Approximately 100 faculty members attended the December 12 Board of Trustees meeting. Several made public comments on faculty concerns about the quality of the institution, our programs, faculty roles in shared governance, salary, and privacy violations. Your colleagues' comments--those that were actually delivered, as well as those that were prepared but for which there was insufficient time--are posted here.
AFA encourages the faculty to attend all Board meetings, to speak out on matters of concern to the faculty, and to share those comments with the College community via email and posting on our web site.
Board meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month. Spring 2018 meeting dates:
- Felicia Darling
AFA voices: Turn up the volume to promote economic mobility for our students. Should students who are born into poverty-- no matter how hard they work--die in poverty? No one in this room thinks that. read more
- Brian Antonson:
Hello, my name is Brian Antonson, and I teach all of the digital media production classes here at the college. And I wanted to try to make a simple point about a complex issue, the negotiations. read more
- Karen Frindell Teuscher:
As you know, I am the President of the All Faculty Association. We understand that you receive regular updates from the District about the budget and the status of negotiations. I would like to provide you with an update on the budget and negotiations narrative from our perspective. read more
- Alexa Forrester:
My name is Alexa Forrester. I am currently the chair of the Philosophy, Humanities, and Religion department. I have been teaching at the JC for 5 years. In that time, I have taught 55 sections, fully enrolled, amounting to nearly 2000 students. read more
- Julie Thompson:
My name is Julie Thompson. I am in my 24th year as an SRJC faculty member. I also currently serve on the All Faculty Association. I speak before you today about a serious violation of a faculty member’s confidentiality. read more
- Galen George:
Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to speak. My name is Galen George, and for the last 35 years I have had the honor to be a member of the faculty of SRJC. In all these years, I have never felt compelled to speak before the Board, but now I feel I must. read more
- Mark Ferguson:
Rank 10 is a reasonable salary model that’s been used for over 30 years, resulting in a fair, modest—and fairly predictable—annual salary increase. The annual cost is one that has been afforded, year after year, as proved by the District’s ending fund balance each year. read more
- Terry Mulcaire:
My name is Terry Mulcaire. I have been teaching English full-time at SRJC since 1999, and I have been a member of the AFA negotiations team since 2012. Over the last few years you’ve heard frequently and in depth from VP Roberts about the college’s budget difficulties. read more
- Debbie Albers:
I am here today to address what I call the de-professionalization of the very people who keep this institution doing what it was meant to do:
Faculty, with direct support from staff, provide the education and training that are the core of SRJC’s mission. read more
- Karen Stanley:
[Regarding Dr. Chong’s email to all faculty and staff on December 7, 2017] Chong's email violated a faculty member's privacy and confidentiality. Disciplinary issues are supposed to be dealt with confidentially. read more
- Nancy Persons:
I am here today to strongly urge you to support the work of our faculty by continuing to honor this institution’s commitment to faculty salaries at rank 10. read more
- Rhonda Findling:
I want to thank all my faculty colleagues for speaking out at the Board meeting. In addition to pay inequities and the other takeaways proposed by the District, I too am fed up with the attitude of, and actions by, administrators thinking we are subordinate to them. read more
- Matt Murray:
My name is Matt Murray from the SRJC English Department, and I thank you for your time and attention. In late September, I drafted a letter to our senior administrators, President Chong and Vice Presidents Rudolph and Roberts, in response to my frustration with the status of negotiations and my particular concern for their disregard of our adjunct faculty. read more
AFA voices: Turn up the volume to promote economic mobility for our students.BACK TO TOP
Should students who are born into poverty--no matter how hard they work--die in poverty? No one in this room thinks that. At the SRJC we have taken a strong moral stance to serve first-generation college students seeking to achieve their dreams. Our swift response to the fire tragedy is a testimony to our commitment to support students in need. The problem is that today the American dream is in peril. Research shows that it takes 20 years for students born into poverty to overcome their circumstances, and that's if nothing goes wrong. We do not want to add to that problem.
