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  Main >  Member Communications > PAnorama > February 2004

PAnorama: February 2004

Did You Know? The most recent newsletter of the Central New York Labor Council (AFL-CIO) listed 32 union affiliates, totaling 18,000 members. Through NYSUT, the PA is a part of this central body. Past PA President Bill Perrotti serves as a Vice-President of the CNY Labor Council.

PA members meet with state legislators, urge support for NYS community colleges

The state of America’s community colleges has been getting a lot of press lately.

In this year’s State of the Union address, President Bush proposed “increasing our support for America’s fine community colleges… so they can train workers for the industries that are creating the most new jobs.” Bush has since been promoting a budget which notes that, while “community colleges are increasingly critical providers of job training… their potential has not been fully realized.” His budget provides $250 million for a new employer-focused grant program for training in community and technical colleges, focusing on industries with labor shortages.

In addition, on at least two occasions this month, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan has declared community colleges as a crucial bridge between outmoded jobs and needed work skills. “These two-year institutions have been in the forefront of teaching the types of skills that build on workers’ previous experiences to create new job skills,” said Greenspan in one speech. “The impressive expansion of these learning centers attests to their success in imparting both general and practical job-related learning.”

Those of us who work here at Mohawk Valley Community College know that community colleges play a critical role in providing invaluable educational opportunities. We also know that state and federal support for community colleges hasn’t always been what it could be. It is precisely for this reason that several PA members journeyed to Albany on February 24th to participate in NYSUT’s Higher Ed Lobby Day.

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) organizes an annual February lobbying effort for members of CUNY, SUNY four-year schools, and SUNY community colleges to discuss with State legislators the issues we face when funding levels are less than sufficient. NYSUT provided statistics to show that, since the State fiscal year 1990-1991, SUNY community colleges have lost $43,797,500 in various state aid programs. Base aid to community colleges has declined as well. As stated in the NYSUT Positions on the 2004-2005 Executive Budget packet, “The State’s commitment to full opportunity community colleges, established in law at 40%, decreased precipitously and continues to underfund SUNY community colleges.”

The shifts in funding percentages are sobering. Under Governor Pataki’s proposal, student contributions would make up more than 38%:

Budget Contributions
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Because of the decline in State support for community colleges, NYSUT is making several recommendations. A top priority is the restoration of the proposed Executive cut of 5% and an increase of $225 per full-time enrollee (FTE), which would raise the base aid total to $2,525 per FTE. This increase would begin to restore the State’s commitment to its community colleges to reach the statutory requirement of 40% state aid. Among other recommendations, NYSUT is also urging the State to restore funding for the full-time faculty initiative (FFI) program. The Legislature approved a new program in 1999-2000 to begin to address the shortage of full-time faculty, but since that time, there has been no funding for this important program.

PA members carried these messages, and their import for us here at MVCC, to Assemblymembers RoAnn Destito, David Townsend, and Bill Magee as well as Senators Ray Meier and Nancy Larraine Hoffmann.

For example, in our meeting with Dave Townsend, Ellis noted that $430,000 would be the immediate loss to MVCC if the proposed cuts take place, which is especially bad in the face of increasing enrollments. In discussing the issues with Bill Magee, Mike pointed out that one-half of all SUNY students are at community colleges. After Ellis raised a point about increasing costs to students, particularly in terms of various fees, RoAnn Destito discussed the problem and added, “Education and economic development have always been my number one priorities.”

During each meeting, Mike, Chair of our Political Outreach Committee, questioned each legislator about state support for county sponsors because we recognize that it is difficult for counties to make up for state funding shortfalls. The Democratic leadership of Oneida County has already written to the state leadership to object to funding cuts to community colleges. Each legislator acknowledged it as a problem that needs further attention.

As noted by President Bush, Alan Greenspan, and numerous others, community colleges are key to our economic recovery. As we mentioned to each legislator, we are committed to this goal but cannot do it without appropriate resources.

NYS AFL-CIO offers $8,000.00 Scholarship

Help spread the word! If you know of a high school student who meets the following criteria, tell him or her to apply for a 2004 New York State AFL-CIO Scholarship. Applicants must graduate in 2004, have a parent or guardian who is a member of a union affiliated with NYS AFL-CIO (which includes PA members), and be accepted in a course of study in labor relations or a labor-related interest (e.g., law, political science, journalism, or sociology) at an accredited New York State institution. Scholarship details and a downloadable application form can be found online at this address:

“One of the fortunate ones”: Join me in this year’s MS Walk
by Margaret Partyka

Utica/Rome MS Walk
Sunday, May 2nd
SUNY Institute of Technology
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

In October 2002, I was told that I have Multiple Sclerosis.

MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system, specifically the myelin--a fatty tissue surrounding and protecting the nerve fibers of your brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves--by leaving scar tissue called sclerosis or damaging the nerve fibers themselves. This disrupts the ability of the nerves to conduct electrical impulses to and from the brain, resulting in the various symptoms of MS. These range from abnormal fatigue to vision impairment to loss of balance and muscle control.

Since I didn’t experience the “normal” symptoms of MS--only my speech was slurred--my friends and family thought I had a stroke. Until that day, I knew very little about MS and what I thought I knew, I now realize was inaccurate. I had pictured myself in a wheelchair, facing a bleak future. I was scared and so was my family. My doctor immediately prescribed steroids to arrest the progression of the disease, and then I started on an MS medication. For me, the hardest part of MS is dealing with the uncertainty: When will I have a relapse, what will the symptoms be, how long will it last, and will I fully recover?

I have to say that I’ve been one of the fortunate ones. Since that October, I have not experienced any further symptoms or relapses, and the side effects from the medication have been minimal. I attribute a great deal to my positive attitude. I was determined to not let MS run my life; I was going to live my life as I normally would, and if I have an exacerbation, then I’ll deal with it.

Unfortunately I have friends who have not been so lucky. For them as well as for myself, I’m walking to aid research to find a cure for this disease. Please help me to help others. The devastating effects of MS challenge not only people with MS, but their family and friends as well. Consider walking with me or sponsoring someone who is walking. Contact me by email ( or in the Business Office (first floor of Payne Hall) for information.

Chances are you know someone with MS. Do it for them.

New Members Feature: A profile of Jed Kimball
by George Searles

Jedediah Kimball has been a bargaining unit member since joining the Art Department last fall.

He holds a B.F.A. from the University of Utah and an M.F.A. from the New York Academy of Art, and has also studied and exhibited at The Art Students’ League of New York. At MVCC he has taught General Drawing, Color Theory, Two-Dimensional Design, Painting 1 & 2, and Figure Drawing 1 & 2. In keeping with the Art Department’s tradition of excellence, Jed told PAnorama that he’s “consistently amazed” by his students’ work.

In addition to teaching, Jed serves as faculty advisor to the Film Club and is active with the Resonance Center, a community-based arts organization in East Utica.

An award-winning specialist in figurative art, Jed’s a longtime admirer of the great Flemish painter Rubens. In recent years, however, he has developed a strong interest in sculpture.

Born in Boston but raised in Denver, Jed enjoys basketball and outdoor sports such as sand volleyball, cross-country skiing, and snowboarding. He lives in Utica with his wife, Jaime.

Millennium Project Implementation Committee Meeting Held

PA President Ellis Gage Searles, Utica Teachers’ Association President Larry Custodero, AMVA President Bob Jubenville, MVCC President Michael I. Schafer, Utica City School District Superintendent Dan Lowengard, and Millennium Project Director Delores Caruso met at MVCC on February 13 to discuss Millennium Project.

Established by Millennium Project by-laws to encourage communication among the union leaders and the administration of both institutions, this committee will be meeting regularly to discuss issues related to the Project. Topics discussed at the February meeting included curriculum and faculty collaboration.

Each of Proctor’s four academies has a leadership team. When fully configured, the teams will be made up faculty from both Proctor and MVCC. They should begin meeting soon. Curriculum development will also be jointly discussed, including issues such as dual credit and online courses. A Mathematics task force is also being planned.

Shaping a Complete Person: The Value of a Community College Education
by Ryan Degon, Recipient of the 2003-2004 PA Student Scholarship

When one hears the words “community college,” they often do not realize the possibilities and probabilities associated with them. Common stigmas attached to community colleges are that they have low acceptance standards and are only suitable for students of below average intelligence who are not qualified to attend larger, more prestigious four-year schools. Many people believe that community college students are not in desirable economic positions and are not financially sound. These detractors associate community colleges with being inadequate educationally, financially, and institutionally, and feel that they provide little hope and opportunity for success in the future. A common thought is that a community college education may prove to be unvaluable.

Unfortunately, these myths and negative connotations attempt to hinder the name of the community college. In all actuality, community colleges can provide a vast array of opportunities, careers, and routes of educational exploration. They not only are academically and athletically sound, but also bring together people of many ages, races, and ethnic backgrounds. A community college education can be very valuable indeed.

