One Way of Confronting Our New Political Reality: FACCC
(*Full disclosure: I have recently accepted a volunteer position as a Governor-At-Large on the FACCC governing board.)
While MCC’s full time faculty have made important strides in recent years regarding our working conditions, in one very important way we have moved backwards in a manner that poses some significant risks. Since the start of the new millennium, MCC faculty have steadily withdrawn from involvement in statewide efforts aimed at protecting and promoting faculty working conditions. This is most evident in the declining involvement of MCC faculty in the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC).
In terms of protecting California working conditions, no organization rivals the size or importance of FACCC (FACCC also operates the annual California Great Teachers Conference). It has membership from across the 113 community colleges in California, including a handful of colleges in which every faculty member is also member of FACCC. In recent years, FACCC’s positive impact could be felt in many ways, including victories over the bullying accreditation tactics of the ACCJC and the comparatively strong state budgetary support community colleges have received. FACCC’s advocacy for public higher education also extends to the federal level where they’ve sought to influence lawmakers and Department of Education regulation of community colleges.
Shortly after I first arrived at MiraCosta in 2001 as a politically naïve candidate for tenure, my entire incoming class was introduced to FACCC by AS President Mary Ann Newport. As I recall, all (or at least most) of us in that class signed on with FACCC, and many of us remain members to this day. In 2007, over 50% of full time MiraCosta faculty belonged to FACCC—a solid number, though we probably could have done better.
Since then, FACCC data indicates the percentage of MCC faculty who belong to FACCC has slowly, but steadily declined to just 33%. Along with a dip in membership, there has been a noticeable absence of MCC faculty leadership in FACCC. In the past, MiraCosta faculty regularly served in key positions on the FACCC governing board and its Executive Committee. Leon Baradat served as FACCC president in the 1992-93 and Mary Ann Newport served as Treasurer a short time later. In the early 2000’s, both Susan Herrmann and Steve Eso accepted roles as FACCC governors, continuing MCC’s strong leadership presence in the organization.
In conversations with faculty about this topic, it’s clear that many new faculty are no longer being made aware of the benefits of FACCC. Of course, lately we’ve all had to face a virtual avalanche of local campus initiatives, processes, political bond campaigns, etc., so it’s no surprise that FACCC has slipped off our collective radar in recent years.
Why does this matter? After all, we are currently enjoying the benefits of having a stable, thoughtful Board of Trustees, a solid contract, and administrative leaders who have proved willing to work with us. The passage of MM demonstrated that an overwhelming majority of voters in our district strongly support the college and the work we have done. As nice as it is to be able to write such things, I think we all know there is a dark cloud over the future of education—one that’s forming in Sacramento, and particularly in Washington, D.C.
As I’ve written previously, just a few months ago, a state court in Marin County took a swipe at our statewide pension system (STRS), potentially undermining the promise of our pensions. And while the ACJC has been pushed to the brink of accreditation extinction, it’s still hanging in there. Elsewhere, a trend among the various states has emerged in which legislators have called into question the very concept of tenure. In fact, a handful of states have already eliminated tenure protections, and others have initiated legislation to do the same (Iowa and Missouri being the most recent). Furthermore, the nomination for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, appears headed for confirmation despite her track record of seeking to replace public school options with private alternatives and her preference for redirecting public school funding to private (including for-profit) enterprises.
By now I’m sure you can see where I’m headed with this. The best way we can address these concerns is through membership in FACCC. As I write, talks are underway between FACCC staff and FA leadership with an eye towards increasing MCC’s membership in FACCC. This may include an arrangement in which we receive a reduction in membership rates. Sometime soon, FACCC leadership will be on campus to provide interested faculty with more information on this organization. So look for more information on this topic very soon.
*For more on FACCC, visit http://www.faccc.org/ or let me know and I’ll be happy to talk it over with you.
Other Articles in the February 7, 2017 Newsletter :