Crowd urges COD trustees to resolve contract dispute
College of DuPage trustees are facing mounting pressure to resolve a contract dispute with the Glen Ellyn-based school's full-time faculty members.
Just days after faculty members voted to authorize a strike, a large group of them attended Thursday night's COD board of trustees meeting. They were joined by dozens of students and other supporters who publicly called on the board to give the faculty a fair contract.
"While it may seem that your college years may be far from you, mine are now," COD student Nicky Ruiz said to the board. "And by not negotiating a fair contract with the (faculty's union), you're showing me and every other student that enrolls here that their success does not matter."
The 304 faculty members, represented by the College of DuPage Faculty Association, have been working without a contract since a multiyear pact expired Aug. 14. Negotiations on a new deal started in March but have gone slowly through more than a dozen sessions.
The faculty's negotiating team and COD officials have been unable to reach consensus on issues including compensation, evaluation and promotion criteria. So a federal mediator has been brought in to help move the talks forward.
But Shannon Toler, president of the faculty association, told trustees that COD officials created confusion during a Tuesday mediation session by suddenly proposing "a new, apparently very high, priority that has never been discussed" before during the negotiations.
"We started this week looking forward to mediation after a successful first session," said Toler, adding that faculty members are now "increasingly concerned that (COD trustees) don't share our same sense of urgency around getting this done."
On Tuesday, the faculty members voted to give their bargaining team the authority to call a strike.
However, that doesn't mean a strike is imminent. And Toler has said the faculty doesn't want to go on strike.
Meanwhile, two more sessions with the federal mediator are scheduled for next week.
Still, faculty members and students are urging the COD board to settle the negotiations.
"I have been through five different administrators, five college presidents," said Dilyss Gallyot, a professor of nursing. "And I cannot tell you how much turbulence there has been."
While things have "settled down a bit," Gallyot said what's happening now has made this year "one of the most difficult years" to be at COD.
"I am so sorry to say that because I love what I do and the people that I do it for," Gallyot said. "Please, please give us a fair contract."
Robert Moorehead, an associate professor of sociology, said COD administrators have made assurances that "all is well" with the college's finances. But when it comes to paying the faculty, the college "is in dire straits," he said.
"It seems faculty aren't as sexy as shiny new buildings, new gadgets or software packages," Moorehead said. "But our working conditions are students' learning conditions. And we all deserve better."