• Printer Friendly Version
  • Decrease Text Size Increase Text Size
  • Download as PDF

History of CSEA

History of the Columbus State Education Association

What is now Columbus State Community College began as the Columbus Area Technician School in the mid-1960's. From space in the old Central High School (now the site of COSI on the west bank of the Scioto River south of Broad Street), the technical school had moved into the old St. Thomas Aquinas High School. From that single building CTI had begun to add buildings to the surrounding area, a part of the African-American near east side of downtown Columbus that had been cut off from the rest of its community by the construction of Interstate 71 during the expansion of the interstate highway system in the late 60's and early 70's. Dr. Harold Nestor became president, and under his administration the school grew at an impressive rate.

First Attempt to Organize

By the mid-1970's, Columbus Technical Institute (CTI) faculty began efforts to organize a union to bargain collectively. Dr. Nestor believed strongly in the potential of the school, and his tenure was marked by increased funding coupled with a top-down management style that allowed for little faculty participation. Dr. Nestor created a Faculty Council that, after several years of being unable to create any sense of faculty governance, dissolved itself in frustration. Dr. Nestor re-established the Council, which struggled to achieve a meaningful level of faculty input in the school's operation. The major issues for faculty at that time would be surprisingly familiar to current employee-salaries, benefits, faculty input into decision making.

Second Attempt to Organize

In the late '80's another union drive was derailed. Shortly before the vote to establish union representation, Dr. Nestor persuaded the Board to increase the salaries of senior faculty by as much as 15% and agreed to establish a disciplinary process that included binding arbitration in cases of discipline and dismissal. Even with these transparent attempts to influence the vote, union representation failed by a narrow margin. When faculty attempted to invoke the binding arbitration provision, they were told that the College would not submit to arbitration, and that no outside decision would be binding on the College. In the absence of a legally binding agreement, a local court decision upheld the College's right to NOT be bound by its own Policies and Procedures.

CTI became Columbus State Community College in 1988, and a Faculty Senate replaced the old Faculty Council. However, the administration's attitude and relationship with faculty remained largely unchanged. Faculty Senate, created by the Board and funded by the administration, was a strictly advisory body, and its recommendations were routinely dismissed or ignored by the College. Faculty Senate presidents, most notably Prof. Bob Fitrakis, clashed regularly with the president or ground their teeth in silence. After Dr. Nestor died unexpectedly in 1995, faculty hoped for a more enlightened approach to faculty participation in College matters.

Dr. Moeller Arrives

When Dr. Valeriana Moeller was hired as president in 1996, faculty hoped for a more enlightened approach to faculty's role in the College. Again and again the faculty's elected representatives on the Faculty Senate researched issues and recommended changes in processes and structures, but the majority of their suggestions were taken "under advisement" and disappeared into an administrative black hole. The President and the Provost regularly questioned whether Faculty Senate-chosen in open elections-"really represented" the faculty.

In 1999 CSCC faculty had the highest workload in the state-20 contact hours per week compared to an average of 16 hours at other community colleges. The administration dragged its feet as a Workload Committee made up of faculty and administrators developed a proposal to adjust faculty workload to more reasonable levels. As the committee worked, the President demanded that any change in faculty workload be "cost neutral"-i.e., that this necessary improvement not cost any more money, despite soaring enrollments and revenues. In early 2000 officers and members of Faculty Senate began organizing the Columbus State Education Association to seek a union representation vote to establish a bargaining unit affiliated with the Ohio Education Association. Using funds that had remained in a bank account established more than 10 years earlier by Prof. Ed Laughbaum and Prof. Bob Fitrakis, organizers mounted a campaign for union representation.

Third Attempt to Organize

When the union representation vote loomed, the President took dramatic action, ordering a report from the Workload Committee that would reduce the classroom hours (but not overall work). When that vote failed by only 3 votes even after the workload realignment, faculty representatives met with the President and the Provost to suggest how addressing the issues that led to the union organizing drive would help to prevent another one. And an amazing thing happened: nothing.

Not one issue was addressed. Not a request to simply appoint a committee to study the possibility of a faculty salary schedule. Not the reduction in salary for the 80% of full-time faculty (a number unmatched in the state) who teach summer quarter. Not the near-total disregard for recommendations of Faculty Senate. Not the suggestion that long-term adjunct faculty be given 1-year appointments and some measure of medical benefits. Not the dangerously disproportionate ratio of part-time to full-time faculty. (And although the Board made a commitment to seriously address this issue in 2000, after one year it reduced the number of new faculty positions created to address increasing enrollments.)

Also, almost immediately after the unsuccessful union vote, the administration began cutting reassigned time provided in the new Workload Model for faculty in Career and Technical Programs. Only when another union organizing drive began did the administration restore these hours to faculty. But it made no difference this time. By a vote of 105-100, faculty approved union representation on November 1, 2001.