New Professional Relations Committee

by Luke Lara, Ombudsperson

 

Since its establishment over six years ago, the Faculty Assembly (FA) has recognized the importance of working collaboratively with the Academic Senate (AS) to make decisions on “overlap” issues. On the surface, there seems to be a clearly defined line of separation between the Senate’s areas of legal authority (the “10+1”) and FA territory (working conditions). Faculty issues such as curriculum and professional development are at the heart of the Senate’s 10 + 1, while negotiated matters related to salary and other working conditions are firmly within the FA’s realm. In practice, however, things are not so simple.


For example, AS past-president Luke Lara shared, “When the pandemic forced instruction remotely and colleges to be more adaptive and flexible, many, including MiraCosta, began to explore the Hyflex instruction modality.” This topic continues to be an ongoing conversation locally and throughout the state, as academic senates and bargaining units try to define it and mitigate potential working conditions issues.


Overlap exists in many areas, and as we have seen at other colleges it is not unusual for administrators to inadvertently (or intentionally) use the overlapping nature of the work of senates and unions to drive a wedge between employee groups. Other times, the various groups bring this on themselves. The result is often serious conflict between campus employee groups. That conflict can easily undermine their work, damaging both union negotiations and Senate primacy over 10 + 1 issues.


According to former AS and FA president Brad Byrom, “When FA leaders attend meetings with other unions from around the state, we frequently hear unfortunate stories about conflicts between associate faculty and full-time faculty unions that obstruct the negotiating goals of both groups. Others run into issues when their union goals run counter to the goals of their Academic Senate.”


Avoiding such conflict has long been a goal, but with the newly established Professional Relations Committee in place the FA will take a more systematic approach to addressing the issue.


The group has set the goals of improving communication and working collaboratively on issues with other MiraCosta College groups to avoid working at odds with one another. In addition, the committee is charged with identifying areas and issues where the FA can help and support other MiraCosta groups.


The committee is co-led by Luke Lara (FA Ombudsperson) and Brad Byrom (FA Past President), both past presidents of the AS. Membership include long-time FA council members Paul Clarke, Sinar Lomeli, Kent McCorkle, Sue Simpson, and Jacob Strona. The committee is also joined by ex-officio member, curry mitchell, AS Liaison and AS Vice President. If you hear about an issue that is being discussed on campus and you wonder, “How will this impact full-time faculty working conditions?” Reach out and let us know, the committee welcomes your feedback.

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