Clark College staff, faculty and community supporters, including union affiliates, will rally from 11 am to 1 pm on October 17th at Esther Short Park, 610 Esther Street, Vancouver. Please bring gloves, masks and commit to maintaining social distances of six feet or more. (If you're experiencing any symptoms of illness, please stay home.)
WPEA, the classified staff union at Clark, will provide water and signs. Feel free to bring your own signs and invite your friends and family, This is an opportunity to see some of your colleagues in person. It's been too long!
What's the purpose of the rally?
Many Clark College community members are reeling from the recommendations and potential ramifications of the Moss Adams report. (Moss Adams is an accounting and consulting firm hired by the Board of Trustees last winter to identify organizational inefficiencies at Clark.) One major observation the report makes is that Clark is traumatized by a variety of drastic changes.
At the same time, the report recommends some pretty drastic cuts to our classified staff - up to 34 positions to be exact. Ultimately, the report recommends that most of the support staff from each unit be cut. In addition, the report recommends outsourcing our facilities, IT, and security services. The College has set the outsourcing recommendations aside for now.
Clark's instructional support includes both support staff members and unit operations managers or "opps." Traditionally, each unit is led by a dean and a unit opp who oversee a group of staff. These staff take care of PAFs (personnel action files), travel, student evaluations, and purchasing. In addition, they support faculty by doing things like collecting syllabi, setting up new faculty services, maintaining office and classroom supplies, pulling pre-req rosters, tracking and assisting with faculty leave, distributing mail, submitting work orders and IT tickets, managing computer labs, contacting students regarding cancelled classes, and hundreds of other duties. They are the frontline Instructional staff who direct and assist our students, helping them to navigate our complex college systems. They are a vital touch point for students and play a pivotal role in the student experience at Clark.
In addition to supervising the department support staff, the unit opps help manage our unit and adjunct budgets, the faculty evaluation process, and merging class shells. They make sure that faculty are paid correctly, work with faculty leave, assist students with late withdrawals and complaints, and assist with all kinds of complexities by helping all of us (faculty, students, and staff) navigate college policies, procedures, and compliance issues. They basically keep the operations of all of our units moving forward and running smoothly.
The Moss Adams report recommends that these groups of staff (department support staff and unit operations managers) be cut, that each dean be provided an administrative assistant, and that a team move under OOI to do the scheduling, travel and purchasing, faculty evaluations, budget, and faculty pay.
What would this mean? This would mean that Jeri, Manda, Denise, and Emily would be cut from BEECH. This would mean that Vicki Weese, Tiffany, Vicki Collins, Angela, and others would be cut from WPTE/STEM. This would mean that Heather, Andreana, Sarah, Jennifer, Becky, Ruby, Joan and others would be cut from BHS. This would mean that Sherry, Lucy, Shelly and others would be cut from SOFA. This would mean that Jennifer would be cut from CLASS. (The administration may be outraged at the sharing out of these names, but this is the reality of the Moss Adams recommendations. These are people who impact our lives and the lives of our students. Leaving them nameless just makes it easier to disregard them. They are people, not positions.)
They are not only the people who take care of our everyday needs, they are the people who help our students (many of whom are first generation) navigate college. Where will these students go for help?
When we're told that retention is our gravest issue, why would we eliminate those people who are on the front lines, supporting our students and supporting faculty? We have already so many issues with students experiencing difficulty navigating our College. How will cutting support staff not exacerbate this serious issue?
It seems plausible that much of the work currently performed by classified staff would fall to the division and department chairs and on faculty in general.
As faculty, we know that cuts to our support staff impact all of us and making cuts to staff are major decisions, not to be taken lightly. Every staff cut results in the addition of job duties for someone else. How things fall into place after a series of cuts should be determined Before the cuts take place, not afterward.
The bottom line is this: we need to study and analyze how cuts to staff would impact our job duties, our daily work lives and most importantly our students. Who will fill this hole between administration and our students?
It's definitely time that we stand up for our WPEA union siblings who are Clark classified staff and support them the way they've supported us, every day, for years. After all, the vast majority of the cuts recommended in the report are WPEA classified staff, the employee classification that is paid noticeably less than other Clark employee types. If recommended cuts are intended to save money, why is the classified staff being targeted? This doesn't add up.
In addition, out of the three employee classifications at Clark - staff, faculty, and admin/exempt - staff and faculty growth over the past 11 years has been minimal (a few percentage points), while admin/exempt has grown more than 100 percnent during the same span of time. If the cuts are meant to eliminate redundancies and inefficiencies, and Clark's classified staff numbers have not increased in decades, why would classified staff be targeted? This doesn't add up.
Please use your voice to communicate the importance of our classified staff. It adds up to this: faculty cannot do our jobs without their support and student retention will suffer even more without our frontline support staff.
Featured photos above of Clark's cherry blossom trees by Ryan O'Meara.