The Loyal Opposition: We find ourselves in peculiar times and at a crossroads. Shared Governance started as an optimistic strategy for maintaining the collaborative spirit present in contract negotiations, which carried through the work of the Contract Alternatives Committee, and evolved into the Assembly and Councils. At the start, the President reached out to constituent groups and seemed willing to roll up his sleeves and work alongside the policy-making bodies. But, SG has begun to show signs of premature aging. It has not achieved widespread acceptance. Many administrators and employees alike privately admit that they think IBPS and SG are a waste of time and pay lip service to it and evade process by looking for short cuts. It is high time assess the impact of shared governance; however, honest assessment is hard to come by these days, which is why we need to revive another aspect of Union activity—the Loyal Opposition.
The phrase “loyal opposition” comes from members of the British Parliament that opposed the ruling government’s policies but did so in a principled fashion and with dedication to preserving the democratic processes of government. Similarly, a Loyal Opposition in our college can oppose current administrative policies, practices and behaviors while still being dedicated to objectives of an authentic Shared Governance. Faculty and staff are invested in the success of their community, College, and students for the long term: this is a mission, a commitment, fully embraced as members of this community diligently serving other members of our community. We all work better when we all work together, and so we welcome collaboration, but there are some obstacles:
- There are some who bypass the Assembly by bringing issues directly to the Councils without notifying the Assembly or reporting out on progress. By ignoring the by-laws of the Assembly, which is the body that sets the priorities for the Councils, these committees out there without clear shared governance oversight and their role seems to be to produce already-made solutions (which are in fact positions).
- The College does not consult its attorney in timely fashion and then uses the attorney’s interests to undermine policies created in Shared Governance. We have seen a pattern emerge in which the College decides it wants to change a policy and uses attorney “interests” mid-year; however, the attorney does not appear in the Assembly and the President and Administrators do not explain these interests.
- The President’s objectives are not always uniformly clear to those participating in the process. He should review the Assembly’s recommendations for prioritized work and voice his interests openly in the Assembly. This would go far toward assuring everyone in the room has the same information (a SG principle).
- Many participants in Shared Governance are still unskilled at IBPS. Part of this problem stems from the apparent desire to overwrite previous history and to assert its own “culture”. It has invested heavily in infrastructure and time, but training has not kept pace because of scheduling problems and resistance. For some reason, the College has yet to figure out how to bring current participants together (who perform different work and have different schedules) at the same time. That would require acknowledging the actual schedules of FT, PT, PSRP and Admin.
- Resistance remains a problem. Whether the President knows it or not, many employees think this initiative simply another “flavor of the month” and that we should not commit too deeply because the President may leave at any time.
- Two employees reported that they were being held to a disproportionately higher standard of quality than their white colleagues. Consequently, they felt that they were more prone to receive criticism for trivial matters and felt fear about ever making a mistake. But these employees are afraid to complain officially to the College because they feel isolated and fear retaliation. Their confidence in the College has fallen and they have withdrawn into silence and cynicism.
- Another employee was badgered by a supervisor, who required disclosure of personal information to which the supervisor had no work-related right nor need to know.
- Another employee was recently disproportionately disciplined for attendance issues for arriving minutes late on some days. The manager in this case had previously been the subject of complaint by all of the employees in the unit.
- Another employee reported that her boss spoke abusively to her and that she decided not to attempt using IBPS because he had said in a meeting, “IBPS is bullshit”.
There are two common themes in these issues. First, these employees felt apprehensive because their managers already had demonstrated that they were not sincere in developing authentic, professional, and positive relationships with them. Rather, these managers appear to insist on docile and complete obedience and will not tolerate questions or criticisms. Second, these women were not confident in the support of Human Resources or other formal or informal methods of conflict resolution, and the problem appears to be growing. (This data was collected on May of 2015. The results were shared during the Fall 2015 convocation and subsequently published in Blackboard: perceptions-of-the-college-climate-by-faculty-and-staff-of-color . Feel free to contact: Carolina Bailey, firstname.lastname@example.org ; Jimmy Cheffen Jr., email@example.com. Please use the subject line: “Climate”).
Administrative Quality Assurance: We place a lot of trust in administrators and presume that they will behave maturely, developing the kinds of relationships that will nurture talent and motivate employees to achieve productivity goals. In a climate of arbitrary and capricious behavior, though, most of the acts of intimidation are conducted through managerial mechanisms (scheduling, work evaluations, disciplinary actions). Some administrators behave in manipulative and vindictive ways that appear to be designed to give them sole credit for productivity and place blame on others for problems, and, alarmingly, this seems to be the new “culture of the college”. We may speak in noble terms about “problem solving” and “shared governance,” but it is well known that singular ambitions and cynicism define the outlook of some administrators, who lack long-term investment in the system as well as a personal knowledge/commitment that they will be here when the long-term effects of their work are felt.
Is there a way toward solving these problems? Absolutely, but some administrators are not going to like it. We must have a universal Quality Assurance System. Administrators, like teachers, have a broad and profound effect. Thus, instead of being evaluated on narrow grounds such as accomplishments and productivity (the annual brag sheet), administrators (as well as their bosses) should be evaluated broadly and their supervisors should collect anonymous feedback. This is known as a “skip-level” review. For example, the Board would survey all the employees about the President’s performance; the President would survey all the middle-level managers about the VPs; the VPs would survey staff and faculty about their immediate supervisors. This method is perfectly consistent with a continuous-improvement philosophy and it would provide authentic and rich data from which new benchmarks could be established. Once the surveys are complete, the aggregate data should be reported back to the employees with a plan that addresses how they intend to act on that feedback. In this way, managers, VPs, and even the President can be alerted to emerging problems, demonstrate inclusiveness and transparency, base initiatives on actual data, and ultimately eradicate the “us versus them” mentality by walking the walk with us.
- A faculty evaluation “pilot study” committee is being formed to examine: “What should an A&S full-time faculty evaluation system look like to meet the requirements of FQAS and be useful to faculty?” The first meeting occurred on Nov 21, 2:30-3:30, Truax C2447 (Faculty Evaluation Issue Analysis Sheet)
- A&S department chairpersons delivered a letter to Provost Bakken detailing their interests and concerns about the PT Faculty workload / compensation package, which was worked out among representatives of the former PT Union and administrators. The proposal is scheduled to be delivered to the President by Dec 15 for inclusion in the 2017-2018 budget. (Part-time faculty compensation and workload proposal; Arts and Sciences Chairperson’s letter to Provost Bakken)
- Event: Theresa Valencia, on behalf of your Union, is coordinating “A Gathering for Tolerance, Solidarity, and Inclusion” , which will be held on Tuesday, November 29th at Truax in room D1630B from 12-2p. (Event handbill)
“The gathering is being held to assure our students and employees that MATC is committed to its values of student success, diversity, inclusion and tolerance and to provide them with an opportunity to share their concerns and experience. It will provide students with information and access to supportive resources. Food and refreshments will be provided and the event is open to the entire MATC community, including family members.”
- Local 243 / Second Harvest Food Drive Success: Your Union Collected food and money donations and raised enough to purchase 1,000 meals.
“History, as nearly no one seems to know, is not merely something to be read. And it does not refer merely, or even principally, to the past. On the contrary, the great force of history comes from the fact that we carry it within us, are unconsciously controlled by it in many ways, and history is literally present in all that we do. It could scarcely be otherwise, since it is to history that we owe our frames of reference, our identities, and our aspirations.“–James Baldwin, 1965
We can ignore the past, but we can’t escape it.