There is a trend sweeping the nation to silence unions and it started at the University of Wisconsin. It is no coincidence that the income gap in the state of Wisconsin is wider today than it was during the Great Depression of 1929. Researchers have analyzed 100 years of data since 1918 from all of our 50 states. The result: Weakening unions causes a concentration of wealth in the top 10% of the US population. Yes, suppressing unions increases income inequality, especially for women and minorities. If we continue to silence the voices of our faculty by excluding AFA reports from being a regular Board Agenda item, we are participating in a movement that ultimately crushes economic opportunities for our poor, DACA, and undocumented students. We cannot follow in the footsteps of the University of Wisconsin.
In ten years from now, what will be our legacy? We must take the moral high ground, now. We want to look back and say we chose to resist the trend sweeping the nation to silence unions, stifle educators, and ultimately rob our students of financial independence. Instead, we must take the strong moral stance and choose to lead the charge to promote economic mobility for our first-generation-college and DACA students. Faculty AFA voices should be heard in the Report section of every single Board Meeting.
College Skills Faculty
Hello, my name is Brian Antonson, and I teach all of the digital media production classes here at the college. And I wanted to try to make a simple point about a complex issue, the negotiations. Which is that, to say that, if there isn’t enough money to hire more full-time faculty, even in programs that clearly and historically have the need and enrollment to support them – to just let that void continuously be filled by temporary adjunct hires; or, to not support Rank 10, our long-standing benchmark for fair compensation for our exceptional teaching staff, an agreement that has been widely praised and honored by a variety of different administrations over the years.BACK TO TOP
To say that there is not enough money to honor those important needs, and then at the same time, vote to give yourselves pay increases; and not one pay increase but two raises in the same year, to the point that our administration is currently amongst the very highest paid administrations of any of the administrations of our sister community colleges – that clearly and objectively looks bad. And I would argue it is clearly and objectively bad – it is neither reasonable nor fair and NOT because we the faculty in general DON’T want or think you deserve higher salaries. You do. It’s bad because regarding the negotiations, the money in the budget should be shared, equally, and not at the expense of these other important faculty issues.
Karen Frindell Teuscher
As you know, I am the President of the All Faculty Association. We understand that you receive regular updates from the District about the budget and the status of negotiations. I would like to provide you with an update on the budget and negotiations narrative from our perspective.BACK TO TOP
On December 1st, the District negotiations team made a request to PERB to file for impasse. AFA did not agree with that determination and provided evidence to PERB that we had been making progress, but the request for impasse was granted.
We are now preparing for mediation, which will begin on or after January 31st, 2018. We have retained the assistance of legal counsel and a budget expert. We are aware that, if mediation is not successful, the process will enter the fact-finding stage. During this stage, the fact-finder will consider, among other things, the cost of living in our area, and the compensation of those in comparable communities.
The District’s negotiations position seeks to disempower and disrespect faculty both economically and structurally: economically, with the proposal to permanently eliminate Rank 10, and structurally, with numerous nonmonetary stipulations that attack the faculty’s role in shared governance.
Rank 10 salaries and strong shared governance are responsible for what has been the legacy of excellence, and elimination of these will erode the quality of this institution.
The District maintains it cannot afford Rank 10 due to declining enrollments and other budget constraints. In fact, the share of the District’s expenditure on faculty has been decreasing over the past several years in spite of the fact that the rank 10 formula has been in effect. Additionally, the District, citing inability to afford it, has chosen not to replace numerous retirements in programs that are understaffed, resulting in the cancellations of full sections in Math, English, and other disciplines semester after semester due to insufficient staffing, which translates directly into lost enrollments and lost revenue. The proportion of management expenses, however, has increased significantly. As enrollment declines, our management expenditures grow. AFA has made a public records request for the full cost of management salaries, benefits, payroll taxes, and allowances for the past 5 years, and we will be presenting this and other supporting data to you.
The District must choose to prioritize faculty in budgeting and in administration of this institution. It must attract, retain, and empower the faculty in the tradition of excellence that has been at this college for 100 years. I invite you to listen to the comments of the faculty and consider our perspective.
