Response to coverage of P-Fac’s vote-of-no-confidence

By Letter to the Editor, by the P-Fac Steering Committee

We are writing in response to your Front Page story of Oct. 5, “P-Fac: ‘No confidence’ in college administration.” The story is biased, unfair and an attack on P-Fac.

The paper takes the angle of blaming P-Fac for not including the staff, full-time faculty and Student Government Association in the no confidence vote. Why is it P-fac’s responsibility to organize the other employees at Columbia to take part in the vote? Instead, we contacted our own members, who teach 75 percent of the classes at the college. We represent part-time faculty, not full timers, not students, not the staff.

The majority of those who voted–85 percent–expressed no confidence. How about covering that story –in a fair and objective manner–instead of using the vote to attack P-Fac? P-Fac took the initiative to organize the ballot, first on paper and then online. Most professional journalists would cover the outcome and get reaction from the college administration. Instead, the Chronicle uses the vote as an opportunity to attack the union, allegedly for not doing enough. What is enough for you?

Furthermore, your story says none of the other organizations–the full-time faculty, the staff union and the student association–would conduct a vote of no confidence in the administration. So even if P-Fac had contacted them, they would not have joined us.

P-Fac’s vote of no confidence was an act of bravery. P-Fac stepped up to speak to the administration and point out changes being taken that we oppose. Many others, including full-time faculty, staff and students, also oppose these changes. Yet those groups remain silent. Why?

 In our vote of no confidence, we pointed to the sudden dissolution of the First Year Seminar Department with no faculty input and the switch to the large, university-style classroom in the Big Chicago classes. We called on the college to open its books and become transparent. The college has stopped honoring its mission, cut course offerings, increased class sizes, failed to honor the collective bargaining agreement with the union and failed to bargain in good faith with the staff union. These are our reasons for no confidence.

Furthermore, your story gives voice to a faculty member who has been critical of P-Fac and has formed an opposition group to the current P-Fac leadership. You are allowing the paper to be used. How about reporting the facts?

Your editorial on page 30, “No tact in P-Fac’s no-confidence vote” takes the same approach. It is clear the paper’s editorial position has slipped over into its news columns. Isn’t the paper supposed to be objective? P-Fac will not be tactful when we believe the college is taking steps that harm students and ignore the college’s original mission. P-Fac did encourage others to hold their own votes of no confidence. We offered to advise other groups but can only hold votes among those we represent.

P-Fac was approached by many who wanted to be included, and we encouraged them to hold their own vote. We limited the vote to our membership because they pay dues for us to represent them. Is it expected that [the] P-Fac steering committee and reps put in hours upon hours of volunteer time (which we already devote to protecting our members) and pay out of pocket to administer a vote for people outside our membership?

The vote was opened up to fair share payers and members who are currently “inactive” due to losing classes, thanks to harmful administrative practices, including raising class caps. It was not open to non-union members.

It was appropriate for P-Fac, as the representative of part-time faculty, to put this vote solely to the membership. In a practice known as democracy, P-Fac reps voted unanimously to hold the vote and to extend it to all of our members, including those who were active at the time our contract was ratified.

Had we extended the vote to others at the college, P-Fac would be criticized for that too. There was much unfair criticism when P-Fac held a forum with students, which grew into the group Save Columbia. Staff also spoke at the forum. Two forums were held in April. Throughout the Save Columbia effort, P-Fac and students worked very hard, and P-Fac supported and advocated very strongly for students and was criticized at every turn for “over-reaching” and “using the students.”

Is P-Fac expected to gather all the addresses and personal emails of students and full-time faculty and staff to take this vote? It is a lot of work just to reach out to our members, and we have contact information readily available for them. Also, there are costs involved. Adding people beyond the membership we don’t represent would mean more postage, and the costs of the electronic vote depend on the number of people added as voters. So The Columbia Chronicle’s editorial board expects P-Fac to incur these costs out of pocket and do all the extra administrative work, leaving us less time to serve our members? Not a very good—or legal—use of our time and resources.