The following letter was sent to the NCC Board of Trustees on June 26. We have a confirmation that the letter was distributed to the BOT members.
Please make every effort to attend the Special Meeting on Thursday, July 23 called by the BOT.
Board of Trustees of NCC
The Executive Committees of the Academic Senate, the Nassau Community College Federation of Teachers, and the Academic Department Chairs are writing to call for the appointment of an Interim President at Nassau Community College, from outside the college, who is ineligible to apply for the permanent position. On June 16th SUNY directed our Trustees to do this within 60 days. The unresolved presidential search, which is entering its third year, demonstrates the validity of SUNY’s own guidelines that an internal candidate can “cloud” the search due to the appearance of favoritism. The appointment of an external candidate will encourage a greater pool of highly qualified applicants. It is time to end the five-year contentious climate at the college, ushered in by the retirement of President Sean Fanelli in 2010, and revive the collaborative spirit that has made Nassau Community College a jewel of Nassau County.
During the three years that Dr. Kenneth Saunders has attempted to steer Nassau Community College he has been unable to unify the college community behind his leadership. Acting President Saunders is a personable, congenial individual. However, in his professional role at the helm of the largest single campus community college in New York State, he has perpetuated the more controversial approach of his direct predecessor, Dr. Donald Astrab. The short-lived administration of Dr. Astrab witnessed two faculty no-confidence votes and thwarted the collaborative model of shared governance that has served the college well for decades.
We are here to advocate for our students and facilitate their academic success and lifelong goals. For many, Nassau Community College serves as an affordable transfer institution to secure a Bachelor’s degree. For others, we provide job training towards immediate employment. We welcome recent high school graduates, those returning to college after years in the workforce, veterans, and so many others juggling life’s challenges. However, the last few years of the Saunders administration have witnessed a progressive decline in the services provided to students due to a decrease of the full-time faculty who provide these services. This is matched by an increase in both tuition and class size, further impeding student success. Fiscal exigencies need to be addressed through innovative fundraising, not cuts in services to our students.
We call upon the Board of Trustees of Nassau Community College to appoint an Interim President from outside the college who is not eligible to apply for the permanent position of President. Restore the climate of collaboration in which our students thrive, and proceed with a presidential search that follows the rules stipulated by SUNY’s guidelines. In the end it is our students who continue to suffer from the failure to secure permanent visionary leadership for our college.
Evelyn Wortsman Deluty, Ph.D., Chair, Academic Senate
M. Debra DeSanto, President, NCCFT*
Lynn Mazzola, Chair, Chairs’ Committee
*NCCFT is the full-time faculty union that represents approximately 700 members
Judy Sandler, NYSUT Labor Relations Specialist, met with the NCCFT Executive Committee, Academic Senate Executive Committee and Chairpersons Executive Committee on Monday, June 22nd.
The meeting was productive in many respects, including the introduction of new members of these committees to each other. The membership should understand each of these groups is responsible to a different constituency on campus and yet we are connected together whereby our authority is defined in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. This meeting gave the campus faculty leadership the opportunity to discuss a variety of issues of mutual concern including the disastrous Presidential Search, the role of the Deans, replacement of full-time faculty and the role of the Board of Trustees. The three campus leadership groups recognize the Board’s inability to select a President. However, the SUNY Board’s resolution to limit Dr. Saunders’ tenure as Acting President to 60 days appears to be a move in the right direction. It is our hope that an impartial individual who will not be eligible to apply for the Presidency is appointed in the very near future. Although the Board of Trustees announced replacements to the Search Committee, the Search Committee has received no notification as to the next steps. The leadership groups agreed to draft a joint letter describing our concerns and questions. This joint letter will be published upon completion and details will follow.
Furthermore, the NCCFT is also discussing these issues with NYSUT in an effort to bring our message to SUNY.
During the Monday meeting, we also discussed our difficulties working with the Deans, retirements, replacements, budgets and a variety of strategies to improve our relationships or not. In addition, the three leadership groups agreed to direct NYSUT to review legal action against the BOT with respect to their June 9th resolutions supporting Acting President Saunders’ veto of Senate resolutions on Class Size and Curriculum.
