BMCC faculty end talks with administration

By on Tuesday, May 24th, 2022 in Columbia Basin News More Top Stories

PENDLETON – Blue Mountain Community College Faculty Association President Pete Hernberg issued a news release late last week stating that talks with the college administration had ended without an agreement. Once again, we are presenting you that news release in full, with BMCC President Mark Browning’s responses to it in italics:

Today the faculty association is resuming its campaign of public advocacy after the failure of our efforts to reach an agreement with the college.

We met repeatedly with the college administration and made a proposal that would have preserved the college’s educational offerings while providing significant savings to the budget. Our proposal included:

  • A faculty salary freeze for the coming year, despite inflation running over 8%.
    • The current budget as proposed does not include a COLA as enrollment does not support increases. This would not result in any savings to the budget. The BMFA was offering to give us something that was not there for the giving.
  • Giving up paid faculty professional development, a savings of about $250,000.
    • This is a one-time savings of 180k of COVID or HEERF dollars, not general fund monies. Any assertion that is an ongoing savings is grossly misleading
  • Reducing faculty overload pay by $100,000 – $200,000.
    • This is a good idea. We were quite encouraged that BMFA acknowledged there has been overpayment in this area. We are incorporating this into our plans moving forward
  • The early retirement of four full-time faculty members, plus the internal transfer of a fifth full-time faculty member, for a total of $450,000 in savings.
    • Savings here are massively overstated. BMFA calculations did not account for any applicable taxes and PERS payments that the College would be responsible to make. Additionally, BMFA calculations did not include costs that would come from employees in other areas (classified, exempt) that would take advantage of any proposed incentives. BMFA estimated savings at 90k per retiree. More accurate figures would be closer to 50k per faculty retiree, but essentially a net zero for others (classified, exempt) due to higher salaries for faculty. Four full-time retirees would be approx. 200k in savings, and the net would be closer to 100k with consideration for other employee classifications. This has been an ongoing point of disagreement; BMFA considers only their own agreement and does not acknowledge that the College is responsible for ALL employees, not just faculty and faculty compensation

In return for these concessions, we asked one thing and one thing only: for the college to retract its plan to layoff faculty.

We came very close to reaching an agreement, but the college was unwilling to budge on a minimum of two layoffs. When we asked the college to consider giving up some of its budget increases to preserve educational offerings, they refused to consider or discuss the matter.

The BMFA did not ask the College to give up anything else, they simply stated and restated multiple times that their only goal was to get to zero retrenchments, “global resolution” they called it.

The BMFA is not telling you that the College proactively found ways to potentially keep four (4) faculty positions intact via grant funding. Relying on grant funding is a huge concession for the administration as one-time money has been used in the past to “patch the holes” in the budget and does not address the systemic imbalance in the economics of the BMCC personnel budget.

These budget increases include:

  • A $100,000 increase in travel spending,
    • This is in response to travel for professional development, college representation and athletics returning to pre-pandemic levels combined with increased costs in fuel and fleet maintenance.
  • A $165,000 increase in the supply budget,
    • We are already seeing increases to costs for supplies and services.
  • A $258,000 increase in the repair and maintenance budget,
    • BMCC Board policy requires a minimum of 250k for capital projects. The Board has voted to override this policy dues to severe budget shortfalls. BMCC has 12.1 in backlogged property maintenance. This budget simply puts the minimum back in place.
  • A $116,000 increase in the budget for equipment and furniture,
    • Yes, we anticipate having to replace several pieces of equipment including computer software systems that must be improved so our students and staff are not able to register, track credits taken, accounts properly aligned and all the aspects of a functioning student information system. This is one of the biggest challenges we have according to nearly everyone on campus, including rank & file faculty.  
  • A $100,000 increase in professional services,
    • We have budgeted for several one-time expenses such as long-overdue overhaul of the BMCC website. An organization’s website is the most used vehicle for interaction and ours does not meet the standard, not even the most basic of minimums. It’s been patched together but is severely lacking. We are budgeting for an external program and operational review. This is needed to help us find efficiencies and better ways to serve the students and public at large. We are also budgeting for expenses related to our accreditation review this fall. All of these are sorely needed.
  • $265,000 to hire two new administrators.
    • An exempt employee is NOT always an administrator. BMCC eliminated several positions over the previous two years including the entire marketing & communications department and the institutional research (data) department. We are re-establishing the marketing & communications office as our number #1 priority in the 22-23 budget. We must have a coordinated, strategic messaging effort to help attract students, effectively communicate to the public what is happening and what is available at BMCC. The figure thrown out by the BMFA is for two people; a marketing professional at 65k annually plus benefits as well as a data scientist at 85k plus benefits. We will recoup 65k of this cost as we currently contract with Linn-Benton for some limited data services. We’ll terminate that contract and apply the savings towards this new position. Not administrators. Simply much needed professional help that will help us fulfill BMCC’s mission.

Unfortunately, the college was unwilling to even discuss these unnecessary increases to the budget, nor could they explain why faculty must be laid off to make way for increased travel expenditures, consultants, and administrators. We could not accept arbitrary layoffs because we know BMCC’s mission is to educate its students. We know that students, parents, alumni, taxpayers, and community members rely on BMCC to provide an education that we can all be proud of.

Mr. Hernberg may believe he made efforts to reach an agreement, but he chose to walk away at a crucial moment- a moment that could have kept much of this kind of nonsense out of the public discourse. The administration listened, and actually agreed with some of the ideas and wanted to move them forward. We got as close as two (2) positions- two that have significantly under-enrolled programs but yet the BMFA was willing to throw them aside and in this wild gesture, managed to swing back around and grab the other eight positions (8) and throw them out so that ALL would be retrenched versus just the two.

We believe that we have made every possible effort to reach an agreement with the college administration, and we have no choice but to resume our campaign of public advocacy. Thank you for your support.

Mr. Hernberg, you had a choice and you chose to walk away.

Please join us at the June 1st Board Meeting. We will be gathering at the BMCC Pendleton campus at 4:30pm on Wednesday June 1st.

Editor’s note: Graphics provided by BMCC