Letter of Support: ACCFL

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November 4, 2015

Dear President Stefanco and Board Members Calogero and Nolan,

I am writing today on behalf of the members of the Albany County Central Federation of Labor. Among our members are College of Saint Rose alumni. We are contacting you to express our concern about ongoing labor issues and your impending plans to make major cuts in your student programs and full time faculty. As members of the Albany community, we are proud to have your excellent liberal arts college in our area. Its nearly 100 year mission has been centered on delivering a high quality and well-rounded education focused on the liberal arts and teacher education.
We have followed developments at the school very closely beginning with the formation of your adjunct faculty union which was overwhelmingly voted into existence by a 3 to 1 margin. We expected that the strong message sent by that vote would prompt quick action to provide your adjunct faculty’s key demands of fair and equitable compensation and longer term contracts that provide increased job security, among others. We are disappointed that more than a year later and after 10 months of negotiations, the administration has still not reached an agreement with your new union. This is your chance to help reverse a disgraceful trend in overreliance on undercompensated and insecure contingent faculty, and to take a stand for social justice by helping to lead the way in restoring a proper valuation of academic professionals. We urge you to do everything in your power to settle this contract before the end of this semester so that your faculty can begin teaching in the spring under terms that provide a living wage and solid job security assurances.

We were also concerned to hear about last spring’s cuts to 40 staff positions and full time employee benefits. Dr. Stefanco was quoted in the local press at the time suggesting that further cuts would not be needed. However, it has come to our attention that plans are currently being drawn up to eliminate and shrink programs in a variety of areas in an attempt to reduce labor costs. Part of those plans involves the elimination of numerous full-time tenure track and tenured faculty positions. It is our understanding that the faculty voted to reject participation in a process that they feel does not give them appropriate input or influence over the plan’s academic impacts. The end result of these plans will involve a disturbing attack on tenure, a fundamental job protection that has been at the core of higher education for many years. When faculty members cannot count on tenure to assure them job security, they also cannot operate with full academic freedom, another core value which assures freedom of speech and unfettered creativity and innovation in our educational institutions. This will do harm to your faculty and to your students, whose choices of major, programs and courses will be narrowed.

Administration spokespeople have contended publicly that this plan to cut programs and faculty is a “growth strategy”. Even if some increased investment occurs in certain areas, we do not see how eliminating so many faculty members will broaden curriculum or assure the school’s adherence to the liberal arts mission on which the school was founded and has upheld for nearly one hundred years. If the actual goal is, as college representatives have stated, to reduce labor costs, this is not a growth strategy. Cuts quite simply do not constitute growth.

Various statements made by administration spokespeople assert that the college is forced to make these cuts as a result of a structural deficit caused by declining enrollments. What is consistently ignored as a cause has been the college’s extensive borrowing for a series of construction projects and real estate purchases undertaken with the stated goal of increasing enrollments. In fact, recent statements continue to describe this construction boom as a significant benefit to the school. However, it is clear that despite that massive borrowing, the strategy has not reversed declining enrollment. In short, the college administration and Board gambled heavily on construction excessive real estate purchases as a solution to demographically driven enrollment declines and that strategy has failed. It has left Saint Rose with 70% of its property mortgaged. Rather than increasing enrollments, all that has increased is the college’s debt.

Now, the Board and the Administration, rather than taking responsibility for this failed gamble has decided to shift the burden of their failed management strategy onto the students, staff and faculty, none of whom had a hand in creating the financial problems. Meanwhile, the ranks of upper level administrators have continued to grow while staff and now faculty have been turned out of their jobs. This is not an acceptable solution. This cannot be described as in the student’s interests. It undermines their educations and the college’s traditional mission. This plan is an abdication of leadership. The buck should stop with those who decided to risk the financial future of the college on a failed strategy.

Therefore, we demand that the Board and the administration immediately halt all plans to make program and faculty job cuts. We also insist that full time benefits be returned to previous levels. If cuts are indeed needed to assure the financial viability of the college, a plan should be developed that places the bulk of the burden on the executive administration that saw fit to engage in policies that resulted in the current financial difficulties. A range of options is available including reducing the number, compensation and perks enjoyed by executive level administrators. It could also involve selling off some of the mortgaged properties whose purchase, construction and renovation underlies the issue. Loss of properties is far less harmful to your students than loss of their faculty and mentors. All of these and other options should be explored and implemented before there is any consideration of eliminating student programs and faculty jobs. Should faculty cuts still prove needed after the above remedies are implemented, those cuts should only take place after a thorough and detailed consultation with faculty that produces their undeniable buy-in to the process.

We will be following these developments very closely in the months to come.

In solidarity with Saint Rose students and faculty,
Douglas A. Bollock
1st Vice President of the Albany Central Federation of Labor
Albany County Legislator

With the unanimous support of all members in attendance 11/4/15:
Barbara A. Baxter
2nd Vice President

Lawrence Wittner
Executive Secretary

Wayne McMahon

Steve Redler
Sargent at Arms

Dominick Patrignani

Toni Norfleet

Steve Zahurak

Elizabeth Moran

Susan J. Dubois

Daniel J. Kelly

William J. Stackman III

Kim Dunham

Vincent Commisso