Faculty and students that showed up from various Maricopa Community Colleges in support of faculty–filled a packed MCCCD meeting room Tuesday evening, February 27, where four out of the seven Maricopa Colleges Governing Board members voted to approve a resolution to end the Meet and Confer process and eliminate all Residential Faculty Policies (RFP) effective October 31, 2018.
The vote was referred to by one board member who voted “no”–and against the resolution to end Meet and Confer and RFP– as, “shameful.”
The Maricopa County Community College system is one of the largest of its kind in the nation with 10 colleges and more than 200,000 students. The MCCCD website boasts of committed, renowned and “Award Winning Faculty.”
Tuesday’s vote to end Meet and Confer and RFP has ushered in uncertainty for those faculty.
A statement issued by Scottsdale Community College Faculty Senate President, Miguel Lucas, describes at least one– next step.
“The RFP is to be replaced by new policies in a process determined by the Chancellor by July 1, 2018.”
The MCCCD Chancellor answers to the board–but Chancellor Dr. Marie Harper–Marinick issued a statement prior to Tuesday’s February 27 meeting and vote–her statement reads in its entirety:
As you know, the Governing Board held a special meeting last Tuesday to consider a new resolution that, if adopted, could impact how faculty and administration engage in productive dialogue for the purpose of policy development. This agenda item has caused significant concern with some of our faculty members.
The decision to adopt the policy or not resides with the Governing Board but the administration remains committed to ensuring a participatory process for the development of residential faculty policies. Our goals are to ensure students receive the best educational experiences and services possible and to continue our long tradition of collaboration with faculty and other employees. That is what is in the best interest of Maricopa. We will preserve our long-standing support for faculty involvement in policy development and other decisions within whatever framework the Governing Board may direct.
For the 26 years I have served the Maricopa District, I have been an advocate and strong public supporter of faculty and what matters most to you: student success, excellence and innovation in teaching and learning, opportunities for scholarly work, academic freedom, and collaboration. My position has not changed.
Maria Harper Marinick, Ph.D.
All eyes will be on Harper Marinick.
Separate sources with connections to either the MCCCD board or administration– contacted nevalleynews.org. They will not be identified over fear of retaliation and loss of job.
The separate sources allege that the vote to eliminate Meet and Confer and Residential Faculty Policies (RFP) has been the focused intention of some board members. It is also alleged that the vote to end Meet and Confer was secured before the February 27 meeting and the faculty and student presentations.
The vote on Tuesday to end RFP–according to one source–could allegedly put into place a complete redraft of faculty contracts with diminished compensation and zero faculty input– a move that would effectively be a “take it or leave it” scenario for faculty.
Questions linger as to whether faculty contracts will remain untouched–for now–or if Harper-Marinick will be the primary party to negotiate contracts and whether or not shared governance and faculty input will occur with her.
Northeast Valley News contacted the Maricopa Community College Board for a response to the allegations and vote. There was no response to our request.
Pressure and angst in the air
On Tuesday evening the room was filled at capacity and faculty as well as supportive students listened in disbelief as the board passed the resolution.
An audible gasp by one faculty member was heard after Governing Board President Laurin Hendrix introduced an amendment included in the resolution for the immediate removal of all support of the Faculty Association and the Faculty Executive Council.
Faculty and students spoke through strong emotions at the podium over the uncertainty of the outcome of the proposed resolution and expressed that any decision with respect to removing the Meet and Confer and RFP would impact negatively on students because it would impact faculty negatively.
Dr. Tom Foster, a faculty member in Maricopa Colleges for more than 40 years, ended his presentation and compelled the board to reflect.
“I leave you with these words– We show respect to students through respect to faculty,” Foster said.
Joe Springer has been a faculty member since 2002 and questioned the MCCCD Board’s dismissive attitude as well as claims of faculty “fear mongering.”
“What I want to talk about tonight, briefly, is just some of your concerns last week, about uh, I think it was called ‘needless fear mongering’. There were a lot of people here last week um, and some would say worried about things, and I wanna say it’s not so needless the concerns that people have,” Springer said.
Springer provided data from research where school districts that embrace faculty governance and collective bargaining show student improvement on SAT scores.
“I just want to say that I don’t see why we should be going this fast on this issue, this seems like a kind of large government solution to a problem that does not exist. And the concerns faculty have are real, this is a great district, it is nationally recognized as being a great district. It is because of the hard work of our faculty and even harder work of our students,” Springer said.
Lorena Austin, a Mesa Community College student and Student Government Body President addressed the board as well.
“We have over 500 signatures from students throughout Maricopa Community College district in support of our faculty and staff who are the backbone of this great institution and have changed our lives all for the better. If we had more time I’m sure, between classes and work, there would be more than 1000 I assure you,” Austin said.
Austin recalled the rapid progression that took place from when stories broke about the possible vote and the information about the proposed elimination of Meet and Confer and the concern circulating among the faculty and students.
She said that if given more time–students could have secured significantly more signatures to stand with faculty.
Felicia Ramirez, a Paradise Valley Community College faculty member addressed the board and pointed to their detachment from faculty.
“I am here tonight to express my outrage at the decision to change the RFP and to remove the Meet and Confer process. I am here to ask you to show your support for teachers by not doing so tonight, by not changing the RFP and by not removing Meet and Confer. I’m deeply concerned that you as governing board members are so distant and remote from the employees who work in this district, that you can so easily and without regard to our personal well being make decisions that create a negative working environment, that detract from the strength of our district and distract us from the very essence of our existence which is learning,” Ramirez said,
“I know you have mentioned that we have no reason to fear, and I think that is a very unfair comment.” Ramirez said.
“So in my disappointment with the board tonight that what you’re seeking to do is engage in an undemocratic process by removing Meet and Confer, and creating an unjust system that is unfair for faculty and I ask and strongly encourage you to please reconsider.”
Some in attendance including MCCCD governing board member Dr. Linda Thor, tried unsuccessfully to propose compromises and delay’s with regard to voting Tuesday evening to end Meet and Confer and RFP–Thor suggested various ways to improve on actions and requested more time to discuss before voting to eliminate either.
The tension in the room rose a bit when MCCCD board member, Tracy Livingston, offered a lengthy explanation behind her support and “yes” vote of the resolution to end Meet and Confer and RFP–namely– citing-that Meet and Confer simply didn’t work in her past experiences and that the overriding theme that she heard from her past school board experience had more to do with faculty “legal recourse” than anything else.
“I can’t stand behind a policy that allows you one thing–to sue, to demand. You have the greatest job in the world, you get to get up every morning and teach, but I look out and I see long faces, sullen faces and you look at us like we’re the villains,” Livingston said.
Governing board member, Dr. Linda Thor who voted “no” and against the resolution to end Meet and Confer and RFP–admonished the board for its actions.
“What this board is about to do is shameful and this is a very dark day in Maricopa history and very disrespectful of the outstanding professionals in front of us, I vote no,” Thor said.
nevalleynews.org will post an audio analysis of the Maricopa County Community College board proceedings and meeting that transpired on Tuesday February 27.