Waterbury, CT – Terrence Cheng, President of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, plans to wrap up his tour of all twelve community colleges with a visit to Naugatuck Valley on Thursday, November 4. In a show of solidarity, faculty and staff from various unions across the campus plan to boycott the meetings planned with President Cheng.
“We are fortunate to be in the position of being the final college on his tour and to have heard the reports from colleagues at the other colleges,” said Lisa Calabrese, Chapter Chair for Staff for the 4Cs union. “Our colleagues have reported that President Cheng’s M.O. has been consistent – consistently challenging the legitimacy of questions, deferring or simply deflecting the questions or answering with dismissive or evasive responses. Colleagues have also said that President Cheng continues to state he wants each college to retain local control and that we’re all working together but has dodged the questions pointing out contradictions in words versus actions. The continuation of consolidation and the stalled contract negotiations belie his reassurances regarding local control. Therefore, our Naugatuck Valley unions felt that a boycott of the meeting would send a stronger message than providing him with the opportunity to respond to our questions with answers that we know he has already had time to hone during his previous college visits.”
“What have we already tried?” asked Gail Hughes, Chapter Chair for Part-Timers for the 4Cs union. “Verbalizations, rational thought, challenging questions. Our college is ready to show courage and try a different response to see if our concerns about our impending loss of autonomy, loss of creativity, and loss of our beloved community and our very identity at Naugatuck Valley can finally be recognized and addressed.”
Ron Picard, Professor of English under the AFT union and Representative to the BOR’s Faculty Advisory Committee added, “If President Cheng is serious about listening to faculty and staff, then he should respond to our multiple calls over the last three years to pause the consolidation and assess the terrible financial and academic costs identified by our Faculty Advisory Committee, our Faculty Senates, and Connecticut State Legislators. He should also call for the BOR negotiating team to honor the precedents in our long-established contracts and engage in open and honest negotiations. Until he does so, a meeting is premature.”
“As a Program Coordinator at NVCC, I have been privy to the total decimation of the individual Early Childhood Education Programs into one watered-down, inferior, impersonal “one-college” program that our future teachers of young children will have graduated from,” stated Cynthia Meo, Chapter Chair for Faculty from the 4Cs union. “I worry for our youngest citizens who will be in the care of ill-qualified teachers and caregivers. No longer will Connecticut 2-year early childhood education programs be viewed as model programs for other states. As I hear from my colleagues, these substandard replacements are happening across all of the various Connecticut community college program majors.”
CSCU and the BOR’s proposed consolidation involves a two-pronged approach: consolidating services across the twelve campuses and changing from twelve individual college accreditations to a single accredited college with twelve branches. The five unions that represent faculty and staff within CSCU have opposed this method of consolidation. The only savings that have been realized so far come from allowing unfilled positions to remain vacant. Many of these open positions are student-facing, such as mental health counselors and veterans’ coordinators. At the same time, shared services have become more inefficient and redundant. Serious problems have resulted from shared services such as adjunct faculty contracts being seriously delayed along with various problems with employees’ pay. The unions oppose the single accreditation because that decision requires building an entirely new middle management structure that ciphers money away from the classroom, and every dollar spent on these administrators’ salaries comes out of the funding allocated to the individual colleges, further impairing our capacity to serve students with the quality we’ve always been proud to provide.
President Cheng began his tenure at CSCU on July 1, 2021.