The June 9th Board of Trustees’ meeting was indeed unique. The agenda was packed with Committee hearings before the actual Board meeting began.
- An Audit report of the College.
- Finance Committee report of operating expenditures to date.
- Capital Committee report on physical construction projects to date.
- Acceptance of a Food Pantry on campus to assist our students, faculty and staff. Contract with NICE bus transportation to use our roads for bus driver training.
- Personnel Committee resolution to accept the recommendations of the P&T.
- Academic Affairs Committee discussion on protocol to hear arguments with respect to the three Academic Senate resolutions to override the Presidential vetoes of the Developmental Education, CWCC and Class size resolutions.
For several days prior to and including the day of the BOT meeting, the NCCFT Executive Committee, Academic Senate Executive Committee (ASEC), P&T and others discussed and coordinated our actions for the meeting.
At 4:30 pm on June 9th, the NCCFT met with the P&T Committee. Dr. Patricia Halcrow, Chair and Professor Connie Egelman, Secretary were asked by the Administration to be available for consultation. Upon opening the Board’s Personnel Sub-Committee meeting, Trustee Wanda Jackson, Chair ordered the Committee into executive session. This resulted in a long and thorough examination of the facts. After a long delay, the BOT approved the P&T recommendation for the faculty member that Acting President Saunders failed to move forward. This decision was met by cheers from those in attendance.
Finally, the actual Board meeting began after 9 p.m., whereby Dr. Gardyn announced the protocol for reviewing the Senate resolutions. A table was set-up with chairs, computer, smart-board and microphone. The ASEC and the Administration were each given 15 minutes to make their presentation and afterwards the Board asked questions to both groups. After each resolution/veto was discussed, the Board consulted with each other and Dr. Gardyn announced the decision of the Board.
When the Board called the meeting to order, the first item on the agenda was the Class Size resolution. This was presented by Dr. Evelyn Wortsman Deluty and Dr. David Stern for the ASEC and Dr. Saunders presented for the Administration. As you can see in the video, the Board does not fully understand the time-honored practice of process, contemplative and collegial discourse and shared governance. Yet, in minutes they made their decision to uphold the veto of the President and allow the Class Size increases to stand. The ASEC recognized the appropriateness of addressing the financial concerns of the College, however, this should be accomplished through the governance process.
Next, the Board placed the CWCC Curriculum resolution on the agenda. This was presented by Dr. Evelyn Wortsman Deluty and Prof. Christopher Merlo for the ASEC and Acting Deans Tom Fernandez and Jerry Kornbluth for the Administration. This “hearing” was particularly disturbing. Aside from process and/or merits, the class-size resolution as presented by the Acting President was a straight-up financial impact decision. We can even understand the Board’s and Acting President’s position on that issue. However, the CWCC resolution is a complete assault and insult to the academic areas these Acting Deans represent. Acting Dean Kornbluth was a Professor in the Math Department. Acting Dean Fernandez was a Professor in the Engineering/Physics/Technology before becoming Acting Dean of the Math and Science Area. It is our position that the Deans (Acting or not) should understand the needs of the Departments in their area, build a consensus amongst the faculty and administration, and then advocate for the Area. Instead, Acting Dean Fernandez, figuratively, threw his Area “under the bus”. He convinced the Board that our Science and Math requirements were excessive, unnecessary and irrelevant to the General Liberal Arts students. Furthermore, Acting Dean Kornbluth convinced the Board that Physical Education (his Area) was a waste of the students’ time. The Board agreed with both of them. What will happen to the Math, Science and PE programs, offerings and faculty will be devastating. Fortunately, the new student trustee, Jennifer Borzym, realized the faculty made the stronger arguments and voted accordingly. The NCCFT cannot be silent and complacent on this issue; remember the writings of Martin Niemoller, “first they came for the …”.
Some members of the Board attempted to convince the audience that there was no intent to cut our programs to 60 credits, however, Trustee Donna Tuman explained that at LIU Post, where she is Chair of the Art Dept., they are scaling back their Bachelors programs to 120 credits. For those of us who have taken excessive Math courses, we can equate this to 60 at Nassau and 60 at Post, unless Post will allow our students to only take 56 credits at their campus for a Bachelor’s degree.
The last item on the agenda was the resolution regarding the Developmental Education Committee recommendations for the Placement Exam scores. An exhausted, yet articulate Dr. Evelyn Wortsman Deluty and Dr. Paul Rosa presented for the ASEC. Dean Melanie Hammer and Dean David Follick presented for the Administration. At the conclusion of this “hearing”, the Board recognized that the committee was close to a consensus and decided to send it back to the governance structure for a final recommendation by November of 2015.
In past posts, the NCCFT discussed the “Silence of the Deans”, whereby their participation in Senate debates is minimal, if existent at all. It seems that the silence is intentional. The Deans gather their own data; they do not vet this data through the governance process. Instead, they aggregate their material, make assumptions and then present their conclusions to the Board. This is worse than “shadow governance”. This is an affront to the faculty, students and staff of this college. To make matters worse, the Board chided the faculty and administration to learn to work together. Perhaps the silence of the Deans was better than the sounds of Acting Deans, Acting Vice-Presidents and Acting President. We need our administration to stop acting and become. We insist the SUNY Chancellor appoint an Interim President from outside the campus while the College proceeds with another search. Much more on this will be forthcoming.
Here is an idea to work together: The NCCFT will meet with the ASEC and with the Chairs to review the actions of the Board with respect to the resolutions and the Presidential search to discuss further measures. Of course, we ask you to review the video that is posted. We are certain the ASEC and the Chairs will have their own analysis of events, and we recommend everyone understand those positions. Please be ready to stand united as the next steps are announced.