Students seemed not to be present at Clark College President Bob Knight’s open forum on Feb. 5.
Knight’s quarterly open forum is just as it sounds, an hour-long session where anyone can attend and ask questions on any topic. Clark College community members packed PUB 258 as Knight prepared to answer a variety of questions. When it came down to it, most of the questions and concerns showed by faculty and staff, were about the students here at Clark College.
This meeting’s questions revolved around what Sachi Horback, the vice president of instruction, referred to as a perfect storm: a shrinking budget, teachers seeking higher pay and Guided Pathways need for continued funding.
With the school’s budget focusing on these topics, the potential for cuts on other areas is a greater possibility. Students may feel the effect of these cuts if classes are combined and course options are downsized.
Due to the lack of students present at the forum, The Indy went out and talked with students among Clark campus asking about their opinions and viewpoints on the matter.
The students were asked if they would support higher salaries for faculty if it meant budget cuts affecting their education. The responses from students were varied.
Brittne Anderson, a first year student working her way towards a fine arts degree, supports faculty negotiating for higher salaries.
“Without a doubt,” Anderson said. “ My art teacher has to work two jobs.”
As for Kyle Redula, a second-year student in pursuit of a business major, said he hopes the faculty finds a way to cooperate without resulting in a strike.
“Anything that makes teaching difficult ends up affecting the students,” Redula said.
Steven Haye is also in support of teachers earning higher salaries even if this could lead to a strike.
“I am in complete support for higher salaries,” Haye said. He is working towards an applied science degree in technology.
Knight also has hopes that the faculty negotiations won’t result in a strike.
“They can strike, but I can’t squeeze blood out of a turnip. So I hope they don’t,” Knight said during the Feb. 5 forum.
Knight stated at the open forum that he has already asked the state for a 12 percent pay increase for instruction, indicating that beyond that there would have to be budget cuts, he said.
“We have to go to legislators together,” Knight said.
Following the McCleary decision, K-12 teachers went on strike to get higher pay in the fall of 2018.
“How are we going to retain students when we don’t have the funding?” Horback said in response.
Horback answered some questions from faculty concerning future budget cuts and making decisions for Guided Pathways. When she was questioned on the subject of classes being combined or even cut altogether, Horback said that these budget cuts will not be easy.
I’ve been here eight months said Horback. Instruction is two-thirds of the budget. “This is tough,” said Horback.“It’s a perfect storm.”
This year, departments are being asked to cut five percent. This year’s cuts are a bit deeper to reallocate funds for implementing guided pathways, Knight said.
During the open discussion, art professor Kathrena Halsinger questioned how the cuts will be decided. She expressed concern that students often find that the classes they need are full or unavailable when they need them.
During a budget forum on Feb. 13, Business and Administrative services handed out a pamphlet titled “Budget Outlook 2019-20,” which covered many of the issues discussed during the open forum.
“When the state approves wage increases, it funds approximately 65%. Colleges are expected to pick up 35% with tuition revenue,” the ‘state funded wage’ section of the pamphlet read.
This year Knight has asked for the state to fund 100 percent of approved salary increase, he said.
On Feb 13. faculty and supporters in the negotiations for fair wages gathered for a solidarity march across campus from the Penguin Union Building to Bauer Hall. As one, they hope to bring awareness on all they have done and why this is so important to them.
“Adjuncts are woefully underpaid, and we are just asking to have years and years of neglect to be fixed,” Halsinger said.
“For six years some of us went without earning cost of living expenses,” English Professor Kimberly Sullivan said towards the end of the discussion.
After the Feb. 13 negotiations, Director of Communications and Marketing Hannah Erickson gave the following statement to the Indy:
“Clark College is currently in the process of negotiating its annual contract with its faculty union. We had a productive and respectful bargaining session today and have scheduled another session for Wednesday, February 20… We are aware that Clark College faculty desire higher pay. This is why the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges has made employee salaries the top priority in its legislative agenda. Clark College, in partnership with the SBCTC, is currently asking the State Legislature to fund a 12 percent increase in all employee salaries over the next two biennia.”