Karen Frindell Teuscher
Chemistry Faculty and AFA President
My name is Alexa Forrester. I am currently the chair of the Philosophy, Humanities, and Religion department. I have been teaching at the JC for 5 years. In that time, I have taught 55 sections, fully enrolled, amounting to nearly 2000 students. In addition, I have served on multiple college wide committees, including the Facilities Master Planning committee and 3 years on the Academic Senate.BACK TO TOP
I was among the first group of faculty members hired by President Chong when he assumed the reins. Dr. Chong, in my final interview with you I remember you saying that your goal as the new president was to help to make a great college even greater. And here we are on the eve of our 100th anniversary, at a college whose renown is firmly rooted in the historical excellence of our faculty and the profound and empowering educational experiences Sonoma residents have had in our classrooms for a century.
As we prepare to celebrate this anniversary, unfortunately, the district’s negotiating team is proposing dramatic changes to our faculty contract that undermine both our economic stability and our role in shared governance.
President Chong, board members, undermining and disempowering faculty is not how you make a great college greater. It is how you dismantle quality education. Even if we have the most brilliant administrators, the most stunning facilities and grounds, the most competent and committed student services team, the newest computer software for speedy registration, none of it will matter if we have a second-rate faculty. It’s as simple as this: if we do not invest in top-notch faculty, we will not have a top-notch institution.
I hope you will keep this in the front of your minds as you think about what path you are putting us on for the next 100 years.
Chair, Philosophy, Humanities, and Religion Department
My name is Julie Thompson. I am in my 24th year as an SRJC faculty member. I also currently serve on the All Faculty Association.BACK TO TOP
I speak before you today about a serious violation of a faculty member’s confidentiality. This violation occurred in an email that was sent to the entire college community. In violation of Board Policy, our Contract, and Constitutional privacy rights, that email named an individual who is being investigated in a disciplinary matter and specified the allegations against that person. The fact that the allegation has been made public by other parties does not absolve the District of its legal responsibility to adhere to privacy and confidentiality policies, contract provisions, and laws.
This violation has had a chilling effect on the faculty, who have contacted AFA to state their “horror,” “disbelief,” and anger. Some believe that this violation is so egregious that it should result in nonrenewal of contracts for the person or persons responsible for that email. I impress upon you the gravity of this matter.
For several years, the faculty has been loudly and consistently objecting to the shift that has taken place at SRJC, from an institution that values, trusts, and empowers the faculty to do excellent work, to one that treats faculty as low-level, unintelligent employees who need to be directed and controlled. I do not exaggerate in saying this describes the administration’s treatment of the faculty. I am thinking about particular members of the administration when I say this, but I stress that this is a systemic problem, and it must change.
I will not accept the current conditions of our beloved college. I will not accept this more lawless institution, one in which people with power consistently and without consequence pick and choose which rules they will honor, which common decencies they will hold themselves to, which faculty prerogatives they will allow or disallow. I do not accept the personal and professional disrespect of individual faculty members, or of the faculty as a whole.
At stake here is the most fundamental question of our democracy, of any democracy. As George Saunders states it in his novel Lincoln in the Bardo, that question is whether the “rabble” can govern itself. Can we, together, in good faith, for the common good, and as an expression of our highest ideals as people and as educators, not only create the rules and conditions that define our college and the quality of our work and relationships, but will we follow those rules? And if we fail to follow the rules that we have had the privilege of helping to create, will we endeavor to make things right? Will we acknowledge our trespasses, apologize, make amends, and commit to better conduct?
The serious violation that I speak of must be dealt with, and we must use this as an opportunity to address the demands of the faculty to create a more-perfect college.
English Faculty and AFA Chief Negotiator
Good afternoon and thank you for the opportunity to speak. My name is Galen George, and for the last 35 years I have had the honor to be a member of the faculty of SRJC. In all these years, I have never felt compelled to speak before the Board, but now I feel I must. I apologize for my nervousness, and I will try hard to keep my emotions in check.BACK TO TOP
Although I teach chemistry, I love words. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “value”. An interesting word, value. Like many words in English, it can be a noun or a verb. An example: I value the many relationships I have developed here. Another: one of the most important values this institution has touted is collegiality. Yet another: the value of the faculty of SRJC seems to be in decline. At least that is the evident attitude of the District.
