By BRIANNA HERNANDEZ
Tensions are running high between the Pima Community College Education Association and the college’s administration, with PCCEA claiming the administration fell through on promises to move forward with a new department chair reorganization structure in the midst of Meet and Confer.
During each fall semester, PCCEA issues a survey to faculty in order to identify areas of compensation and working conditions that need to be addressed during Meet and Confer.
Meet and Confer refers to a yearly negotiation process between the PCCEA, who represent faculty, and the administration.
According to PCCEA President Ana Jimenez, in the process leading up to Meet and Confer, both PCCEA and PCC administration commit to share each sides interests and goals.
“When things go smoothly, we collaboratively problem solve to find ways and language to address both of our interests in policy, keeping the broader good of the college and our students in mind,” Jimenez said.
Recently, Pima changed its academic organization structure, from campus-based departments to college wide divisions encompassing similar disciplines.
The process began in 2015.
“College wide divisions were in the planning stages from that time forth, and began to be implemented in early spring 2016,” PCC Spokesperson Libby Howell said.
“Final tweaks to the dean structure occurred in April and May 2016.”
Previously, each campus had a vice president of instruction oversee a number of deans.
The deans were divided by subject matter and oversaw faculty on a particular campus only. For example, East Campus had a dean who oversaw sciences as well as a dean who oversaw mathematics, etc.
“The disciplines that the deans supervised depended on which disciplines were offered at the campus and the number of faculty in those disciplines at those campuses,” Jimenez said.
“Related disciplines were combined under one division, where possible.”
In 2017, PCC revised its model.
Now, a single dean will oversee all faculty in a specific division across all campuses.
Currently, there is a dean in charge of mathematics across all campuses and another who oversees sciences across all campuses.
“This allows for better alignment throughout the district in each division, as well as allowing for each discipline to have a single point of contact,” Jimenez said.
Despite this updated model, department chairs are operating as though the dean positions have not been updated.
The department chairs in each division are located at each campus and oversee the operations of that particular campus and division.
For instance, the department chair of mathematics at East Campus is tasked with scheduling all math classes, supervising adjunct faculty in mathematics, placing book orders, and other duties.
As of now it’s unclear what structure each division will have, as faculty are meant to work with their deans to determine the structure that works best, Jimenez said.
Last year a task force was charged with recommending a new department chair and academic leadership framework that would align with the newly developed college wide divisions.
Initially, recommendations were to be finalized last fall, so they could be shared with faculty for feedback.
When the task force released its final report in January, PCCEA found the report to lack sufficient details in topics such as job qualifications, responsibilities, the selection process, division funding and compensation.
Still, faculty was reassured in face-to-face meetings with Chancellor Lee Lambert and administration that further recommendations would be forthcoming and that the new department chair structure would be a Meet and Confer priority, Jimenez said.
In the months following the task force’s report, PCC President Morgan Phillips worked with two faculty members from the task force to release more comprehensive details in the form of a handbook, which was released in early April.
“The handbook is just a description of different types of responsibilities that faculty members could assume at the college to help us move forward in our work,” Phillips said.
“The handbook is developing sections on how the different divisions operate and will develop information related to training and evaluation for leaders.”
Phillips said it would likely take three years for the system to settle in.
BREACH OF TRUST
On April 7, PCCEA learned that none of the aspects of the new academic leadership structure would be adopted in the faculty personnel policy statement.
PCCEA also learned that all present appendices regarding department chairs would be deleted.
Both Jimenez and Matej Boguszak, PCCEA chief spokesperson, were particularly surprised due to the reassurance they received that task force recommendations would be a top priority.
“Such complete reversal was deeply disappointing and concerning to PCCEA,” Jimenez said.
She added that, “by not including key policy issues like chair qualifications, job responsibilities, the selection process and compensation in the selection process…faculty would lose fundamental policy protections and real say over their academic leadership structure.”
Chancellor Lee Lambert disagrees with Jimenez and assessment of the situation.
“There is a distinction between having a conversation and what might come out of that conversation versus what should be in Meet and Confer versus what shouldn’t be in meet and confer,” PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert said.
Lambert defended the college against PCCEA statements that the administration went against its word.
“What do you think they’ve been doing? They did have a conversation,” Lambert said.
“I don’t understand what she is saying about priority, that is what they’ve been discussing,” Lambert said.
“It’s a priority for the college to put in place a very effective efficient department chair model that provides leadership and management where appropriate,” he said.
ALL IN THE DETAILS
Jimenez said it’s important to look at the details in cases like this.
“Faculty are sometimes being painted as resistant to change,” Jimenez said. “The majority of faculty do not oppose the general direction we’re heading in, but they do oppose hastily organized plan that are not well thought out and diminish transparency.”
On April 11, Boguszak, sent out a mass email to PCC faculty informing them on the status of the Meet and Confer process.
Boguszak added that while the handbook includes key concepts, three people behind closed doors developed it.
“Of course the handbook was actually written by just a few people,” Phillips said. “Anyone that has ever worked on writing something knows that you can’t create a quality document by starting with numerous authors.
“In Arizona we have public records and open meeting laws that make it literally impossible for anything to happen behind closed doors,” he said.
PCCEA officials found the handbook to be unclear, finding many position responsibilities overlap and are not well defined.
They also found the compensation structure to be too simplistic in considering work load.
That could lead to pay inequities for instructors doing a more demanding job for the same pay as someone doing a less demanding job.
PCCEA and Matej specifically, have been involved with giving feedback on the handbook and associated changes in the Faculty Personnel Policy Statement for the past several weeks,” Phillips said.
“One of the primary concerns that PCCEA has had, which I am guessing is what Matej is talking about when he says serious flaws is that the recommendation is that most of the operating procedures stay procedures and are not included as board policy,” he said.
On May 1, PCCEA provided the PCC board with the status of Meet and Confer.
“In a study session yesterday between the board and the PCCEA,” Phillips said.
“It was clarified that the board doesn’t need to approve everything because the board still has oversight and can deal with problems that may arise.”
As of now PCCEA is still providing recommendations for changes
“Again, it is important to realize that this work is being done to improve the experience of our students,” Phillips said. “We would like to have clear programmatic structures