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  Main >  Member Communications > PAnorama > April 2004

PAnorama: April 2004


Next phase of “Educators Meet Legislators” program is the Legisletter

“Keep communicating!”

Such was the majority response to last spring’s PA survey of the Board of Legislators to assess “Educators Meet Legislators” and to plan for future communication efforts. Enter Legisletter, a new publication designed especially for Oneida County legislators and leaders.

Another of our ongoing legislative outreach initiatives, this full-color, four-page newsletter features a cover story on the PA’s work in Albany urging state support for public higher education--specifically for MVCC. Other content focuses on PA community outreach and our support for our students in the form of scholarships and commencement congratulations.

Legisletter also reflects the PA’s continuing commitment to solidarity.

On the masthead is a proud “union bug,” showing that it was produced by union labor. Metzler Printing, a long-established local union printer, did the fine work of producing this newsletter. What’s more, thanks to this newly established relationship, the union bug will soon be seen on all PA materials.

The first edition of Legisletter made its debut April 14th at a Board of Legislators’ meeting attended by PA President Ellis Gage Searles and Political Outreach Chair Mike Sewall. Ellis spoke briefly at the beginning of the meeting, providing highlights of the newsletter and in-viting legislators’ suggestions and comments.

To be published two or three times a year, Legisletter is edited by award-winning PAnorama editor and 2nd Vice President Cynthia Villanti. George Zook provided expert assistance with design and technical details. The name “Legisletter” was shared with us by our colleagues in the Washington (State) Federation of Teachers at the AFT Higher Education Conference in Seattle.

This crisp, colorful publication can now be seen on the PA bulletin boards in Payne Hall, Academic Building, and Alumni College Center.


Will this year be the year?
by Ellis Gage Searles

Your union needs you. You’ve heard this before, I know. And maybe you’ve thought, “I want to do my part, but I’m just not sure what to do.”

It’s simple. Here’s what you do.

Look over that yellow nominating ballot that’s in your mailbox. Go to www.mvccpa.org and be reminded about the life of your union. Read the pages of this newsletter. Talk to an active member. Think about how you can make a contribution.

There’s a great deal of important work that has been done, that is being done, that needs to be done. You can help to make your union stronger. And you can have fun in the process. You can spend time with bright, generous, energetic people who share your values and interests.

You can feel good about doing something meaningful for your colleagues, your profession, your community, and your College.

Go ahead. Do it. Sign up. Make this your year to say “yes!”



Using Spring colors to help turn personal complaints into positive action
by Cynthia Villanti

General Membership Meeting
Thursday, April 29, at 4:00
Payne Hall 102

So many harbingers of spring surround us at this time of year: green blades of grass, blue skies, red robins, delightfully “mudlicious” brown ground, and pink and purple flowers. Of course, the most important signs of Spring, as I see it, are your yellow nomination ballot and your blue election ballot. Spring brings your perennial opportunity to get involved in your PA in new, exciting, and different ways. It’s a highly effective way to work collaboratively and collegially to help turn personal complaints into positive action.

There’s a PA committee for every interest, whether you want to share new ideas for community outreach projects, educate and train colleagues, represent members in negotiations or grievances, celebrate member achievements, or participate in political outreach activities. Use these pastel blue and yellow Spring colors to get involved in the PA. And come to the General Membership Meeting to discuss the election, hear this year’s budget workshop, watch a short movie, and enjoy free popcorn and refreshments.

The 2004 PA Election timeline is as follows:

  • 4/26 Members nominate selves or others before 4 by returning yellow nomination ballots to Don Kelly (Life Science) or Barb Seaton (Rome).
  • 4/27 Nominees notified of their status.
  • 4/29 Final nominations accepted from floor during General Membership Meeting.
  • 4/30 Final blue election ballots mailed to members’ homes.
  • 5/6 to 5/7 Members cast votes in 2004 PA Election at Utica or Rome campus library, 8:30 to 4.
  • 5/8 to 5/12 Executive Board approves election results and additional appointments.
  • 5/12 President Searles notifies membership of new officers and committee members.

The PA Spring Social & the Great PA "Spring Clean Thing" Clothing Donation Drive
by Luther Riedel

PA members, we want you to... CLEAN YOUR CLOSETS! For this year's annual PA Spring Social, we have decided to conduct a clothing drive that we've dubbed "The Great PA Spring Clean Thing." Here are the details on the Spring Social:

Place:

Ramada Inn
141 New Hartford Street, New Hartford

Directions:

For directions, call 735.3392 or click
here for the Ramada.com online map!