I strongly disagree. I have had the pleasure of being a colleague of some amazing individuals over the past three decades. And I am presently a colleague of some equally, if not even more amazing individuals. This group of professional, dedicated, hard-working people deserves to be valued to at least the same degree that my former colleagues were.
The District felt that Rank 10 was a reasonable compromise over 25 years ago, and through negotiations, continued to feel that way until very recently. What has changed? Is this group of professionals less valuable? I think not. In fact, I believe the value of this faculty to be greater than Rank 10, but in the spirit of collegiality realize that compromise is necessary for progress.
Please don’t fall prey to the present toxic political landscape and the divisive path that our national leaders are taking. Recognizing the value of the faculty of SRJC, and working together, collegially, we can increase the value of the education our students receive. And that must be our overarching value.
Department Chair, Chemistry & Physics
Rank 10 is a reasonable salary model that’s been used for over 30 years, resulting in a fair, modest—and fairly predictable—annual salary increase. The annual cost is one that has been afforded, year after year, as proved by the District’s ending fund balance each year. Rank 10 doesn’t necessarily provide faculty with the financial means to afford the high cost of living in Sonoma County; although, faculty have been willing to accept that deficiency, given the other benefits of having Rank 10 (maintain labor peace, predictable for budgeting, reasonable and modest).BACK TO TOP
It’s heartbreaking that the District team wants to abandon all of the benefits that Rank 10 affords to the JC. I appreciate the budgeting challenges that the District says that it faces; however, I disagree with the District’s budgeting priorities. The number one goal of the JC is to educate our students. We can do that, best, by focusing our resources on our quality faculty. The number one priority is to keep and attract high quality faculty to educate our students. Paying for high quality faculty is the number one expense—like paying a mortgage at home. Once the “mortgage” is paid, the rest of the expenses should be sprinkled around that number one expense.
My name is Terry Mulcaire. I have been teaching English full-time at SRJC since 1999, and I have been a member of the AFA negotiations team since 2012. Over the last few years you’ve heard frequently and in depth from VP Roberts about the college’s budget difficulties. Because of confidentiality rules governing negotiations, you haven’t been hearing in that period from AFA negotiators. The District’s unilateral decision to declare impasse has lifted those confidentiality restrictions, and so I would like to share some reflections on SRJC’s budget situation, by means of a metaphor.BACK TO TOP
Say I’m a homeowner, and as a homeowner I personally place a special value on the soundness of my roof. A leaky roof on a rainy day is a terrible thing for a homeowner, and I make sure that I don’t have a leaky roof. In fact, I replace my roof every 3 years. After a while, my roof costs start putting pressure on the rest of my budget. Eventually, I start facing budget crises every 3 years. In response to what has become a sort of permanent budget crisis, I don’t replace my furnace when it breaks down, I don’t spend money on drains, and I don’t repair the mold growing in my foundation because I haven’t spent the money on drains to keep water from under the house. But by gosh, my roof doesn’t leak, and my budget is balanced.
The point of my metaphor is that we all bring values to budgeting. I value my roof, and that makes a certain sense. But, upon reflection, I should be able to see that I’m overvaluing my roof. The truth is, I don’t need to replace my roof every three years. The truth is, I’m wasting a lot of money on my roof. And the outcome of the values that I have brought to my budget is that I’ve chosen to rot the foundations of my home.
Members of the Board, President Chong: the faculty are the foundation of this college. I ask you to reflect and inquire seriously and in depth into the values VP Roberts has brought to his job in managing SRJC’s budget, and I would be happy to assist you in doing so.
English Faculty and AFA Conciliation-Grievance Officer
I am here today to address what I call the de-professionalization of the very people who keep this institution doing what it was meant to do:
Faculty, with direct support from staff, provide the education and training that are the core of SRJC’s mission.
