Below are the statements made by NCCFT officers at last Wednesday’s Board of Trustees meeting. While defending the quality of education at NCC is our overriding interest, we spoke extensively about the exploitation of LINCC Lecturers. LINCC, or Language Immersion at NCC, is a program devoted to students who are learning English as a second (or third, or fourth) language. The education provided in the LINCC program is essential to NCC’s mission, and yet these faculty have been excluded from the basic protections of the NCCFT contract despite being placed into our bargaining unit over two years ago.
President M. Debra DeSanto
Nassau Community College is vital to the health of our local economy, providing affordable access to higher education for a wide range of students, including:
- The children of middle-class families who are just beginning their college education
- People who are out of work and need retraining in new fields
- Workers who need to acquire new skills for the demands of the 21st century economy
- Immigrants starting to a new life for themselves and their families
The Nassau Community College faculty has a 50 year track record of creating innovative, nationally recognized programs that motivate and enhance student learning at all levels of achievement, from remedial to honors. One reason we have been able to serve our students so well is that past administrations have seen the faculty as partners in running the college, not merely as employees who have to be managed. Under President Donald Astrab, this working relationship no longer exists. He has imposed a top-down, corporate style of management that effectively cuts us out of the decision-making process.
Recent decisions by the current Administration and BOT have further demonstrated this point. Month after month faculty leaders along with members of the NCCFT have come before you with concerns. Yet, it appears that no one is listening. I do not draw this conclusion because we do not always get our way but because we are told that we do not have a grasp of reality, that we are spoiled, that we are used to doing things are own way. This simply is not that case.
Decisions to remove Professor Emeritus from the e-mail and the discontinuance of allncc e-mail along with failure to finalize the status of LINCC Lecturers and the recent 10 month attempt to reach a contract extension are a few examples. The college is losing money due to mismanagement such as decline in student enrollment during the fall semester when department Chairs were told to cut sections. Existing students were hurt as they could not get their required courses and new students were turned away as there were no sections open to them. Classrooms were available and faculty were ready but the decision had been made by the Administration even though department Chairs informed the Administration that this was not an appropriate measure to save money. The department chairs were correct and money was lost and students were harmed. So the questions remains when will Dr. Astrab and the BOT recognize that the members of the NCCFT value their students and the reputation of this college and make an honest effort to work as partners.
Treasurer, Elizabeth Anne Wood
I don’t usually speak when I attend these meetings because my colleagues statements are articulate and comprehensive, and I don’t need to speak to hear the sound of my own voice. But tonight I need to speak because of the courage of the LINCC Lecturers who came here two weeks ago to tell you about the injustice they have suffered for over two years.
Over two years ago the college argued that LINCC Lecturers should be placed in the full time faculty bargaining unit because they “resembled” full time faculty. The Public Employment Relations Board agreed, finding they shared a community of interest with the NCCFT. Yet since that time the college has insisted that they be treated as second class citizens.
Our bargaining unit is a strong and diverse unit, representing many kinds of workers. We proudly represent admissions and financial aid counselors, computer programmers, lab assistants, testing coordinators, classroom faculty, librarians, psychological counselors, academic advisors, and many others. While we make some distinctions between classroom faculty and non-classroom faculty, and different categories of faculty have different salary scales and work weeks, we are all united under the protection of the NCCFT contract, and the vast majority of the provisions of that contract apply to every single one of us no matter what our position. We all share the same benefits package. We are all eligible to apply for sabbaticals. We are all eligible to apply for tenure. We all participate in electing our faculty leaders. We all share in the governance of this college.
LINCC Lecturers teach students, full time, in classrooms. By any reasonable definition, they are classroom faculty. But, no matter what we call them, they are part of our unit and should be given the same rights, responsibilities, and protections that are shared by every other member of the NCCFT.
That simple principle has driven our work to negotiate reasonable terms and conditions of employment for these faculty. But if I’ve learned anything in that process it is that negotiations are not about reason. At their best, they are about good faith compromises. At their base, they are about power. We have seen over the two years we’ve been negotiating on behalf of these LINCC Lecturers that good faith is not what is driving the administration’s strategy. That leaves us with power.
It may have seemed to you that 14 people could not have much power, and that they would be easy to marginalize. But look around the room. You have seen that we are not relenting on any of the issues we bring before you. We will not relent in our support for these 14 people either. We will not concede to marginalization of these, our colleagues, and I, for one, am appalled that marginalization is what our administration or our Board of Trustees would want for any of the faculty it trusts to educate the students whose interests it is charged to protect.
Vice President for Classroom Faculty, Frank Frisenda
We believe that you have a responsibility/obligation as a member of the BOT to educate yourselves not only about the culture and mission of the college community, but to promises made by this administration. It is disturbing news that although Dr. Astrab agreed that the LINCC faculty would be treated exactly the same as all faculty under our collective bargaining agreement and we agreed that we would bargain with respect to salaries and departmental governance, now we are told by the Mediator for the LINCC negotiations that although Dr Astrab made that commitment, the BOT will not agree. As frustrating as that is, it appeared there were two areas we might be able to agree; wage increases already budgeted and health insurance.
However, we were told, as with the other promises made, the promise of the LINCC lecturers receiving paid health insurance, as all other faculty, is also off the table due to objections from the BOT. This was substantiated by Mr. Gross, when he commented that the health insurance was not about money, but politics and the BOT would not agree to it. Obviously we were very disturbed about this and reached out to board members, and more than one of you told us the board had no knowledge of this.
As you have / will hear the LINCC lecturers have worked without a contract for several years and have demonstrated their professionalism consistently for 5-7 years.
Since John Gross was speaking on behalf of the BOT and you have no knowledge of the health insurance issue, and since you have a quorum tonight we would ask you to caucus for a couple of minutes, and return tonight with a commitment that you will direct your negotiator to agree that these 14 members receive the same health insurance benefits as every other member of our bargaining unit allowing us to accept the mediator’s proposal about the salaries already budgeted. This will provide closure on these two immediate issues and allow us to resume productive discussions.
NOTE: Video of the Board meeting can be seen on our YouTube channel: youtube.com/NCCFT