Academically, a community college provides an abundance of majors leading to a wide array of career fields. These institutions offer licensure programs, certificate programs, or the opportunity for students to continue their education in numerous directions after graduation. They provide an affordable and safe haven for students who are unsure of which career they wish to embark upon after high school. Students graduating with an Associate’s Degree can continue on in a variety of directions. Many can successfully enter the job market in the trades or health services fields directly following graduation. Others can continue on to larger institutions and earn a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctorate degrees.

While providing these prospects, community colleges also offer an education parallel to the instruction at larger four-year establishments by employing professors and instructors of similar status. In fact, many community college professors possess a Doctorate degree of some form. Classes also offer a more favorable student-teacher ratio, a benefit that many students look for. Consequently, this aids students in retaining the knowledge offered and it helps them remain interested in and enthusiastic about their education, which are key components to the success of any educational endeavor.

In addition to academics, community colleges also provide many opportunities for student-athletes. Students who participated in high-school athletics can continue competing at a much higher level while earning an accredited education and can perhaps secure scholarships. A countless number of community college athletes earn full scholarships to four-year institutions each year. Many community college athletic events become “feeding grounds” for college scouts and coaches. Coaches at community colleges are often more knowledgeable than high school coaches and can help improve a player’s skills. Community colleges can indeed serve as springboards, which students can use to advance up the ladder of collegiate athletics. More importantly, while student-athletes are participating in athletics, they can also earn a valuable education. As a student-athlete myself, it is quite comforting to know that I am not sacrificing or compromising the integrity of my education by participating in athletics at the NJCAA level.

Perhaps an underappreciated factor contributing to the value of a community college education is the social aspect. Community colleges are “melting pots” of the post-secondary educational world. Students hail from a bevy of different cultures and represent a number of ethnic backgrounds. Africans, Koreans, Russians, Bosnians, Bulgarians, Italians, Turks, Chinese, Japanese, and Americans are some of the ethnicities that compose our community college population. Classes are more ethnically and culturally diverse than ever, which facilitates the diffusion of cultures in the United States of America and aids in socializing people to the aspects of different cultures. As a student from a small town, where most people are Caucasian, at MVCC I have learned to appreciate different cultures and admire students who journey from their homelands to start a new life in this nation.

Community colleges not only assemble individuals of different cultures, but they also bring together people of many ages. Pupils in their late teens and students old enough to be their parents often sit in the same classrooms, exchange ideas, and strive to construct the same careers. As a youthful student, I have also learned a great deal, not related to education but about life, from older classmates. There is no other educational institution that can bring together people from as many ages and ethnic, cultural, and financial backgrounds like a community college can.

The education that one receives at a community college is indeed that of knowledge, but not solely by means of erudition. Community college students acquire a wealth of wisdom intellectually, culturally, socially, and athletically, which will later culminate in shaping a complete person. For these reasons, a community college education is undeniably a valuable one.

Christine Miller to serve as new PA area rep
by Alison Doughtie

Hank Godlewski’s retirement from the Department of Art left the PA with an empty area representative position. Fortunately, Christine Miller, Associate Professor of Art, has graciously agreed to serve as the PA representative for her Department.

Christine, an MVCC graduate, got a degree in graphic design from Fredonia, and received her MFA in photography from SUNY New Paltz. She has been teaching primarily photography and digital imaging at MVCC since 1994. Outside of the College, Christine and her husband, George Zook, are busy with their two girls, Brooke and Terra. Christine also enjoys outdoor activities and is an enthusiastic quilter. Please congratulate her on her new role in the PA.

Benefits Fund update
by Paul Halko

PA Benefits Fund policies and procedures are continuing to be developed. Trustees Julie Dewan, Sam Drogo, Ron Miller, Ellis Gage Searles, and I have been meeting with Fund Treasurer Mike Donaruma, Fund Secretary Marie Czarnecki, and Fund Database Manager Norma Chrisman to put them into place.

Coverage for long-term disability, along with term-life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance went into effect on January 1. Assist America, a plan that provides emergency travel assistance, was also added to members’ benefits. UNUM Provident has been working with us to enroll members and develop customized benefits brochures for members’ information. Forms to designate beneficiaries under these plans are being put online for downloading and printing. Watch your email for instructions.

Davis Vision, the PA benefit that went into place last July, continues to be used by many members. PA members who began working at MVCC last August are now eligible for eye exams along with new glasses or contacts, and for the other benefits under the Fund. New members who have not yet enrolled should go to the Benefits Fund section of the PA website ( and fill out the online enrollment form.

