Corrigan hushes union
August 29, 2007 10:29 PM
Faculty union members on campus expressed frustration and disappointment Monday after they were excluded from speaking at what they called the largest faculty meeting of the year.
For the third year in a row, the California Faculty Association was not asked to present at SF State’s Convocation, an annual meeting to which all faculty are invited. This year’s meeting included an address from SF State President Robert Corrigan covering several topics important to SF State, the presentation of three faculty awards and a presentation from each of the College Deans.
Corrigan vetoed a unanimous vote from the Academic Senate Executive Committee, which organizes the event jointly with the President’s office, according to Senate Chair James Kohn.
The denied vote was to request an invitation for CFA to present at the Convocation, which is designed for the faculty to meet new colleagues and share campus news, according to Kohn, who said he was “greatly disappointed” with the decision to exclude the CFA.
“I really think that for the benefit of the students, faculty, and administration we all have to speak together in one voice, especially at a time when we’re asking state legislature for help,” said Kohn. “But I respect Dr. Corrigan; he has every right to make the choice he made, and he has reasons for making it. I hope he’ll share them with us.”
Union officials said they were unsure of Corrigan’s reasoning, and had hoped to use the event to reach the whole faculty at once.
“We had important information for all the faculty about the new contract we were hoping to present, and this was the best opportunity to do it,” said local chapter CFA President Ramon Castellblanc. “We told (Corrigan) we didn’t want to attack anybody or point any fingers: we just wanted to inform the faculty about their new contract.”
Castellblanc said that in a recent meeting between Corrigan, a university lawyer and himself, he’d been unsure of the president’s explanation for his reasoning.
“He seemed to be arguing that what we had to say wasn’t germane to the purpose of the Convocation, but I couldn’t tell for sure,” Castellblanc said.
Corrigan was traveling and unavailable for comment on Tuesday and Wednesday according to his office staff, but SF State Public Affairs Director Ellen Griffin said that CFA is not a partner in organizing the event and therefore didn’t belong on the program.
“(CFA is) not a partner in joint governance,” she said. “They represent the faculty in bargaining.” She stressed that agenda decisions need to be agreed upon by both the president’s office and the Academic Senate, and that Corrigan’s disagreement with the senate committee was not a content based decision.
Corrigan had strong words for the union’s recent history with the California State University system in his speech to the Convocation in McKenna Theater.
He called contract negotiations between CFA and the university administration, which wrapped in April, “the most disputatious bargaining I’ve seen in a lifetime in union atmospheres.”
He went on to say, “Talk about shooting ourselves in the foot. . . we made it easy for legislature to deny us funding we desperately needed.”
Earlier this year, two years of CFA/CSU negotiations nearly broke down. Corrigan circulated an open letter to the union members statewide that criticized union leadership and encouraged faculty to accept the offer then on the table from the university. Instead, the CFA members voted for the first time ever in favor of authorizing a strike; with hours to go before the first strike was scheduled to begin, an agreement meeting nearly all CFA’s major demands was finally reached.
Unable to inform local faculty about the practical details of that agreement at the Convocation, the local CFA chapter held a meeting in Rosa Parks Hall on Monday afternoon. Castellblanc explained to about 50 attendees that they should expect their paychecks to go up on October 1, rather than the previously expected September 1 date.
Even though Corrigan himself made this year’s decision, the two previous omissions of the CFA from the program were not attributed to the SF State President, according to Mitch Turitz, former president of the local CFA.
Last year’s Convocation included a silent protest from the CFA in response to their denied presentation. In a letter to Xpress last year, Mitch Turitz, then president of the CFA, addressed the demonstration by saying the “CFA protest was not specifically against President Corrigan, as I do not believe he was directly responsible for the decision to exclude CFA from the Convocation.”
This year, however, the local CFA decided against a protest. The union had begun working together with Corrigan recently and “Many of us didn’t want to ratchet up the pressure,” according Jeff Rosen, vice-president of the local CFA.
By way of example, Castellblanc said that when the CSU budget was at risk in recent California state budget negotiations, Corrigan “sent me an email saying ‘we need CFA support to defend the CSU budget.’ And I’m glad he did. We were happy to help.”
Griffin told Xpress that Corrigan “looks forward to a collegial relationship between CFA and the administration, ensuring the faculty are supported in reaching their educational and research goals.”
Despite characterizing their absence from the program as a slap in the face, Rosen expressed a similar hope.
“We wanted the president to see that we’re trying to put the rancorous relations of the last couple years behind us,” Rosen said.
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