The May 4 Yuba College Summit at Southridge Golf Club broke out into periodic episodes of effectiveness. Discussions between the college’s administration, faculty and classified staff became quite heated and confrontational as the topics of trust, truth and train wrecks were considered.
The first hour of the summit included an introduction of our new Vice President of Instruction, Dr. Alan Lowe. Following the cordial introduction, Chair of the Board of Trustees Alan Flory addressed the group of approximately 60 with opening remarks. Board member George Nicholau also provided an uplifting salute to the principles of trust and respect. These remarks would foreshadow the rest of the morning.
The attendees where then divided into workgroups to discuss the latest draft of the District’s Shared Governance Concepts, a guide for the development and implementation of a new governance structure based on openness, inclusion, and uniformity of decision making procedure in the district. However, the discussions soon evolved, not into a discussion of shared governance, but into a dialogue on the trust and morale at Yuba College.
The situation at Yuba College was described by many in the room as a “train wreck.” The issue of contention is the settlement of a collective bargaining contract to set salary levels and benefits for college faculty and classified staff. The college is currently in its third year of negotiation and progress has come to a standstill.
Because of the worsening state budget situation, California community colleges are facing a shortfall of state funds to finance teacher salaries and programs. Therefore, according to the Yuba College Faculty Association (YCFA), instructors are being asked to accept intolerable sacrifices. Main points of contention revolve around health benefit policy for faculty and staff at the college. The payment of office hours for part-time instructors has also been contested.
Most anger and distrust has resulted from what the YCFA calls “downwardly spiraling offers.” In spring of 2001, the YCFA was told that previous commitments to increase compensation triggered by increases in Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) would not be honored. Moreover, the faculty was being asked by the District to accept a less comprehensive health insurance plan while salaries remain unenhanced. Such a deal would force faculty to accept an effective decrease of $2,600 annually in compensation.
The faculty negotiation team has proposed a settlement that, in their opinion, would provide the district with significant cost savings over the next few years while still adjusting faculty salaries to match the average of surrounding colleges. So far, no progress has been made.
Xavier Tafoya, a Trustee, attempted to provide perspective on the desperate situation. “We can either sink or swim. We need to get over it. Some people have been lied to and cheated,” he explained. It was clear though that many were not ready to move on.
“We are angry about the way we are being treated now,” said history Professor David Rubiales who has served as both faculty negotiator and president of the faculty association. “I have not done a single thing for you (Board of Trustees) not to trust us. I am not upset about the past. I am upset about the present.”
Other faculty expressed their frustration at the negotiation process and the Saturday morning meeting. “Many of us are sitting here with very cynical attitudes. My heart is not it,” said math and science Professor Steven Klein referring to the meeting. “We need to take care of mortgage payments at home. Then we can truly move ahead. We need to do it in a timely fashion.”
Math Professor John Thoo echoed Klein’s sentiments, “We come to work everyday, and we should not be devalued. We should be more valued.””We remember days when collegiality was commonplace at Yuba
College. The Yuba College family did exist not too many years ago. Why is it gone now?” asked English Professor Tim May. His desperation for a more congenial atmosphere between classified staff, faculty and administration appeared to be shared by all.
President Harrington, attempted to facilitate dialog, stressed the importance of rebuilding trust. She explained that trust “is going to be repaired by consistent actions following words.” She also declared her resolve to “do what we need to do each day to dispel this.”
Trustee George Nicholau appeared most sincere about his need to mend trust between faculty and administration. “We should be addressing how to trust each other. You can get me to trust you by being truthful. Have I earned your trust? That is my concern,” Nicholau asked.
Although the desperation was palpable among the attendees, many seemed cynical in their comments. The three students attending the summit expressed their sadness at the state of bad morale within the campus community. All attendees expressed their hope to resolve problems so that Yuba College students are not negatively impacted.