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‘Is Chancellor Jeff Pittman right for St. Louis Community College?’

Posted on 29 November 2017 by admin

Local NEA says no, plans vote of no confidence

BY: MELISSA WILKINSON
Editor-in-Chief

Chancellor PittmanChancellor Jeff Pittman’s place at STLCC is being questioned after an announcement made by the STLCC branch of the National Education Association (NEA). The email, sent early Nov. 28, cited costly facilities, misguided financial priorities and shortsighted decisions as reasons to doubt the chancellor’s ability to lead the college and move forward preparations for an official vote of no confidence.

According to NEA Vice President Emily Neal, it’s more than the imminent reduction of force and the treatment of adjuncts, both of which have been hotly debated in previous months. Neal said there are serious concerns among faculty that the school is moving in the wrong direction, focusing on moving students quickly through the education system rather than creating the best learning experience.

“It seems there’s more and more of an emphasis on numbers and completions,” said Neal. “If I have a [student] who’s a retiree…that person’s not going to transfer. They’re not going to get an associates degree. They’re not going to graduate from this college and yet, is that not a success?”

Another qualm, said Neal, is the disparate nature of growth in the salaries of administrators, proven by a compensation study that looked at the salaries of different positions across the college. According to Neal, the largest growth has been in administrative salaries.

“People do need to be compensated well. You do have to pay them appropriately to attract talented people,” said Neal. “But it becomes harder to justify when it’s the faculty that have the most direct contact with students.”

NEA President Robert Hertel also expressed concerns with Pittman’s understanding of GASB 68, new federal accounting standards that require the college to cover the unfunded portion of PSRS funding (the state retirement fund) for its employees.

“The use of GASB 68 accounting principles as a variable for the recommendations is misguided and shows lack of knowledge,” said Hertel in an email to NEA members. “No institution across the country is moving forward with recommendations for RIF based upon a principle that has no cash expectations. The question is how can the college have over 101 million dollars in reserve to cover a liability that will continue to grow and still claim that it has a financial concern.”

Pittman responded to the announcement that the NEA will move forward with its vote of no confidence in an email to the STLCC community, describing himself and other administrators as “disappointed.”

“Members of the board, administrative leaders and I have met regularly with NEA leadership, faculty and staff, as well as with students, to seek viable solutions to move the college forward,” said Pittman.

Pittman’s response followed another email he sent to faculty and staff in which he summarized steps taken to fairly discuss the budget crisis. Pittman cited campus forums, numerous opportunities for faculty and staff input and meetings with bargaining unit leaders to demonstrate that the administration has listened to all sides before making a decision regarding the funding deficit.

Hertel, however, disagreed, saying that members of the NEA were “present as guests” to each budget work group, but that their input was not included in the meeting minutes. Emily Neal echoed Hertel’s sentiment.

“There have been concerns about a lack of faculty voice in governance, that those voices are being squeezed out,” said Neal.

The official decision for how the college will handle the budget crisis will be voted on at the Nov. 30 board meeting at the Cosand Center. Hertel encouraged all members of the NEA to be present at the meeting to voice their concerns, as well as to use the hashtag “#OurSTLCC” when posting to social media to draw attention to the issue.

According to Neal, the path to a vote of no confidence is currently being paved. STLCC’s NEA branch is actively in discussion with the state association to determine the steps to conduct the vote.

“In the interim, we’re going to have campus meetings,” said Neal. “For those that attend, we’re going to have a discussion about what is going on and probably have some sort of straw poll where we ask who would support a vote.”

Despite how she feels about the chancellor, Neal said that the feasibility of the vote is one thing she has confidence in.

“I do believe that there are enough people who are disgruntled enough with the direction that this college is taking…that many people would be supportive of having that very serious conversation,” said Neal.

 

  • Steve Taylor

    Well said! There needs to be a vote of no confidence in Hittman Pittman.

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