Faculty Assembly Minutes: January 31, 2007
Call to order: Nick Reeder, President of Faculty Senate, called the meeting to order at 3:00 pm in Rm. 4011.
1. Fire-Door Update
Dr. Mary Gaier, Vice President for Organizational Development, and Woody Woodruff, from Facilities Management, were introduced by Nick to provide an update on the College’s efforts at dealing with the fire-door issue. Dr. Gaier made brief introductory comments, noting that her office would continue to provide communication with the campus on this issue but that Woody was the “expert” and would provide details and answer questions. Woody explained that he was not defending any one position at this time, but wanted to provide information so that everyone would understand the issue and understand what is being done to bring about a satisfactory solution.
Woody noted that the major
impact of the code enforcement was affecting buildings 1-7 and some areas in
Building 8. Buildings 9-20 are minimally
affected. The reason is that buildings
9-20 had sprinkler systems installed when built or renovated and, therefore,
are up to code. Buildings 1-7 do not
have a sprinkler system; therefore, fire doors were installed to meet code
requirements. However, in order to
satisfy requirements for fire containment and egress of public areas, the fire
doors must remain closed (unless they are electromagnetic and can be closed
automatically in case of fire).
Regardless of what has transpired in the past, the fire code
requirements are now being strictly enforced by the city of
Woody acknowledged that having to keep all the fire doors closed is creating problems for HVAC as well as problems for students, staff, and faculty, and he asked for patience as the College seeks a solution. He reminded the assembly that the fire marshal could assess a $1000 fine for each door each day a violation is recorded, and he expressed thanks that the campus, for the most part, appeared to be in compliance, with the exception of the occasional trash can/book/rope/chair propping doors open. He noted that employees could be liable for part or all of any fines imposed, and he expressed the hope that no staff, faculty, or administrator would risk being fined by propping fire doors open. In addition, he said that the fire marshal could close the school (or at least the buildings affected) in the event of code violations. Even if this is an unlikely scenario, it remains a legal possibility.
With respect to possible solutions, he expressed optimism that a solution for those occupying inner offices in office suites would soon be forthcoming. As to the larger scale issue, he presented two main options under consideration: sprinklerizing the affected buildings or installing electromagnetic and/or handicapped accessible devices on classroom and office doors. Installing sprinklers, according to Woody, would allow for more flexibility during future renovations (allowing for the use of glass walls, for example, such as Financial Aid has). But he reminded the audience that no decisions had been made as yet, that the College had hired a firm to study corrective measures, and that once a decision had been made, it would still take time for the bidding process, not to mention the time it will take for any work to be done, assuming the College chooses to make changes rather than continue with the status quo of closed door compliance. From the tenor of the discussion, it did appear that the College is seriously looking at taking a course of action rather than staying with the very unsatisfactory status quo.
In response to questions, Dr. Gaier indicated that she was confident we will have a solution soon and asked, as did Woody, for patience and compliance in the interim. Woody noted that propping a door open temporarily while moving items into and out of an office was not a violation. When asked if space heaters were allowed, he said “No” and urged employees with heating problems in their offices to contact HVAC immediately. Finally, when asked why we didn’t use our own internal expertise rather than an outside firm to fashion a solution, Woody noted that it was required to have licensed firms do any corrective work, but that Sinclair personnel would certainly be involved in the process. Both Mary and Woody mentioned that they had saved all e-mails received, that they welcomed any suggestions, and that they would continue to do their best to communicate with the campus about the issue.
2. Realignment Cross-Functional Team Update
Mike Burns, representing the Realignment Cross-Functional Team as its facilitator, summarized the committee’s work to date. He noted that the group had received nearly 200 reports from the college’s budget units by the deadline of December 15. These were the responses to the common set of questions distributed earlier during fall quarter, recommendations that were limited to five pages each. Faced with approximately 1000 pages of information to review, Mike explained how the group used a survey tool as part of the process to collect input from each member of the committee. He shared a sample with the audience to show how the feedback helped the committee during the discussion process. In addition to the reports, the committee had access to other institutional data to provide context for their discussions. Mike added that the committee tried to narrow the ideas presented to those that would have the most impact, noting that their charge was to identify noteworthy recommendations for processes that will enhance efficiencies as well as to identify opportunities for increasing revenues. Mike admitted that the committee had been granted a short extension from February 1 to February 5 for submitting its recommendations to the Operations Council, and that its report would be in the neighborhood of 75 pages. The next step will be for the Operations Council to review the report and make recommendations for implementation. Mike mentioned that the committee’s report will be posted (location on the college web site to be announced) as will links for any data used in the process.
3. Assembly President’s Report
Nick Reeder, Assembly President, reviewed progress made on four key issues identified as important by faculty in response to a Senate survey. First, little progress has been made with regard to reorganization of the academic divisions. Originally time-tabled for fall quarter, then moved to winter quarter, Nick reported that the Provost Council has been discussing the issue but as yet has nothing concrete to share with the faculty. Second, college-wide realignment is moving along on schedule (see Mike Burns’ report above). Nick mentioned that Senate had requested representation on the Operations Council in order to be more directly involved In the process, but its request was denied. Nevertheless, Nick assured the audience that Senate would provide input once recommendations were made. Nick added that the other two high priority items on the list, retrenchment and new faculty hiring practices, were both being acted upon by Senate.