The NCCFT Executive Committee also met with the Chair of the Academic Senate and members of the Academic Senate Affirmative Action Committee to discuss the language and implications of the College’s sexual harassment policy. In addition, we are in receipt of the draft copy of the Academic Senate Bullying policy, and this is also under review.
We ask our members to review the video of the last BOT meeting. If you already viewed it, then view it again. Study it carefully. Then make a promise to get involved with the NCCFT when we send out a Call for Action. We will fight to maintain for our students the gem of Nassau County.
One last thought– what role is Nassau County politics playing in the Presidential Search process? If you don’t know the answer, then start to ask questions.
The June 9th Board of Trustees’ meeting was indeed unique. The agenda was packed with Committee hearings before the actual Board meeting began.
- An Audit report of the College.
- Finance Committee report of operating expenditures to date.
- Capital Committee report on physical construction projects to date.
- Acceptance of a Food Pantry on campus to assist our students, faculty and staff. Contract with NICE bus transportation to use our roads for bus driver training.
- Personnel Committee resolution to accept the recommendations of the P&T.
- Academic Affairs Committee discussion on protocol to hear arguments with respect to the three Academic Senate resolutions to override the Presidential vetoes of the Developmental Education, CWCC and Class size resolutions.
For several days prior to and including the day of the BOT meeting, the NCCFT Executive Committee, Academic Senate Executive Committee (ASEC), P&T and others discussed and coordinated our actions for the meeting.
At 4:30 pm on June 9th, the NCCFT met with the P&T Committee. Dr. Patricia Halcrow, Chair and Professor Connie Egelman, Secretary were asked by the Administration to be available for consultation. Upon opening the Board’s Personnel Sub-Committee meeting, Trustee Wanda Jackson, Chair ordered the Committee into executive session. This resulted in a long and thorough examination of the facts. After a long delay, the BOT approved the P&T recommendation for the faculty member that Acting President Saunders failed to move forward. This decision was met by cheers from those in attendance.
Finally, the actual Board meeting began after 9 p.m., whereby Dr. Gardyn announced the protocol for reviewing the Senate resolutions. A table was set-up with chairs, computer, smart-board and microphone. The ASEC and the Administration were each given 15 minutes to make their presentation and afterwards the Board asked questions to both groups. After each resolution/veto was discussed, the Board consulted with each other and Dr. Gardyn announced the decision of the Board.
When the Board called the meeting to order, the first item on the agenda was the Class Size resolution. This was presented by Dr. Evelyn Wortsman Deluty and Dr. David Stern for the ASEC and Dr. Saunders presented for the Administration. As you can see in the video, the Board does not fully understand the time-honored practice of process, contemplative and collegial discourse and shared governance. Yet, in minutes they made their decision to uphold the veto of the President and allow the Class Size increases to stand. The ASEC recognized the appropriateness of addressing the financial concerns of the College, however, this should be accomplished through the governance process.
Next, the Board placed the CWCC Curriculum resolution on the agenda. This was presented by Dr. Evelyn Wortsman Deluty and Prof. Christopher Merlo for the ASEC and Acting Deans Tom Fernandez and Jerry Kornbluth for the Administration. This “hearing” was particularly disturbing. Aside from process and/or merits, the class-size resolution as presented by the Acting President was a straight-up financial impact decision. We can even understand the Board’s and Acting President’s position on that issue. However, the CWCC resolution is a complete assault and insult to the academic areas these Acting Deans represent. Acting Dean Kornbluth was a Professor in the Math Department. Acting Dean Fernandez was a Professor in the Engineering/Physics/Technology before becoming Acting Dean of the Math and Science Area. It is our position that the Deans (Acting or not) should understand the needs of the Departments in their area, build a consensus amongst the faculty and administration, and then advocate for the Area. Instead, Acting Dean Fernandez, figuratively, threw his Area “under the bus”. He convinced the Board that our Science and Math requirements were excessive, unnecessary and irrelevant to the General Liberal Arts students. Furthermore, Acting Dean Kornbluth convinced the Board that Physical Education (his Area) was a waste of the students’ time. The Board agreed with both of them. What will happen to the Math, Science and PE programs, offerings and faculty will be devastating. Fortunately, the new student trustee, Jennifer Borzym, realized the faculty made the stronger arguments and voted accordingly. The NCCFT cannot be silent and complacent on this issue; remember the writings of Martin Niemoller, “first they came for the …”.