Date: Friday, May 7th Cost: FREE!! PA buys dinner; you buy drinks.
Time:

5 p.m. ~ Drop off your "Spring Clean Thing" donations (optional), then enjoy Happy Hour in hotel lounge.
6 p.m. ~ Celebrate spring with a free dinner

Here are more details on the "Spring Clean Thing" donations:

  • Pack up your clothes that are in good condition but that you no longer wear. It's a great time to get the entire family involved! Bring your donations of good used clothing (plus light household wares) to the PA Spring Social. Simply drop off your donations, then enjoy dinner with colleagues.
  • We plan to make a massive clothing donation to the Salvation Army. Items will be brought directly to the Salvation Army on Clinton Place. This will give those in need an opportunity to take items for free; items not taken will then be sent to the Salvation Army Thrift Store for sale at a reasonably low price.

Ted Moore and Thea Bowman: More on our community outreach activities

Walk, run, or donate to honor Ted Moore and raise awareness of DWI

7th Annual Ted Moore Run/Walk
Saturday, May 1st, 9 a.m.
MVCC Gym

As in past years, the PA is calling for participants in this year’s Ted Moore Run/Walk. “We love to see increased PA participation each year,” says PA member and event organizer Cathy Hardy. You can support the event in several ways to show that you want to help stop DWI and to honor the memory our late Past President Ted Moore, which include the following:

  • Come to the event to run, walk, or cheer on others.
  • Sponsor a student by paying their registration fee ($15).
  • Donate directly to the scholarship fund by contacting Cathy Hardy.

Please consider contributing by lacing up your sneakers or by opening your checkbook. Let’s get more PA people involved!

Score! PA members bowl a perfect 300 (dollars, that is)!

The PA team once again showed solidarity with the local Thea Bowman House at its annual bowl-a-thon fundraising event. All told, the team donated over $300.00 to Thea Bowman, which operates an after-school program for needy families, sponsors a food pantry, and conducts clothing giveaways. The PA team included the following members:

Marie Czarnecki

Rob Ichihana

Alison Doughtie

Jed Kimball

Steve Getchell

Luther Riedel (Chair, Community Outreach Committee)

Christi Harrington

Rick Stempien

Anne Ichihana

Jackie Womack

Benefits Fund designates Ron Miller as Privacy Official

In addition to being a member of the MVCC PA Benefits Trust Fund and a member of the Internal Communications Committee, Ron Miller now has a new title: Officer Ron.

(No, you don’t have to salute him when you see him in the halls.)

Ron has been designated as the Privacy Official of our Benefits Trust Fund, which makes him responsible for the development and implementation of the Fund’s policies and procedures. Judging by the size of the full-to-bursting binder on his desk, this is no small task.

In addition to coordinating the policies and procedures, the Privacy Official also is charged by HIPAA regulations with the responsibility of monitoring and deciding any issues that occur under the regulations. As the contact person for the Fund’s privacy issues, Ron will receive complaints and provide further information about matters covered by the Fund’s privacy notice.

Ron sees his role as serving the interests of PA members by protecting their privacy. In all Benefits Trust Fund work, he will ensure privacy of PA members with regards to their personal health information, their social security numbers, and other personally identifying information. Right now, the transmission of private information is limited to the Fund’s work with the Davis Vision benefit, but as the Fund grows, so will Ron’s work. “Most of the Fund trustees have undergone training, and the others will soon,” said Ron. This training includes the Benefits Trust Fund trustees, Paul Halko (Chair), Julie Dewan, Sam Drogo, Ron Miller, and Ellis Gage Searles, as well as Fund Secretary Marie Czarnecki, Fund Treasurer Mike Donaruma, and Fund Database Manager Norma Chrisman.

Ron continues, “I’m happy to say that we are fully compliant with HIPAA regulations as of the April 14th deadline.” Falling within the scope of compliance are the use of encryption software for electronic transmission of records, limiting the amount of information that is submitted by fax, and keeping all hard copies of materials in a fireproof, locked safe. In addition, all Fund officers and trustees must not openly discuss member names or information, must keep all papers with identifying member information out of sight, and must be careful not to reveal such information inadvertently on their computer screens. “Because the Fund won’t submit materials by fax,” Ron stated, “that’s not an issue, and Ellis and Norma have already installed the encryption software.”

What’s next for Officer Ron?

