November 12, 2014

Community college leaders call for strength, solidarity

Author: Darryl McGrath
Source: NYSUT Communications

conference
Photo by Marty Kerins.

In a year marked by a strong spirit of organizing on community college campuses, the mood was upbeat at NYSUT's 36th annual Community College Conference in Nov. 7-8 as 300 current and future leaders gathered to share ideas, strategy and solidarity.

The conference started with a gathering of community college presidents and NYSUT local leaders, who participants praised for their sense of cooperation and shared concerns. The upcoming state budget topped the discussion list. Community colleges saw a $75-per-student increase in their base aid for the current budget, but with a long history of inadequate funding, the state budget remains a priority. The SUNY community colleges have not received their mandated share of funding by the state nor their sponsoring counties in years; student tuition and fees have been used to plug the operating budget gap.

All of the NYSUT officers attended either the conference or the preconference meeting with campus presidents. President Karen E. Magee, in her keynote address, had special words of praise for NYSUT's community college members, describing their work as a source of inspiration for students of all ages, and their campuses as incubators of creativity and economic development.

Invoking the words of U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Magee said community colleges have been one of the country's greatest and most successful social adventures. She is herself a graduate of Westchester Community College, where she earned a degree in recreation leadership.

"Some of the toughest classes I took were there, and it took me to a degree in behavioral science," Magee said.

Magee thanked Ellen Schuler Mauk for her years of leadership at the conference. Schuler Mauk recently retired from the NYSUT Board of Directors and from her longtime presidency of the Faculty Association of Suffolk Community College. Kevin Peterman, Schuler Mauk's successor on the board and at the Faculty Association, presided at this year's conference. Magee also announced that Roberta Elins, president of the NYSUT local United College Employees of Fashion Institute of Technology, will chair the NYSUT Higher Education Policy Council.

NYSUT Community College Leader Conference
Robert Earle, TC3 Adjunct Association

A tradition of the Community College Conference is a Saturday breakfast for first-time attendees who are also likely future leaders at their locals and chapters. Among the 20 first-timers was Robert Earle of the newly organized NYSUT local of adjuncts at Tompkins Cortland Community College - the TC3 Adjunct Association. In accordance with PERB rules and procedures, the local has requested voluntary recognition from college administration and is one of two community college adjunct locals that recently organized under NYSUT. The other, at Cayuga Community College, has filed for certification through the Public Employment Relations Board. The employer is taking a position at PERB that the adjuncts and FT faculty unit should be one unit.

"I know first-hand that if the [campus] administration changes, all bets are off, and you don't have that job protection," Earle said, explaining to the group why he and his adjunct colleagues decided to join NYSUT.

Peterman and his fellow board member Andy Sako, president of the Faculty Federation of Erie Community College, encouraged the first-time attendees to make a lasting commitment to the union.

"We are under attack, and we definitely need you; we definitely need to keep the movement going," Peterman said.

"We have to all go back and get other people engaged," Sako said. "Community colleges are the backbones of the economy and we've always been overlooked – not by this union, but by the administration and the government. We're it, and it's important to have all of you and your colleagues on board with us."