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You’ve heard about the Summer Institute — But have you heard about the Mini-Innie?

July 30, 2015

As you know, the AAUP’s Summer Institute was held at Denver University this year — by all accounts a rousing success and another opportunity for Colorado Conference members to contribute to the AAUP collective experience.

What you may not know is that the day after the Summer Institute ended, the Colorado Conference conducted a smaller, more intimate Institute — the Mini-Innie — expressly for our community college members. We persuaded AAUP Vice President Hank Reichman and AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress President Howard Bunsis to stay in Colorado an extra day and address the Mini-Innie.

While we enjoyed breakfast on the patio of the Bittersweet Cafe in charming downtown Louisville, Howard kept us laughing even as he explained the ups, downs, ins, and outs of unionizing in Colorado and then gave us an updated collection of charts and figures showing the relative wealth of the Colorado Community College System, reiterating that the demand for fair compensation for CCCS instructors is both reasonable and affordable. Well, you had to be there to understand how Howard could make these topics so humorous.

Howard Bunsis CCCS Finances web

Hank Reichman followed up with a most eloquent explanation of AAUP principles and philosophy. It was invigorating to be reminded how academic freedom, shared governance, due process, and secure employment fit together to create a system of higher education that is the “envy of the world.” I was inspired to renew my dedication to this crucially important work that we do, and I know others at the Mini-Innie felt the same way.

Hank Reichman 7 27 Louisville web

Participants at the Mini-Innie repaired to the Waterloo restaurant, just across the street, for lunch and then around the corner to a meeting room in the Louisville Public Library for afternoon sessions. There, Ray Hogler, the Colorado Conference’s Vice President for Legislative Affairs, and a labor lawyer in his own right, talked about Colorado’s particular labor laws, especially with regard to the Fair Labor Standards Act, and how they affect our efforts at securing fair labor practices for community college instructors. Colorado Conference President Steve Mumme offered advice on organizing via the acronym NAIL: networking, advocating, informing, and lobbying. Colorado Conference Executive Committee and National AAUP Committee A member Don Eron talked about the primacy of due process for preserving academic freedom, peppered with “war stories.”  Summer Institute attendees Anne Emmons, Caroline Chapman, and Caprice Lawless talked about their impressions  of the SI. And finally, Daniel Schweissing, ESL instructor at Community College of Aurora and human rights activist, presented a training session titled “Mainstreams and Margins.”

Bittersweet Group MI 7 2015 web

The Mini-Innie was the brainchild of Caprice Lawless, president of the Front Range Community College chapter and the Colorado Conference’s Vice President for Community Colleges. Caprice has made quite a splash, nationally, as an advocate for contingent faculty. Hank Reichman was duly impressed with her presentation at the Summer Institute and has posted her notes, titled “AAUPropriate Considerations: Organizing at the Community College,” with an enthusiastic endorsement, to the AAUP’s Academe blog. Hank’s posting takes its title, “From Awfulizing to Organizing,” from one of Caprice’s tips for organizing community college faculty.

Hank also posted his own take on our Mini-Innie and other efforts in Colorado to improve working conditions for community college instructors: “Colorado Community College Fight for Equity.”

Participants at the Mini-Innie walked away with tote bags, AAUP water bottles, perennial plants for their gardens, and, one assumes, renewed hope for changing the Colorado Community College System from its current “business model” to a model for academic freedom, shared governance, due process, and fair compensation for all who teach there. A round of applause for the instructors who participated in the Mini-Innie and who have made it their business to change the direction of the community college system in Colorado.

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