March 7, 2016
First: The PiP
In early February we learned of the existence of the PiP, a document submitted by NCC’s administration to SUNY as part of the SUNY Excels initiative. NCC’s PiP was prepared by the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Strategic Planning (OIESP) without faculty consultation and submitted to SUNY without faculty knowledge. It was composed in secrecy and submitted in secrecy. The faculty’s accidental discovery of PiP immediately elicited jokes and parody because of its amateurishness, but on deeper reflection, it provoked shock and sadness because of its casual abandonment of NCC’s liberal arts mission. It trumpeted a business model of education, peddled subtle racism, and perhaps, most disturbingly, espoused a sexist representation of NCC’s female faculty. Appalled by this objectification of our female colleagues, over 200 people including alumni,faculty, staff and students signed a petition, written by Women’s Studies faculty. It asked for removal of the PiP from the SUNY website, its revision through the shared governance process, and for a public apology to the entire campus community. Aside from a few remarks made by Interim President Dolan at the February 9th BOT meeting, the administration’s handling of PiP (including its mysterious disappearance from the SUNY website a few days ago) has been shrouded in secrecy. This failure of transparency portrays a basic distrust of and veiled hostility toward faculty. The message is clear: in planning the future of NCC the voice of the faculty does not matter. What ever happened to shared governance?
Second: The Presidential Search
Early on the morning of March 3rd, our “trustees” announced they had selected our next college president, but in order to protect the integrity of the search, they stated that they would not divulge the winner’s name until SUNY approved the selection. The board’s decision came at the end of a meeting whose public forum didn’t begin until 12:35 am, an hour guaranteed to limit participation in what should have been an open and transparent democratic process.The message is clear: We do not trust you with this information. Therefore, we we have decided that secrecy and silence in the naming of our next president is the best “policy”. The pattern: Just as faculty could not be trusted by the administration when it composed, submitted and finally sheepishly withdrew the PiP, the Board of Trustees, in a power play that would make Putin proud, could not trust us with the name of our next college president.
Third: Accusation of Racism
This is, as we all must acknowledge, a difficult subject. So let us state from the outset that the NCC AAUP acknowledges that racism is alive in both Nassau County and on the NCC campus and must be confronted. Racism is always a treacherous terrain to navigate and one must traverse this terrain with care, as we attempt to parse a recent episode. On February 29th an unsubstantiated accusation of racism was voiced via campus email by unnamed members of the Executive Board of ALANA (we in no way believe this executive board speaks for most ALANA members) against the Academic Chairs, the NCCFT Executive Committee and the Academic Senate Executive Committee after they declared “no confidence” in Dr. Kenneth Saunders’ ability to lead Nassau Community College.
We find this accusation troubling. An unfounded accusation such as this detracts from the very real existing racial divisions at NCC that must be addressed. Such an unfounded accusation detracts from the very real need to recruit more full-time faculty from underrepresented groups. And last, such an unfounded accusation detracts from confronting the current attack on NCC’s traditional mission to deliver low-cost, high-quality liberal arts education to our now predominantly minority student population – an attack launched by the Saunders, and now the Dolan-Saunders administration.
Once again, notice the pattern: just as the Dolan-Saunders administration failed to denounce the sexism in the PiP, presidential hopeful Ken Saunders has failed to answer a specific request that he respond to allegations of racism. We can’t help but pause and ask, why? Could it be that his silence is an attempt to muzzle critics of his candidacy and better guarantee his selection by the BOT? The silence and secrecy are deafening. Increasingly, it looks like we are being ruled by an authoritarian regime—to the detriment of community, shared governance, and above all our students.
Call to Action
The PiP was a warning shot fired at us by the administration from behind our backs. Meanwhile the silence and secrecy of the Dolan-Saunders administration and the BOT suggest a cabal-like strategy to collude and exclude faculty from key decisions regarding the future leadership and structure of this college. We urge the NCC faculty to stand with the Academic Chairs, the NCCFT Executive Committee and the Academic Senate Executive Committee and act in unity to restore integrity, competence, and transparency to the governance of this beloved institution of higher education.
This is not the NCC we know, and we simply shouldn’t, and don’t have to accept it.
Submitted by, the NCC AAUP Executive Committee