Ellen Schuler Mauk, who chairs the conference planning committee and is a member of the NYSUT Board of Directors, praised the nearly 200 community college activists who attended the 35th annual NYSUT Community College Conference for "helping our brothers and sisters in the community college locals share best practices, and develop into a political force within NYSUT and the state."
NYSUT Vice President Maria Neira urged leaders to mobilize around a strong, united voice. "Together we can ensure we have a quality public higher education system that allows us to have thinkers for the future and citizens who make smart decisions," she said.
Leaders at the November Cooperstown event participated in a number of general sessions and workshops that focused on the strengths and challenges ahead for public higher education, including online learning, workplace safety issues, effective negotiations and leadership.
NYSUT Executive Vice President Andy Pallotta updated attendees on the goals for the next legislative session and thanked them for their activism during this year's county elections. "As always we're gearing up to fight for increased base aid for higher education. I can't think of a better use of New York state dollars than investing in New York state students," said Pallotta, who stressed the importance of contributing to VOTE-COPE, the union's voluntary political action fund.
NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue and Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler also welcomed conference participants and joined Neira and Pallotta, in recognizing Schuler Mauk's recent retirement, announced a $1,000 donation to a newly established scholarship in her name at Suffolk Community College, where she was president of the Suffolk Community College Faculty Association.
In his keynote address, Mark Richard, chief of staff for the American Federation of Teachers, encouraged participants to "recalibrate" their perception of what higher education is up against. "We need to have an offensive plan" that forces those primarily concerned with maximizing profits in higher education to start reacting to us, Richard said. Changing this mindset is vital "if we're going to reclaim the promise [of higher education] not just protect it."