As you’ve probably figured out, I’m a big picture guy and my strategy has almost always included trying to reach outside my designated bounds to try to change the context in which I’m working. My feeling is that the health of CCFT and its members is connected to the health of the college and thus, my efforts to better things for faculty involves building and working toward a vision for the college that will improve the circumstances for all members of the college community.
This is a lofty and challenging goal. At another time or another place, it would be folly to suggest this as an operating philosophy, but we have the great fortune to live in a very progressive area in a very progressive state. This is not to discount the importance of the winds directing national politics. The winds blowing in Washington will affect our weather here in Santa Cruz, but take a minute and try to make a list of the colleges and communities best suited to define the progressive vision of public community college education. Are we not in the top 10 nationwide? Don’t we have a duty to show the way?
I feel like we’re working toward such a vision and it is incumbent on us to make that vision clear to everyone. We are part of the whole looking out for the whole. You won’t understand our actions if you don’t understand our vision of connectedness. My hope is to articulate that vision in these reports.
Janus vs. AFSCME: Preparing to Lose Agency Fees
Within the next year, it is exceedingly likely that the Janus vs. AFSCME case will be decided in the supreme court and public-sector unions, including CCFT, will no longer be able to collect agency fees from non-members to cover the costs associated with collective bargaining. More simply stated, for those who choose not to be members of the union, no fees will be collected.
When this happens, there will be many, very well-funded, anti-union interest groups that will be inundating you with information suggesting that you “give yourself a raise” and drop your union membership. They will suggest that it is the union holding you back and the union that is working against your interests. Please summon all your critical thinking skills and put this in context… Keep in mind where this message is coming from. Look at how things are progressing in Wisconsin under Scott Walker (https://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/14/magazine/scott-walker-and-the-fate-of-the-union.html).
Imagine that there was no union. As soon as you realize the benefit of bringing someone with you to a meeting with your manager, you have grasped the idea of the union. We don’t become more powerful by ourselves… Community makes us stronger. Try to go deep and ask yourself if you’d really have more power in negotiating your own contract? If you are sure that’s true today, then ask yourself how long that would remain true? I’ve worked in the private sector and I’ve seen the value of a person’s work change completely a few days after a product is complete or after taking a position that counters the top-down orthodoxy of the management chain.
Nearly all of us, including myself, can point to something we disagree with in the contract or in the discussions and compromises we’ve made in the past. This is the basic nature of a democracy: we try to move to the will of the majority. This process inherently leaves some individuals feeling at odds with the group, but within this democratic structure lies the chance for change. Individuals can work to educate others. They can work to build coalitions and change the direction the group is heading. The debate is healthy. If you feel the union has let you down, I encourage you to reach out to me or other members of the Executive Board or CCFT Council. The union is not all powerful and in many instances our best intentions and efforts fail. Some things require significant time and effort to shift and CCFT, like all entities, has limited resources and applies them based on current priorities. Your participation is the key tool in extending our resources and shifting our priorities.
Money matters. It would be wonderful to suggest that the union will be more powerful if we had less money and had less capacity to focus our energies on issues that matter to our members, but that isn’t realistic. If we lose members, we will lose the financial resources we use to represent you. About 1/3 of your dues stay local and nearly all of that is spent paying people for their efforts on your behalf.
I think it is also important for our members to see their contributions and their dues within the broader state and national contexts. The fact is that about 2/3 of your dues go to our affiliated unions. If you spend time talking to your peers across the state, you will find the context in which we function is a luxury afforded to us by our progressive community. There are governing boards that are openly hostile toward unions just as there are districts that cheered the adjunct seniority bill (SB 1379) because they had no existing contract provisions for adjunct rehire rights. Our contract is imperfect and we have no intention of shying away from our duty to improve it for our members. That said, know that in relation to some of our sibling unions across the country our contract is enviable. It is easy to think we would be just fine going it alone, but much of our success is connected to our affiliate unions and their efforts at the state and national levels. You are not an island, and neither is our union. If the efforts to dismantle unions are successful, we won’t be able the shield ourselves no matter how progressive our community is. We need to stand united with our brothers and sisters who will face existential challenges. A crafty opponent will always focus on the weakest and most vulnerable first. We need to remember that protecting them also protects us.
