Reduction in force claims its first victims

Posted on 13 December 2017 by admin

Notification date moved to Dec. 15 after failed memo of understanding with NEA

Photo Illustration: Melissa Wilkinson

Photo Illustration: Melissa Wilkinson

BY: MELISSA WILKINSON
Editor-in-Chief

Several full-time faculty received notices this Tuesday, Dec. 12 that they will not have jobs after the Spring 2018 semester.

According to a Dec. 11 email from Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Andrew Langrehr, all faculty who are affected by the reduction in force (RIF) will be notified by Dec. 15. This is in contrast to an amendment to the budget resolution approved at the Nov. 30 Board of Trustees meeting stating that faculty would be instead notified of their status by Mar. 15.

STLCC NEA Vice President Emily Neal said that her organization’s members announced “loud and clear” that they preferred the earlier deadline.

“The board authorized the administration and NEA to come up with an MOU (memorandum of understanding),” said Neal. “We were authorized to change the notification date, but then in consultation with our members keeping Dec. 15 was really important.”

Aside from the changed notice deadline, Neal said there were disagreements in the language of the MOU that could “possibly reduce [the NEA’s] ability to make any public statements.” After consulting with NEA lawyers the group decided not to pursue the MOU, as without changes to the notice deadline no alterations would be made to the joint agreement between the NEA and STLCC’s administrators.

“From our perspective, why does there need to be additional language saying the NEA agrees to be civil in public? We don’t want to agree to something that essentially waves our First Amendment rights to speak out and be critical,” said Neal.

As the Dec. 15 deadline draws near, faculty from several different departments have already been served with notices that their contracts with STLCC will soon be at an end. According to chancellorpittman.com, a news aggregator featuring primarily unnamed sources, departments that have been hit include English, mathematics, business and even the library.

English, which houses reading faculty additionally, seem to have taken the biggest hit, with reportedly 23 notices handed out across all STLCC campuses. Chancellor Jeff Pittman would neither confirm nor deny this number in a Dec. 13 interview, citing “personnel issues.”

The overall number of RIF notices mentioned in Langrehr’s email is smaller than originally announced – 58 compared to 70. The new number subtracts the 12 faculty members who have already accepted the Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment (VSIP) offered during the summer. The Board of Trustees will vote on Tuesday, Dec. 19, on whether or not they will offer additional VSIPs to faculty and staff. According to Pittman, who said he believes the vote will pass, this could mean some faculty could regain their employment if enough take advantage of the VSIP.

“If faculty were to elect to take the plan and they were not faculty where we would have to fill the position…we could save a job,” said Pittman.

After the VSIP plans pass, they will be offered for a state mandated 45 days, said Pittman. After that period, the administration will analyze whether or not any jobs can be saved. Those rehired would be selected based on seniority and department needs, said Pittman.

In the midst of a major reduction in force, Neal said the atmosphere is “awful.”

“I have colleagues who have been with the college 25 years and they can’t remember when morale has been this low,” said Neal. “People are sad. People are afraid. People are worried for their friends.”

But according to Pittman, this is typical of a school going through drastic budget cuts.

“Morale is always down when you get into a budget cut,” said Pittman. “I think for us the opportunity before us is what innovative strategies do we develop to keep our costs down and our tuition low for our students? Being accessible is one of the highest priorities we have.”

Pittman also confirmed that as of Friday, Dec. 8, negotiations are in play to improve conditions for adjunct faculty. Among adjunct demands were a three percent pay raise retroactive to January and a payment of $100 per credit hour in the event that an adjunct’s class is cancelled.

Pittman would not reveal whether or not any alterations have been made to the negotiations but said that NEA members will soon vote to ratify them, at which point details will be made clear. Pittman also said that the timing of the agreement is unrelated to the RIF, which will likely place more importance on adjunct faculty, calling it “more or less a coincidence.”

“It was done by federal arbitrator. We just came to a mutual agreement on the criteria that we ended up with,” said Pittman.

How much adjunct faculty will be affected by the RIF remains to be seen. Pittman said he hopes the NEA can move forward after negotiations are complete and offered his condolences to the college.

“It’s a very tough time. I’m sorry we’re going through this. We’re doing everything we can in the administration,” said Pittman.

  • Steve Taylor

    Our school has over $100 million in reserves, about $200 million annual budget, and has just approved a $40 million building and this mass firing is addressing a $13 million deficit over a three year period. It is by any definition elective. And with the approval of the building a self inflicted crisis at the hand of Mr. Pittman. chancellorpittman.com

Advertise Here

Photos from our Flickr stream

See all photos

Advertise Here

Upcoming Issues

Dec. 7, 2017
Jan. 25, 2018
Feb. 8, 2018
Feb. 22, 2018
March 8, 2018
March 29, 2018
April 19, 2018
May 3, 2018