When Dr. Astrab resigned at the end of July, no one was under any illusion that our problems were over. On September 5th, Geoffrey Prime, Donna Haugen, and John Gross demonstrated that by declaring the Board of Trustees’ intention to go after tenure, jobs and job security in our upcoming contract negotiations. Dr. Astrab himself, in other words, difficult as he was, was not the sole source of our troubles. Rather, the problem was the anti-union, anti-faculty and ultimately anti-education agenda he pursued. This agenda, which the Board of Trustees has now openly claimed as its own, takes the educators out of education, measures teaching and learning the same way corporations measure productivity and profit, and impoverishes what has been the most powerfully democratizing force in this country’s history by turning our classrooms into glorified job training centers.
Right now, the only thing standing in the way of the Board’s successful implementation of this agenda is our contract and our commitment to defending it. Dr. Astrab fired the opening salvo in this struggle when he did not to renew the temporary contracts of 39 of our colleagues in spring 2011. It’s important to remember, however, that in fighting him as we did, we were not only protesting the injustice of that decision, or pushing back against bad policymaking, or refusing to accept the contempt in which he and some members of his administration clearly held us. We were also denying him the opportunity to undermine our contract, which he tried to do—without having to touch the language of the contract itself—in at least these two ways:
- By reducing reassigned time for the Academic Senate Executive Committee and the chair of the College Wide Curriculum Committee
- By attempting to change the past practice of converting to tenure-track status faculty on temporary lines who are hired for a fifth semester
In the first case, if the Academic Senate cannot function effectively, then the clauses in the contract that make faculty governance a condition of our employment become essentially moot; and, in the second case, if the administration never has to convert anyone to tenure track status, why would we need a P&T committee? Why would we need our contractually defined system of peer evaluation that is also, along with the senate, a central pillar of our governance structure? Whatever else may have been true about our differences with Dr. Astrab and his administration, in other words, it was always about the contract. Had he succeeded in either of these two cases, the foundation would have been laid for an administrative takeover of the academic life of this college and the gutting of precisely what has enabled the levels of professionalism and academic integrity for which we are so consistently and nationally praised: our collective bargaining agreement.
Dr. Astrab, of course, did not succeed. We managed to preserve most of the senate-related reassigned time; PERB, as you have heard by now, has decided in our favor concerning the fourth-to-fifth-semester conversion; and Dr. Astrab himself was forced to resign. As the BOT made abundantly clear to us on September 5th, however, these victories do not mean the fight is over. Far from it. So we need to remind you again about the Board of Trustees meeting scheduled for 8 AM on the morning of September 25th, because your presence, your voice, your commitment is what has made all the difference. If Donald Astrab is no longer our college president, it’s not just because we, the executive committee and the rest of your elected leadership, fought him every step of the way, but also because so many of you showed up at meeting after meeting of the Board of Trustees to show them we would not stand for what he was doing to our college. Similarly, the PERB victory is ours not just because we, the executive committee, fought for it, but also, and more importantly, because your hard work and dedication continue to make the quality of our lives here at Nassau Community College worth fighting for. We are proud to be fighting this fight with you, and we look forward to seeing you at the Board of Trustees meeting on September 25th.
When: September 25th, 8 AM
Where: Tower, 11th Floor
To speak: Call Anne Brandi 27206