President Bowen responds to contingent faculty’s union plans

Rachel  Brustein

Editor-in-Chief

On October 7th, College president José Bowen sent an email to the faculty acknowledging the contingent faculty’s decision to unionize. Bowen referred to this decision as “an important issue for our campus.”  He mentioned that he worked with non-tenure track faculty at his previous institution, Southern Methodist University, “on actions that increased participation in governance and provided greater inclusion,” and wants to accomplish that at Goucher through “direct dialogue” with the faculty.

The email contained anti-union language. For example, Bowen stated in the email, “before you take the step of trusting an outside entity to control your interests at Goucher, I’d ask you to give me a chance to talk with you…and work with you directly to make teaching here a more rewarding and better experience.” In the email, Bowen also asked the faculty to educate themselves about unionization before signing the commitment cards. He explained, “if the SEIU [the union] wins the right to bargain collectively, it will demand that Goucher agree to force all non-tenure track faculty, as a condition of employment, to become a member of the union and pay dues or pay an equivalent amount as a non-member agency fee. If that demand becomes part of the agreement with the union, you will have to pay dues or fees, or you can be discharged from the college.”

A document titled “FAQs about SEIU’s Organizing Efforts on Goucher’s Campus” was attached to the e-mail. This document, distributed by the administration at a faculty meeting before the email was sent out, contained information about unionization, authorization cards, appropriate bargaining units, unionization dues, and collective bargaining.

On October 16th, Bowen sent an email to the entire Goucher community reiterating many of the points he made in the original email sent to the faculty. 

Both the email from Bowen and the supplementary document can be found on Goucher’s website.

Goucher students respond to unionization plans

Rachel Brustein

Editor-in-Chief

During the last two weeks, students across campus have written and signed a petition to show support for the contingent faculty who are unionizing. Samuel Kessler ’16, a member of the Radical Leftist Club spearheaded the petition. Zachary Hill ’16 finalized it on the week of October 13th along with other members of the Radical Leftist Club, and a professor who is on the organizing committee. Kessler explained, “we felt a need to really clearly declare that unionization is in line with Goucher’s principles.”

Since then, there has been both online and paper versions for students to sign. Radical Leftist Club members have been out on Van Meter with hard copies both this week and last reaching out to students and gaining support. As of Tuesday, October 21 the online petition had between 300-400 signatures.

The petition acknowledges that “a union is a worthy avenue to ensure that Goucher’s non-tenure track professors have an equitable voice within the structure of their employment,” and requests for “the Goucher College Administration to remain neutral during the process towards the unionization of Goucher’s non-tenure track faculty.”

Through the petition, Madeleine Scott ’16, explained, students are “showing that we’re there for [the faculty]…and showing the administration that we care about this.” Hill added, that among the petition’s many purposes, one is “to include information about the unionization of the faculty,” so that the entire student body knows this is happening. Unionizing enables the non-tenure track faculty to have a fair discussion without the pressure from the administration.

An online version of the petition can be found and signed at change.org.

There has been talk of student representatives from the Radical Leftist Club, along with a union organizer, hand-delivering the petition to President Bowen by Thursday, October 23.

Provost Marc Roy announces resignation

Rachel Brustein

Editor-in-Chief

On Friday, October 17, Provost Marc Roy sent an email to the faculty announcing his resignation as of June 30, 2015. Roy began working at Goucher in the summer of 2007 and “has seen many positive changes,” as well as challenges, since coming to Goucher, according to the email. The email said that he plans to either go back to teaching,  or look for a position elsewhere.

A few hours after Roy’s email was sent out, college president José Bowen sent an email to the faculty thanking Marc Roy for his eight years of dedication to the college. Bowen also announced that he is in the process of structuring a search committee to find the next provost. The committee will consist of one vice president, four faculty members, two trustees, two staff members, one student, and one alumnae/i. His email said that he hopes to launch the search as soon as possible.

Goucher contingent faculty announces plan to unionize

Rachel Brustein

Editor-in-Chief

The contingent faculty at the college plans to unionize in order to be treated more fairly by the school. Contingent faculty includes faculty that is part or half time, adjunct and non-tenure track, and comprises over sixty percent of the teaching positions at the college. They receive extremely low pay compared to their tenured peers and cannot participate in major decisions made by the faculty. A lack of these rights is not uncommon for contingent faculty at other institutions of higher education.

