Welcome Back


by Julie Thompson, Regular Faculty Member in the English Department, AFA President, and Negotiations Team Member

On behalf of the twenty-four faculty members who represent you on the AFA Executive Council, Cabinet, and Negotiating Team, I would like to welcome you to the semester's first issue of Update, AFA's online newsletter. My thanks to Terry Mulcaire, our new Publications Coordinator, and the other members of the Publications Workgroup—Paula Burks, Deirdre Frontczak, Warren Ruud, and Mike Starkey—for pulling this together in just a few weeks. In this issue, you'll see some familiar pieces—articles that we run each fall because they're pertinent to deadlines (filing for retirement, anyone?) or to tasks that faculty members are engaged in at this moment—for example, departments are currently working on the Spring 2013 schedule, so we're once again running our primer on hourly assignments.

In this and future issues of Update, you'll also see something new: articles that not only give you information but that also provide context so that all faculty members may better understand the work AFA does, how we do it, and the parameters we work within. During my time as AFA President, I plan to use Update, along with other AFA resources, for educating the people on questions and issues they want more information about. For example, a number of emails we receive from faculty members have helped me to realize that many people would like to know how our negotiating process works.  ("Interest-Based Bargaining" is the bargaining technique mutually agreed upon by AFA and the District.)  In a given year, why does AFA work on some articles and not others? What are we working on now? (For negotiations at a glance, click here.)  Why is there usually a big crunch in the spring, with the tentative agreement being announced right as the school year is winding up? You'll find answers to these and other questions in this and future newsletters.

A small team of us—Warren Ruud, our immediate past President and current Chief Negotiating Officer; Mike Starkey, Vice President of the Santa Rosa Campus; and Jacqueline McGhee, our new Conciliation/Grievance Officer—has been visiting faculty across campus, joining department meetings so that we can share information about Prop 30, discuss changes to the CalSTRS retirement system, and hear from faculty. We have learned that the faculty wants more information about the status of the Compressed Calendar project, what we're doing about SRJC faculty salaries, and Article 16. This issue of Update has an easy-to-read FAQs piece on Article 16, and we will be providing information on the Compressed Calendar project as the task force completes its work this semester and the issue will soon start to move through the negotiating process.

As for faculty salaries, we were successful in holding the line against further monetary concessions in our most recently ratified contract. But, as many of you are aware, the salary schedules have been frozen since 2010-11, and have been declining relative to those of our colleagues at other California Community Colleges. While that relative shortfall may be shrinking as the full impact of the budget crisis hits those other colleges, this hardly counts as good news for SRJC faculty. We all feel it as the cost of living increases but our paychecks don't budge, and we are deeply troubled by this. Taking a broader perspective, however, we see that our declining salaries have profound implications for future faculty hiring. For decades, SRJC's Rank 10 salary provision gave hiring committees access to the strongest candidates in the country, which in turn secured the College's legacy of excellence. We must work to preserve Rank 10 so that SRJC is well positioned as we begin the arduous and exciting task of replacing the fifty percent of faculty who are eligible to retire. We need the strongest faculty possible as we work to preserve quality education in the face of changes that are being imposed by Sacramento.

One of the most critical issues on the table right now is Prop 30. If it passes, the California Community College System will receive approximately $210 million. If it doesn't pass—or if it passes but Prop 38 (Molly Munger's competing initiative) passes with more votes—the hit to the CCC system will be $338 million this year, and SRJC will take a $6.3 million hit, largely in the form of what the State calls a "workload reduction." A workload reduction is a reduction in the number of full-time equivalent students (FTES) that the State will fund. The number of our FTES has been declining for several years. We see it in the form of fewer course offerings, long-time adjunct faculty members for whom there is no longer any work, and the big groups of students crowding the doorways of our classrooms, hoping for an add code.

These challenging times require that we understand what's going on and why, and that we participate. We can't all do everything, but each of us can do something. In that spirit, we appreciate your efforts to read up on Props 30 and 38. Also, please join us on September 26 at 3:00 p.m. for Assemblymember Wes Chesbro's visit to SRJC; bring your questions about everything from retirement system changes to ballot initiatives. And finally, please read Update and our other email communications. And keep the conversation going by sharing your thoughts with AFA about other issues you'd like information about.



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