President Toler’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | Sept 19, 2019

Let me be clear that I am not negotiating with you. I don’t have that authority – we have empowered a team to do that. However, I do have the authority to speak on behalf of full-time faculty, ask questions on behalf of full-time faculty and make you aware of circumstances where this board’s priorities are not being effectively communicated to us or our students.

Our negotiation team does ask these questions. At the bargaining table, they ask about implementation plans. They ask about problems that your proposals seek to solve. They ask about impact on students. These questions are left largely unanswered – hence my decision to reach out to you all – the people ultimately responsible for those proposals and a fair contract.

At our Tuesday mediation session, confusion grew even deeper when your team suddenly proposed a new, apparently very high, priority that has never been discussed before in over seven months of negotiations. And so 6 hours later, no agreement on that issue. And no TA’s on anything else.

We started this week looking forward to mediation after a successful first session, but by Tuesday night have grown increasingly concerned that you don’t share our same sense of urgency around getting this done.

These negotiations are built on a pretty shaky foundation. A foundation that lacks both trust and confidence. The types of changes that you are describing in your proposals are the kinds of things that a healthy college would have discussed prior to negotiating. It’s confusing to us that people with little to no teaching experience, and even very limited interactions with our students, are deciding what faculty need to do in order to be more effective at their jobs.

This could’ve started by asking us about what is happening in our classrooms. This could’ve started by working together to figure out how to better ask our students about what they need.

Before all this, if the Provost had asked, if any board member had asked, plenty of us would have been happy to have you visit and see what we do. These classroom evaluations that you are proposing – should be just as much about the administrator learning as the faculty member learning.

In fact, while you are keyed in on having deans perform in-classroom evaluations, in your most recent academic Dean position posting, your minimum qualification is “at least one year of teaching and/or training experience at a community college level or higher.” That’s one year of working directly with students in a classroom. So, this BOT, who presumably has little to no teaching experience wants to hire deans who also have little to no teaching experience to evaluate the level of engagement and organization in the classroom of full-time faculty who have been teaching for 10, 15, even 20 years. Some of them with Master’s degrees in teaching. My suggestion is that the deans should visit our classrooms – and perhaps they should be evaluated based on how many of us invite them into our classroom and on what they learn while they are there.

There is an overarching level of disrespect that comes with these proposals when taken as a whole. Honestly, it feels like what I caution my students against when they are working on a group project – the divide and conquer approach. They all do their part and then meet five minutes before class to put it all into a single PowerPoint. This feels like a collection of disparate proposals – all asking for things – without the writers ever coming together and thinking – well, we’re only offering them .4% increase on their base salaries, we know that means about a third of them will get just that .4%, so maybe we don’t need to lift all 52 duties from this other school’s faculty guidebook.

I understand and respect fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers. I am a District 502 taxpayer. Fiduciarily speaking, we all appear to be an expense line on a beautifully presented, award-winning, balanced budget.

But we, along with our adjunct colleagues, along with managerial and classified staff, the groundskeepers, the FOP, the engineers, and even administrators, are also the future of COD. And that future is supposed to be focused on students and student needs. And if our students need Frida Kahlo – and I think they do. If our students need a new STEM Center – and I think they do. And if our students need Navigators – I think some of them do. Then they certainly need great faculty.