Students protest against unfair pay for faculty and staff

Front page 8On May 19 around 1:30 p.m. rallies broke out on campus regarding faculty salaries at Bellevue College. Students and faculty gathered in the courtyard, holding signs and chanting as they marched on from in front of the signature BC fountain to in-between the C and D buildings, standing on top of tables, shouting into a megaphone, as well as letting thoughts, beliefs and frustration to be heard. The rally went on for several hours as people came and went throughout the afternoon, joining in for support.
“[The rally] helped raise the morale of faculty and let the administration know that students have a stake in the negotiations that are happening right now,” said faculty member Tim Jones. “The highlights for me were the energy and passion of the student protesters. The faculty could hear the students every time the door of the faculty commons opened and personally it felt good to know that students were supporting us.”
After the first 30 minutes of the student rally, faculty and staff attended President Dave Rule’s office hours in force. “About 80 faculty showed up as compared to the zero that showed up to the president’s office hour in April. I was also pleased that so many faculty showed up to the president’s office hour. I was hoping for about fifty faculty and about eighty showed up,” said Jones. “The message that I wanted to convey at the President’s office hour was that many, many faculty are unsatisfied with their compensation and workload and that it is not a small minority of aggrieved faculty.”
Though students and faculty may have no actual power on whether or not BC faculty will get an overdue pay raise or not, neither does the college’s own President, Dr. David Rule, on the contrary to popular belief. During a brief interview, Rule mentioned his comments would be restricted due to certain labor laws. “With Bellevue College, when it relates to salaries across the board, not just for faculty, we are probably millions, tens of millions, I don’t know we would have to figure it out, short of what we should be funded for, but again, that’s Bellevue but it’s not unique. All of the 34 community-technical colleges have the same issue when it comes to the cost of living and the staff increases, then there is a handful, probably  five,six, seven of us, that also have this enrollment, it puts the colleges in a tough we turn students away it would actually help our full-time, part-time ratio, but at the same time, if we turn students away, for me it is a direct opposition to the whole mission of open access. If students that want to come, I think we are ethically bound as much as possible to try and provide the education.”
A current BC student, Daniel Yaron, stood watching the sea of rallying faculty and peers, at a close distance. Yaron has been attending BC for two years. “So much money has been put towards expanding the school and parking is already horrible and we have so many students we got to make sure we take care of our own and what we have right now, you know. Quality over quantity at least for the time being,” said Yaron.
“I think [the rally] shows that students have a stake in the negotiations,” according to Jones. “Student concerns overlap with faculty concerns. For example: in terms of class sizes, how available faculty are for students, how much time faculty have to prepare classes, come up with creative assignments and exercises, grade assignments and exams promptly, etc. If the school can’t recruit and retain the best faculty or if the best faculty on campus burn out, this hurts students.”
“I most definitely support the efforts to raise faculty pay and I support students believing in it and supporting it themselves,” said Yaron. “As far as the rally is concerned, I’m concerned it might be a little old fashioned or too dramatic. I think maybe we could find a more diplomatic way of going about things.” “But I definitely support it.”
The rally ended up being in violation of three subsections of policy number 6120, “use of community college district VIII facilities by college groups and non-college groups for first amendment activities,” that state that “signs shall be no larger than three feet by five feet and no individual may carry more than one sign,” “if more than thirty people are expected to participate in the event, the event must be held in the southern courtyard, just north of the Carlson Theater,” and “the use of sound amplification devices is limited to the limited public forum area as long as the sound amplification device is used at a volume which does not disrupt or disturb the normal use of classrooms, offices or laboratories or any previously scheduled college event or activity.” Student programs staff were away at the time of the rally. The student rally is said to have been coordinated and lead by Komalpreet Sahato, ASG Chief Justice, however, Sahato declined to comment.
“I have every reason to advocate for the employees of the college because I am managing, I have to run the college. I want happy employees, I want employees that are paid the best that I can advocate for them to be. On the other side, I am also the chief executive and run the budget of the college, I am well aware of what the budgetary limitations there are, particularly in light of the state’s failure and they’re part of this social contract,“ said Rule. “Their attention right now, the state, is really focused on K-12, The Mcleary Act, it says that they are underfunded by billions.
“That’s like the Lord of the Rings, the Eye of Saruman. The eye has turned over to K-12 so we are having difficulty getting them to kind of focus back over here, and say, ‘hey, hey, hey’ what about us? […] I act within the perimeter set forth that is why I don’t have the authority to say everybody gets a raise or even this how much money we are going to use for raises, I don’t have that authority, they do.”
According to Bellevue College statistics, BC has “an annual average enrollment of over 32,000. BC is one of the largest educational institutions in Washington State.” With all the funding directed towards expansion of the campus to create more space for students, Rule said having a closed enrollment policy would not solve anything. “We have enough teachers, sometimes we can’t find a teacher for a course and then you get into the conversation, a typical question for a president during an interview is ‘what is the ideal ratio of full-time part-time teachers?’ There is no such answer. Do I think we should have more full-time teachers than we do? Of course. But then it comes back to what we were just talking about how do you pay for them? When you have a state that is not, because we are state college, right? Not funding the college as much as it should, so that is what I mean when I say I can talk in generalities. I can talk at that level. But legally I cannot discuss anything that is being talked about at the negotiation table – that is a direct violation of labor law,” said Rule.
“I don’t have the authority even if I wanted to. I’m just the President. Only the board and the state legislature have the authority to grant raises. Now, I am the president so I am the loudest advocate, right? Do I advocate? Do I want employees of the college to be better paid? Absolutely. That is kind of a no brainer.”
Rule continued regarding his frustration on the matter, “That is part of my job. A job for a president particularly at a state institution is I have a foot in both camps. I report, and am the only employee of the board [of trustees], the board hires and hopefully doesn’t fire, they have one employee, and it is the president of the college, so I report to a six member board, so I have six bosses […] So, I have a foot in both worlds.”
Jones “hope[s] the administration’s actions match their words. In recent weeks the administration has been saying that they appreciate our concerns and are prepared to do address them, but the proof is in the pudding.” Faculty and students are planning to attend the next bargaining meeting in S201, lining the halls with the message that “we are not going to let up the pressure.”