Donning red shirts and a spirit of solidarity, current County College of Morris faculty, students, alumni and other members of the community emphatically voiced their concerns at the CCM Board of Trustees meeting in front of a packed crowd at the campus Student Community Center on Thursday night.
The faculty have been working without a contract for more than a year, but the tenor of the evening went beyond that very real complaint and conveyed a broader sense of systemic inequity and administrative mismanagement that many feel threaten the long-standing tradition of excellence at the college.
According to Jim Capozzi, an English professor and President of the Faculty Association of CCM (FACCM), there is a widespread frustration felt by faculty about the conditions of their employment.
“We’re hopeful that the board will be receptive to our concerns.” Capozzi remarked.
“Obviously, we do not expect to resolve our contract issues overnight, but we need at the very least an acknowledgement of the gross inequity on this campus.
“The faculty and staff who work here can no longer sustain a living. Meanwhile, we see administrative raises, a new building being erected and a tuition hike. We need some answers about the priorities of this administration,” he added.
For close to two hours, faculty member after faculty member took to the microphone in front of the Board of Trustees, chronicling bouts of financial distress, depleted professional morale and even feelings of intimidation on the part of the current administration.
Computer science professor Nancy Binowski shared with the board that she recently looked at one of her pay stubs from 10 years ago while working at the college and then looked at a recent stub to discover that after those 10 years and two promotions her net pay is a mere $48 more per pay check.
“That is 60 cents per hour more after 10 years,” Binowski emphasized.
During his public comments, English professor Philip Chase mentioned the generous salary increases recently received by many of the college administrators. Chase acknowledged, “That is good,” and then added. “But, that same logic must apply to faculty and staff.”
“We’re not looking to get rich. We’re looking to get by,” affirmed Communications professor Ray Kalas during his remarks.
According to public records and the college’s annual financial reports, faculty salaries have on average stagnated at a mere 1 percent increase over the last decade while the cost of living and health care benefits have increased 9 percent, highlighting the challenge confronted by CCM faculty and staff.
Additionally, over the past three years, CCM has made close to $11 million of Non-Mandatory Transfers out of the Current Fund (from which faculty salaries are paid) into plant and maintenance projects.
During these same three years, CCM has added $1 million for management positions, an increase of 27 percent and raises for managers have averaged 14 percent. Meanwhile, CCM has fallen significantly below average for faculty salaries when compared to surrounding community colleges, including Brookdale, Middlesex, Passaic, Raritan Valley, and Union.
Notably, CCM students with no more than an associate degree on average make $70,700 10 years after graduation. Sixty-four percent of CCM staff and faculty with at least a master’s degree earned less than that amount last year.
The professors were joined by many current students, alumni and other members of the community who made public comments in steadfast support of the dismayed faculty members.
During the public comments an underlying theme of administrative intimidation was frequently suggested.
“There is a culture of fear that has infiltrated our workplace,” exclaimed Communications Professor Michelle Altieri.
This was further illustrated in the opening remarks of virtually every faculty and staff member who chose to share their personal story with the Board. They invariably began their public comments by stating, “I hope that by speaking to you tonight there will be no retribution.”
Bill Cole of Morristown is a press relations specialist for the Morris County Council of Education Associations (MCCEA), and is Legislative chair for The Education Association of Morris (TEAM), which represents teachers in the Morris School District.