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November 2018

 

Educate, advocate, collaborate: What it means to be an academic unionist
Cynthia Eaton

 

FA group at NYSUT community college conference
FA members in attendance at this year's NYSUT Community College Conference were, from left front row, Sandra Gattuso, Jill Malik, Tim McHeffey, Danielle DiMauro, Kim Ng Southard and Jane-Marie Wright as well as from left back row, Cynthia Eaton, Alex Kasiukov, Joan Cook, L.B. Thompson, Kerry Spooner, Kevin McCoy, Kevin Peterman, Lisa Behnke, Dante Morelli and Bruce Seger.
(photo by Sean Tvelia)
 

The theme this year was "Be the union: Educate, advocate and collaborate." And, boy, was there a lot of educating, advocating and collaborating!

NYSUT's 40th annual Community College Conference was held at the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown from October 19-21, with the FA (as usual) bringing the most members to the conference and participating as presenters and moderators.

 
FA President Kevin Peterman, at podium, speaks to a packed room during the ED39 meeting. (photo by Dante Morelli)
 
   

FA President Kevin Peterman, as chair of the conference planning committee and ED39 director, offered Friday's opening welcome, greeted first-time conference attendees at a special Saturday morning breakfast and presided over the ED39 meeting on Saturday evening.

In addition Kevin organized a meeting of NYSUT community college union presidents and community college presidents that took place prior to the conference on Friday, October 19. This meeting allows the presidents of community colleges and the presidents of the union locals at those community colleges to collaborate as they discuss issues and brainstorm solutions to concerns facing our institutions.

In attendance at this Friday afternoon meeting were 18 presidents and local presidents from community colleges across the state, eight representatives from New York State United Teachers, three representatives from SUNY System Administration—and Theresa Sanders, chair of the SCCC Board of Trustees.

kevin peterman   kevin mccoy
     
dante morelli
 
cynthia eaton
FA officers leading workshops and sessions at this year's NYSUT Community College Conference included, clockwise from top left, President Kevin Peterman (photo by Dante Morelli), Grievance Officer Kevin McCoy, Secretary Cynthia Eaton and Executive Vice President Dante Morelli. (photos by Kevin Peterman)


FA Vice President Dante Morelli served as presenter during the LGBTQ solidarity session (social justice track) by reviewing the work of the college's LGBTQ+ task force, which he helped create and which led to the designation of gender neutral restrooms on campus; a developing safe-space training program; and a plan to display preferred names in the Banner system for international, gender nonconforming, transgender and other students. Dante co-presented with Bethany Gizzi, president of the Monroe Community College Faculty Association, and Jim Larson of NYSUT's legislative and political department.

I also presented during the social justice track but in the session on racial equity alongside Paul Clement of United College Employees of Fashion Institute of Technology. Paul reviewed the work of AFT's Racial Equity Task Force, on which he served, which resulted in the report "Reclaiming the Promise of Racial Equity in Education, Economics and Our Criminal Justice System." I offered two specific strategies on how to be a better white ally/advocate/activist, focusing on the work of Ibram Kendi and the deep canvassing model of the Leadership LAB in Los Angeles.

FA Grievance Officer Kevin McCoy co-presented with Oriana Vigliotti, NYSUT Associate Counsel, on Title VII and Title IX: Members' Rights and Responsibilities. Kevin discussed Title VII, which protects employees and students from discrimination with respect to members of a protected class, and Title IX, which is used to investigate sexual discrimination, harassment and violence on campus. As SCCC continues to educate faculty, staff and students about these important legal protections, the number of cases has grown, which makes it even more critical to have a knowledgable union representative by your side through the process.

In addition to the three-workshop track on social justice issues, the conference featured a three-workshop track on adjunct issues, on union finances and on member organizing.

  first time attendees from the FA
 
First-time attendees included, from left, Sandra Gattuso, Kerry Spooner (speaking), L.B. Thompson and Ranelle Wolf. Not shown is first-time attendee Alex Kasiukov. (photo by Kevin Peterman)
   

We had a handful of first-time attendees with us again this year too. These were Sandra Gattuso (Counseling), Alex Kasiukov (Math), Kerry Spooner (English), L.B. Thompson (English) and Ranelle Wolf (Art). The FA has long believed that this conference in particular is a highly effective way to introduce members to what it means to be an academic unionist in a community college.

And what that means can, I believe, be well conveyed in the conference theme: educating, advocating and collaborating.