Spotlight on College of the Desert
College of the Desert is represented by two CCA unions, the College of the Desert Faculty
Association (CODFA) and the College of the Desert Adjunct Association (CODAA)
Connecting and communicating with adjuncts
To give adjunct faculty a voice. That’s the goal of the College of the Desert Adjunct Association, said CODAA President David Bashore. “Well-informed adjuncts are better for both students and instructors.”
Of the more than 400 members, roughly one-third are retired from a professional career; one-third are recent graduates with aspirations to teaching; and one-third are fully employed and are teaching about their vocation. That makes connecting and communicating with adjuncts a challenge, but CODAA has seen success.
“The more people get involved, the easier it is for us to get things accomplished,” Bashore said, noting that in the last seven years CODAA has gained improvements in pay, benefits and governance opportunities for adjuncts. “We get paid for office hours, for example, and representation on every college committee. As a union, we participate in shared governance, giving CODAA members more visibility, authority, rights and recognition.”
And that gives members support in advocating for their students, said Scott Klinger, a CODAA board member who has been involved with the union for two years. “The union is the best way to advocate for students, because it keeps new adjuncts like me informed and educated, which means I can provide more complete information and resources to my students, regardless of the topic.”
“Now that I’ve become part of the shared governance, I’m on some of these committees where decisions are made that affect everyone,” Klinger said. Now he can take the initiative to write a new course based on student needs and shepherd it through the system.
Bashore takes pride in the union’s ability to provide an avenue to make adjuncts’ voices heard. “Shared governance benefits students, and it impacts teaching conditions such as equipment and design of new buildings,” he said. A recent example: Without consulting an adjunct, designers built a photography darkroom with a skylight. It has been removed.
CODAA leaders pointed to adjunct projects that benefit students and provide practical lessons.
The Solutions Kiosk, for example, was developed and created by former adjunct, now dean, Kelly Hall and adjunct faculty adviser Robert Holmes. It opened in 2011 and is run by students who are getting hands-on experience in retail management. The store is a place for students to put business concepts and learning into practice, and it has been so well run and profitable, a café/gift shop is opening at the Indio campus. Money raised goes into a student scholarship program.
Then there’s CODAA member Mike Gladych, who formed a partnership with the Palm Springs Film Festival. His film students learn from high-profile professionals and get to interview celebrities.
“Adjuncts are doing what the college is advertising that it does,” said Bashore. “If we are not participating in the governance of the school, we have a major disconnect regarding what is in the best interest for students, teaching, learning and the school itself.”
In addition to bargaining bread-and-butter issues for adjuncts, CODAA is making sure they are consulted in the decision-making process, he added. “The gains we’ve made as a union will continue as adjuncts assert their professional expertise to meet instructional and learning needs.”
Going to bat for students and faculty
College of the Desert Faculty Association President Denise Diamond said the union is part of the checks-and-balances system, keeping College of the Desert accountable while advocating for faculty and students.
And Heather Benes, recently elected at-large member on the CODFA board, agrees. “My union bargained a contract that gives me the space to do what we need to do,” she said. “I have a choice between committee work or student clubs. I’m faculty adviser to four clubs — it’s embedded in my contract, so it counts for something. While I’m taking care of my students’ academic needs, my union takes care of me.”
“CODFA protects faculty who care, so they can do their job,” she added. “That’s why the union is going to bat for Tony Manzoni.”
A “respect” campaign was launched around CODFA member Tony Manzoni, a 31-year veteran who was suddenly and surprisingly put on leave on the first day of the spring semester. Speculation abounds about why it looks like COD is pushing Manzoni out.
“It matters contractually that we have autonomy to say when we will retire and stop teaching,” Diamond said, adding that the situation also points to program discontinuance issues that can impact students and faculty.
Manzoni created a signature golf management program, raising some $4 million in cash and in-kind services to build a golf lab that doubles as a community golf course. He coaches the men’s golf team, which has won 27 of 28 conference championships. This year the team is struggling. “Tony is a father figure to his students, these 18-, 19- and 20-year-old kids from all over the world. They’re missing Tony,” Diamond said.
Manzoni’s dedication was featured in the winter 2017 issue of Fore magazine. “I have never done anything that’s not aboveboard, and always have the college’s best interest as a priority. It’s heartbreaking,” he said. “There’s never been harsh words between me and COD. You’d think if there was a problem, they’d talk to me.”
In late February, COD presented Manzoni with charges the union said can only be described as character defects, using terms such as immoral. “The only immoral thing about me right now is my golf game,” said Manzoni. The union contends COD is blaming Manzoni for things that were in the college’s control, not his.
Manzoni said he’s had incredible support from CODFA. “I couldn’t ask for any more. They give me hope.” He has received support from PGA members and students internationally; one came from France to speak to the COD Board. Their testimony can be seen at the COD YouTube website.
CODFA’s advocacy for students includes a Student Emergency Fund for students who are homeless or having financial difficulty. Based on faculty recommendations, CODFA provides grants of up to $250. “That’s enough for textbooks, an electric bill or groceries,” Diamond said.
As a rule, Diamond said, her goals center around inclusion, transparency and advocacy. CODFA’s communication system includes a combination of one-on-ones, relational organizing, a website and meetings. Member engagement activities provide faculty the opportunity to advocate for themselves and for the good of the college, she said.
College of the Desert is one of the fastest-growing community colleges in the state, hiring as many as 13 new faculty for each semester in the last two years. As a union, the full-time faculty are experienced, with nearly 50 percent being on the last step of a 12-step salary schedule. Faculty longevity has been credited with creating stability at COD.