“We’re working on a document that will serve as a resource for members. We have many protections already in place for members, and everyone involved in the Fund will have training and already fully understand the utmost importance of safeguarding our members’ privacy. However, if in the future a member feels that he or she has a complaint, we’ll have a document prepared to inform them of their rights and the process for handling such complaints.” Once completed, this document will be made available to members both on our website and in paper.

Finally, Ron wants the membership to know that the clarification of all the materials and information pertaining to these regulations was made possible by the intense scrutiny and hard work of the one and only Sam Drogo. For more information on your privacy rights, contact Ron by phone (792-5464) or by email (rmiller@mvcc.edu).


“Secret Agent Librarian”: A title our Library colleagues prefer to avoid
by Cynthia Villanti

President Bush was in our neighborhood recently, specifically Buffalo, site of the Lackawanna Six case, to defend the USA Patriot Act. Bush contends that the six Yemeni-Americans who pleaded guilty to supporting terrorism by briefly attending al Qaeda training camps would not have been caught if not for the Patriot Act. But critics of the Patriot Act claim that Bush is exaggerating the case’s importance in yet more election year politicking.

What does the Lackawanna Six case have to do with our MVCC Libraries? Bush’s promotion of the Patriot Act is well timed with National Library Week, and the Patriot Act’s provisions are causing concern among librarians across the nation.

Our colleague Colleen Kehoe-Robinson, for example, recently attended a conference (cosponsored by the ACLU and the Intellectual Freedom Committee & Intellectual Freedom Roundtable of the New York Library Association) that addressed the USA Patriot Act, and she returned with an even greater concern for the levels of access to personally identifying information that the Patriot Act asks for regarding MVCC Library patron records and activity.

Anne Ichihana shares Colleen’s concern and feels that everyone in the College community--faculty, staff, students, and others--should too. To encourage greater awareness of the implications of the Patriot Act for the MVCC community, Anne created a display case in the Utica campus Library lobby, filled with information about the benefits and threats of this legislation.

“Students need to know what the Patriot Act is, that this exists,” Anne stressed. “They need to understand how it might affect them personally.” According to the NYSUT pamphlet that Anne posted, the USA Patriot Act is an acronym for the unwieldy title of the legislation: Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act. Passed on October 26, 2001, as Colleen’s conference notes indicate, the act extensively expanded federal law enforcement’s “access to business, medical, educational, and library records, including stored electronic data and communications” (see http://members.local net.com/~dberry/sal/sal1.html).

NYSUT created the brochure for its “USA PATRIOT ACTion Week.” It notes how the government’s extended ability to act against suspected terrorism through searches, seizures, and surveillance impacts those of us in higher education:

The law affects higher education campuses by overriding previous federal guarantees of student privacy. Civil libertarians believe the law threatens the rights of students and faculty because it allows the seizure of academic and computer records, and has a chilling effect on academic freedom.

Other concerns about the scope and implications of the USA Patriot Act were enumerated in Barbara McKenna’s May 2003 AFT On Campus article, “A Question of Balance.” McKenna writes, “The labor movement has signaled its discomfort with the erosion of civil liberties. In December 2001, the AFL-CIO passed a resolution that responded forcefully to the Patriot Act and to the administration’s ‘range of measures that threaten civil liberties, breach constitutional rights and, with tragic irony, hand our adversaries a partial victory by degrading the essential guarantees upon which our Nation is founded.’” McKenna notes that areas of particular concern for higher ed include the following:

  • privacy of campus records
  • surveillance
  • academic freedom
  • campus police cooperation with federal law enforcement agencies
  • immigrant rights.

Colleen explains how this impacts the MVCC Library: “The Library’s mission is to follow the American Library Association’s code of ethics to protect patrons’ privacy and security. At MVCC, this means that we keep records that are sufficient to maintain vital Library functions, but we do not track personally identifying information beyond what is needed for these vital Library functions.”

President Bush can travel the nation claiming the importance of the USA Patriot Act, but Anne, Colleen, and others in higher ed will continue to question the validity of his claims. It is imperative that we do so, to ensure that the act does not infringe upon the basic Constitutional rights of our faculty, staff, students--and all citizens of the United States. As Colleen says, “The Library’s primary purpose is to allow freedom of access to ideas and information,” a freedom at the very core of American public higher education.

Plus, she adds, “The title of ‘Secret Agent Librarian’ is one I really prefer to avoid.”


