Tuesday, January 30, 2018

STLCC Faculty Reps Vote 'No Confidence' in Chancellor Jeff Pittman

Posted By on Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 10:32 AM

Chancellor Jeff Pittman, at center in a gray suit, has been in the hot seat over budget cuts. - JON ALEXANDER
  • JON ALEXANDER
  • Chancellor Jeff Pittman, at center in a gray suit, has been in the hot seat over budget cuts.
After layoffs, raucous trustee meetings and allegations of intimidation, the faculty at St. Louis Community College has had enough: Its representatives have taken a vote of "no confidence" in Chancellor Jeff Pittman.

The executive board of the college's chapter of the National Education Association made the unanimous vote at its meeting earlier this month, the association announced today.

A poll sponsored by the association also expressed a lack of confidence — 65.4 percent of respondents said they had no confidence in Pittman, the association reported. That's out of 237 people who responded to the survey.

"We all are fully aware that STLCC faces a reduced budget that will require tough decisions about institutional priorities," the association's STLCC chapter said in a statement. "However, we believe that the administration has overwhelmingly targeted the faculty as the way to ease the financial crisis. Instead of considering options such as: freezing administrative salaries and travel, reducing the stature and scope of the proposed $39 million Allied Health building to prioritize instruction, freezing all non-emergency campus improvements, reducing or eliminating outside consultants, among other opportunities, the faculty are bearing the brunt of this burden."

Fifty-eight faculty members were given notices of layoffs following a board of trustee meeting marked by student protests that were so loud and sustained, even the reporters covering the meeting had no idea what was being voted on. Some student protesters were later summoned to the dean's office — and quickly went public with their concerns about intimidation from the administration.

The college has also been dealing with the fallout from an incident at a trustee meeting last October, when an adjunct instructor objecting to the board's prohibition on public applause approached the front of the room and was body-slammed by a St. Louis police officer. The brutal arrest made national headlines, and the instructor is now suing the college.

Faculty have said they do not believe their voices have been heard in the conversation about cuts at STLCC, which faces falling enrollment and reduced aid from the state of Missouri. Some critics have questioned Pittman's compensation package, which at $338,000 annually is higher than all but one other president or chancellor of any two-year college in Missouri.

"While faculty, students, and staff have provided many suggestions to help ease budgetary concerns, few of these suggestions were considered as serious alternatives to a Reduction in Force or to a shifting of health care costs to the employees of the College," the association's statement notes.

Update:

A college spokeswoman gave us this statement a bit after 3 p.m. today:
Last spring, the STLCC NEA conducted an evaluation of Chancellor Pittman that told a different story — he received high marks in his ability to lead St. Louis Community College. The recent steps taken by the NEA Executive Council is not a surprise and occurs often in institutions of higher education in challenging times. It comes as a response to differing opinions on how to address critical budget issues.

The STLCC NEA Executive Council continues to ignore many of the steps the College is taking to address significant and substantial challenges caused by cuts in state funding and a 36 percent drop in enrollment since 2011. The College has addressed these budget challenges by reducing operating and administrative costs, enacting a hiring freeze, and selling the College’s headquarters.

The College has also offered an unprecedented number of Voluntary Separation Incentive Programs over the last year to ease the need for faculty and staff reductions. The response to these programs has been promising. More than 40 employees have volunteered to separate from the College under 2018 VSIP programs to date.

This action of the STLCC NEA will not change Dr. Pittman’s – and STLCC leadership’s — commitment to students, faculty, staff and this community. They are working to keep tuition costs stable in a tough budget environment while also acting as responsible stewards of taxpayer funds.
We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at sarah.fenske@riverfronttimes.com


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