The weeks leading up to last Thursday’s vote to ratify, or not, the amended Academic Senate bylaws passed by the Senate at its meeting on April 27th have been fraught and unfortunately polarizing. As you know, the NCCFT Executive Committee agreed to participate in the group that crafted those bylaws, the Governance Review Task Force (GRTF), to ensure that the outcome complied with our collective bargaining agreement. Once the Senate voted to accept the amended bylaws, we urged ratification for two reasons:
- The text that was put before the Senate on April 27th had been agreed to by all members of the GRTF;
- We believe it is our role to support the will of the Senate.
We continue to believe our position is the most sound, both on principle and strategically, but we also continue to believe—as we have acknowledged all along (see our blog posts here, here, here, and here)—that some arguments against ratification had merit. The new bylaws, if ratified, will bring significant change to our system of shared governance, change that is hard for many of us to accept and that, if the vote shows we have accepted it, we must be especially vigilant in managing.
In any event, the vote will be what it will be, and we will, all of us, have to live with the result and its consequences. We pledge our continuing support to the Senate, to our new Academic Senate Chair, Anissa Moore, and—after elections in September—the new executive committee she will be leading. The Senate bylaws are a living document we can continue to refine, and we will play whatever role is necessary to make sure Dr. Keen treats them as such. We also commit ourselves to standing, as we have been doing all along, shoulder to shoulder with the Senate and the Chairs in confronting whatever new challenges come our way next.
Regardless of the result that is announced on Thursday, one thing that is coming next—that is, in fact, already here—is contract negotiations. Even under optimal negotiating conditions, it’s hard to overstate how important it is for us to stand united in demanding a fair contract. Under the current conditions, which are far from optimal, that unity is even more crucial. The mood at the negotiating table is not hostile, but the context in which negotiations are taking place is less than conducive to easy solutions.
Not only are we not yet out of the woods when it comes to Middle States, but the college is facing serious financial difficulties. The Board may have passed a tuition increase and more-than-dipped into the fund balance to close its $12 million deficit for 2017-2018, but the problem of State and County underfunding remains unsolved; the unknowns regarding the Excelsior Scholarship and its impact on our budget are, well, unknown; and continued low enrollment makes tuition increases, undesirable as they are, a less and less effective way of generating revenue. In addition, Nassau County politics are a potentially destabilizing force. The current county executive is under indictment, and with elections coming in November, we have no way of knowing whether the next person to sit in his seat will be friend or foe. Finally, we have to remember that the national mood regarding public education is against us, a context that emboldens, for example, those who’d like to see us rely ever more heavily on underpaid adjunct labor, and we cannot forget that we are facing a new and untested administration when it comes to negotiating contracts with a local union.
In circumstances like these, our success at the negotiating table depends more than ever on the support of the membership. We anticipate that these negotiations will proceed in good faith. No amount of good faith, however, will change the fact that the administration, because they hold the purse strings, bargains from a position of strength that we can only match if we are unified in our commitment to each other and to the conviction that we are the foundation upon which this college stands. In this endeavor, there can be no cracks between us.
Your Negotiating Team appreciates your continued support.