Grievance update
by Dawson McDermott

Since taking over as Grievance Chair this year, I have come to appreciate what an incredible job that previous chairs have done for the PA. To say the least, I have big shoes to fill. It’s not an easy role to take on. I appreciate the support I’ve received since coming on board from both the Grievance Committee members and other Association members; it has helped greatly.

Two recent cases have critical implications for employees represented by the Association. These were left over from the previous chair, Dennis “Bulldog” Rahn.

  • The first case involves an accusation made by a student about the conduct of an employee. The College chose to invoke the disciplinary process in Article 7.3 of the Contract, seeking termination of the individual. In a meeting to clarify charges, the College was asked to provide specific dates, times, places and etc. The College refused to disclose this information, only giving general examples. Being accused of something and not being able to see the specifics behind the accusations makes addressing these issues and defending oneself impossible. Of course the Association had to respond. This case has been presented and is currently pending a decision from the arbiter.
  • The second case involves an employee who was terminated by the College without following its own policies for such matters. There is a standard operating procedure in place that allows for due process, which protects the individual from unethical use of power. This guarantees fairness in such procedures. These procedures were not adhered to, making it impossible for an employee to properly defend himself or herself. The Association sees this case as extremely important, and will continue to fight to maintain that due-process protections for all employees is followed.

Grievances with Extensions

  • Several pending grievances are centered around the College assigning courses and not paying the instructor to teach them. The Grievance Committee awaits the College’s response.

PA wins awards in annual NYSUT Journalism Competition, including top honor of the Solidarity Award

PAnorama and our website (www.mvccpa.org) have done it again: 6 awards in as many categories, and, to top it off this year, the coveted Solidarity Award, which NYSUT presents to only one newsletter statewide!

Special congratulations (and thanks) are in order for the Humanities Department’s Rich Lamasney, whose May 2003 article “Wal-Mart intransigence towards unions part of a bigger picture” was responsible for the Solidarity Award.

The Solidarity Award and the Ted Bleecker Award are the two top honors in the statewide competition. The Solidarity Award goes to the one newsletter in any size classification of all the NYSUT locals that demonstrates the best job of integrating local issues with the concerns of NYSUT, the American Federation of Teachers, and/or the AFL-CIO and of keeping members informed of how the state perspective relates to local concerns.

About Rich’s article, one judge commented, “This is top-notch writing. The writer is well informed, literary and capable of very clean, expressive prose. One of the best essays I’ve read in a long time.” Another wrote, “Good job of drawing the big picture on the ‘malling’ of America. Too often, labor publications concern themselves with parochial issues. A refreshing change.” A third judge added, “Let’s hope MVCC members heeded the call and took action against the big box giant.”

The Association is also most grateful to Cynthia Villanti, editor extraordinaire, to Norma Chrisman, our wonderful webmaster, to all the members of the Internal Communications Committee, and to the others who contribute to our newsletter and webpage. Our other awards this year include the following:

  • First Award ~ Best Front Page or Cover (“Contract passes,” November 2002)
  • First Award ~ Best Web Site (for www.mvccpa.org)
  • Award of Merit ~ Best News Story (“PA makes presence known at May 3rd Rally,” May 2003)
  • Honorable Mention ~ General Excellence for local membership publication
  • Honorable Mention ~ Best Feature Story (“PA members ‘Powered by NYSUT’ for the Boilermaker,” September 2002)
  • Honorable Mention ~ Best Article on Health Issues (“Got questions? Ask your new union/community counselors,” November 2002)

LAP Team concludes third year, planning for more

Your Local Action Project team will again show its work at Commencement this year. You’ll see President Searles on stage to greet each graduate and present them with a gift on behalf of the Association (click here to see last year's write up).

The LAP team will return to the LAP Conference this summer too. This year, our newest LAP team members, George Zook and Steve Getchell, will accompany us, and Alison Doughtie will come in place of Carolyn D’Argenio who will be busy caring for her new baby.


Strength in numbers: PA rallies with area education unions to support Whitesboro Teachers Association

The Whitesboro Teachers Association has been working without a contract for almost a year. When the school board settled the Superintendent’s contract before the teachers’, the WTA called NYSUT.

NYSUT helped to organize an informational picket held on Tuesday, April 20, at 6 p.m. at the Whitesboro administration building. Over 25 locals were represented, from all over Oneida and Herkimer Counties. Our Labor Relations Specialist, Jim Henck, counted about 300 participants. After an hour of picketing, several Whitesboro teachers went into the Board meeting. We hope that the WTA gets a fair contract soon.


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