Some members of the Board attempted to convince the audience that there was no intent to cut our programs to 60 credits, however, Trustee Donna Tuman explained that at LIU Post, where she is Chair of the Art Dept., they are scaling back their Bachelors programs to 120 credits. For those of us who have taken excessive Math courses, we can equate this to 60 at Nassau and 60 at Post, unless Post will allow our students to only take 56 credits at their campus for a Bachelor’s degree.
The last item on the agenda was the resolution regarding the Developmental Education Committee recommendations for the Placement Exam scores. An exhausted, yet articulate Dr. Evelyn Wortsman Deluty and Dr. Paul Rosa presented for the ASEC. Dean Melanie Hammer and Dean David Follick presented for the Administration. At the conclusion of this “hearing”, the Board recognized that the committee was close to a consensus and decided to send it back to the governance structure for a final recommendation by November of 2015.
In past posts, the NCCFT discussed the “Silence of the Deans”, whereby their participation in Senate debates is minimal, if existent at all. It seems that the silence is intentional. The Deans gather their own data; they do not vet this data through the governance process. Instead, they aggregate their material, make assumptions and then present their conclusions to the Board. This is worse than “shadow governance”. This is an affront to the faculty, students and staff of this college. To make matters worse, the Board chided the faculty and administration to learn to work together. Perhaps the silence of the Deans was better than the sounds of Acting Deans, Acting Vice-Presidents and Acting President. We need our administration to stop acting and become. We insist the SUNY Chancellor appoint an Interim President from outside the campus while the College proceeds with another search. Much more on this will be forthcoming.
Here is an idea to work together: The NCCFT will meet with the ASEC and with the Chairs to review the actions of the Board with respect to the resolutions and the Presidential search to discuss further measures. Of course, we ask you to review the video that is posted. We are certain the ASEC and the Chairs will have their own analysis of events, and we recommend everyone understand those positions. Please be ready to stand united as the next steps are announced.
Thanks to Promotion and Tenure Committee Chair, Dr. Patricia Halcrow, P & T Secretary, Professor Connie Egelman, and all of the members of the committee for their tenacious and unwavering persistence on behalf of one of our members whom they had recommended for reclassification but whom Acting President Saunders had failed to recommend to the Board of Trustees.
How did this result happen?
- The P & T Chair and Secretary were called to meet with Dr. Saunders to describe the process and outline their decision making regarding this applicant. (They were refused Union representation at this meeting by Dr. Saunders)
- The issue was discussed on several occasions during monthly meetings between the NCCFT Executive Committee and the Administration in an effort to resolve the situation.
- The P&T Committee wrote a letter to the BOT expressing their concerns over Acting President Saunders’ refusal to forward one of their recommendations to the BOT.
- The BOT requested additional information.
- An outstanding letter to the Board of Trustees outlined both the process and the rationale for recommending the reclassification.
- Almost all of the members of the Promotion and Tenure Committee were present at last night’s Board meeting.
- The Chair of the P & T Committee met with eight members of the Board and several administrators in Executive session.
- The Board finally announced their unanimous decision to approve the P&T Committee’s recommendation. (The new student trustee abstained since she had not been a part of the discussion)
Once again, thank you to the P&T Committee members for their Union support and solidarity as well as the time and effort necessary to effectuate a just result.
This was a monumental and extraordinarily important decision not just for the faculty member but for our entire promotion process.
The NCCFT Executive Committee