Following President Goldberg, four CODFA members offered remarks to the Board of Trustees.
Professor Sam Mitrani
Our last contract was hard fought, and much better than it would have been without that fight. I know the majority of faculty wanted an extension, especially coming out of the stress of COVID. But personally, if faculty were ready to stand up, I was against an extension because the current contract leaves in place the eroding of education we have seen at COD and across the country for 30 years, first of all through the massive replacement of full time by part time labor, and second of all through the vast increase in the number and power of administrators.
COD relies heavily on highly exploited adjunct labor. This has become so “normal” that few even question it anymore, but not so long ago, it was assumed that professors would get good health insurance and enough pay for a decent standard of living, with the occasional part-timer hired to teach a class as a form of training, or as a supplement to their retirement, or because they were an expert in a specific subject who had another full-time job. Today, most COD classes are taught by people who do not make a living wage. How can we tell our students that an education is the path to a decent future, when so many of the people teaching those students are highly educated and yet are denied the basic standard of living that used to be assumed for college professors? I hope our administration wants to add something to our contract that ensures everyone teaching at COD has affordable health insurance and a decent standard of living, first of all by hiring many more full timers.
The second massive change in education over the last era has been the enormous increase in administrators and in administrative power. It would have seemed strange not very long ago to put people who have almost never actually taught and who have chosen not to pursue teaching, in charge of people who actually teach and who presumably know what they are doing. I believe that it makes no sense to give administrators that power. If we need to have administrators who have chosen not to be educators, then our contract should bar them from intervening in the educational side of the institution, including deciding which classes should be taught, how they should be taught, who should teach them, and how they should be evaluated – and let the educators control the pedagogy, which after all is what we were hired to do. I admit faculty lost power in part because they didn’t want to do administrative work. But I think most of us today would be willing to take that burden back on if administrators would stay out of the things about which they know very little.
If administration wanted to open the contract to address these problems, then I am happy to hear it and I look forward to participating in friendly negotiations.
But if they rejected our offer of an extension because they want to add more “student success” metrics that they don’t know how to use, then I will instead be happy to participate in whatever fight is needed to defend education from so-called education “leadership.”
Professor Diane Gryglak
I’m Diane Gryglak from the Nursing and Health Science Division. I teach Medical Assistant and have been here for 15 years. That means I have been through two full negotiations. The things they had in common is that they were both distracting and exhausting.
I like to wear red. It looks good with my gray hair, but it requires a separate laundry cycle. Too much sorting. It’s just one more thing to do. I would like to see a contract extension.
I’m also concerned about everyone’s well-being. At in- service, which was just 2 months ago, we heard our keynote speaker, Dr. Imad Mays talk about the strain and isolation associated with COVID. This quote from her was included in the college announcement: “The fear, stress, and burnout that all teachers, students, higher education employees have faced in this pandemic are of a magnitude difficult to articulate.” Our whole in-service was about healing and recovery. I would like a little more time to heal and recover before we leap into something guaranteed to put the campus under stress.
Please re-consider a contract extension.
Professor Robert Moorehead
Thank you for the opportunity to speak this evening. I’m Robert Moorehead, a faculty member in sociology. This is my eighth year at COD.
I wanted to give you some updates on the work that my colleagues and I have been doing. We’ve not only survived the greatest public health crisis in 100 years, we’ve innovated and, in a way, thrived. I hadn’t taught online before the pandemic, so, like many of my colleagues, I had a crash course in online instruction. We took classes on instructional design for online instruction, we learned best practices from our colleagues, and, to be honest, we got really good at teaching online.
Now that we’re back in the classroom, we’re navigating a new set of challenges. We’re constantly reaching out to students who are falling behind. And there are a lot of them. Our students had two years of online classes, leading to all sorts of gaps in their skills, on top of the mental health issues they’re facing, the challenges they face paying bills, and the fact that they are working way too many hours while also taking classes.
This is more than a full load. We’re exhausted. One of the most common topics of conversation among colleagues in the hallway is how tired we are. Between adapting our classes for this new environment, meeting with students, checking messages, filing BIT reports on students we’re concerned about, doing committee work, and much more, we’re tired. From looking at us, we might seem chill in our nice red t-shirts. You might not notice that below the water, our legs are kicking furiously.
Given all that we have all been dealing with, the majority of faculty indicated their preference to extend our current contract. We expressed our desire to focus our energy on our students, and on each other, and not on re-negotiating our contract. So it’s disappointing that administration has rejected that request, and instead is insisting on opening everything up and re-negotiating the contract.
Please don’t mistake our fatigue for weakness or lack of commitment. We have a great negotiating team ready to work, but simply extending the contract seems like the best option for everyone, for faculty, for students, and for the college. Please reconsider this.
Professor Julia diLiberti
Last week the faculty were informed that our contract would not be extended. It was a surprise given that the faculty offer was made as a collaborative gesture. In fact, a new surge of COVID may be on the horizon and, as of about 9 hours ago, a new strain of Covid–the ‘”nightmare variant” it’s called—has now been found in the US.
We have barely begun to stabilize from the COVID-19, omicron, BA1. We, as a college, not just the faculty, but the staff as well, are still exhausted and feeling tenuous for having to live in present and contingency modes simultaneously.
Despite that, graduations have happened, student clubs are going, innovations in curriculum are occurring, pedagogies are being examined and implemented, committees are up and running, faculty are being developed, research is being conducted, peoples’ tech skills have increased exponentially, and our student count is up even if FTE’s are down. All of this suggests some measure of collaboration within the college, some shared vision for a stronger COD. Sure, yes, we have different theories and ideas about what makes us stronger…and yet, much has been done to provide stable and new opportunities for students and the general community members we serve.
More importantly, with the cost of living going up and other financial implications potentially not to our advantage, the faculty offered a contract extension.
The offer was rejected so now the questions become:
“What does opening up the contract look like?” Is it sides drawn, public rallies, and marches? Is it more distraction to already frazzled college members?”
How does renegotiating a contract in newly stabilizing but still fragile times allow us to work on initiatives that are just getting traction—VR rooms, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion taskforces, Study Abroad and Field Studies Programs that are starting up again as more students and community members are willing to risk travel and travel together with groups outside their own health bubbles?
We realize that no contract is perfect and that clarifications are sometimes needed. Still, how does opening up the contract for prolonged negotiations allow us to focus on student success if we are all too preoccupied by another negotiation that puts us into another level of contingency in our work and personal lives as we worry about finances, family, and faculty concerns.
What problems exist for the administration with the old contract that are so big we must start this long, draining, disrupting, line-drawing, divisive process at this particular moment?