Process Matters

The NCCFT’s July 2017 blog post, “Thinking Strategically About Governance: What Might We Learn from “SUNY Voices”” reflected on an article published by the AAUP’s journal Academe SUNY Voices: A Successful Joint Effort to Institutionalize Faculty Governance. ” This article highlights shared governance’s centrality to maintaining an academic institution’s integrity

NCC has been in the process of examining its own governance structure and making recommendations for strengthening and preserving shared governance. As an examination of the SUNY state-operated institutions (liberal arts colleges, specialized and technical colleges, health science centers, research universities, and land-grant colleges) and particularly the 30 community colleges demonstrate, there can be no “one size fits all” when it comes to effective shared governance structures and processes. In fact, each community college is recognized by law and by SUNY as highly individualized

What the AAUP article highlights is that a failure to institutionalize or memorialize shared governance leads to a constant struggle by faculty to preserve its voice in academic policies and practices, something provided for under NYS Education laws and regulations governing community colleges. Fortunately, our shared governance system is contractually established in NCCFT-NCC CBA Article 20. It is important to note that many colleges and universities do not have such a contractual provision. The article reminds us at NCC the importance of preserving our CBA Article 20 and safeguarding the Academic Senate’s established processes.

The intent and result of Article 20 was to create a governance structure operating within the guidelines laid out by Article 20, but in accordance with its own approved bylaws provided nothing in the Academic Senate’s bylaws contravenes the CBA. Likewise, the CBA does not give the NCCFT or the administration jurisdiction over the day-to-day operation of the Senate or its bylaws. Indeed, this has been the long voiced position of the NCCFT and respected by the college administration until Dr. Fanelli retired.

Adhering to the provisions of Article 20 and the Academic Senate bylaws have guaranteed both a secure, rational and consistent forum for the orderly academic operation of the college and the cooperation of each NCC constituent group: full-time faculty, the Administration and students. This has been the accepted pattern and practice for the Academic Senate’s operation for over forty years. Any attempt by the BoT or the NCCFT to arrogate to themselves the power to amend the Academic Senate’s bylaws would be both extra-legal and a violation of CBA, Article 20.

As we continue to consider modifications to the Academic Senate bylaws, it is important to understand that a shared governance structure, which works well for one institution, may not work for another. SUNY is a large system with 64 distinct institutions. As we contemplate modifications to the Academic Senate bylaws, we need to keep in mind the critical legal, funding and organizational distinctions between the SUNY state operated campuses and SUNY community colleges:

  • All 34 SUNY state-operated campuses are under a single Board of Trustees appointed by the governor regardless of geographic location. On the other hand, each of the 30 community colleges has its own Board of Trustees; 5 members appointed by the local county sponsor and 4 by the governor. Education Law, Article126 6306 This leaves room for regional differences and less uniformity between NYS community colleges. For example rural Schuyler County’s entire population is less than NCC’s student population.
  • SUNY state-operated institutions have faculty representation on their Board– the SUNY BoT. This major difference between the state-operated institutions and the community colleges affords faculty at the state operated institutions direct access to the “power structure” and the opportunity to provide input into decision-making before the Board implements policy.
  • Funding for SUNY 4-years comes directly from the state and tuition while community colleges funding comes from a combination of the State, County (the local sponsor) and tuition. State FTE reimbursement amounts are the same for all community colleges regardless of that college’s location. So a low cost- of- living county in upstate is reimbursed the same as a high cost –of- living downstate community college, like NCC. Furthermore, unlike the SUNY state-operated institutions community colleges are at the mercy of the political whims of their local sponsor. Suffolk County, for example, has periodically raised its contributions to Suffolk Community College while Nassau County has steadfastly refused to raise its contribution to NCC for nearly a decade.
  • The majority of community colleges’ Board of Trustees members are essentially political appointees often with locally specific political agendas and ambitions. Middle States noted that at NCC: “The Board of Trustees must prevent political intrusion into the business of the college”. This acknowledged “political intrusion” contributed to NCC failing Standard 6, Integrity. If we are honest with ourselves we must acknowledge political hires and political intrusion is still present at NCC often draining NCC of needed resources and genuine expertise.
  • SUNY state-operated institutions and SUNY community colleges are under a separate set of NYS Education laws and regulations. See: Education Law, Article 126 and Community College Regulations, Part 600

