By: Taylor M. Lier, News Transcript
Faculty and staff members at Brookdale Community College, Lincroft, are joining forces in an effort to have their voices heard following a reduction in force that was recently approved by the college’s board of trustees.
At the Dec. 18 Monmouth County Board of Freeholders meeting, several Brookdale employees commented on the trustees’ decision and asked for the freeholders’ support and assistance with the issue.
In December, the trustees voted 11-1 to approve the college president’s proposal for a reduction in force that terminates 47 positions. The action will eliminate a $5.5 million deficit in the school’s budget, according to Board Chairman Carl Guzzo. There will be a net reduction of 47 positions. A total of 208 positions will be eliminated, 35 of which are vacant.
At the freeholders meeting, Jim Crowder, a professor of biology who serves as president of the Brookdale Faculty Association, read a statement that followed a unanimous vote by the faculty association. The statement has been sent to the college’s leadership.
“We the faculty at Brookdale Community College are the primary providers of the educational program, and we advocate for best practices for student success. We officially have no confidence that the planned reduction in force and the proposed reorganization are based on the best strategies for the college moving forward,” Crowder read.
The letter seeks the following from the college’s leaders by Jan. 15:
Assistance with the reduction in force
A true educational plan that shows how the college will function after the reorganization, and a student development model plan with input gathered from students and faculty members
A detailed description of academic support that will be available to each student in light of reduced numbers and eliminated positions
A detailed financial account of how much money this new plan will save the college
A financial plan that shows the college’s vision for the next several years
A request to provide greater faculty representation, including support for faculty representation on the board of trustees and the college president’s cabinet.
“At previous meetings, there has been sentiment expressed that perhaps communication has not been what it could be between college leadership and faculty and staff,” Crowder said.
Jonathan Moschberger, an associate professor of political science, said a reduction in force should be a last resort and not the first.
“Some other options that should have and should be considered are not [being considered] right now, and clearly the college should have done better with that,” Moschberger said.
He suggested charging students and staff members $25 per semester to use the college’s fitness center.
Previous news accounts concerning Brookdale’s financial issues have reported that the fitness center is operating at a deficit and an annual loss of about $250,000.
Moschberger stressed the importance of using resources that already exist at Brookdale to help with the financial issues the college is facing.
“We have great marketing at Brookdale with our TV and radio stations, so why don’t they use that to advertise and even market the children’s learning center better to the community?” he said.
Previous reports have indicated that the college’s children’s learning center, which provides care for children age 3 months to 5 years and operates at a loss of $350,000 per year, will remain open in its current capacity until July 1, at which time the trustees will consider privatizing that facility, according to college officials.
Brookdale’s television station survived the chopping block, saving the job of a senior production specialist.
Kevin Burkitt, a media technology specialist, said he has felt a big impact from the reorganization plan.
“I take pride in being a media technician, and everything has been taken away from me. I rely on Brookdale, and there has been no support. We should not live in fear and come to work each day not knowing if we will have our job tomorrow,” he said.
Freeholder John Curley, who serves as a liaison to the college, said he hopes the trustees will make the correct decisions moving forward.
“You do not pull the trigger until you know where the bullet is going, and unfortunately a number of people were taken out.
And I know, through some of my discussions with the board members, that we were able to get some of the positions that were going to be taken out reduced,” Curley said.
He said it is disappointing to see the learning assistance offered at Brookdale slowly fade away.
“When you look at Brookdale, there are students who are not financially prepared, not mature enough or who do not have the skills necessary to go to a four-year school yet, and it is hard to see the help Brookdale offers those students going by the wayside,” Curley said.
Freeholder Director Lillian Burry expressed her disappointment in what she described as a lack of communication between the trustees and the faculty and staff.
“I am upset, and it bothers me that there is little to no interaction with the faculty,” Burry said, adding that the freeholders intend to take every comment that was made into consideration and to pursue the issue further.