If you had any doubts that Dr. Gates is in lockstep with the BOR, her email should put them to rest. Currently, the BOR is steamrolling an effort to undercut the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and to support that, Gates has no problem ignoring facts, stretching the truth, and outright lying. If at the end of this email (long, sorry) you are not outraged, then how invested in are you in the future of higher education?
To begin, she laments the fact that aspects of the negotiations have been made public, preferring instead that they “be handled in good faith at the bargaining table.” If I were Gates, I would have wanted the same secrecy since the AAUP has described the BOR’s position as “draconian” and ignorant of the role faculty and staff play at the colleges. More to the point, she does not state the characterizations are false, hard to do given the AAUP used direct quotes. She just wishes they had not been made public.
While Gates tells us she wants to “address some of the concerns we have heard regarding” the negotiations, she does not do that. She goes into spin mode, restating lines from the BOR playbook. To begin, she explains that they “approach these conversations with equity at the center of everything we do.” If that were true it would be comforting to know that fairness and impartiality are at the core of their negotiations. However, note the shift from concerns about contract negotiations between faculty and management to the standard BOR line about student equity and “efficient completion” is brought up. There is NOTHING about equity for those in the AAUP who changed everything they did to keep their classes going when COVID-19 hit last spring and nothing about equity for those who continue to change teaching strategies to meet this public health crisis.
Another concern is that the negotiations are being driven by the need to create “a cost structure that protects affordability, and the ability to invest in student advising and support.” Again, she is taking the BOR line that has been peddled to us for over ten years. Despite the assertion that “we want to make sure we invest in people who are in front of students.” they have taken no concrete actions to back up that claim. Look at our institution. How many new tenure-track advisors and faculty have we added to our total from ten years ago? That number is zero. Let me repeat that: ZERO.
Instead, what have we seen? An increase in the number of bureaucrats, administrators, people whose primary responsibility is NOT being in front of students. People like our Dr. Steinmetz who makes $227,000 a year (over $300,000 with benefits). As interim president, Gates makes $288,000 a year (well over $300,000 with benefits). In total, the system office budget has grown by the tens of millionswith the promise of another fifty administrators in the months to come. What Gates does not want to address is that when “Students First” was foisted on us in 2017, the goal was to REDUCE administration and save $46 million annually. What Gates does not want to address is that system office budget has grown over 200%. This is the shell game that some of colleagues pointed out recently. Now Gates wants us to believe that the AAUP needs to give on its contracts to protect students.
When she writes that she “recognize[s] the importance of shared governance to the vitality of our institutions,” she is outright lying. In response to petitions and votes of no confidence, system office created a Shared Governance Workgroup. Our own Nicola Ricker represented TRCC. Apparently, this workgroup was to do anything but actually recommend a system of shared governance. But when they did just that, Gates told them they had exceeded their charge. If they did not like it, they could quit. Almost all of them, including Nicola, did just that.
This attempt at shifting the focus away from an overbearing BOR is about undermining the AAUP, but remember: our contract is up within the year as well. The system office has repeatedly said the budget is in the red now, but after 2021, it will move to the black. There can be only one conclusion drawn: cuts are coming when job protection expires. While my first reaction was to laugh when Gates said she wanted to address the “disinformation that I know has caused fear among members of our community address,” I realized I need to be angry. Angry that the interim leader of our system is a mere mouthpiece for the BOR. Angry that she believes we are stupid enough to fall for her manipulations. That Gates would obfuscate and lie so much needs to be known, and we need to be forewarned to be forearmed.
The union is only as strong as its members are active. NOW is the time to become active.
Terrence Delaney, Ph.D.
Professor of History
Chair, Humanities/Social Sciences
Three Rivers Community College
574 New London Tpke
Norwich, CT 06360