Board of Trustees approves reduction in force at Nov. 30 meeting

Posted on 01 December 2017 by admin

Cuts of up to 70 full-time faculty imminent, Chancellor Pittman’s contract renewed

*Article updated at 2:40 p.m. 12/1/17 to include input from Chancellor Pittman

BY: MELISSA WILKINSON
Editor-in-Chief

Photo by: Tania Robin

Photo by: Tania Robin

STLCC’s Board of Trustees voted to approve recent budget recommendations proposed by the Budget Reponse Team, according to a press release issued late Thursday night. Among these recommendations was a reduction in force of up to 70 full-time faculty members, which passed unanimously.

At approximately 8:10 p.m., before voting started on any of the items, several students leapt from their seats and laid down in front of the board table, chanting “justice for faculty”, prompting the board to retreat to a private meeting room.

“We just wanted to recess and let the students have time to vent and talk for a while,” said Chancellor Pittman. “We just let them have the protest basically.”

Protests continued until approximately 9:30 p.m. when the board reemerged. They continued their meeting amid student protests with police guarding the board table from the front. The board voted on all items despite the protests. Pittman said it was something he’d never seen before.

“I appreciated all their passion but it made it hard to conduct business,” said Pittman. “We can’t continue to operate that way going forward.”

Due to loud chanting from protesters drowning out board activity, audience members were left uncertain about the results of the vote until Spokeswoman Nez Savala confirmed that the RIF had passed in a press release.

“I think we can all agree that this was a difficult decision for the board, but it was necessary. It’s our responsibility as leaders of the college to ensure fiscal stability and to face budget challenges sooner rather than later,” said Pittman in the release. “I want everyone to know that their hard work and dedication to our students and to the college community will always be appreciated. We will continue to work together in the best interest of our students and the future of the college.”

According to the release, the next step for the college is to implement the recommendations. Beyond the cut of 70 full-time faculty, other recommendations include the reduction of low-completion courses and programs and an increase in cost sharing of employee insurance premiums.

While first iteration of the press release stated that “faculty and non-faculty who are affected by the reduction in force will be notified in writing by Dec. 15”, an updated version of the release said that “STLCC Board of Trustees has directed [Pittman] to pursue a Memorandum of Understanding to mutually agree to waive the STLCC NEA Joint Resolution December 15 notice requirement and to allow notice to be made by March 1, 2018.”

According to Pittman, two Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments (VSIPs) will be offered. One is identical to the VSIP offered to faculty and staff this summer; the other is exclusive for full-time faculty. The difference is increased compensation for those willing to part with the college by June 30, 2018. If by March 2018 the number of voluntary separations has not reached 70, faculty will be given a notice if their position has been terminated.

Pittman negotiated with the STLCC NEA to create the new VSIP. He said they agreed to delay serving faculty with employment termination notices in hopes that enough faculty will take the offer to prevent the need for notices in the first place.

“We have a large number of faculty who are eligible for retirement,” said Pittman. “Rather than notice people earlier we’ll wait and see what happens with the incentive plans. We may get enough voluntary interested that we don’t have to notice anyway.”

According to Pittman, if the need for a RIF should arise, the decision regarding which faculty will be cut will be negotiated using the joint agreement with the STLCC NEA.

“It’s based on seniority. Not across the board seniority but if we’re looking at a specific discipline it will be based on seniority,” said Pittman.

Pittman said he thinks many will take the offer, and that even with the RIF the school will continue to maintain its standards of excellence.

“I think we’ll continue to have very strong academic standards. With the reduction of 70 we’re still ranked second in the nation for faculty to student ratio,” said Pittman.

Also included in the release was the announcement that Pittman’s contract with STLCC has been renewed.

“The Board feels that Dr. Pittman has moved the college along in a positive direction with a number of significant accomplishments. He has placed focus on important areas, such as student access and success, infrastructure, community partnerships and financial stability,” said BOT Chair Doris Graham.

Pittman will serve as Chancellor through June 2023. Regarding warnings of a no confidence vote currently being planned by STLCC NEA leadership, Pittman said he was “disappointed” but unfazed.

“Votes of no confidence happen all the time. They typically are a tactic that’s used when an organization or college is going through budget reductions,” said Pittman. “That doesn’t concern me at all. I report to the board, not the faculty.”

Tania Robins and Stephen Buechter contributed to this article.

 

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