A new independent report that recommends outsourcing several Clark College departments prompted dozens of faculty members and staff to pack the most recent Board of Trustees meeting.
Faced with a budget shortfall due to increased wages, declining enrollment and potential state cuts due to the pandemic, the college asked Seattle-based consulting firm Moss Adams LLP to analyze the college’s organization and recognize any potential efficiencies. Their final report was released to faculty and staff just before the start of the fall quarter.
The report recommends outsourcing several departments including facility maintenance, IT services and campus security. In total, the recommendations would cut about 91 positions, causing alarm among faculty and staff.
The 54-page report acknowledges the trauma the Clark community has experienced in recent years due to leadership turnover, significant staffing cuts and the COVID-19 crises, while also recommending additional staffing cuts. The report does not dive into how much money the recommendations would save the college.
Suzanne Southerland, president of Clark’s faculty union the Clark College Association for Higher Education, was worried about the report’s effect on staff morale. During the board meeting on Sept. 23, she said the release of the report surprised faculty and staff and led to fear and mistrust amongst staff members.
“Given the fact that it was a very comprehensive report that identified several different positions to be cut, it would have been incredibly helpful to the climate had someone provided an interpretation of the report, and provided that interpretation along with the actual report, instead of just emailing it out,” Southerland said.
During the public comment section of the meeting, dozens of faculty members echoed Southerland’s concerns, some even breaking into tears.
Economics professor Yusufu Kamara shared his fears around outsourcing security. He said the recommendation was tone-deaf, given the ongoing civil unrest around racial injustice and policing taking place across the country.
“As a Black man and I’m sure all of my other colleagues who are African American or people of color can agree with me, the recommendation does not sit well with us,” Kamara said. “I am scared because we see what’s happening around the country, we have seen African American students get killed on campuses.”
Kamara added “We have security we are familiar with, we understand each other and they respect us. I ask the board to seriously consider this.”
Clark College President Dr. Karin Edwards, said that all recommendations provided in the Moss Adams report are just that, recommendations.
“Where we are now in the process is really listening, providing opportunities for all of our college constituencies to provide feedback on the recommendations,” Edwards said. “I want to reassure everyone, we’ve not made any decisions about this report, and how and what will be utilized from it.”
The next Board of Trustees meeting will be held via Zoom on Wednesday, October 28 at 5 p.m. Instructions on how to attend, as well as board packets from previous meetings, can be found here.