Santa Monica College’s (SMC) faculty is holding daily public demonstrations to amplify their demand for salary increases thought to be long overdue.
In an interview with the Mirror, Mitra Moassessi, chief negotiator for the SMC Faculty Association and an SMC math professor, stressed the faculty “has been working without a contract since September 2004.” The faculty wants the same raise that the school’s administrators received, two percent in January 2005 and 3.5 percent in January 2006. They also want the raises to be retroactive.
So far, the College has offered the faculty a 3.5 percent increase that would be retroactive to February 2006. According to Moassessi, the College is claiming they don’t have the money to offer anything more.
It is believed the College does have the money, because within the past 24 months equalization funds from the state have gone up $500 per FTE (full-time equivalent) student. Therefore, SMC is now the sixth in the state in terms of funding per student. Moassessi also mentioned the College has followed a policy over the last few years of “substituting part-time faculty for full-time faculty” and these part-time faculty members are paid less and some receive no benefits. In 2002, there were 337 full-time faculty members; now there are 311 full-time faculty members.
Tom Donner, SMC’s Deputy Superintendent, told the Mirror that in 2002 the faculty got a two percent COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) raise that was part of their contract. Administrators and classified employees didn’t receive a raise until January 2005. To Donner, it’s difficult to pinpoint the two percent. He also pointed out that the faculty is “not hurt by having no contract because their old contract continues” until a new one is agreed upon.
Donner also explained that the State expects the College to have a five percent reserve fund. In 2003-2004, there were major cuts. When the college restored many of those cuts in 2004-2005, there were “a lot of expenses from the restoration” which came out of the reserve fund. In order for the College to maintain an appropriate reserve fund, it can’t give raises when the money isn’t there. He concluded by stating this issue “will be resolved.”
The Chair of The Santa Monica College Board of Trustees, Dr. Nancy Greenstein, told the Mirror that, “We had an inclusive and thorough process to hire a new Superintendent/President who’s only been here for seven weeks. We want him to have sufficient time to understand our budget and the implications of the State budget. Then he’ll be able to make recommendations regarding salaries for the faculty. He’s indicated that would be in May.”
The College’s Marketing Director, Don Girard, echoed Greenstein by stating the new Superintendent’s recommendation “will be based on an understanding of the District’s financial position and partly on the goal of having a transparent budget.”
The next Board of Trustees meeting will be on May 8. Donner mentioned that the “Board has a collective bargaining” item on every agenda under closed session items.
Efforts to contact the College’s chief negotiator Robert Sammis were unsuccessful.