In an email dated April 7th, the Academic Senate Executive Committee (ASEC) distributed to the entire campus the Governance Review Task Force’s (GRTF) draft revision of Articles I-III of the Academic Senate Bylaws. If you have not read this document, which is on the agenda for discussion and a vote at the Senate’s next meeting on April 18th, we encourage you to do so. The changes it embodies, assuming the Senate votes to accept them, will alter significantly the way shared governance is practiced at Nassau Community College.
As the ASEC indicated in its email, the GRTF—which included President Keen, members of his cabinet, and the elected faculty leadership—met for weeks before finalizing these proposed revisions. These meetings, which often involved frank and difficult discussions, focused on how to harmonize what the ASEC rightly called “the [decades-old] culture of shared governance that has facilitated the academic excellence” of our institution with both New York State Education Law and the concerns raised by Middle States when they put us on probation. Indeed, we have been assured by the administration that the changes this document embodies are a necessary step in the removal of our probationary status, an assurance we look forward to seeing borne out in the fall, when Middle States visits our campus once again.
Especially since our collective bargaining agreement expires on August 31st of this year, the NCCFT Executive Committee has been paying very careful attention to how this new administration has been managing the Middle States crisis. In this light, our role on the GRTF has been to make sure not only that the changes the administration told us were necessary did not infringe upon Section 20 of our contract, but also that they continued to authorize the Senate as the “forum for the consideration of academic matters of interest to the College community.” We believe the proposed revisions to the Senate Bylaws fulfill both those criteria and that they therefore deserve your support.
We look forward to the discussion in the Senate on April 18th.
My take on the issue is that Middle States is not insisting that we change our system of governance, only that we give the final say on policy change to the President and BoT as long as the language doesn’t go against State law or violate the terms of an existing labor contract.
The President’s persistence in trying to dilute facultys’ role in the decision making process by modifying the current by-laws of the Academic Senate is based on the false notion that this is what Middle States wants. If the President believes that simply changing our policy-making procedures, giving more power to his office and to the BoT, is the required “fix”, then he forgets how we got into this mess in the first place.
Over the years it was the faculty- administration team at NCC that shaped us into the finest community college in the State and possibly in the country. A few years ago when a few administrators decided to end this collaboration and by-pass shared governance that our current problems began.
I understand the NCCFT’s desire for the faculty to accept the fact that change is inevitable but do we really want to accept these changes to the AS by-laws as inevitable? I think not.
I would like to thank the NCCFT for commenting that the draft revision of Articles I-III of the Academic Senate Bylaws “will alter significantly the way shared governance is practiced at Nassau Community College.” While we can look to the new administration for guidance and feedback, we can actually determine what changes are best for ourselves. Middle States had only two simple comments on the Academic Senate Bylaws, here they are from their April 16, 2016 report:*
“This section of the NCCFT contract and the Academic Senate Bylaws appear to conflict with Article II: Procedure of the Academic Senate Bylaws.”
“These statements, along with the complex process for Presidential veto and Academic Senate veto override have coalesced to form a difficult process for effective and efficient policy making decisions to occur on campus.”
It really isn’t that complicated and perhaps we do not need to reduce the Academic Senate to a “forum” that is easily bypassed by some future administration that is perhaps not as benevolent as the current administration.
*From Portal > Middle States > Documents:
2016 Middle States Team Final Report NCC April 16-2016.pdf
Sorry, I had one more comment about this. In the above article it says:
“Indeed, we have been assured by the administration that the changes this document embodies are a necessary step in the removal of our probationary status, an assurance we look forward to seeing borne out in the fall”
This one sentence really scares me because I recall when the administration “assured” the NCCFT that they would replace 50% of the faculty lines that were lost to retirements at the end of 2015.