Greetings, All –
This is my first semi-official email to the GRCC Faculty as your new Faculty Association President. This is semi-official because I’m not technically your president until August 25. Fred van Hartesveldt remains in that role through the 24th.
Regardless, I wanted to share with you what I’ve been thinking and doing over the summer to move into this new and exciting endeavor.
Right out of the gate I’ve got nothing. Well, not totally nothing. Fred and Jeff have been co-chairing the negotiations this summer. I’m not part of that team thus I don’t have an in-depth understanding of all the issues and progress. I have been getting some updates. I know it is moving slow. We have some agreements and in other places there is a big gap. Fred will be providing you will more detailed info soon. We’re a complicated organization and sometimes progress takes time. I remain optimistic.
My Role As President
While I shared my philosophy of leadership and of the community college during the election period, I want to return and elaborate on these principles. I think it is important to lay a foundation for how I will approach my work as president. I believe in the mission of the community college. I believe we are here to transform the lives of our students and the community we service. I believe in the professionalism and competency of the faculty. I believe we should work in an environment that acknowledges and supports the faculty role as the primary value-added service to our students. It is these beliefs that will drive my leadership and decision making.
To that end, I want the faculty association to continue to develop and facilitate an academic culture of critical reflection and open dialogue. This isn’t new, it’s imbedded in many of our systems. However, I’m not certain it has always been clearly articulated up front as a way of working together. Here’s a simple breakdown of how I see the primary elements of this model –
- Learning focused
- Faculty driven
- Evaluation of self
- Evaluation of practice
- Understanding of context
- Seek to understand why others believe what they believe
- Speak honestly
- Professional obligation to participate
Why is it important to outline something that we already do? It’s to hold our system accountable. It’s to have a metric by which we can evaluate the thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of the organization.
Ultimately I am a process person. I believe if you create good process, many problems can be eliminated. If we start from the premise that we are an academic culture of critical reflection and open dialogue, we can continue to create systems that place student learning first, coupled with the primary role of faculty.
Obviously I need your input and support. I believe in the power of community. Faculty Council is our constant forum for faculty interaction and decision making. I will encourage every member of Council to help me vet and evaluate the issues most important to our work and wellbeing. With that, each of us as members need to stay connected with our respective faculty council representative.
Of course settling the contract is paramount. As I said earlier, right now that is still in the hands of the negotiating team. If we don’t have a contract by the start of the school year, I am prepared to step in and work with our team to do what needs to be done to meet this need.
One issue that has been identified as a concern by many faculty is increased communication from the academic administrators. I have met with Provost Chesley to communicate this concern. I asked her to work with her administrators to identify each of their specific roles and connect them to a communication plan that identifies what should be communicated, to whom, in what form, and at what schedule. She has agreed to do this and will be sharing this new model early in the school year.
I believe in dealing with issues before they become problems. One issue we have before us is a new Faculty Association President (me) and a whole bunch of new academic administrators. Because of this, I asked Provost Chesley if we could convene a meeting with all her leaders and all the Association leaders to have an open conversation on areas that have worked well in the past and areas where there have been problems. We would then do our best to optimize those things that work well and mediate those things that don’t work so well. She has agreed to this meeting. We will be setting a date for early October.
We will also have new leadership at the highest level of the college. We currently have started the search for a new GRCC President and we have three open seats on the GRCC Board of Trustees. The presidential search process is underway and faculty are well represented. Both myself, as well as Fred, are on this team along with several other great colleagues. For the BOT, I am going to suggest the Faculty Association again hold a Q&A session with the five candidates running for the three slots. I will ask Council this Fall to approve this activity.
All that being said, at our core we are legally a labor union. Borrowing heavily from other sources, a union is an organized group of workers who collectively use their strength to have a voice in their workplace. Through a union, workers have a right to impact wages, work hours, benefits, workplace health and safety, professional development, and other work-related issues. Having support from the union to ensure fairness and respect in the workplace is one of the key reasons workers organize.
I believe in this mission and be assured I will do my best to continue the Association’s role in maintaining a work environment that benefits our needs, and in turn, the needs of our students and ultimately our community.
To start this new journey with a new Faculty Association President, we have a Faculty Association meeting scheduled for Friday, August 26 from 10:00 – 11:30 in room 348 of the Science Building. (The Music Building is finally receiving its badly needed renovation.) The primary focus of that meeting will be an overview of negotiations and any next steps. An agenda will be forwarded to you soon.
Thank you again for electing me as your next president. It is an honor that I don’t take lightly. I look forward to working individually with as many of you as possible and collectively representing all of you.
Enjoy the last few days of summer and I look forward to reconnecting on August 25 at the opening sessions of the college.