Administration Resolutions Under Fire from Teachers Union
To say that the administration of the college and the rest of the faculty currently do not see eye to eye would be an understatement. According to a recent poll of the faculty done by the WCC Federation of Teachers, the local teachers union, faculty trust in administration was at 15%.
A Vote of No Confidence was issued against former interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Peggy Bradford on February 8, 2017. Many within the union frequently criticize the administration, including President of the Union, Mel Bienenfeld, who says that WCC has little to no respect for its staff. Amidst these tensions, two resolutions submitted by the President’s office to the Westchester Community Board of Acquisitions have come under intense scrutiny.
The resolutions in question, submitted on April 27, 2016, were submitted as Resolution 51918, “to exempt from Westchester County Procurement Policy an Agreement with Corporate Cost Control Inc.,” and Resolution 51919, “to enter into an agreement with Corporate Cost Control Inc.” These resolutions were signed off by President Belinda Miles and were approved by the Board of Trustees on May 26, 2016.
Corporate Cost Control (CCC), a company based in New Hampshire, dedicates itself to aiding organizations to challenge unemployment insurance claims from their employees. According to the resolutions submitted to the Board, CCC has “been providing these services to the college for a number of years.”
Most affected by these services are the adjunct faculty, part time teachers who frequently face a severe lack of job security and who make up a majority of the teachers at WCC. According to Bienenfeld, this cooperation reveals “the emptiness of WCC’s claims that it fully respects our adjuncts.”
According to Richard Courage, the Communications Director of WCCFT, the union has been “exploring the issue of whether adjunct faculty are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits,” but recent cases have brought the union into conflict with CCC.
After one adjunct faculty member attempted to claim his benefits, the college challenged the claim and at the hearing, brought in CCC to help them. This has become a common experience of adjunct faculty who have attempted to claim their benefits. Though many who pursue the case do win, a large number of them simply drop the case due to the obstacles CCC puts into place, making the hearing a tiresome and intimidating process.
Courage says that this deal is simply a scare tactic meant to keep faculty from claiming insurance and speaks to a larger issue within the college. He says that the college can help their staff members by providing more job security, but “instead they choose to intimidate people.” This sentiment is shared by Bienenfeld and those within the Union, though the President’s Office disagrees.
When the President’s Office was reached out to for comment, Patrick Hennessey, the Director of College Community Relations, said that the deal “is a long-standing arrangement that mirrors Westchester Community” and that the “administration values all employees.” No further elaborations were made on how the deal benefits the college as a whole, but the resolutions made to the Board insisted that CCC has done good work for the college.
In a poll done by WCCFT, 57% of the full-time faculty felt satisfied with college compensations and benefits, and 41% of adjunct faculty say they feel satisfied. Hennessy said that the administration is working to advance “our mutual benefits on behalf of our college” and points to recent contract negotiations as a sign of that progress, but Bienenfeld calls such words empty. The March issue of FT Connect, the union newsletter, states on the front page “NO Confidence in Admin.”
This debate over the deal with CCC has wider implications for the student body as well. According to Resolution 51919, a payment of $11,200 is to be made to CCC over the course of a four-year period. While $5,712 will be coming from state aid and tax dollars, the other $5,488 will be coming from tuition money paid by students.
“If I were a student, might I have an opinion about how my tuition is being spent?” Courage said.
With faculty trust in leadership falling to 15%, votes of no confidence being taken against senior members of the college, and union members such as Bienenfeld saying they don’t believe the college has any respect for their staff, tensions in the college faculty are reaching a critical point, and it is difficult to say how exactly these tensions can be resolved. The only thing for certain is that this arrangement with CCC is not a popular one among the faculty.