No one has said that the Academic Senate’s procedures can neither be modified nor streamlined; however the established process for these modifications must be observed. Governance institutions exist to ensure the integrity of the college, for the same reason we respect and uphold the Federal government’s division of powers between three distinct branches of government. While laws may change over time, the processes by which those laws are created remain constant, so as to provide oversight, accountability and to prevent abuse, while remaining true to the over all mission of the nation–or in our case–the college. There is much to consider with regard to NCC’s future, but violating the process by which our governance system was created and thereby effecting its destruction, as we know it, is not one of them.

In light of this, we renew the request for the NCCFT to clarify the subject of their current “arbitration” with the administration and reassure the faculty that it respects the parameters of its authority under Article 20, and its fiduciary duty to defend and protect all provisions in our CBA.

 

Courage!

We are currently debating the future of our shared governance process, which will change our governance structure irrevocably. There has been vigorous debate on both sides necessary to make an informed decision. The AAUP is appealing to your strength and courage during these tenuous times. Courage is not the absence of fear but the absence of self. So we ask you to be courageous and to look beyond any fears towards hope. Hold fast to shared governance. Vote No.

One Colleague’s Thoughts on Proposed Bylaws Changes

Professor Jason Gorman’s comments at the Academic Senate meeting on April 18th, 2017:

As you heard, for over half a century since NCC’s beginnings of shared governance, the Academic Senate has been commended for its effectiveness and collegiality as a major component of governance at NCC. Even recently, in the April 16th Middle States evaluation report, the Academic Senate, its bylaws and its committees have been commended for its role in shared governance and academic freedom. Here are some of the things Middle States has said:

From the April 16, 2016 Report from Middle States,

“The Academic Senate Bylaws of the College address the need to maintain academic freedom and integrity including the charge of the standing committees’ professional practices. [Page 15]

“The system of committees and forums aspires to ensure a campus environment that encourages academic freedom and inquiry.” [Page 14]

“The by-laws of the Academic Senate ensure broad representation by students, faculty and administration in Mission review.” [Page 5]

“Policy and procedure for the development, review, assessment and revision of the curriculum are clearly outlined in the by-laws of the Academic Senate and constitute the primary responsibility of the Curriculum Committee. Faculty clearly take a lead role in designing, maintaining and updating curricula.” [Page 22]

Both the NCCFT and the Academic Senate Executive Committee have stated the significance of the revision of the Academic Senate Bylaws, how it would alter governance at NCC and referred to the proposed revisions as marginalizing the Academic Senate to a “forum.” Earlier this year I said at the Academic Senate that we must find a balance between Dr. Keen saving us and saving ourselves. Today is a most important day with the forthcoming vote. I submit to you that a forum is not a governance body. The faculty must participate in formulation of academic policy. Not just with authoring, but with authorizing.

Middles States had only two simple comments on the Academic Senate Bylaws which I put in a comment at the NCCFT blog. They are:

From the April 16th report,

“This section of the NCCFT contract and the Academic Senate Bylaws appear to conflict with Article II: Procedure of the Academic Senate Bylaws.”

and

“These statements, along with the complex process for Presidential veto and Academic Senate veto override have coalesced to form a difficult process for effective and efficient policy making decisions to occur on campus.”

As with Board of Trustees policy 1300 and the removal of the words “Academic Senate,” the current proposed revisions of the bylaws go far beyond what Middle States has indicated. I am sorry to say that they obliterate shared governance completely. They are a risk to academic freedom and most importantly they put students’ education at risk. The revisions as proposed also risk compliance with Middle States. They warned us of the dangers of this:

From the April 16th report, “This lack of a functioning shared governance structure may lead to issues with impropriety or the appearance of impropriety.”  [Page 14]

I call upon the NCCFT and ASEC to support shared governance. I and others do not support the bylaws revisions as proposed. None of us should.

