FRC kills motion to send Lay-offs and cut programs

Tiffiney Lozano
Staff Writer

Feather River College trustees voted unanimously against sending layoff notices to six full-time faculty members in a special meeting Tuesday, March 9, a decision that earned them a roomful of applause.

At stake was the football program as well as the men's and women's basketball programs; two vocational programs - office career and technology and outdoor recreation leadership; and a library science position.

College president Dr. Ron Taylor, in attendance via conference call, said after the vote he was "very encouraged" by what he had heard.

"It's going to be a challenge, let's not kid ourselves. Every bit of savings will be a sacrifice, but I am encouraged by the spirit of cooperation," he said.

The trustees cast their votes after nearly an hour of discussion during which several bargaining units spoke, indicating they would be flexible with pay cuts when and if the actual budget required such measures.

Calling for "transparency" throughout the budget process, Academic Senate president Chris Connell reminded all parties of FRC's unique environment.

The small geographic area forces people to live and work together very closely. He said that relationship was vital to maintaining trust throughout the budget process.

"The faculty and staff have saved this campus many before by doing without," said Connell. "They can do it again."

Interim Director of Student Services Lisa Kelley told the board "good decisions are made on behalf of students."

Rick Stock, director of the outdoor recreation leadership program, told the board a possible decision to eliminate his program was based on erroneous numbers. The figures evaluated were based solely on the fall semester, and his greatest enrollment is always in the spring, said Stock.

"If you're going to judge football, you'd better count the fall semester," he said for comparison.

Stock also clarified that Darla DeRuiter was mistakenly counted as a full-time instructor for his program when, in reality, DeRuiter holds a split position working 50 percent of the time for recreation and the other 50 percent for environmental studies.

Faculty union president Michael Welser brought a list of suggestions to the board that amounted to $970,000 in potential cuts that could be made without having to lay off any faculty.

Suggestions included cuts to the textbooks made available to the Incarcerated Student Program; reduction of the soccer program from full to part time; and not hiring a new athletic trainer, in addition to several more.

In a later interview, Welser explained his priority was to find ways to save money that would not affect the full-time equivalent formula that generates state revenue for the school.

Welser urged the board to find ways to keep the faculty and staff the college already employed and to issue a hiring freeze.

Welser did say after all other means to close the budget gap were exhausted, the faculty would take a pay cut if it was still necessary.

Karen Paiva of the California School Employees Association indicated a similar flexibility, but maintained, "Balancing the budget should not fall on the staff."

Chief Instructional Officer Dr. Michael Bagley said for many this was the first time they had heard him speak publicly about the potential layoffs.

"I am your advocate," he said to the faculty. "This is my heart too."

"I don't want to see colleagues not be here anymore," he continued.

Bagley also told those present a group of about 30 students, 10 administration and two faculty members met the previous night to brainstorm ideas on how to find the budget's missing dollars.

Students immediately pledged to fundraise. They also offered to make cuts to the student employment program.

"That lets you know how much the students think of the faculty and staff," Bagley said to the idea of decreasing funds to student jobs.

Trustee John Schramel concluded the meeting by saying he grew up with a single mother during the Depression with seven brothers and sisters.

"Times got tough, but she didn't kick anyone away from the dinner table. We cut portions," said Schramel.

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