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Fighting to Save NCC Mission and Academic Programming, Faculty Present VNC on Trustees, Conzatti, and Senior Administration at Nassau Legislature on Mar 25, 2024

Mineola, N.Y. —The Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers presented a faculty vote of no confidence in Nassau Community College’s administration —- including Chief Administrative Officer Maria Conzatti, the Board of Trustees and senior administration — on Monday, March 25, 2024 at the Nassau County legislature in Mineola. The speakers gave detailed examples of poor governance at the college and argued that the college’s mission is at risk and academic programming is negatively impacted.

Faculty criticized recent and proposed department mergers. “We have almost 11,000 students taking credit bearing courses. That is still a huge number of students to serve. We cannot serve and, as importantly, retain students with the model this administration is implementing: cutting faculty, collapsing 24 academic departments into 6 academic departments with 6 chairs to serve 11,000 students. Even the smallest community college in the state, Canton Community College, serving less than 1,000 students, still has more than 10 departments,” said NCCFT President Faren Siminoff.  

Dr. Joan Buckley, Chair of Nursing, noted that “the Nursing Department in 2008 had about 32 full-time faculty, and now, although having the same number of students and courses, has only 12 full-time faculty and has lost 44 adjunct positions in its labs.” She said the current situation is “not sustainable. The department cannot afford any faculty member to be out sick.”  She said students are concerned at the loss of instructional support.

Dr. Faren Siminoff argued that the administrative policies regarding registration and staffing have prevented enrollment growth, if not lowered enrollment, saying, “registration and staffing strategies caused NCC in the fall 2023 semester to begin that semester with insufficient faculty to staff our filled courses. It took over a week to find instructors to teach those courses. This was bad for retention and bad for the college’s reputation. After that Fall 2023 debacle, for our Spring 2024 semester, this administration decided to cancel classes too early— cancelling classes at a point when only 30% of our students have enrolled. We estimate it cost us hundreds maybe even 1,000 students in enrollment.”   

The impact of registration polices on students was described by Ariel Silberman. A student, Silberman noted, the “unique bond” that “exists among a considerable portion of this county” as students or alumni of NCC; “we stand as living testimony to the greatness that this college sparks in its proud students.” She then described how devastating the Spring 2024 policy requiring a class to have a minimum of 22 students had been for her personally, “leading to 2 of the classes I was enrolled in being cancelled.” She argued, “the policy endangers students graduating on time and limits the diversity of classes.” She pointed out that “as an honor student, one of the benefits is smaller class sizes which helps aid retention and better academic discussion.” She observed that both “the Honors Program. . .  and the Achilles Program for Twice Exceptional Students are jeopardized by this cost-cutting measure.”

Silberman also observed that “if the college is in fiscal straits, as Conzatti now claims, then the administration is to blame for not requesting an increase in operating funds from its sponsor, the county;”  “. . . Conzatti has been before you twice now and has not asked for proper funding for us. As a first-generation college student who got her start at Nassau, she should know better than most how important it is that we are financially supported.” 

Dr. Suzanne Kaebnick, a professor in the English department, said, “I want to share some of the losses for academic programming and student support in the English department.  We have lost all release time for coordinating Reading and Developmental Education, what once was a separate department before being merged into the English Department. We lost LINCC, the Language Immersion Program at NCC, resulting in Nassau County no longer having a Language Immersion Program as Suffolk and many other counties do. Classes ended after the spring 2023 semester.  And then, on top of that, support for the coordination of ESL writing programs was cut to only 3 hours of release time, and there is no reassigned time for ESL coordination of speaking and reading in the Spring 2024 semester. We have suffered cuts in release time for coordinating our English AA Degree, our Creative Writing AA Degree, and for coordinating Learning Communities and Gateway Pairings, although these figure prominently in the administration’s Strategic Plan. We suffered cuts in support for Coordination of the English Writing Program and Placement, which coordinates student placement into developmental and first-year composition classes as well as faculty development. . . We lost release time for assessment of all our courses. We lost all release time for coordinating multidisciplinary programs. The Nassau Review, an international journal that provided an opportunity for applied learning for students had to stop publication due to lack of administrative support. We lost all administrative support for the Long Island Writing Project, which may have ended as a result. At the same time as these losses, the administration decided to spend millions more on athletic programs—-although these do not bring in revenue for our college, and has spent 100’s of 1,000’s on outside counsel, and decided to spend a multimillion-dollar SUNY grant for a nonexistent HVAC program that still has not begun. And now the administration wants to merge more departments into English.”  

Addressing the legislators, Kaebnick said, “Some of you have attended NCC or have family members who benefitted from NCC. Now, more than ever, students and former students, whose education was negatively impacted by the COVID pandemic, need the option of NCC in order to build their lives. What will you do to ensure that community college, as a low-cost, public higher education option exists in Nassau County in the future?”

Dr. David Stern, NCCFT Vice President of Classroom Faculty, criticized the administration’s Strategic Plan. The plan, which he said was “presented to the Board of Trustees in February 2024,” is “very incomplete, missing perhaps the most important section on institutional effectiveness which should provide key performance indicators to monitor how well the plan is working. The plan’s diversity sub-plan is several years out-of-date and lists the Affirmative action VP that left over 2 years ago.” He added that it is also missing Conzatti’s “major plan to merge departments,” leaving “6 academic mega departments to manage the over 80 degrees and certificates. . . The Strategic Plan highlights Guided Pathways as the major goal but replacing individualized departments with 6 Mega departments is antithetical to this goal. This plan will result in the loss of accreditation for degrees that require a department chair that has expertise in the area.” 

Richard Ginsberg, Chair of the Theater and Dance Department, concluded his remarks by arguing that it is “time to polish the gem” that Nassau Community College has been for Nassau County.

8 Responses

  1. Why isn’t this being publicized?? Should at least be in Newsday and on News 12. Perhaps NYSUT could assist in such efforts.

  2. All, the media isn’t what it used to be. We no longer have Candice Ferrette covering us- she covered us fairly.

  3. Do we have NCC student alums who can assist with spreading the word? Perhaps reaching out via the private emails might turn up some faculty who are in touch with students working in media. In particular, the Spanish media, Chinese, etc should be alerted about the elimination of academic pathways for a majority of ESL students.

  4. I applaud the NCCFT for fighting back. You have strong leaders in place to challenge what is going on at NCC. The programs at the college have always been revered by so many on and off campus. Stay strong and continue fighting. Don’t let them destroy what so many of us love Nassau Community College!!!!

  5. Release this on social media. Other media other than Newsday. They have always been milk toast.

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