PLATTSBURGH — A large crowd of Clinton Community College students gathered on campus oval Wednesday to protest the planned layoff of 10 teachers and other staff.
Protesters waved signs bearing the names of various faculty members tagged for elimination in 2013-14 as some college employees looked on from the Moore Academic and Administration Building’s second-floor terrace.
“Do the math, save our staff,” students chanted, and “Layoffs are not a solution,” “We love our teachers,” and “We pay, it’s our say.”
People on the terrace cheered when one student screamed out, “Why can’t administration take a cut?”
Last month, Clinton Community College President John Jablonski announced that the college was planning to eliminate multiple faculty and staff positions for the 2013-14 academic year as a means of bridging a $600,000 budget gap it anticipates facing.
The cause of the deficit, Jablonski said at the time, was primarily a reduction of more than $800,000 in state aid over the past two years, about $225,000 of which was restored last spring, coupled with rising retirement and health-insurance costs.
Ten employees were notified last Friday that their positions would be cut at the end of the school year next spring.
Those who participated in the demonstration said they wished to show their support to those affected by the layoffs and felt it wasn’t right that teachers were losing their jobs.
“I’m trying to get the teachers back that got (laid off) that shouldn’t have, at least in my opinion,” CCC alum Mark Maddy told the Press-Republican during the protest.
“They can’t afford to have these professors and teachers, but they can afford construction projects, new vehicles for the college. They should be using it (the money) to support the teachers that bring in the money.”
In a separate interview, Jablonski noted that the college’s capital projects are separate from the annual operating budget.
Student and protester Siobhan Patnode told the Press-Republican that some of the those pegged for layoff are the best teachers she’s ever had at the college.
“I don’t think any of the teachers should lose their jobs … these people have families, and they’re great teachers,” she said.
TO EDUCATE, GAIN SUPPORT
“We are extremely proud of our students for standing up for something that’s important to them, and we’re very grateful for their support,” said June Foley, press officer and representative at large to the Executive Committee of the college’s Faculty Association.
Of the protest, Jablonski said he respected the right of the college’s students to have a voice.
“As long as it’s peaceful and respectful, it certainly is an appropriate way for them to express their ideas and concerns,” he said.
Shelby Patrie, a student senator who organized the demonstration with Ashley Lester, told the Press-Republican before the event that she did so in hopes of educating the student body and the community about the layoffs and gaining support for the college employees who are slated to lose their jobs.
“We love the faculty here,” she said.
‘BLOW TO ART’
Patrie added that she witnessed faculty members waiting by their office phones last Friday to see if they or colleagues were going to receive a summons to the president’s office.
It had been announced, Foley said, that phone calls regarding the layoffs would start at noon that day.
“The way that they laid people off was very undignified,” Patrie said. “It was very sad.”
Ian Burcroff, an assistant professor of humanities at Clinton Community, received notification that his position will be eliminated.
In addition to teaching art classes there for a number of years, Burcroff, who attended the student protest, also serves as the adviser to the school’s Art Club.
“Despite strong enrollment numbers in my classes and positive portfolio reviews of myself and my performance and strong student support in the arts, my position has been cut, which I think is a vote of no confidence in art at Clinton Community College and effectively says that art shouldn’t be taught here, and I disagree with that,” he told the Press-Republican.
‘RESPECT THE PROCESS’
Faculty Association President Catherine Eloranto, who was also at the event, said her group will be meeting with its attorney and, where applicable, plans to file grievances on behalf on the eight members of the association whose positions are being eliminated.
Eloranto told the Press-Republican that the association will look at each of the eight employees’ contracts to see if the college will violate any terms by laying off those individuals.
“If they did not abide by the terms of the contract, and they are not able to lay off an individual, then that’s what we’re going to use.
“The eight that are in our unit, we’re looking at every single one of them with the intent of grieving anything that we can grieve,” she said.
Jablonski said the college’s collective bargaining groups have the right to due process.
“We all have to respect the process, so we will do that,” he said.
Email Ashleigh Livingston: firstname.lastname@example.org