What's Really Happening - 2002/12/19

 

 

What's Really Happening

Columbus State Education Association Newsletter of  December 19, 2002

GOING BY THE NUMBERS

The CSEA Negotiating Team met with the Board's representatives on Wednesday, December 18, in response to an offer to discuss "new ideas" the Board had for resolving outstanding issues. At the outset of that meeting, HR Director Tim Wagner admitted that the Board's calculations of the cost of the Fact Finder's recommendations had been inaccurate-overestimating the cost by $3.4 million. CSEA was prepared to accept this admission and proceed with fact-based negotiations. But the President's attempt in a campus-wide email to dismiss gross incompetence as "the difference between the two proposals.[being] stated incorrectly" demands a response.

  1. Beginning at a negotiating session in June, then again in July, and then again in August, CSEA negotiators asked for an opportunity to go over all salary proposal calculations with College staff and administrators responsible for finances. We wanted to make sure that, if we were disagreeing, we were disagreeing about the same thing. Each time, the Board's negotiators rejected our request, saying that any issues related to compensation would not be discussed until the end of negotiations.
  2. At the end of negotiations, during both mediation and the fact-finding hearing in October, CSEA explained and demonstrated to HR Director Tim Wagner and Dr. Snider that the Board's calculations over-estimated the difference between the Board's salary proposal and CSEA's salary proposal by about 80%. They ignored our figures and provided the Board with numbers so inaccurate that even English professors recognized the error.
  3. The Fact Finder compared salaries at comparable institutions in the state, reviewed both sides' proposals, and made an impartial recommendation. CSEA negotiators provided their members with these figures, and despite having to concede numerous other issues (including giving up 7 months in pay raises) CSEA members approved the Fact Finder's recommendations in order to reach an agreement.
  4. The Board's negotiating team persisted in its misrepresentation of the costs. Based on this misrepresentation, the Board rejected the Fact Finder's report and delayed a fair settlement. The President then issued a press release claiming that the Board's action was based on the (incorrect) "$7 million more" that the Fact Finder's recommendation would supposedly cost over the Board's proposal.
  5. At a meeting December 5, CSEA negotiators again demonstrated the inaccuracy of the Board team's calculations, providing a written explanation and the suggestion that the document be shared with the President, the VP for Business and Finance, and the Board (this memo is attached). The Board team continued to maintain that if a faculty member was paid $50,000 one year and $52,000 the next, the College's cost was $152,000, or [$50,000 + ($50,000 + $52,000)]. The attached "A Fable about Celery" illustrates the Board's logic.

    CSEA also offered to hire an independent accountant or auditor to review the proposals, and agreed to abide by that neutral party's conclusions.
  6. At a meeting of department chairs the following week, a Board negotiating representative once again defended the Board's figures in an attempt to shore up its indefensible position. Following the meeting, chairs' discussions among themselves and with faculty led to a single conclusion: the Board's figures were nonsense.
  7. The President now says the error was discovered by "independent internal and external reviewers familiar with these types of financial analyses." Where were these internal experts during the five months that CSEA negotiators patiently requested meetings with them? Why weren't they involved in the negotiations? How does an administration responsible for over 22,000 students, thousands of employees, and a $90 million annual budget believe that simply saying "Oops!" excuses managerial incompetence that produces figures that nearly double what they should be and result in the Board's rejection of an independent Fact Finder's recommendation? The administration's behavior suggests gross incompetence, a dismissive attitude toward serious negotiations, a thinly veiled contempt for faculty, or some combination of all of these.

These concerns are matched by questions about other management issues. The accuracy of the College's crime figures (particularly regarding firearms and auto thefts) has emerged as an issue in other contract talks. In the recent past the President has selected and hired managers who were not ranked by hiring committees among the top three candidates for their respective positions. There is a disturbing trend in the College's management that seems to value appearances over skills, style over substance, and cronyism over qualifications. Are we seeking quality as an institution, or simply counting up students and shuffling insiders from one job to another?

THE BOARD'S "NEW IDEAS"

At the December 18 meeting, the Board's negotiating team presented what the President called "a new package" of proposals. It appears, however, that these "new ideas" are old wine in old bottles.

