. This was our second mediation session, and Marty Scheinman, the agreed upon mediator was present. To be succinct, the NCCFT and the College continue to have very different perspectives, and the College is treating LINCC as the “camels nose” it wants to sneak under the tent before the next round of full blown negotiations.
This year’s budget was approved, in part, based on a reduction of full time faculty positions. We are saddened and angered by the College’s decision not to renew the temporary contracts of 39 talented full time faculty whose loss to their respective departments, and to the greater college community, is devastating. The NCCFT is confident that if the administration had met with us last year, and if they had truly been interested in our help, many, if not all of these temporary lines could have been saved.
Over the summer, in response to the announcement that a move toward a Vote of No Confidence was gaining momentum, Dr. Astrab sent out several emails asserting his legal authority to make decisions as he does. Last week, he held three forums outlining the political and fiscal realities as he sees them. In those discussions, he was emphatic about the fact that faculty and administration must all work together to reduce the costs associated with maintaining the College. He expressed his belief that he has consulted with faculty. His administrators have written emails expressing their support for Dr. Astrab along with their desire and willingness to work with us. How persuasive is his administration’s call for working together when they reject our attempts each time we try to reach out?
I have always maintained that the NCCFT can only do so much with respect to cost savings. And, however significant those savings might be, that afterwards, the faculty must do their share through the Academic Senate to realize further cost savings. However, now that the College had declared its intention to “bite the bullet” rather than seeking what savings we could have offered, we must ask, “who are they hoping will choke on this bullet”? If we’re already operating with a dramatically reduced faculty, how will this administration cull the herd? I heard one administrator express annoyance and concern over extrapolations. Isn’t extrapolating part of the analytical thinking process? Extrapolate this!
What is Dr. Astrab talking about when he asks us all to do our share? What is Dr. Astrab talking about when he interviews with Newsday and creates the impression that we are a bunch of spoiled Luddites who need to understand the fiscal realities? How is Dr. Astrab going to explain his reluctance to discuss cost savings with us to legislators when he approaches the State and County for financial support? His rhetoric is meaningless, misleading and naïve, and isn’t that part of what cost us our confidence in him in the first place?
Mind you, Dr. Astrab was not at the table for our discussions. Michael Freeman was, as Chair of the Board of Trustees. Perhaps Dr. Astrab is nothing more than their enforcer. It appears to us that the Board is setting the agenda, and rather than being our advocate, Dr. Astrab prefers the role of their foot soldier.
The first meeting of the Board of Trustees is scheduled for Wednesday, September 14 at 6:30pm. We need you there. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a sustained, thoughtful, and forceful reaction to this. Next year’s budget is being prepared now, and August 2013 will be here before you know it. It’s tempting to say that things can’t get worse, but you know they will if we aren’t organized and ready to act.
Frank Frisenda, Vice President for Classroom Faculty