As required by law, COBRA coverage is provided for dependent children who are no longer eligible for family coverage under the Davis Vision plan. We have been communicating with members who have enrolled their dependent children, but whenever there is a change in your family status, please contact me to find out about COBRA. To comply with HIPAA regulations, the Fund recently purchased encryption software that will enable us to communicate with benefits providers electronically.

During Summer Institute, the PA Benefits Fund will sponsor information sessions and displays regarding the benefits we now have in place. Check the Summer Institute brochure for details. Also, we are preparing a booklet of information including Frequently Asked Questions that will be distributed to all members as a reference.

Proposed amendments to PA Constitution, By-laws approved
by Cynthia Villanti

At this year’s Spring Luncheon, PA members approved the following proposals to amend the PA Constitution and By-laws. As accepted by the membership vote,
iIn the following proposals, deleted text is underlined, added text is in bold, and rationales are in italics.

Accepted Amendment to PA Constitution Article V Section 1

ARTICLE V: Executive Board

Section 1. The Executive Board shall consist of the officers of the Association, the Chair of the Grievance Committee, the Chair of the Negotiations Committee, the Chair of the Political Action Outreach Committee, the Chair of the Community Outreach Committee, the Chair of the Research and Records Committee, and the Chair of the Education and Training Committee, the Chair of the MVCC Professional Association Benefits Trust Fund, and the Immediate Past President. The immediate Past President shall be a non-voting member.

    • These changes add the Chair of the Benefits Trust Fund to the Executive Board and make the Immediate Past President a voting, rather than a non-voting, member of the e-board. Both positions are critical to serving the interests of our membership and thus carry a significance that merits active representation on the e-board.

Accepted Amendment to PA Constitution and By-laws

We hereby propose to change the name of the Political Action Committee to “Political Outreach Committee” and to revise all references to same in both the Constitution and By-laws.

    • The name Political Action Committee might be confused with a PAC, a type of entity that has a specific legal definition not in keeping with our organization. Also, the new name not only more accurately describes the committee’s activities and purpose, it is also more aligned with Community Outreach Committee.

Accepted Amendment to PA By-laws Article V Section 10

ARTICLE V: Standing Committees.

Section 10. The Audit Committee shall

A. Be composed of four (4) elected members of the Association and one non-bargaining unit member appointed by the President and approved by the Executive Board. The chair shall be an Association member elected by and from the membership of the Committee.

    • Having one non-PA member on the Audit Committee reflects current advice from both NYSUT and AFT regarding oversight of local funds and audits, but we also want the Chair of the Audit Committee to remain a PA member.

Identifying at-risk students
from the MVCC Counseling Center

As colleagues, we need your assistance in identifying students “at risk.” As in past semesters, we want to draw your attention to the needs of our students in the following areas:

  • severe depression
  • self-injurious behavior
  • domestic violence
  • excessive absences.

These problems are in addition to those students facing the more moderate problems of lack of educational directions, relationships, adjustment, and general stress. If you become aware of students who seem lost or in need of our services, please refer them to the Counseling Center, or better yet, escort them to ease further anxiety.

If available, counselors will come to the student in any emergency situations to your class or office. Counselors are also able to visit classes to discuss transfer options, study skills, or other counseling issues. If you would like us to speak to your class, or if you would like to have your class meet in our Counseling Center Resource Room in Payne Hall, we will do our best to meet your schedule.

We also have a part-time staff member from the Mohawk Valley Council on Alcoholism/Addiction, Gary Cohen, an MVCC graduate, who can address substance abuse and offer personal guidance.

We thank you for your support and hope we can count on your assistance in identifying “at risk” students. Please especially be aware of early absences, as these patterns are often the earliest indicators of problems that could inhibit academic success, and that is why we’re all here! Help us get to these students to address and assist in their problems before midterms. Just give us a call or e-mail. Let us help you teach!

Thank you.

MVCC Counseling Center Contact List

President Searles provides testimony on 2004-05 Executive budget proposal
by Ellis Gage Searles

Editor’s Note: The following is PA President Ellis Gage Searles’ testimony as presented in Utica, NY, on February 26, 2004, to Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell Chairman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee & Assemblywoman RoAnn M. Destito Chairwoman of the Assembly Governmental Operations Committee

Good afternoon, Chairman Farrell and Chairwoman Destito. Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you today about the impact of Governor Pataki’s proposed budget.

