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Not the Same Old Annual Meeting: The Colorado AAUP’s Shared Governance Conference in Durango.

October 4, 2014
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The view from Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO.

On September 5th, 2014, the Colorado Caucus of the AAUP held its annual meeting. Rather than have the same kind of gathering  we always do, the state leadership decided to devote the whole day to one theme: shared governance. We also decided to hold the meeting in Durango, home of the Fort Lewis College chapter which has gone from having no AAUP chapter to being the largest chapter in the state in less than a year. Our conference was a huge success, drawing between 35 and 50 people at different times during the day. It was also a wonderful opportunity to highlight the extraordinary range of expertise that our conference members possess.

What follows is a brief summary of the presentations.

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Panel #1 from left to right: Miranda Merklein of Santa Fe Community College, Tom Acker of Mesa State, Tim McGettigan of Colorado State University – Pueblo and Brian Burke of Fort Lewis.

After introductory remarks, we kicked off the conference with a panel on the state of shared governance in Colorado and beyond, thanks to our guest from New Mexico, Miranda Merklein. The idea was to get some of the problems on the table first, so that solutions could be considered for the rest of the day. While some of the stories that got told have already appeared in local newspapers and (in the case of CSU-Pueblo) the higher education press, each of the panelists gave a faculty-level view of what shared governance problems look like and what can be done to combat them. The great thing about a panel like this was that it allowed everyone to hear what they’re colleagues are going through and (if nothing else) made it clear that none of us are alone.

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Panel #2 from left to right: Don Eron of CU-Boulder, Jane Fraser of CSU-Pueblo, Jonathan Poritz of CSU-Pueblo and State Co-President Steve Mumme of CSU-Fort Collins.

Our second panel concerned best practices in shared governance. The advice was far-reaching, ranging from electronic communications policies to faculty representation in governance matters to simply understanding your own employee handbook. Co-President Steve Mumme’s presentation deserves special mention because he went back to some of the key statements emanating from the AAUP, the kind that tend to show up quoted in pieces in administrative statements and handbook language, and placed that language in its entire original context. The key takeaway: Don’t let anybody tell you what AAUP language means. Look at what the AAUP itself has to say about the concepts that it has pioneered during its nearly one hundred years of existence.

Our third panel was about adjunct labor and adjunct labor conditions. While not strictly a shared governance issue our caucus believes that adjunct labor issues are the most important issue that higher education faces because they underly everything else we do. Richard Wagner of Metro State in Denver spoke about what full-time faculty can do to improve the lives of adjuncts. Suzanne Hudson of CU-Boulder spoke about what the caucus has already done to improve the lives of adjuncts. Miranda Merklein of Santa Fe Community College and Caprice Lawless of Front Range Community College spoke about their experiences organizing adjuncts.

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Gary Rhoades of the University of Arizona, delivering his keynote address.

The conference concluded with an address from Gary Rhoades, former national AAUP General Secretary and head of the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona. Gary tailored his speech to address the shared governance concerns at Fort Lewis, but he also made many general points that applied to faculty across Colorado. For example, he noted that Colorado has been subject to an enormous amount of attention by the American Councils of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) a group which has little respect for the idea of shared governance. He also noted how IT offices have become increasingly important power sources on universities across America and how university attorneys have become increasingly active policy-shapers in recent years. Perhaps most importantly, Gary explained that in order for administrations to enact permanent reforms on campuses, they should respect shared governance so that faculty feel they have a stake in whatever those changes happen to be.

All-in-all, the executive committee of the Colorado AAUP was very pleased with the conference and it looks forward in trying something similar around a different theme before too long.

The Adjunct Cookbook: Foodbank-Friendly Concoctions

September 25, 2014

By publishing a cookbook like no other, instructors at Front Range Community College (FRCC) are teaching peers, students, parents, and others in the community about a situation that has reached a boiling point. Interspersed amid dozens of what the authors call “food bank-friendly concoctions,” the text is a primer in how the Colorado Community College System (CCCS) is slicing, dicing and shredding collegiate-level teaching. Many pages of research, audit charts and budget breakdowns document what the authors say is a recipe for catastrophe for the 163,000 Colorado students looking to those colleges for learning. FRCC has campuses in Longmont, Westminster, Ft. Collins and Brighton.

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Included are recipe categories such as “The Frappes of Wrath” and “Nobucks Coffee Drinks.” Recipes calling for beef scraps, bruised tomatoes, orange peelings and chicken bones point to a workforce living on the edge. “Cracked Windshield” is a mint drink based on cracked Lifesaver candies. “If Only” is a gin-and-tonic sans gin. “Sliding-Toward-Despair Asian Sliders” are, perforce, small and inexpensive to make.

