I’m going to focus in this Frank Talk on the proceedings of the November 12 meeting of the Nassau Community College Board of Trustees, which was different from any other meeting I have been to in recent memory. What made this difference was the steady stream of members of the Nassau Community College Administrators Association (NCCAA), the newest union on campus, that was already pouring onto the 11thfloor of the tower when I arrived. Before that moment, I had not fully understood how wide a range of administrators belong to the NCCAA, and seeing them all gathered in one place at the same time made it starkly clear who they are in comparison to the members of the President’s cabinet and other management confidential administrators.
Before I discuss the NCCAA, however, I would like to note a few orders of business to which the Board and President Williams gave their attention, because they are matters to which we, as a faculty, also need to attend:
- The Board presented the first reading of the proposed update to the College Sexual Harassment policy 2200. The main policy change is to replace the phrase “strongly discouraged” with the word “prohibited” when applied to sexual relationships where one party is in a position of authority over another. In addition, the policy now stipulates that student-on-student complaints of sexual harassment will be adjudicated by the Dean of Students office.
- The Board endorsed a hybrid model of funding for Nassau Community College that requests an increase in $100/FTE or 100% of last year’s FTE funding, whichever is greater. This is a different model than the one being discussed between NYSUT and SUNY, which includes a 3-year average of FTE funding. In addition, NYSUT also has questions about whether the FTE increase should in fact be based on an “either/or” proposition. We will keep you updated as more information is forthcoming.
- In a presentation that was very similar to the one he gave at the General Faculty meeting last week, President Williams outlined the college’s “Guided Pathways” initiative. I would urge you to pay attention to this initiative, as it will change advisement patterns significantly, which will in turn impact our course offerings in the future.
- The Board recognized the efforts of the Administration, the NCCFT, and our Student Government Association President, Mr. Bryce Mack, in presenting testimony regarding our concerns about the cost of higher education at last week’s hearing of the NYS Senate Committee on Higher Education.
One reason those of us who testified during that hearing were able to deliver the powerful message we did was that faculty, students, and administrators were united in expressing our concerns; and what made that unity possible was our shared sense of respect, trust, and collaboration, the belief that we were working together towards a goal that would serve all of our needs.
This idea, that we function best as a campus in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect, is what brings me back to the NCCAA.
The first two speakers during the Board’s public session were NCCAA members who addressed their stalled contract negotiations. In particular, NCCAA President Hamilton Lozada, spoke eloquently about the origins of the NCCAA and the union’s frustration at the fact that their contract negotiations have been stalled almost since the moment of the union’s inception four years ago. (The link will open the video in a new window and start just before President Lozada’s statement.) I was the third and last speaker on the Board’s list. Rather than review the actions of the Board (as I usually do), I decided to stay “on theme” and continue the discussion started by the two previous speakers. As I said that night, I am not interested in advocating on behalf of the NCCAA and their contractual demands; but I do have—and I think we all, as members of the NCCFT, should have—something to say about who the members of the NCCAA are.
The non-confidential administrators who belong to the NCCAA are people with whom members of the NCCFT, CSEA and AFA work side by side every day. They work in offices spread throughout the college, including Academic Advisement, Admissions, Registrar, Information Technology, Veterans Affairs and more. In addition, they are members of the Academic Senate, where the campus community comes together to participate in our shared governance system. Currently under discussion within that system are initiatives that will be very important to this college’s future, including Open Educational Resources (OER), Guided Pathways, and Dual Enrollment. The success of these initiatives will require the same atmosphere of trust, cooperation, and collaboration that allowed us to make the show of unity that we did when we testified before the New York State Higher Education Committee. It is clear from what President Lozada told the Board last week, however, that the members of the NCCAA do not believe they are working in such an atmosphere.
Right now, the NCCFT enjoys a positive, productive relationship with the college administration. Among the reasons for this state of affairs is the good faith with which we’ve been able to address contractual issues, from those that have arisen during the normal course of business to the most recent negotiations themselves. Yet we all know from experience with past administrations how quickly this relationship would deteriorate if that good faith disappeared and/or if NCCFT members were forced to work without a contract. The college’s refusal to engage in substantive negotiations with the NCCAA, in other words, has strained the relationship between those two parties in ways with which NCCFT members are, sadly, all too familiar. Nonetheless, up until this Board meeting, the NCCAA chose to remain silent, preferring not to let their growing sense of frustration, distrust, anger, and shame interfere with the professionalism and commitment they bring to doing their jobs.
For that reason, the NCCFT has remained silent as well. Now that the NCCAA has gone public, however, precisely because we have had the same experience with past administrations, we should not remain silent any longer. We must, and will, support the NCCAA in their efforts and demand that the College come to the table and agree to a contract that is fair, equitable, and respectful.
On behalf of the NCCFT Executive Committee, I want to wish you all a healthy Thanksgiving.