Slash and Burn Budgets: How Much More Can We Bear?

As we are all well aware local, state and federal budgets have, over a number of years now, severely cut funds to public higher education. The proposed state and federal budgets continue that trend. Under the recommended state budget NCC would lose $2.5 million dollars and the proposed federal budget would severely slash monies, which go to health, research, the arts and humanities as well as sustaining public higher education. NCC, like so many public institutions of higher learning, is at a financial breaking point. The reality is that our students will suffer by being asked to bear higher tuition costs and faculty as well as the college community as a whole, will now be asked, yet again, do even more with less. This is an unsustainable educational and economic model.

Please click on the link and sign the open letter opposing the proposed federal budget. The time has come for faculty to step up and speak out.

https://actionnetwork.org/forms/trump-budget-undermines-education-public-good?sp_ref=284643245.374.179594.e.0.2&source=email.

Higher Education Day: Student Advocacy

On Thursday March 2, 2017 the NCC AAUP took thirty-six students to Albany, New York for the annual Higher Education Lobby Day. Our students joined with other students from across the SUNY and CUNY campuses to advocate for their education. The annual Higher Education Lobby Day saw record attendance. We started the day by joining with other students at a pep rally and then broke into smaller groups to meet with legislators. Each group met with four legislators and our students gave testimony regarding how the cost of higher education has personally impacted them and what higher education means to them and their futures. Our students were eloquent and impressive in their testimony. It was a great day and the entire NCC community should be proud of how well these students represented themselves and Nassau Community College.

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Stand Against the Ban

Please go to the link to stand with your colleagues across the nation and here at NCC against the Muslim Ban:

https://actionnetwork.org/forms/stand-against-the-ban/

Comments on: Draft Policy 6100, “Detecting and Reporting Fraud”

Upon review of the proposed Board of Trustees policies, we are concerned about draft Policy 6100 “Detecting and Reporting Fraud.” https://www.ncc.edu/aboutncc/ourpeople/board_of_trustees/pdfs/BOT_Policy_SECTION_6100.pdf) Although to our knowledge, this policy has not been placed on a Board committee’s agenda, we would like to offer comments at this time so that our concerns can be considered during committee discussion.

Draft Policy 6100 makes reporting, “known or suspected fraud or irregularities” an affirmative obligation of every NCC employee. However, this policy deviates from the requirements set out in the SUNY Fraud Reporting Policy. http://system.suny.edu/compliance/fraud-reporting/fraud-policy/

  1. SUNY requires “each campus…to establish an easily accessible mechanism (fraud hotline) such as a toll free number, e-mail address, or facsimile number that individuals can use to report…” along with a guarantee of “limited confidentiality.” Policy 6100 does not provide for either.
  1. Policy 6100 should affirmatively offer “Whistleblower Protection” as in the SUNY policy.
  1. Policy 6100 is confusing and contradictory and places an onerous burden on the reporting employee. Policy 6100 applies a “due care” and “reasonable certainty” standard for reporting. It also contains the contradictory admonition that the employee “…not try to question anyone nor investigate…” while at the same time warning the reporting employee to “…take due care and thought, and make all effort to acquire reasonable certainty prior to reporting.” These requirements are mutually exclusive rendering the Policy’s requirements confusing and vague.

Moreover, while the Policy makes reporting an affirmative responsibility with NCC employees subject to disciplinary action for its violation, this reporting standard deviates from SUNY’s “Good Faith “ standard. The SUNY policy “…protects those who make a report, even if that report turns out to be incorrect. If the reporter, given the facts they had at the time, believed that the fraud they were reporting was true, they will be afforded protection from any retaliation.” This is an entirely different standard than the one this policy will apply here at NCC.