These faculty members have partnered with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the second largest union in the country, in order to unionize. Non-tenure track faculty at other institutions including the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), American University, and Georgetown, have successfully unionized with SEIU.

Rollie Hudson, an adjunct lecturer in the Communications Department and the Digital Arts graduate program, explained that he is fortunate enough to work other jobs in addition to his teaching at Goucher. However, some contingent faculty live solely from what they earn here.

Fifteen faculty members have already publicly supported the decision to unionize and have signed their names in an email to the entire faculty on October 2. The email stated: “our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions.” It also explained that these faculty members believe collective bargaining to be “the most just and fair way to address these concerns, including but not limited to compensation, faculty governance, voting rights, job security, benefits, advancement, and transparency.” Collective bargaining will also strengthen the faculty’s commitment to each other and to social justice. In this email, the faculty also recognized the fiscal pressures and challenges in higher education and at Goucher.

Jeffrey Dowd, visiting assistant professor of sociology, and one of the fifteen faculty members to publicly support this decision, explained, “there is an enormous power imbalance dealing with an administration when you’re contingent,” which is why it is important to unionize. Dowd also noted that there are many larger social forces that play into this, and from a sociological and social justice perspective, workers can best confront problems by working together. Additionally, he explained that unions are “primarily controlled by people in the working and middle classes,” and that unionization is a response to the “hollowing out of the middle class” in higher education. Maureen Winter ‘13, who teaches French, thinks that this is “good for the Goucher community to change the relationship between the contingent faculty and the administration.” Laura Orem, a non-tenure track faculty in the writing program, said by collective bargaining, Goucher is “living up to its ideals and commitments of social justice and democracy starting right at home.” Charlee Sterling, who also teaches in the writing program, said that though Goucher treats its non-tenure track faculty well, the school could always improve.

The administration has been aware of the contingent faculty’s choice to unionize for about two or three weeks. Provost Marc Roy sent out an official statement to all faculty on Monday, September 29. That Thursday, October 2, some faculty members met with President José Bowen and Roy. “The college cannot tell faculty that they may or may not [unionize], that would be illegal,” Roy explained. The administration is not involved in the formation of the union. While the administration has the power, the goal of unionizing is not to overpower the administration, but rather to level the power.

In order to form the union, the contingent faculty members must first sign union authorization cards. The card says that “the worker who signs it wants to have a democratic secret ballot election held in their workplace to decide whether or not the workers there will form a union,” a union organizer explained in an email. There must be thirty percent interest from the contingent faculty in order for the cards to be filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Currently, this is the step in the process the faculty is at. The next step is to schedule and hold the election, and if fifty percent of the voters say yes to a union, the union will be legally recognized by the NLRB. Then a bargaining team is selected amongst the workers so that they can bargain their first contract. Once this happens, if an agreement is made between the college and the union, it is voted on and ratified to become part of the contract under which all members of the union are covered. If an agreement is not reached, the union continues to bargain.

When Hudson and three organizers from SEIU met with students at the Radical Leftist club meeting on Thursday, October 2, they encouraged students to take action. This issue directly affects students, as students’ education is dependent on whether or not these contingent faculty can stay at Goucher. Currently, students involved in the Radical Leftist club are working on a petition to gain student support for the unionization.

Umoja spreads awareness about microagressions

Rachel Brustein

Editor-in-Chief

During the week of September 22, Umoja, Goucher’s black student union, held an inaugural campaign to raise awareness about racial microaggressions. Racial microaggressions are “brief and everyday slight insults, indignities, and denigrating messages sent to people of color.”

Umoja members tabled on Van Meter throughout the week. Students of color had the opportunity to write down microaggressions that had been directed to them on a chalkboard, and have their photo taken along with it. The idea for the campaign stemmed from a similar campaign at Harvard, where a Tumblr account was made showing students of color displaying signs with microaggressions written on them.

Though race has been a prominent topic of dialogue on campus, microaggressions have rarely come up within the conversation, if they have at all.

