Press-Republican

February 22, 2013

CCC students, faculty concerned about lost opportunities

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Members of the Clinton Community College community expressed concerns this week that the planned 2013-14 layoffs will negatively affect the institution and its students.

“I keep hoping that we’ll wake up from this nightmare, that the decision-makers here will come to their senses and realize this is no way to run a college,” CCC English professor Vicky Sloan told the college’s Board of Trustees at a recent meeting.

The college announced in November that it would eliminate the positions of 10 faculty and staff members as a means of bridging an anticipated $600,000 gap in the budget for next academic year.

LOSS OF CLASSES

Several individuals addressed the board during the meeting, saying the positions tagged for elimination actually generate revenue for the college.

Faculty Association President Catherine Eloranto presented the board with a document showing calculations prepared by the association, which estimate that, after salaries and benefits, the teachers who are tagged for layoff next year will have generated $204,763 in revenue for the college in 2012-13.

Others stated that, as a result of the layoffs, several course sections will be eliminated next school year, making it difficult for many students to graduate on time.

According to data presented by Eloranto, the college’s schedule for the upcoming fall semester will include 38 percent fewer sections of fine-arts classes; 25 percent fewer sections of accounting and business courses; a 44 percent reduction in history, geography and political-science courses; and 55 percent fewer sections of health and physical-education classes.

Of the 426 humanities and social-science majors at CCC who are required to take a fine-arts course, Sloan said, 36 are planning to do so in the upcoming semester.

“The college will be offering only a course in darkroom photography and a course in theater performance,” she told the board. “Many of these 36 potential graduates will not find a course available and therefore will not be able to finish their degrees on time.”

ONLY FIRST DRAFT

But Clinton Community College President John Jablonski told the Press-Republican in a separate interview that the course-sections reductions referenced at the meeting were drawn from a first draft of the fall 2013 master schedule, which was never intended to be the final schedule.

“Every year, the master schedule goes through many drafts,” he said.

According to Jablonski, the first draft submitted to Cheryl Reagan, the school’s vice president for academic affairs, included the names of faculty members who won’t be employed at CCC in the fall, so Reagan crossed them out and sent it back to department chairs with the intention that they submit a second draft.

A second draft has not yet been submitted, Jablonski said. 

Sloan also noted at the meeting that several of the college’s programs require students to take a personal health or safety and first-aid course, the latter of which can only be taught by a state-certified instructor, and “the president just terminated the only instructor we have who is state-certified (to teach safety and first aid).”

REACHING GOALS

Reagan told the Press-Republican in an email that the challenges facing CCC will require the college to consider many options that will make the school look different than it does now but will still allow it to meet the needs of its students.

“We are in the process of discussing these options in such forums as the Curriculum Committee and Academic Council,” she said. “These discussions will be ongoing in order that each student can reach his or her goal, be it a certificate, a degree or courses that enrich work or life goals.”

SUPPORT FOR TEACHERS

Several CCC students also spoke at the meeting, telling the board of the positive impact faculty members tagged for layoff have had on their lives and academic careers.

“He’s an inspiration,” CCC student Stephen Wright said of Sami Jeskanen, an assistant professor in the college’s History, Political Science, Economics and Geography Department.

“And he’s not the only teacher,” added student Kayla Larkin. “All of the teachers that are getting laid off, students want them. They don’t want to come here if they can’t have the teachers that support them and inspire them and encourage them to go further.”

TERRIFIED

Other students expressed concern about the elimination of the college’s on-duty nurse, who is also tagged for layoff.

“It terrifies me to go to a school that’s not going to have a health provider on staff,” said Deliah Pringer, a student who has seizures. “It terrifies me to know that I might be in a lab or a classroom or an elevator and have a seizure and not have anybody there to help me ... Our students need our professors, and we need a nurse.”

‘NO CHOICE’

Board of Trustees Chairwoman Nina Coolidge told the Press-Republican the college’s trustees and administration care deeply about their students and are constantly working to provide them with the best programs and services.

However, the college is facing the historic challenges of declining public revenue and increasing costs, as are many educational institutions, she said.  

“The administration and the Board of Trustees have taken many steps over the past year to mitigate these challenges, but even more needs to be done to ensure the physical stability of the college. 

“With 85 percent of our annual operating budget going to salary, wages and benefits, there really is no choice but to look there for savings.”

Still, Coolidge noted, “the door remains open for collaborative solutions with our faculty union that will allow us to address the very real economic trends that face us while we maintain a high level of service to our students and to our community.”

RETIREMENT INCENTIVE

As an alternative to the layoffs, Chris Ford, a professor of technology at CCC, encouraged college officials to work with the Faculty Association to develop a college-wide retirement incentive program.

“You need to work with us,” he said at the meeting. “If you can get these groups working together on this plan, we can show you we can get all the cost savings you need, no litigation and minimal, if any, impact on the students. And we can probably knock this thing out in a couple months.”

“I thought it was a great suggestion,” Jablonski told the Press-Republican, “a very constructive suggestion and one that we are actively pursuing as recently as this week.

Email Ashleigh Livingston:

alivingston@pressrepublican.com