While accepting many aspects of the Fact Finder's report, the Board's offer proposed no salary schedule. The salary proposal offered December 18 is virtually identical to the handwritten proposal the Board's negotiators handed to CSEA during mediation: a 3% raise retroactive to January 1; an additional 2% retroactive to July 1; another 3% on July 1, 2003; and another 2% on July 1, 2004. The proposal would also include additional 1% steps for current faculty in July 2003 and July 2004. Under this proposal, a faculty member will still never progress to the top of his/her rank during an entire teaching career.

In addition, the Board proposed that faculty give up 2 personal days, reducing the number to 4, with the opportunity to be paid for up to 2 unused days, but only if NO personal leave is used during a calendar year. In other words, if you use any personal time, there is no buy-back.

One thing needs to be made clear: the Board's negotiators at no time argued that CSCC could not afford the CSEA salary proposal. In fact, to do so would have been silly, since all financial data show that the College has more than $50 million in cash and cash equivalents on hand and the College continues to predict enrollment and revenue increases. (No other community college in the state has financial stability or enrollment increases close to ours.)

Instead, what the Board has done is to avoid an argument it could not win (with an independent and neutral fact finder) so it could argue now, in a somewhat different form, that it "can't afford" to improve historically low faculty salaries. This is like the defendant who pleads "no contest" in courtroom and then wants to argue at sentencing that he didn't do anything wrong. At that point, the time for excuses is over. In our case, the excuses continue-and at what cost to intra-College relationships and morale?

The Negotiating Team is reviewing the Board's proposal and preparing a counter proposal. We hope to meet for further discussions within the next two weeks.

CONCERNS ABOUT A SECOND CAMPUS

A recent article in the Columbus Dispatch explored the administration's development of a plan for a second campus, probably in southern Delaware County. To our knowledge, no faculty or staff have been part of the discussions that have led to a feasibility study and now a business plan for a second campus. More important is the distinct likelihood that creation of a northern campus will segregate the College by creating a largely white campus designed to make access to education more "convenient" for students in predominantly white northern suburbs, reversing 30 years of progress in central Ohio.

The "second campus" concept seems to have emerged from nowhere in the past two years. The idea does not appear in any serious form in the College's strategic plan, which several years ago projected growth options for the next 25 years. CSEA also finds it curious that while internal administration communications have claimed that city government opposes additional expansion by the College at its current location, Mayor Coleman's spokesperson Mike Brown was quoted in the article as saying just the opposite. In recent conversations with CSEA, Brown expressed surprise that this message is being conveyed within the College. Since faculty have been excluded from the exploratory phase of the College's plans, we intend to continue discussions of this vital issue with representatives of the city and other community groups that are interested in this issue. We encourage you to ask questions and consider the implications of this plan for the College's mission. Among the questions we have are:

  1. Is growth for its own sake a goal of Columbus State?
  2. How is enrollment growth affecting the quality of education for our students?
  3. What can the State and City be doing to assist the College in meeting demand for its services to the community?
  4. How effectively is the College meeting the needs of students, staff, and faculty with our current size and enrollment?
  5. What options is the College considering for creative use of its current main campus?
  6. How will the Board address the strong possibility of racially segregating the College?
  7. How can the entire College and the community address these questions?

The College has planned several "forums" for Winter Quarter on this second-campus concept. Given the secretive nature of planning so far and the history of past "forums," there is little reason to believe that these will be participatory gatherings in anything but name. Show up and "participate," but don't expect your concerns to change the direction of a train that's already built up momentum without you.


What's Really Happening is produced by the Communications Committee of the Columbus State Education Association. We welcome your comments, news, and insights.

Steve Abbott, President / x5096
Karl Rieppel, Vice President / x2500
Amy Brubaker, Secretary and Association Representative / x5068
Greg Goodhart, Treasurer / x5431
Darrell Minor, Parliamentarian / x5310
Bill Mundy, Association Representative / x5176
Dr. Jane McDowell, Association Representative / x2656 
Dave Busch, Association Representative / x5079
Dr. Charlie Gallucci, Association Representative / x5499
Leslie Smith, Association Representative / x5302
Dr. Wendy McCullen-Vermillion, Association Representative / x2693
Lisa Schneider, Association Representative / x5124


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