As for current issues that had surfaced in Senate, Nick listed the following: fire door issue, merit eligibility for retirees, math chair search committee irregularities, Faculty Issues Team, and on-line Faculty Handbook. Nick noted that the fire door issue, as covered earlier in the assembly meeting, would be ongoing. He reported that Senate had forwarded a recommendation to Dr. Grove that the Collegewide Merit Committee allow recently retired faculty who meet all eligibility requirements for applying for Collegewide Merit to submit an application. He added that Senate would be addressing possible ambiguity in the Faculty Handbook with respect to merit eligibility. Nick stated that issues surrounding Handbook violations related to the process for hiring a new chairperson for Mathematics had been resolved satisfactorily. For a FIT update, Nick deferred to Ned Young, who would be reporting later during the assembly meeting. And finally, Nick mentioned that senators Amanda Romero and Tom Singer had agreed to work with IT to make the online Faculty Handbook more user-friendly.
In closing, Nick reminded assembly members about upcoming elections during spring quarter, the first elections to be held electronically. Offices open are Vice President, which is President-Elect this year (one-year commitment as VP followed by two years as President), Secretary, and Representative to Sinclair Leadership Team. He also asked for volunteers from ALH, BUS, EGR, and ELHS to serve on the Elections Committee, indicating he already had representatives from LAS and FPA.
4. Retrenchment Policy Update
Jim Brooks, chair of the Faculty Retrenchment Committee, gave a brief history of faculty retrenchment, stating that a policy had been written in 1985 but not officially submitted for approval to Senate. Then in 1995, Senate officers revised the policy and held informal discussions with Dr. Sifferlen about it, but other issues surfaced and once again the policy was never officially approved by Senate. Last spring, Senate raised the issue of retrenchment once again, in light of discussions about reorganization and realignment, and Jim volunteered to convene a committee of volunteers to revisit the original policy and review policies at other institutions. Furthermore, Jim met with Janet Jones, Human Resources director, to discuss working together on a college-wide retrenchment policy. Janet indicated this was a high priority item for her office and that she and Saundra Schuster, the college attorney, were looking into developing a “framework” for retrenchment and welcomed our input on it. However, no “framework” has been received, and indications are that the administration is, at present, not working on developing a retrenchment policy, so the Senate requested the committee to provide a Faculty Retrenchment Policy for its review by February 1. A draft was presented to Senators at the January 24 meeting, and it will be discussed at the February 7 meeting. Once Senate has provided feedback, two things could happen: one, it could be returned to the committee for further revision; two, it could be shared with faculty for feedback. Ultimately, Senate expects a policy to be approved so that it can be forwarded to the administration and, finally, enter the Faculty Handbook for 2007-2008.
A short discussion followed, with faculty expanding on the history, explaining the original policy was written during a downturn in enrollment, with some departments/programs fearing cuts and feeling at risk without a policy in place. One reason offered for the initial policy not being pursued was that at the time Dr. Ponitz, who was not in favor of having the policy according to one faculty member, agreed to a significant salary hike for faculty if Senate agreed not to press the retrenchment issue. A question was raised by one faculty member as to the usefulness of pursuing such a policy if it was apparent that the administration was not in favor of it or did not view it as a priority item. In response, another faculty member strongly advocated for having a policy to prevent the administration from acting in an arbitrary way in the event circumstances warranted cutbacks. Having a process in place, according to the faculty member, was the only way to prevent across-the-board cuts or expediency in place of fairness. Jim expressed optimism that Senate would reach consensus on a policy and that it would be sent forward spring quarter. He further stated his preference for working with the staff and the administration on a comprehensive policy, and hoped that the faculty’s efforts might serve as a catalyst to advance the discussion.
5. Faculty Issues Team (FIT) Update
Ned Young, chair of the Faculty Issues Team, reviewed what the team had been doing in recent months, reminding the audience that it had surveyed some forty colleges in an effort to benchmark attributes in compensation systems. To help sort out the information, a consultant from the Hay Group who has a long history with Sinclair and its system of compensation is working with FIT. Based on a preliminary consideration of the survey results, FIT is looking at increasing the emphasis on the following areas as it attempts to design a more satisfactory system of compensation for faculty: become truly merit-based; extend external competitiveness based on rank averages rather than overall average salary; pay premiums for hard to find/hire disciplines; focus on range widths and starting salaries for ranks. Conversely, FIT is looking at decreasing the emphasis on the following: across-the-board increases; range closure; use of average salary as an external benchmark. Ned reminded the audience that these areas of emphasis and de-emphasis are tentative, and that FIT is working with the Hay consultant to draft a survey for faculty that would provide FIT with more direction from the assembly on these points.
After Ned had presented his slides, comments from the floor included the difficulty of designing a rating system based on performance, and that this had been tried many years ago and after several iterations finally been replaced by our current system. Questions were raised about the impact of health care and whether that needed to be included in our compensation talks. A suggestion was made about using a step system for basic compensation and merit for “above and beyond” awards. Another faculty member cited the Air Force’s use of a ranking system for compensation which included quotas with respect to promotion; he added that this led to “cutthroat behavior.” Comments were made about professors needing to get merit in order to qualify for raises (note—this is not true; what is true is that receiving merit will assure a professor reaching closure within a 24 or 27 year time frame), and other comments were made about our system being hard to understand (see previous comment about professors and merit, which is a case in point of misunderstanding). Ned hoped that the survey would help FIT resolve issues surrounding Sinclair’s system of compensation. He also indicated, in response to a question, that the results from the benchmarking surveys would be posted on the FIT website for easy access (tba).
Cindy Beckett made an announcement about the Achieving the Dream initiative, urging faculty to be aware of activities related to it, including a return visit to the campus by Dr. Kay McClenney on Friday, February 2. Cindy indicated Dr. McClenney would be meeting with faculty and administration and sharing data to help us “make informed decisions” with respect to student learning, retention, and success.
The Assembly meeting was adjourned at 4:28 pm.
Submitted by James Brooks
Approved by Faculty Senate: February 7, 2007