Faculty at Maricopa County Colleges 'shocked' by proposed policy changes

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The governing board of the Maricopa Community College District is looking at changes that impact its faculty contracts, specifically by putting an end to the process that allows teachers a voice in how they operate within their respective colleges.

The changes are on the agenda for a special board meeting late Tuesday afternoon. One of the main issues is what’s called “Meet and Confer,” which establishes the working relationship between the faculty and administration.

The "Meet and Confer" process allows for collaboration between the Chancellor and faculty members in multiple areas, including faculty responsibilities, wages, benefits and other terms and conditions of employment. The “Meet and Confer” team is comprised of an equal number of faculty and administration members and is co-chaired by a member of each. It’s a system that has been in place for decades.

[READ IN FULL: "Meet and Confer" outlined in the Residential Faculty Policies]

“We are shocked. This governing board action comes to us quite out of the blue,” Mike Mitchell, the president of the Maricopa Community Colleges Faculty Association, told Arizona’s Family in a phone interview late Tuesday morning. “There’s been no indication that the … process that we’re working with has been a problem.”

The justification given for the proposed changes by the MCCCD Governing Board is to streamline and simplify the faculty development process while still allowing for faculty input. In addition, the recommended proposal also states that the elimination of "Meet and Confer" would allow changes to be accomplished more quickly and reduce the amount of valuable resources devoted to policy development.   

[READ IN FULL: Justification for eliminating "Meet and Confer" process from faculty contract]

Tuesday’s meeting is a first reading of the resolution to end “Meet and Confer.” The resolution also calls for Chancellor Maria Harper-Marinick to develop a new Residential Faculty Policy manual, including a new process for faculty input. In addition, the resolution states that "Meet and Confer" may not be included in the new Residential Faculty Policy manual.  

The next step is a second reading of the resolution, which could happen at the next scheduled meeting on Feb. 27, or possibly at another special meeting.

"The administration is committed to ensuring a participatory process for the development of residential faculty policies," Harper-Marinick said in a statement emailed to Arizona's Family. "Our goals are to ensure students receive the best educational experiences and services possible and to continue our long tradition of collaboration with faculty and other employees. That is what is in the best interest of Maricopa. We will work to preserve our long-standing support for faculty involvement in important policy development and other decisions within a revised policy development framework as may be directed by our Governing Board."

Arizona’s Family asked Mitchell about what prompted the resolution to eliminate "Meet and Confer."

“I can’t speak to that when I haven’t been told what the problems with the current system are,” he said, explaining that the relationship between the faculty and administration “has been a very successful and stable relationship for the past 50 years.”

Should the resolution to end “Meet and Confer” be adopted, Mitchell said things will be relatively uncertain for Maricopa County Community Colleges faculty, particularly with respect to their working relationship with the administration.

“We don’t know what our policies are going to be going forward,” Mitchell said. “We don’t have an idea of what plan will exist for meeting with our administrative partners… There’s the promise that a new relationship will be established, but what that relationship will be like – all of that is in the air.”

Tuesday's special meeting of the board will be preceded by a presentation on "Meet and Confer."

Arizona’s Family has reached out to Laurin Hendrix, the MCCCD president, but we have not heard back yet. We will update this story as soon as we do. 

Earlier this month, MCCCD announced that it is scrapping the football programs at Phoenix College, Scottsdale Community College, Mesa Community College and Glendale Community College.

[READ MORE: 4 community colleges in Maricopa County to eliminate football programs]

Maricopa Community Colleges is comprised of 10 accredited colleges that serve more than 200,000 students.

The governing board is made up of five elected members from designated regions within Maricopa County and two at-large positions. Members serve staggered four-year terms. Current members include Hendrix (District 1), Johanna Haver (District 3), Augustine Bartning (District 5), Tracy Livingston (at-large), Jean McGrath (District 4), Dana G. Saar (District 2), and  Dr. Linda Thor (at-large). The terms for Haver, Bartning, Livingston and McGrath expire at the end of this year. The others' terms expire at the end of 2020.

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