I’m Ellis Gage Searles, President of Mohawk Valley Community College Professional Association, which is made up of the more than 220 faculty and professional staff at MVCC and is affiliated on the state level with our 500,000 colleagues in New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and nationally with more than one million in the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

The oldest of the SUNY community colleges, MVCC has long been recognized statewide for the high quality of its programs and services. I’m proud to represent the dedicated individuals who develop those programs, teach the courses, and provide a range of professional services to our students. It’s on their behalf and on behalf of the institution that we care so deeply about that I speak to you today.

First, please accept my sincere thanks for your ongoing support of public education and most especially for your work last year in overriding the Governor’s vetoes to restore education funding to the 2003-2004 budget. Your efforts, along with those of your colleagues in the Assembly and Senate, made it possible for the schools and colleges of New York State to continue to provide the high-quality education that our students deserve.

While the Governor’s budget proposal for 2004-2005 is certainly an improvement over last year’s in terms of funding for public education in general, it still will not meet the needs of New York’s schools--especially not its community colleges. It is not too much to say that the proposed cuts would be devastating to our programs and our students.

In an ironic coincidence, at the same time that Governor Pataki was announcing these cuts to community colleges, President Bush, in his State of the Union address, was highlighting the vital role we would play in the country’s economic recovery. Community colleges are known to have a unique ability to provide the fine quality, flexible education and training the nation’s workforce needs. Indeed, it is central to our mission, a role we fully embrace, so it was encouraging to hear that fact acknowledged on the national stage.

But it is here in New York State that the job must be done, and we cannot do it without resources.

Reducing the base aid for community colleges and cutting other aid programs severely undermines our ability to serve our students and our region. Coming, as these proposed cuts do, on top of years of funding losses totaling many millions--since 1990, more than 43 million dollars in program cuts alone--they would place an impossible burden on the very institutions that are being looked to now more than ever to prepare those who will secure New York’s future.

Once again, we will need your help.

In what promises to be another difficult year, many worthwhile demands vie for funding in the face of the state’s diminished revenue. But investment in higher education must be a top priority. A renewed commitment to New York’s community colleges would not only meet the present needs of our growing number of students; it would also be a step toward ensuring the long-term health of public higher education in our state.

It is essential that more funding be devoted to achieving this important goal. In addition to restoring the 5% cut in the Governor’s proposal, an increase of $225 would bring the Base Aid total to $2,525 per FTE. This would allow community colleges to fund existing programs and develop the new ones that will address the changing needs of the economy.

Without it, we risk program cuts and reductions in services at the very time when they are needed most. Our enrollment has been growing, as community college enrollment often does during tough economic times. If MVCC were to lose the more than $430,000 this budget withholds, cuts would be inevitable in nearly every area of the college. Academic and technical programs could be lost; enrollments might have to be capped.

As proposed, the Governor’s budget would only account for roughly 28% of the revenue MVCC will need in the coming year--a far cry from the state contribution called for in the funding formula for New York State’s community colleges. When Base Aid does not equal the 40% that full opportunity institutions like ours were legislated to receive, a greater burden falls to local sponsors and to students.

Our counties are struggling. Property taxes, the counties’ main source of revenue, are already too high. Upwardly spiraling Medicaid costs add even more pressure. Job losses and unemployment drain the region’s economy. Can we expect local governments--and area taxpayers--to make up a shortfall?

Our students already pay too much--under this proposal, their share of the College’s budget would be over 38%. Should we ask them to shoulder this additional burden? Already, they are charged near-maximum tuition in addition to a number of fees that equal more than $300 a year. Not covered by financial aid, these fees attempt to close budget gaps, but they leave the neediest students with impossible financial choices and increasing debt. Further exacerbating the problem would be the proposed restructuring of TAP, which would place New York’s college students at yet another economic disadvantage, forcing them to borrow against the financial aid grants to which they are entitled.

More students in New York State begin their higher education at community colleges than anywhere else. Investing wisely there would yield a maximum return for our collective future.

Devoted as we are to the special mission of the community college, the members of the MVCC Professional Association know full well how much our students benefit from our programs--and how much they have to offer our community. They are the workers, thinkers, and policymakers of tomorrow.

In their interest and in the interest of the future of our region and our state, we urge you to continue your work in Albany to fully fund the SUNY community colleges. Thank you.

Participate in the 2004 Thea Bowman Bowl-a-Thon
by Luther Riedel

Knock a few down. Support a great cause.

Thea Bowman Bowl-a-Thon
AMF Pin-O-Rama
Sunday, March 7th, 1 p.m.

Contact me for details: Luther Riedel, Payne Hall 312, Humanities Department

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