The recipes, say the authors in the introduction, reflect accurately the working conditions of the college’s faculty majority. There is also much humor sprinkled in amidst evidence of hardship and other ponderous but necessary facts adjuncts need to know about why they are experiencing hardship.

The cheery cookbook, with the word “Adjunct” set in a fun style on the cover, is enticing, if the initial (sold out) print run is any indication. The authors believe that once teachers and students get the books home to read the recipes, they will discover many startling facts about their college. Most of those facts are public information, albeit well-hidden information, about a bloated administration consuming most of the $576 million in CCCS annual revenues.

With its many photographs and insights from lawmakers, authors report, readers “will see the faces of good people who know about the situation, will know who is already working hard to set things right, and will join us in addressing the rapidly expanding fault line in higher education.” The book also offers many local resources their AAUP chapter has found to help the adjuncts get through the workweek (food bank locales and hours, local contacts for food stamps, energy assistance, health-care, etc.).

“We hope the book helps them realize they have not failed, but that the system has failed them,” says Caprice Lawless, chapter president. The group did not copyright the cookbook, she said, because they want other adjunct groups around the country to use the model to promote their work on their campuses. Copies are available for a donation of $7.50 each (including shipping and handling), via the FRCC AAUP website:

https://sites.google.com/site/coloradoadjunctswiki/

 

We Care Health Fair to help CCCS adjunct faculty get health care

August 26, 2014

The American Association of University Professors has partnered with Colorado Connect for Health to host convenient, on-campus workshops for adjunct faculty to secure free or low-cost health care. The FRCC We Care Health Fair will be held 6:00-8:00 p.m. on Tues., Aug. 26, in Room C0402 on the Front Range Community College (FRCC) Westminster Campus, 3645 W. 112th Ave.

Following a brief overview of available programs, staffers from Colorado Connect for Health will help each attendee personally through the process of signing up for either Medicaid, for subsidized health coverage, or for making adjustment to their current coverage. They will have on hand several laptops to help participants. Attendees should bring along their 2013 income tax filings, two recent pay stubs, a recent house payment coupon (if a homeowner) and their driver’s licenses.

Approximately 85% of all courses at FRCC are taught by adjunct faculty who earn poverty-level wages. Many of those 1,200 teachers qualify for either free health care under Medicaid or low-cost, taxpayer-subsidized health care. The Colorado Community College System (CCCS) took further measures in June to avoid compliance under the Affordable Care Act. Those measures (fewer courses to teach, elimination of office hours on course syllabi) necessitate that most adjunct faculty adjust their already low incomes to levels even lower.

For further information, contact Suzanne Hudson, Secretary-Treasurer, AAUP Colo. Conf. at: Suzanne.hudson@colo.edu or Caprice Lawless, FRCC AAUP Chapter President, at: frccaaupchapter@gmail.coom

Banner Year for Conference Continues with National Committee Appointments

July 27, 2014

The Colorado Conference is pleased to announce that several members of the conference’s executive committee have been appointed by national AAUP president Rudy Fichtenbaum to committees of the association. Suzanne Hudson, secretary of the Colorado Conference and long-time contingent activist, has been appointed to the Committee on Contingency and the Profession. Caprice Lawless, president of the Front Range Community College chapter, has been appointed to the Committee on Community Colleges. Conference co-president Jonathan Rees has been appointed to the Committee on the Organization of the Association. Additionally, we are pleased to announce that Steve Shulman, professor of economics at Colorado State University, has been appointed chair of the Committee on the Economic Status of the Profession.

These appointments signal continued recognition of the conference’s significance to the Association. Earlier this year Hudson was honored to participate on the search committee to select a senior program officer to the Department of Academic Freedom, Tenure, and Governance of the national AAUP. In June, Dean Saitta, past president of the conference, was awarded the prestigious Tacey Award from the Association of State Conferences for outstanding service over a number of years to a state conference, and Lawless won the Al Sumberg Award for her involvement with HB14-1154, the conference’s groundbreaking equal work for equal pay community college legislative initiative.

Congratulations to all for recognition well-deserved.

Senator John Kefalas accepts Friend of Higher Education Award.

July 4, 2014

 

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 AAUP members present Colorado Senator John Kefalas with the Randy Fischer Friend of Higher Education Award on July 2, 2014. Pictured (left to right) are Senator Kefalas, Don Eron, Representative Randy Fischer, Caprice Lawless, and Suzanne Hudson.

