Trust Fall

MPC English instructor Henry Marchand says the thought the college was “idyllic” when he arrived in 2010. Now he says the faculty is “demoralized” by the management style of the administration.

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.

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(4) comments

Charles Saves

If the school is on academic probation, what does the union have to say about underperforming faculty?

RE Griffin

I suggest you thoroughly read the accreditation committee's findings before accusing the faculty of underperformance. "Academic probation" is a category that includes administrative and management failings.

Charles Saves

So the faculty bears no responsibility for the probationary status? I suggest you tell your underperforming peers to get their act together and not hide behind union representatives. Perhaps you are one of those underperformers and blame administration rather than taking responsibility for your part in the mess.

Corrie Jake

MPC faculty never want to take responsibility for anything. Many of them are already paid well above faculty at other nearby colleges. And don't let them fool you with that garbage "no raise in years" baloney. They've gotten raises, just not the ones they wanted. Boo hoo. Meanwhile the school is bleeding FTES numbers. Maybe students don't want to be taught by professors too preoccupied with getting a raise when they're already over 100K a year?

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