Frank Talk from The President’s Desk, February 2018
Posted by The NCCFT Executive Committee
It’s February. As we endure flu season and the cold weather, as we embrace Black History Month, watch the Olympics and celebrate Valentine’s Day, as we look forward to President’s Day, we must also confront the challenges we face as a union with a clear-eyed commitment to resistance. Foremost among those challenges is the much-anticipated Supreme Court decision in the Janus case, as this represents an existential threat to us and to organized labor throughout the US. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case at the end of February and we expect the decision to be announced in June. Because one potential consequence of what we expect the Janus decision to be is that unions will have to demonstrate that they do, in fact, represent the workers in their bargaining unit—the logic of which we will explain in an upcoming post—this timetable poses a particular problem for educational unions like the NCCFT.
In June, most of our bargaining unit will not be on campus. For that reason, the NCCFT has obtained pre-populated union recommitment cards from our parent organization, NYSUT. These cards will be distributed to the NCCFT Executive Board on February 27. I urge and expect everyone to sign the card and return it to your NCCFT Department Representative as soon as possible. I want to remind everyone that there is a difference between the commitment we have to each other as union members, without which we would not even exist as a union, and differences of opinion regarding how we should operate as a union. Our response to the Janus case cannot be a matter of the differences that exist amongst ourselves. We have processes to address those differences, including elections. Rather, our response to Janus must be timely and unanimous in order to demonstrate our solidarity to each other, to our friends, and to those who want to destroy us.
It’s important to remember that one of the ways we express this solidarity—on campus, in Nassau County, and throughout the State—is our active engagement with each other, with the administration, and with the labor organizations that give us a voice in confronting the issues that matter. Since the launch of this new website, for example, in addition to being able to access some essential union benefits, you have heard directly from your elected leaders and been provided with in-depth policy analyses. You’ve also had the opportunity to provide us with critical feedback. We have a visible and active presence on campus in our relationship with the Chairs, our participation in the Academic Senate, as well as our meetings with the administration. Off campus, our presence is felt in Mineola and Albany through both our Political Action Committee and our participation in NYSUT and the AFT. You get your most immediate updates about union activity from your NCCFT Department Reps. I would like to give you my perspective on some of the campus-based issues we are facing.
The contractually-established Diversity Committee, to which NCCFT Secretary Richard Newman has been appointed, has agreed to work with the Academic Senate Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee to accomplish the goal, set forth in our new contract, of “review[ing] measures that may be employed by the College to increase the diversity of the faculty, deans, department chairs and academic administrators.” Dr. Keen has announced that the college will use the Presidential Appointments to which the AFA contract entitles him to increase diversity in the adjunct pool. In addition, we have agreed that members of search committees will engage in the online course, “Diversity.edu,” to foster a greater understanding of unconscious biases in hiring practices.
Another issue we are facing is the updated “Search Guidelines for Administrator Positions” policy, the terms of which will govern administrative searches from here on in. The elected faculty leadership (NCCFT, Academic Senate, department chairs), as well as members of the faculty-at-large have all expressed concerns about this policy. Some of our concerns have been addressed, but there are several issues that remain outstanding, primary among them the composition of administrative search committees. In this regard, the updated policy differs significantly from its predecessors.
The previous version of this document included language stipulating that search-committee membership should include a designee from the Senate, a designee from the Chairs and a designee from the NCCFT. We differed with previous administrations in our reading of that language—they understood it to mean that they got to pick the designees they wanted; we read it to mean that each group of elected faculty leaders chose the designee it believed was best for the job—but the policy nonetheless made clear that the elected faculty leadership should play a central role in any administrative search. This language has been completely removed from the current version of the policy, suggesting that search committee membership will be determined solely by the administration, which makes no sense.
An administrative appointment of a faculty member, precisely because it is an administrative appointment, does NOT constitute true faculty representation. When an administrative search is going to take place, it is our position that the elected faculty leadership be notified of the search, that we be the ones to select the appropriate person from among our ranks to join the search committee, and that we forward that person’s name to the administration. Any search without this appropriate level of faculty representation should be viewed as a “search with no confidence,” a phrase the precise meaning of which we will make clear should that become necessary.
In the mean time, until this issues is resolved, I urge all faculty members who are asked by the administration to serve on an administrative search committee to decline and refer the administrator making the request to the Chair of the Academic Senate, Chair of Chairs and/or President of the NCCFT.
Finally, the Board of Trustees is considering a new “Civility Policy” (Policy 2400), which is in draft form and is available on the Portal. The draft has already been and will continue to be discussed by the Senate, by the BOT, and at an open forum to be held on February 13th at 11:30 on the 11th floor of the Tower. I urge you all to read this policy carefully, discuss it and share concerns, suggestions, or ideas with Dr. Keen. One of our concerns is that the policy does not provide a uniform mechanism of due process in cases where someone who has been found in violation of the code decides to appeal that decision. Because Policy 2400 will apply to all constituent groups in the college community—NCCFT, CSEA, AFA, NCCAA, Vendors and Management Confidential—it presently leaves the disciplinary procedures themselves to each group’s unique contract. Policy 2400 does not, however, contain an appeals process, which means there is no uniform way for members of those constituent groups to appeal disciplinary action. We believe that Policy 2400 should contain such a process.
This year, as we celebrate 50 years of the NCCFT, we are united as a campus community and we are prepared to face the challenges before us. If you have any questions or concerns, I welcome your comments and questions.