Recently, a long-time member of our faculty, who is highly respected by all who know him from his leadership and service to department, district, and state and national professional organizations, was asked by a newer administrator to prove that he had indeed attended a conference for which he had submitted paperwork. (Paperwork we are required to submit, even though there is no money attached.) The faculty member was justifiably insulted, as should we all be.BACK TO TOP
I would like to say to the administration and board that faculty and staff are not subordinate to administrators. We are simply three groups of professionals with different job descriptions.
When I was in junior high school, the band conductor liked to tell us that a good jazz band would function just fine without a conductor. To prove his point, he would walk away during a song and we, the musicians, would continue to play. I think it is fair to compare SRJC to a good jazz band and I will leave up to everyone here today to decide for themselves which group(s) they think represent the conductor and which the musicians.
[Regarding Dr. Chong’s email to all faculty and staff on December 7, 2017] Chong's email violated a faculty member's privacy and confidentiality. Disciplinary issues are supposed to be dealt with confidentially.BACK TO TOP
We often hear or read the comments of employers whose institutions are investigating someone, and the employer typically (and wisely) says something along the lines of "we take all such allegations seriously; however, we cannot comment on disciplinary matters that may be in process." In fact, I heard one such comment on NPR on Thursday. Divulging the names of the parties--both the person alleging the misconduct and the person charged--is a violation of privacy.
This has nothing to do with whether other people have shared information. The person accused, the accuser, the Oak Leaf, other people on social media, whatever: the District itself cannot divulge information about a disciplinary matter.
Many faculty members report feeling horrified that this could happen.
If this could happen to one person, then the District could do this to anyone. None of us is safe. We don't have confidence that the District--the President--will adhere to and enforce the policies, laws, and contract provisions in place to protect our privacy and confidentiality.
Some people are saying that Chong should be censured or disciplined, or even terminated.
There need to be significant structural changes to the college to put an end to whatever sense of privilege or immunity the District apparently assumes it has, allowing it to make up its own rules in this and other matters. This is just one instance of District representatives doing whatever the hell it wants.
Chong owes an apology to the faculty member, the faculty, and the college community.
We will continue to scrutinize the administration's behavior, and we will continue to inform the Board of our concerns.
Kinesiology, Athletics & Dance Faculty
I am here today to strongly urge you to support the work of our faculty by continuing to honor this institution’s commitment to faculty salaries at rank 10.BACK TO TOP
I began working here in 2002, just months before a serious downturn in the California economy. I had wanted to work at SRJC since an SSU Dean raved about it back when I was working at a college in Pennsylvania. I took a $15,000 pay cut in order to come work here. It took me 8 years here just to work my way back to that salary level. Since I arrived, we have experienced salary freezes, workload reductions (??), and lost students due to cancelled classes. Despite these discouraging conditions I’ve hung in there. Our salaries gradually improved, and we reaffirmed our commitment to Rank 10, which made me feel like my efforts were being recognized. My mortgage got easier to pay, and I had the privilege of working with truly remarkable colleagues.
Like many of my colleagues, I’ve served on multiple District committees over the years, served 6 years as department chair, and represented us on a state academic senate committee. Despite how hard I work, I feel that many of my faculty colleagues work even harder than I do.
I have been proud and honored to work at this institution and feel I work collegially with classified staff and administrators alike. The paycheck I now take home and the spirit of this place are what make me feel that it is reasonable to do things like show up at emergency meetings while my house has just burned down and my family is a state of shock. I have felt that my work was appreciated and respected.
But now we are faced with a proposal to reject rank 10 salaries. What happens in the classroom is at the heart of what this institution is all about. I feel it is indicative of tunnel vision to suggest that faculty and classified salaries are the cause and only remedy to our budgetary situation. I have to wonder if it has occurred to the District that in rejecting our commitment to rank 10 salary placement, the District is creating a list of colleges at which it would be more attractive to work than SRJC?
