GCC faculty wants more input in budget talk

GLENDALE — The weight of a possible $4.5-million midyear budget cut was still setting in when the Glendale Community College Board of Trustees began to draw fire from faculty members Monday.

Members of the college’s faculty union, the Glendale College Guild, chastised the board for being uncooperative and relying too heavily on attorney counsel.

“We couldn’t even get on today’s agenda without [President/Supt. Audre Levy] calling the college’s attorney,” Steve Marsden, the guild’s chief negotiator, told the board, explaining that the trustees seemed unwilling to work directly with the faculty on even simple issues without involving third parties.

Of particular concern was the board’s recent consideration of support for special-status designation at a new Los Angeles City College campus, which would draw students away from the college and its satellite campus, Marsden said.

The board, at its last meeting, chose not to support the designation.

Also mentioned was a recently commissioned investigation into faculty contracts and salaries at other community colleges, in order to compare whether there might be room for cuts, Marsden said.

Guild members were not upset that the board was taking such actions, but because it was not asking for input from faculty, guild President Gordon Alexandre said.

“All we want is all the cards at the table, and we want to be at that table,” Alexandre told trustees, later adding, “We’ve been through budget crises before but never as deep as this one seems to be, and never with as much lack of collegiately.”

One way to encourage more dialogue might be to create a joint committee, Trustee Anthony Tartaglia said.

“Decisions have to be made by all parties involved,” Tartaglia said. “When everyone is allowed to participate in the process, decisions will work.”

The criticisms came after a presentation from Patrick McCallum, the college’s lobbyist in Sacramento, who estimated that the college could lose enough money in the middle of its operations to force it to reduce courses and drop more than 3,000 students.

If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed $2.5 billion in reductions to California’s public schools and community colleges are approved, community colleges across the state could be forced to cut more than 250,000 students because of course reductions, McCallum said.

While McCallum expected that a proposal from the state’s legislative analyst — which would include a $1-billion cut to schools and community colleges — was more likely than the larger cut, he emphasized that students, faculty and officials needed to get involved in contacting representatives to make sure that colleges aren’t severely affected.

Lobbyists have been making their case to legislators that a strong education system would help create jobs, McCallum said.

“We will help stimulate our economy much quicker than having a $334-million cut,” McCallum said, referring to the size of the cuts that would hit community colleges.

Solving the challenges facing the college would be difficult, and would work only with cooperation, said Trustee Armine Hacopian, after facing the criticisms from faculty members.

“Working together is the only way that we can come up with some sort of solution,” Hacopian said.

 ZAIN SHAUK covers education. He may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at zain.shauk@latimes.com.

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