On May 17, as students and faculty at Monterey Peninsula College were gearing up for finals week, about 200 people gathered in a lecture hall. The campus-wide meeting inside presented a different kind of test, however.
The session was called by MPC President and Superintendent Walt Tribley, to give a rundown on the college’s finances and future.
The atmosphere was tense, based on multiple accounts from people who attended, as well as an audio recording of it provided to the Weekly by former El Yanqui editor Michael Beck. Faculty members in the audience held signs that read, “Negotiate Don’t Dictate.” Stationed in the room were at least two uniformed campus security officers – a sight long-term faculty say they’ve never seen.
After a presentation on finances by Steven Crow, vice president for administrative services, there was a Q&A; one instructor told Tribley and Crow that the faculty didn’t trust the administration’s numbers, Tribley says.
English instructor Henry Marchand says Tribley then addressed “The Mood,” referring to faculty dissatisfaction and an impasse in salary negotiations between the faculty union and the administration.
Faculty members – who have been working without a contract for four years – want pay increases, but Tribley contends there isn’t enough money. Meanwhile, he’s proposing adding administrators, using money from a different funding source.
“[Tribley] said, ‘Let’s talk motivation, people, what’s my motivation for this crime?” Marchand recounts. “If faculty gets a raise, I get a raise, so what is my motivation for this crime?’
Marchand was surprised by the language. “Frankly, I was stunned,” he says.
Tribley says that statement, in context, is less stunning. Based on the audio recording, Tribley asked: “What’s the motivation for this crime here, folks? What is the human motivation for lying about the budget, not being transparent? Do you know that my salary will increase the day I say ‘Yes’ at the negotiating table?”
He’s referring to a clause in his $205,000-a-year contract that states, “The salary amount shall be increased or decreased equivalent to any salary changes negotiated with the faculty bargaining unit.”
The uniformed guards, Tribley says, were there at his request after he received a threatening phone call. Tribley downplays the negative mood and says many teachers are working “happily.” That’s despite assertions by multiple faculty members, including English teacher Dave Clemens, who is retiring after 46 years at MPC and says morale is the worst he’s seen. Among current problems: The college is on a two-year accreditation probation.
Faculty plan on delivering a failing grade for Tribley to the MPC Board of Trustees at a May 31 meeting, when the board is set to discuss Tribley’s contract, in its final year. Board President Marilynn Gustafson declined to comment for this story, and says she is instead focusing on the accomplishments of students who graduate May 27.
If Tribley stays, faculty members say they plan on taking a vote of no confidence in the Academic Senate, and the union could then authorize a strike by this fall if the administration refuses to negotiate any further on salaries.
Editor's Note: The print version of the story stated the all-campus meeting was on May 27. It was on May 17. This story has been updated to reflect the correct date.