The microaggressions said at Goucher are a “combination of ignorance and people being rude,” Jordan Leonard ’18, an Umoja member said. Leonard added, “One of the hardest parts of discussing these things is opening the dialogue in a way that everyone feels comfortable.” He hopes the anti-microaggression campaign will serve as a starting point for future dialogue. Yabsera Faris ’17, a co-President of Umoja, explained that doing the anti-microaggression campaign during the first half of the semester “causes the conversation to continue.”

These microaggressions are present in many settings on campus, including classrooms. Robert Fletcher ’16, co-President of Umoja, said, “It’s awkward because you’re in the classroom, you can’t really address it at the moment.” The Umoja executive board explained that when students came up to the table, it was sometimes hard for them to pinpoint a specific microaggression. Once people thought of one, it was easy to come up with others that they had heard. Fletcher also added that students of color were excited to have the opportunity to “express the microaggressions that they’ve experienced [and] didn’t realize they [microaggressions] had a title.”

While only people of color experience microaggressions, one of the goals of the campaign was to educate all students on their impact. Goucher’s campus, often viewed as liberal, “is not exempt from racism” remarked Kylie Grove-Peattie ’15, who serves on the Umoja executive board. Nyasha Moony-McCoy ’16, Umoja’s treasurer, explained, “The Goucher bubble is very real [and] as a campus we feel we are above racism, ” though in reality the campus is not. It is “important to recognize that we [white people] won’t ever know what it’s like to be a person of color,” Grove-Peattie added. White activists have been known for doing a lot of talking about this issue, but perhaps what they really need to do is listen.

Umoja will be hosting a follow-up discussion about microaggressions on Tuesday, October 13 at 6pm in Buchner in the Alumni House. Umoja’s meetings are every Tuesday at 9pm in Pinkard.

They have a Facebook page, UmojaBSUGoucher, Instagram at UmojaGoucher, and Twitter @UmojaGoucherBSU.

On being “the feminist” camp counselor

Rachel Brustein

Editor-in-Chief

This past summer, I returned work at an overnight camp in Wisconsin for my fifth summer, and my second as a counselor. My past summers had been filled with fond memories. As summer 2014 approached, I became increasingly excited.

During the middle of staff week, the entire staff participated in a discussion-based program about gender. While the discussion did not go as well as I had hoped, something was clear by the end: camp is a place that continuously claims to be “inclusive,” but is not currently inclusive to trans individuals. To be clear, camp is not “anti-trans,” but rather, it is not actively pursing a way to be trans-inclusive at the moment. I applaud a friend of mine who spoke up during the program, calling out our old-fashioned camp director, who was not present, on asking a male camper to remove his nail polish.

Throughout the summer, I found myself noticing countless gender norms and standards of masculinity. While I could go on forever listing examples, I won’t. Something that caught my attention was a seemingly arbitrary rule made at the pool. In the shallow end, there is a five-foot long toy alligator that kids climb on. One morning at the pool, I heard a lifeguard blow her whistle and say, “girls off, it’s time for the boys’ turn.” I immediately questioned the gendering of this and asked the lifeguard about it. She told me that because boys are too violent, it was not safe for boys and girls to be on the alligator at the same time. I went straight to the aquatics director to inform her that I felt as though the lifeguards were making an assumption about boys being violent. She was very understanding. Nevertheless, most of the lifeguards continued to enforce this rule for the rest of the summer.

Not all of my experiences were negative though. During the second two-week session of camp, one of my co-counselors, Zoe, is a women’s studies major. For those two weeks, our cabin thrived on body and period-positivity. As a cabin bonding activity, we made SHEro posters, which involved printing out a photo of each girl’s famous female role model, decorating them, and saying why each of us picked these women.

During these two weeks, I had a conversation with another counselor. “I’m not really a feminist,” she told me one evening. When I asked her what she meant by that, she said, “Well, I’m not like Zoe.” I told her that you don’t have to be a women’s studies major and constantly talk about bodies in order to be a feminist. “I’m not not a feminist,” she replied.

I had the opportunity to examine these issues most critically during a learning session with a few other counselors led by an educator at camp, a young man in his late twenties. All of us were in this session by choice. Therefore, we were all counselors for whom gender equality was at the forefront of our thinking. The educator presented us with an article, “A feminist camp counselor unpacks her baggage,” published in Lilith, a feminist Jewish publication. Maya Zinkow, the author, wrote about her experience at her Jewish summer camp specifically after completing her sophomore year at Barnard. “I was returning to a place I loved deeply…but deep internal change is harder to accommodate in a space that must remain the familiar and idyllic home for hundreds of campers who return every summer,” the article read. Everything began to click; Zinkow got it.

