Today: Apr 21, 2024

Accreditation POTENTIALLY at risk

Ellis McGinley Copy Editor

Faculty and students from the four Connecticut State Universities spoke against new contract proposals at a Board of Regents meeting Thursday, Feb. 18th, over WebEx.

“I want [students] to know the objective, unvarnished, unspun version of what’s happening, and then I want them to decide what they’re going to do,” said English professor Cynthia Stretch.

“This is not about whether I’m gonna get a raise next year. This is about whether Southern is a university next year.”

The BOR, Board of Regents for Higher Education, is the government association overseeing state universities. The CSU-AAUP, or the union, is the universities’ chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

The AAUP and the BOR negotiate contracts last negotiations took place in 2016. The resulting contract is effective until August 26th of this year, according to official documentation on the union website.

New contract proposals cut funding to the sabbatical leave committee, renegotiate faculty’s academic freedom violation report processes, and increase professors’ required.

Course load would increase from four per semester to five. “We really feel strongly that if we do not have the time or resources to do that kind of study or research,” Stretch said, referencing sabbatical research or other faculty research, “not just to read what is happening out in our fields, but actually do it, then what we’re doing with our students in our classrooms is not the real thing.”

NECHE, is the committee for all regional universities. It looks for faculty research as part of its accreditation process.

“If the university loses its accreditation, students can’t use federal financial aid. That would mean the BOR is willing to play a game of chicken with your Pell grant,” said Stretch.

“It makes no sense that the Board’s ideal contract would threaten our accreditation and impede our ability to provide a quality education,” said Theresa Marchant-Shapiro, professor of political science.

Marchant-Shapiro also said she used passages from previous union contracts, which this proposal would omit, to help accreditation.

“A pandemic is not an excuse for denying the request for fair compensation and treatment. Budget cuts are not excuses to act like children and call our hard-working faculty whiny,” said communications major Tess Buschmann, a senior.

CSCU spokesman Leigh Appleby said “it is unfortunate that a small few… would whine publicly rather than negotiating in good faith.”

Appleby was quoted multiple times throughout the meeting. Also cited was CCSU professor Christopher Duocot’s experience teaching from a hospital bed. Duocot is part-time and does not gain sick leave. BOR Chairman Matt Fleury recognized other points made during the public hearing, such as the critiques of the BOR’s age demographic and how they received harsh criticism in “ways which might not be necessarily terribly constructive in terms of collegiality.”

rms of collegiality.” The point the Board has made in other interviews: they “do not negotiate their contract in a public setting,” making the hearing an exception.

“My advice to a student seeking to learn more … is by tuning into the CSU-AAUP’s social media pages on Facebook, Twitter, and chime into their website for frequent updates,” said Joshua Cam, a Southern transfer student from Norwalk Community College.

“Over [at NCC], I was part of their SGA and we’ve had a plethora of meetings to combat the BOR proposal. We pointed out inconsistencies as well as in their own miscommunication of information. We’ve even went to the capitol to continue to message of their Students First proposal, which is still an ongoing procedure which has not been given the proper amount of attention,” said Cam.

The Student First proposal is an ongoing initiative to consolidate twelve Connecticut community colleges into a single institution.

“I really want to encourage students to get involved now with the work the CSU-AAUP is doing,” Bushmann said in a later interview. “Unfortunately, with stuff like this it’s about strength in numbers, and we won’t be heard unless we have more students standing with us.”

Photo credit: Roma Rositani

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