SCC faculty jobs at risk

Monday, November 23, 2009

Shoreline Community College has notified union representatives that all faculty jobs at the school could be at risk.

Known as a Reduction in Force (RIF) notice, the college has never before put every faculty member on notice.

“We’ve faced cuts before, but we’ve never faced anything like what appears to be coming,” said Vice President for Academic Affairs John Backes, referring to pending state budget cuts. The notice was by Backes to college and faculty union officials on Tuesday, November 17. 

By contract, the college is obligated to send such notices as soon as possible, said Stephen P. Smith, Vice President for Human Resources and Legal Affairs. Smith said classified union members and other employee groups have not been noticed because of differences in contract language. “We’ve spoken with the other groups,” Smith said. “They’re aware.”

In previous years, faculty for programs that drop below designated enrollment targets could’ve received RIF notices. However, economic conditions have forced many people back to school and Shoreline, like all other community and technical colleges in the state, are seeing explosive enrollment growth. In his message to union reps, deans and other administrators, Backes wrote:

“After review of all programs for low enrollment, I have concluded that no current programs are under-enrolled using the criteria we used last year. That does not mean, however, that all programs are at capacity. Given the anticipated budget reductions for the 2009-2011 biennium … and the (State Board of Community and Technical College) Declaration of Financial Emergency … adopted on June 11, 2009, … I must put all RIF units on notice for a Reduction In Force for the 2009-2011 biennium regardless of their enrollment.”

“This is an extremely serious situation,” Backes said on Friday, Nov. 20. “This is going to hurt us in ways we can’t even imagine. We’re going to chop into healthy programs”

On Thursday, the state announced the projected budget shortfall had grown to $2.6 billion. Potential cuts for community and technical colleges had been predicted in the 6-12 percent range. Backes said the Thursday announcement makes 12 percent seem more likely. “A 12 percent cut will be catastrophic for most institutions of higher education in this state,” he said.

Amy Kinsel, 1st Vice President of the SCC Federation of Teachers Local 1950, Faculty, agreed with Backes’ assessment.

“If layoffs happen, it will cut into our ability to serve the same number of students,” she said. “The (union) opposes any additional faculty layoffs. The state budget situation is dire. We’re looking to the Legislature to be innovative in finding a solution.”

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