9 file grievances against Terra

FREMONT – The nine Terra State Community College faculty who had their contracts non-renewed last week filed individual grievances with the college Monday.

The grievances are allowed under the collective bargaining agreement among Terra State’s board of trustees, the college and the Terra Faculty Association.

The faculty members were notified of their release effective May 7, TFA President Michael Smithback said.

Terra President Jerome Webster said the decision to non-renew the contracts was based on factors such as “comprehensive contributions to the college,” including the programming and academic needs of the college, and the college’s plans regarding certain course work.

Webster said there are 48 faculty at Terra. Of those, 28 are on the tenure track and eight of them were not renewed. He also said Terra has three lectureships – instructors who teach on one-year contracts – and one of them was not renewed.

“It is not uncommon for a college our size to non-renew faculty contracts,” Webster said. “On average, we typically have four to five faculty members on a tenure track. The amount of contracts not renewed is a larger number than previous years.”

Smithback said faculty members who are on a tenure track have a probationary period and their contracts are evaluated for renewal annually for the first five years.

He said the grievances deal with how the non-renewal procedure was carried out. He said all the tenure-track faculty members were summoned to a meeting via a notice entitled “Discussion” the day before the nine were notified of their non-renewal.

“I had 28 individuals terrified of whether they had a job,” Smithback said.

He said the college has five days to respond to the grievance, according to the union agreement.

Andrew Shella, TFA secretary, described the release of the faculty members as a reduction of force.

He said he was unsure why they were let go, since they had schedules to teach fall classes.

“I don’t understand the reason why these faculties were not making ‘contributions to the college,'” Shella said.

He said the discharges are part of a “much larger concern with the college.”

Shella said he believed there might be financial difficulties that are not being made public.

Webster said as enrollment fluctuates, the number of courses offered shifts and there is greater demand for some courses than others.

Smithback and Shella said they had no conflicts with the college; their concern is that procedures were followed correctly

“I certainly recognize the faculty’s right to voice their concerns with the collective bargaining agreement through the union grievance procedure,” Webster said. “Through the college’s perspective, we followed the guidelines of the contract. We are committed to working successfully with the faculty and to advance the college.

“We are proud of the work our faculty do and their enormous dedication. Through the process we have in place, we will work jointly to seek out a resolution appropriate for this situation.”

The Terra State Community College Board of Trustees is to meet at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in Building B, room 206.