The NCCFT has been negotiating a Special Retirement Incentive since April, when Dr. Keen announced at the Board of Trustees meeting that the College would consider such a measure in order to address budget pressures brought on by declining enrollment and low student retention. In addition to the college’s budget concerns, these negotiations took into account a number of factors, including the needs of the Academic Departments with respect to replacement lines, faculty members who had already announced their intention to retire, and the status of the present Temporary Faculty lines whose fate was in the balance. Crucially, both the NCCFT and the Administration were transparent and honest in our evaluations and intentions throughout this process. Nonetheless, there were times that it looked like we might not reach an agreement. Therefore, despite the rumors that had been circulating, I thought it would be better to provide no information rather than information that might change at any moment. Now that we have reached an agreement and the MOA is signed, the NCCFT has published it on this website for you, the membership, to review and decide for yourselves how this might impact you. (Click here to read a copy of the MOA.)
The key issue presented by the Administration during these negotiations was the fact of declining student enrollment and low retention. This topic has been discussed in many forums for several years now, often giving the impression that we are on a sinking ship. Nonetheless, the Retention Committee formed during the previous CBA and co-chaired by Prof. Phyllis Kurland and Dean Melanie Hammer, engaged the campus in a dialogue that led to a well thought out set of conclusions and recommendations. However, the campus-wide dysfunction that culminated in our recent Middle States crisis made it difficult to honestly and cooperatively have a conversation that would lead to any actionable results.
The “Governance Council” established by Dr. Keen has begun to change that. The faculty are represented on the Council by our elected leadership—the Chair of the Academic Senate, the Chair of Academic Chairs, the President of the AFA, and the President of the NCCFT; the administration is, in addition to Dr. Keen, represented by the Vice Presidents of Academic Affairs and Student Services. The honest and straightforward discussions we’ve had in this forum have created an atmosphere of trust and understanding, and we all agree that the issues of enrollment and retention have grown from a concern into a serious crisis. The Senate has been actively engaged with this issue through the work of the Assessment Committee, the Developmental Education Committee, Student Enrollment Management, and the College Wide Curriculum Committee. All four faculty leadership bodies—the Senate, the Chairs, the NCCFT, and the AFA—have been working with the Institutional Planning Committee to design and implement academic and administrative changes that will hopefully increase student enrollment and success.
In light of the progress we have made and the challenges still ahead, the Governance Council enthusiastically agreed that we must resurrect the combined NCCFT/Senate/Administration Colloquium early in the fall semester to begin a fresh discussion on recruitment and retention. (Edited to add: Dr. Keen discussed the colloquium briefly at the June 12 Board of Trustees meeting.) This is a complicated issue requiring the committed involvement of faculty, staff and administration. We need, in other words, a collective, grassroots commitment to reviewing best practices, and since the Senate now includes representatives from both the AFA and the CSEA, we look forward to their participation in this process and to what we can learn from the new perspectives they will offer. We need everyone to be involved, and we need a serious commitment of resources from the administration, in order for this to succeed.
Finally, the College has begun the process of a Presidential search. As we know all too well, the new President must be able to lead Nassau Community College into the future by respecting the institution’s culture and working collaboratively with all constituents. Because this search will be taking place at the same time that we are holding our colloquium and implementing whatever initiatives emerge from that conversation, you can be sure that the presidential candidates will be paying attention to how we define our campus priorities and how we are working together to achieve them. What they learn will undoubtedly have an impact on whether they want to be a partner in our community. This is our chance to show that, even though each of our constituent groups has a different set of oars, we are nonetheless all rowing in the same direction. I hope to see you at the colloquium.