In the learning session, I raised a concern about how to make the changes around gender norms that were referenced in the article. “The change has to come from the counselors,” the educator told us. When he first said this, I didn’t know what to think. I felt powerless in the entire bureaucracy of camp. I was only a counselor after all. I began to think about the big picture. Where does effective change usually stem from at Goucher? The students. The counselors (and sometimes campers) were the students in this situation.

A few weeks later, I saw a letter written by a group of ninth-grade campers. The letter called out the camp administration on asking boys wearing dresses to change. The boys were wearing dresses as part of “switch day,” where the campers dressed up like their peers. “We openly challenge traditional gender roles…we believe the actions taken were unjust and we hope you can respect our voice,” read the letter.

Though change is slowly starting to happen, I definitely felt out of place at camp this summer. I partially dealt with this by sending letters (yes, letters by mail) to Goucher friends explaining my experience. One reply read something along the lines of, “it can be hard to critique a place you love so much.” Camp no longer feels like the place where I can be my truest self, but part of me still wants to return to hopefully be part of the change.

Bowen addresses students’ concerns

Rachel Brustien

Editor-in-Chief

On Wednesday, September 17, the Goucher Student Government (GSG) hosted an open forum with college president José Bowen. The forum allowed students to express their concerns with recent and upcoming changes. The forum was facilitated by Isaiah Zukowski ’17 and featured a question and answer session with Bowen, which addressed topics, including the Goucher Video Application (GVA), student retention rate, Wi-Fi, Title IX, study abroad, student support services, and the Stimson project.

GSG advertised the event by sending out emails to the student body, and encouraged students to submit pertinent questions ahead of time via email. Once these questions had been gathered, Zukowski presented them to Bowen and then opened the floor so students could ask follow-up questions.

In terms of the GVA, Bowen revealed that he met with admissions, Associate Provost LaJerne Cornish, and Provost Marc Roy back in July to discuss Goucher’s community principles and possibilities for a more inclusive admissions process. This resulted in a faculty meeting, where a few ideas were “tossed around,” as Bowen said, including the video application.

Bowen reiterated that Goucher will still use the Common Application, and if students do choose to do the GVA, they must also submit two pieces of high school work. Although students do not have to submit a transcript with the video application, students do have to submit a transcript if they want to be considered for merit-based scholarships. Bowen also reminded students that scholarships are given after students are admitted. Therefore, it is possible for someone to apply through the video application, and then later submit their transcript to be considered for merit-based scholarships. Additionally, students who are from low-income backgrounds who are admitted through the GVA will still be able to apply for need-based aid both through FAFSA and the college. Upon being asked how the GVA will attract students who are the first in their family to attend college, Bowen explained that the video gives the college recognition and it will give high school students a new opportunity when applying to colleges. Because more students have a phone than a laptop or computer, and phones are “better at making videos than writing essays, so I felt it leveled the playing field.”

There was much speculation expressed as to whether or not the GVA will succeed. Bowen mentioned several ways in which the success can be measured including a rise in SAT scores among applicants, the overall yield of students, and the retention of students accepted. Another way to measure this is tracking the GPAs of students who were accepted on the Common Application versus the GPAs of students accepted on the GVA.

The GVA has sparked a lot of response nationwide, giving Goucher a great deal of publicity. When this topic came up, Bowen acknowledged that “most of the publicity we’re getting is positive,” and while not all of the responses to the GVA have been positive, the GVA has been able to get the school’s name out there. “If it works,” Bowen said, “trust me, everyone will be doing this in the next couple years. Eight hundred schools are now SAT [or ACT] test-optional; it started with one school.”

A few students asked whether the GVA will hurt the budget, but financial models allow for the school to continue the curent model that it needs to meet and sustain the budget in the short-term. In the long term, if the video application  results raising the total yield for the school, it could help sustain the budget because when more students are enrolled, the budget is better, regardless of the financial need of the students.  Zukowski mentioned to Bowen that the four students present at the panel on the GVA were opposed to it. Bowen found this statement to be false, and while he did say that students were involved in the process, he did not remember who those students were.

