Volume 45 No. 4
Ultimately, we will all need to work together
By Alan Frey
CCA Staff Consultant
Here we go again. Community college budgets are under siege, class sections are being eviscerated, part-time faculty are losing classes – if not their jobs – and everyone is looking for someone to blame. In years past we were mad at the governor, the legislature the economy and of course, district management. But in this day and age everyone falls under the veil of suspicion. It is, of course, the economy that sullies us all. Never in recent memory have all the forces of evil descended upon the community colleges and their mission and for now, the blame game is a useless endeavor.
Many of the problems of California began with the passage of Proposition 13, the property tax limitation act that transformed the way education is funded, and for that matter, all other aspects of the functions of the state of California. The Three Strikes Law added to the burdens of the taxpayer to support massive increases in the prison population. Immigration and the increase in the unemployment rate in California have led us to where there are enemies perceived and real that are touching the lives of all who reside in the state.
As a result of all of the turmoil, the discontent of the electorate has become palpable. Note the rise of the Sarah Palin wannabees, the Tea Party and the propensity to blame someone else for the ills of society that rise when people feel helpless and alone.
Unfortunately, the community colleges are not exempt from this trend. In the past two years there has been a growing trend among community college players to go on the attack against the imagined ailments of our system.
Management hit list
In the legislature, community college management is using the economic downturn to target issues that they perceive restrict their ability to manage the colleges as they see fit. It starts with a statewide effort to dismantle the 75/25 law, which requires a ratio of 75 percent full-time faculty to 25 percent part-time; and the 50 Percent law which requires that 50 percent of the college budget be spent on faculty. Both laws benefit students and faculty. These two issues have long been at the top of the hit list of the management groups and they are pulling out all the stops to gut the intent of the measures.
At the bargaining table we are witnessing assaults on fringe benefits, and seeing the introduction of salary freezes and furloughs as a way to go back to the good old days, before faculty and staff had collective bargaining. Many managers believe that faculty is overpaid, underworked and undeserving of the working conditions that have been negotiated. Despite the reality that colleges have amassed record general fund reserves, the management believe the general climate is conducive to retrench back to better times by reining in runaway faculty and their unions.
The trend is not limited to group assault as many colleges are using the diminished expectations of faculty and classified employees to attack individuals they believe are deadweight or for whom some other animosity exists. The pressure on some individuals is extreme and unfortunately in some cases is bolstered by other faculty with the belief that there but for the grace of god, go I.
Circle the wagons
It is not an unusual occurrence. When times go bad, the tendency is to strike out at others and to circle the wagons around our friends. Just look at the conservative movement – protect our guns, get rid of the illegal immigrants and throw the bums out.
Even among faculties which have a strong community of interest, there is a disturbing movement from some part-time faculty to blame full-timers for their lot in life. Attacks on full-time overloads and bumping rights are all seen as indices of the greed of full-time faculty. Management in an attempt to divide and conquer fuels the anger, albeit in a veiled and gossamer manner. Nevertheless, it exists.
So where do we go from here? We all must remember – management, classified and full- and part-time faculty – that these times will pass. The economy will improve and the colleges will once again become the pathway for the future for generations to come. But this all comes with a reminder to all our constituencies that memories are long and what goes around comes around. Any unkind actions we take today will forever taint relationships. Faculty should refrain from cannibalism, management must not succumb to the forces of the dark side and view this climate as a way to exact revenge for past. Ultimately we will all need to work together.