The AAUP Colorado Conference is proud to bestow its newly renamed Randy Fischer Friend of Higher Education Award on Colorado Senator John Kefalas (Senate District 14, Fort Collins). This award is presented annually by the AAUP’s Colorado Conference to honor Colorado legislators and elected public officials “whose legislative work and public service has significantly advanced civic understanding and public support of higher education in the State of Colorado.” The award recognizes Senator Kefalas for his indefatigable efforts on behalf of Colorado higher education institutions and faculty of all ranks and disciplines over a legislative career that spans six years in the Colorado General Assembly’s House of Representatives, continuing since 2013 as senator. He has proven himself a highly effective public servant and skilled listener who reaches across the aisle to build stakeholdership on issues of common interest to all Coloradoans irrespective of party labels. The AAUP is especially appreciative of Senator Kefalas advocacy and support of House Bill 12-1144 on Non-Tenure Track Teaching Contracts, which became law in April 2012, and his recent support for AAUP’s Community College Pay Equity bill (HB14-1154) that Randy Fischer introduced at the General Assembly this year (John Kefalas co-sponsor in the Senate). AAUP Colorado Conference looks forward to working with Senator Kefalas on this issue and others in the 2015 legislative session and beyond.

Note: In 2014 the AAUP Friend of Higher Education Award was renamed in honor of Representative Randy Fischer’s outstanding career contributions to higher education advocacy in Colorado. It is especially appropriate in our view that Senator Kefalas should receive this award considering his long-time collaboration with Randy Fischer on Colorado higher education issues. For a list of past award winners see: http://aaupcolorado.org/awards/

The most influential AAUP state caucus in America.

May 30, 2014

I may be biased, but I think AAUP Colorado is the most influential state caucus in America. Where’s my proof? In 2012, two members of our leadership team, Don Eron and Suzanne Hudson won the Tacey Award from the Assembly of State Conferences. Today, we learned that two other members of our leadership team have been similarly honored.

Former Co-President Dean Saitta from the University of Denver is the winner of this year’s Tacey Award from the ASC. Here’s a passage from the letter that nominated him so that you can get an idea of his incredible service to the organization in particular and the professoriate in general:

“His contributions to the development of the Colorado Conference are extraordinary across a broad band of leadership and service categories. In 2006, he took the lead in reviving DU’s moribund AAUP Chapter, organizing faculty and championing academic freedom and shared governance on campus. He quickly became the go-to person for challenging a range of administrative decisions, from arbitrary faculty evaluations and tenure decisions to championing changes to the faculty manual strengthening shared governance. He designed a compelling webpage enabling colleagues to access AAUP resources and he offers commentary on governance issues both relevant to DU and Colorado higher education. His blogs and commentary relentlessly advanced academic freedom on campus and throughout the state and his skilled analysis of violations of faculty rights have been instrumental in reversing several unwarranted administrative decisions adversely affecting both untenured and tenured colleagues on the DU campus, CU-Denver Medical School, and elsewhere.”

Caprice Lawless, the fearless leader of our Front Range Community College chapter, is the winner of the AAUP’s Al Sumberg Award this year. Here’s a piece of her nomination letter:

“The Colorado Conference of the AAUP sponsored an historic bill in the 2014 legislative session titled The Community College Pay and Benefits Equity Act of 2014 (HB14-1154). This bill, which would become known as Colorado’s equal pay for equal work legislation, was instigated by Caprice Lawless, an adjunct instructor and president of the Front Range Community College chapter of the AAUP. Caprice built the FRCC chapter by recognizing the exploitation of the adjunct workforce at Colorado’s community colleges through below-poverty wages and denial of benefits. For example, when the full-time faculty were given free flu shots while the adjunct faculty, who comprise 85% of the workforce at FRCC and receive no sick pay or health insurance, were ignored, Caprice contacted the Department of Health and obtained flu shot vouchers, which she labeled with AAUP stickers and handed out to adjunct faculty. Caprice takes adjunct faculty to food banks every week; she maintains a blog that addresses the indignities of adjunct faculty’s working conditions.”

Congratulations to them both. It is truly an honor to work with them on behalf of faculty everywhere.

AAUP Report on CU’s Treatment of Philosophy Department

April 17, 2014

 

Following is a link to a report from the University of Colorado (CU) chapter and the Colorado Conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) regarding the recent upheavals in the Philosophy Department at CU. The upheavals stem from complaints about sexual harassment made to CU’s Office of Discrimination and Harassment. The report details the CU administration’s attack on the academic freedom, shared governance, and due process rights of the members of the Philosophy Department faculty.

AAUP Report on CU Philosophy Department

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