Learning Resources Faculty and Academic Senate VP & Acting President
I want to thank all my faculty colleagues for speaking out at the Board meeting. In addition to pay inequities and the other takeaways proposed by the District, I too am fed up with the attitude of, and actions by, administrators thinking we are subordinate to them. They should be working to support us in our work with students. This top-down approach is both insulting and disrespectful.BACK TO TOP
I’ve also seen numerous instances of bypassing processes when it suits them, and putting up obstacles to faculty and staff when it doesn’t. I venture to say that these administrative bureaucratic unnecessary and aggravating obstacles stifle faculty innovation and creativity as well as zap our spirits and morale. We end up spending our time and energy battling instead of on students. The problem starts at the top with obstructionism toward faculty and staff, and a “chain-of-command” philosophy. If we wanted to follow some sort of chain of command, we would have chosen to work in the military . . . this has no place in an educational setting.
In addition, I am disgusted by the so-called management evaluation process, which in my opinion, is a joke. Does not seem to matter how horrible the evaluations are, the administrators/managers just protect each other. I’ve witnessed this first-hand both in EOPS for nearly six years with a totally incompetent director protected by former VP of Student Services, and as a member of the faculty jail-team having to tolerate the horrible chaotic leadership in Adult Ed, which is a classic and distasteful nauseating case of nepotism. It’s so bad that no credit faculty who has experienced it wants to teach in the jail anymore, and as usual, we are not listened to.
I could go on and on about other issues like the administrators having way too much power in the hiring process, and about the dysfunctional faculty-staffing processes . . . all reflective of a culture of top-down controlling management.
Many thanks to AFA for all your amazing work and giving us a forum here to express the truth of things.
My name is Matt Murray from the SRJC English Department, and I thank you for your time and attention.BACK TO TOP
In late September, I drafted a letter to our senior administrators, President Chong and Vice Presidents Rudolph and Roberts, in response to my frustration with the status of negotiations and my particular concern for their disregard of our adjunct faculty. I was prompted to do so after reading a recent heartbreaking article about an adjunct who has resorted to prostitution to supplement her teaching pay, which is not enough to pay her bills or cover her health care. This is just one case of thousands of adjuncts across the nation who are facing difficult choices to make ends meet. I hesitated to send the letter for weeks, hoping that negotiations would take a turn for the better.
Then the fires hit.
I was impressed with how quick the SRJC administration was to respond to the crisis and to find ways to support our community. But then, after I returned home and the adrenaline rush of the evacuation and devastation faded, I began to wonder how the administration could be so quick to help our community, all the while undermining our community on a daily basis by refusing to negotiate in good faith, by driving wedges between faculty groups, by giving themselves incredible raises, by refusing to pay faculty even close to a sustainable wage in Sonoma County.
This is straight up hypocrisy. This is an insult to all faculty and the insult is made worse by your complicity. As board members, you need to know that there is a groundswell of unrest based on dissatisfaction with the current administration. I know you care about our community and SRJC, so you must not hide from the facts. Our current administration is seeking to consolidate absolute power over our faculty, and this will not stand. We need to drop such antiquated hierarchical models. It is your duty to remind our administrators that their function is to serve, not to exert dominance.
I am happy to have been hired as a contract faculty member after having taught at several universities and colleges for over 18 years as an adjunct, but I have not forgotten the challenges of surviving in Sonoma County on adjunct pay. The district is seeking to take away our right to negotiate our salary. This is ridiculous and also puts our adjunct faculty at even greater risk of wage slavery, since it is clear that the district wants to pay ALL faculty even less than what we currently are paid. Our rent keeps going up. Our bills keep going up. But the district wants to pay us less?
Perhaps I am wrong. Perhaps our administrators DO really want to pay us a fair salary. If so, then why are they not camped out on the Capital steps, banging down doors in Sacramento until they find the funding? Why are they fighting AGAINST us, instead of fighting FOR us?
Get ready. SRJC’s reputation as an educational institution, as a top school to work for, is about to be destroyed by an administration that is obsessed with power and money. It may not be too late.
What will you do?