Growth and Guided Pathways
If you look only at the demographics of the areas Cabrillo serves it can be difficult to build the case for growth. Simply stated, we are not expecting the population graduating from local high schools to increase anytime soon. So, if our population of potential students is decreasing, how do we build the case for growth? We focus on changing our relationship and value to this same group of potential students.
While there are many facets to the Guided Pathways project, this idea of changing our relationship and value to our students is a central theme. There is ample evidence that only about one third of our students achieve their stated goal within six years of starting at Cabrillo. The promise of Guided Pathways is to increase these personal success rates. How Guided Pathways will look at Cabrillo is being designed right now. We aren’t implementing a predefined set of changes, we are reflecting on our students and processes and trying to design and implement changes that will address as many issues in our students’ lives as we can. This effort certainly reaches beyond the classroom, because we know that all aspects of a student’s life affect their educational progress. Can we connect students to jobs related to their fields of study earlier? Can we help them quickly recover from a failed class or tragic life event? Of course, we are not able to control many aspects of our student’s lives and getting an education will always be challenging. The premise of my growth argument is simply that as we get better at helping our students succeed, we will retain more of those students who, in the past, give up before achieving their goals. As these successful students live and work in our communities, they will create a positive loop in bringing more students to us.
To bring this back home to faculty: The state budget has financial incentives for growth. If we can document growth, our budget will expand and more funds will be available for faculty compensation.
Enhanced non-credit is an additional path to growth. It is being explored as an avenue to provide just-in-time extra help for traditional classes as part of Guided Pathways. It can also drive growth as it can bring non-traditional, older students to the college. We have a reopener on compensation for non-credit instruction this year and will be working to ensure our contract aligns with the faculty vision for enhanced non-credit.
Faculty and Guided Pathways
As you have probably gathered, I’m a proponent of the Guided Pathways efforts at Cabrillo. Much of this comes from connecting my desire to do better for our students with my engineer’s belief that change is the only way to make something work better. Sure, there is a danger of making things worse, but with a commitment to analysis and revision, we can rollback or shift changes that are not helping students. You have probably also heard me suggest that we need to align the contract with the Guided Pathways project. The idea here is to realize that the contract defines our relationship with the college and therefore has a significant role in defining and incentivizing certain kinds of faculty/student interactions. If our design of Guided Pathways seeks to change the nature of this interaction then it behooves us and the college to align the contract with the goals of Guided Pathways. If we think a bit more broadly here, we might find that we want to examine the contract incentives with respect to professional development. We may want to find ways to build in financial incentives for our adjuncts working with students in clubs and projects outside of class. I’m not suggesting I already know all the things we should look at, but the Guided Pathways project provides a rare opportunity where the college as a whole is embracing change and that willingness to change things might make negotiations around shared goals a bit easier.
While it might be difficult to consider a new bond campaign while the ghosts associated with the failure of Measure Q are still roaming campus, we need to face the prospect of this challenge head on. For your faculty representatives on the College Planning Committee (formerly, Council), the need for a bond, once again, became clear and the CPC-5 (as we affectionately referred to ourselves) sent an all faculty email about getting started on a new bond effort. Victoria Lewis and Paul Harvell were selected by CPC to take the investigation a bit further, and on Sep. 6th, the CPC recommended the Governing Board vote to form an ad-hoc committee to explore, in detail, the prospect of going out for a bond in the coming elections.
You will certainly hear more about this in the coming months and CCFT will be reaching out to you to understand your feelings and concerns about going out for a bond. Simply stated, the state budget is not designed to handle the maintenance and development of our campus infrastructure. Without a bond, our college will continue to divert general fund monies to projects that can and should be handled by bond funds and that will continue to negatively impact our members and our students. There is no debate in my mind that we should go out for a bond. The questions are really just when and for how much.
We shouldn’t enter the next few years thinking public education and public-sector unions will be protected by the status quo. There is just no rational justification for such a stance. We are fortunate to live in a progressive region, which gives us a chance of modeling a healthy, progressive relationship with our college, our students, and our community. While we have this duty to lead, we also have a duty to support our brother and sister unions across the state and across the nation. We need to do a better job connecting your personal struggles to the struggles of your peers here and across the nation. We need each other to make this work. We’ll need each other to make this work better!