This brought up the question of the administration making big decisions without first asking for student input, which came up a few more times throughout the forum. Bowen responded to this comment by saying, “I’m here…I have open hours.” He reiterated that he is willing to talk to students about their concerns on campus.

Another major topic addressed at the forum was Goucher’s retention rate. Goucher students and the administration are aware that the college does not have a very high retention rate. Zukowski mentioned that the retention rate across four years is only 59%. Bowen said that he “just hired someone who has expertise in this area.” He also mentioned that Cornish is starting a committee on the subject, which will consist of people from student services, student affairs, and other areas of the college. A student later asked if there are students on the committee. Bowen said there are not any on the committee yet, but that it is a possibility. Part of retention, Bowen explained, is that “we need to look at what we do…everything we do on campus matters.”

This brought the conversation back to the topic of the video application, as he elaborated on the idea that if more people apply using the Common Application, which has happened, the yield goes down because all you have to do is check a box. However, if people use the video application, students will be “intentional” about applying to Goucher.

One question Zukowski posed was, “Why are we choosing admissions first when we’re having a hard time right now as it is providing for the students here?” Bowen responded that nothing is mutually exclusive. “It’s not an either or [and] we’re taking a holistic view of student services, academic services, [and how] they can be rethought,” he said.

Retention is closely related to maintaining and enlarging the size of the student body. Bowen said that the campus is sized for 1,600 students, but is currently at 1,440. The target for next year’s admission is higher, and the college has a continuous goal of reaching 1,600 students.

Bowen noted that the decision to upgrade the Wi-Fi was made based on the results of a survey from IT sent to students in the spring. He said the Wi-Fi upgrade cost $1.2 million.

In regards to the Title IX online training course, Bowen made it clear that the college is required by federal law to administer this to everyone on campus, including students, faculty, and staff. The college looked at a few different products that were available, and chose this specific training course because over 150 schools have used it. Bowen admitted that “we probably could’ve communicated a little bit better” when the training course was first sent out to students.

    Zukowski also asked Bowen to talk about study abroad. The first thing Bowen said in response to this was that “we haven’t removed the voucher, we’ve just changed the way it’s allocated.” He added that the amount of money one gets for study abroad will be about where the student is going and their financial need. In regards to the requirement, Bowen said, “I don’t see a reason to change it. It’s expensive, but it’s not monumental” and that he sees “study abroad as a means to an end.”

    Another topic mentioned was college employees in student support services who have left their jobs, but their positions had not been refilled. Bowen stressed the importance of looking at the budget and being strategic in the positions that are hired. “We’re going to be in a constant mode of looking at the budget,” Bowen said. 

    When students were allowed to pose their own questions, renovating Stimson came up. Bowen acknowledged how necessary this project is and that the building has to be brought up to code. He said that constructing a new building is $40 million, and renovating the current building is $20 million. However, it is easier to fundraise for a new building even though it is more expensive. Additionally, constructing a new building allows the college to answer questions about number of beds, if it should be suite-style living or halls of singles, doubles, and triples, and what the dining should look like. A committee, which includes students, has been formed and an architecture firm has been hired, although there is not yet a firm timeline for the project.

    Bowen also mentioned that Hoffberger and Meyerhoff both need renovations, and that he does not want to play favorites between departments. He said that “the arts matter to me,” but he also wants “to be strategic about where we put that money.”

    One transfer student raised a concern about the college being more open and available to transfers. Although private schools, unlike public universities, are not mandated to reach out to community colleges, Bowen agreed with the student that Goucher could definitely do more outreach to recruit transfer students.

Dean of Students, Bryan Coker, and the staff from the Office of Student Engagement (OSE) were also present at the forum. Coker said he was there because his job is to serve as the liaison between the president and the students and wanted to be aware of what students’ questions and concerns are. Stacy Cooper Patterson, Director of Student Engagement, stressed the importance of hearing concerns directly from the students, rather than from other people on campus.

    Deanna Galer ’17, who is on the GSG Transition Team and helped coordinate the forum, said that “the event has already sparked an administrative conversation about proactivity rather than reactivity and hearing students’ voices on all issues.”

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