United Faculty campaigns for change in district through public outreach


Special To / The Advocate

United Faculty and interns put up signs in Ward 2 cities for Judy Walters campaign on Oct. 4.

By Evalyn Soungpanya, Advocate Staff

With the upcoming Nov. 3 election, the United Faculty (UF) union is taking action to notify the public about current problems within the district and urging people to vote.

The UF has worked to promote Judy Walters to replace Vicki Gordon of Ward 2 for the Contra Costa Community College District (4CD) board and support Propositions 15 and 16.

In the UF’s “Table Talk” commentary on its website, they expressed concern about recent crises relating to the coronavirus.

There has been an enrollment drop for Diablo Valley College, Los Medanos College and Contra Costa College. It has resulted in an overall decrease of 7 percent.

Executive Director and Vice President of UF for CCC Jeffrey Michels said, “I think the enrollment crisis that we’re facing is temporary.”

Restrictions have been set on face-to-face courses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Online education can be difficult for some and many students are reluctant about online classes.

“It really is a response to the pandemic,” Michels said.

The enrollment crisis has had an impact on faculty and created a human resources crisis, according to UF’s Table Talk.

“We have some really good faculty who all of a sudden are losing their assignments,” Michels said. “That’s a big risk for the college.”

Unpredictable enrollment patterns led to disorderly course scheduling, which created risks for part-time instructors who depend on their classes for sustainable income, Michels said.

The UF encourages students to take advantage of the resources CCC provides, including borrowing laptops through the college, access to internet, and online counseling and tutoring.

Hearing about the college’s resources can motivate students to proceed with online learning, Michels said. They can use CCC’s support to their advantage and keep the enrollment percentage stable.

“I think that some of [the crisis] will be addressed as we can better communicate to our students and to our potential students all of the ways we are supporting students at Contra Costa College online,” Michels said.

The United Faculty supported Ward 2 trustee candidate Walters for 4CD by endorsing her campaign.

“Many people who are elected to the governing board really don’t come into the community college system with any experience in the community college system,” Michels said. “Sometimes we’ve got to be like Rebecca Barrett, who was a student in our district. And those tend to be very good trustees because, again, people that actually know what it’s like to be a student or an administrator in our district have a lot of insight into how the district should function.”

Walters has more than 30 years of leadership experience and her past positions include interim chancellor, interim president, board trustee and dean from schools around California.

Aminta Mickles, intern coordinator for the UF, went with other interns to Ward 2’s zones in Crockett, Hercules and Rodeo to promote Walters’ campaign.

Despite the risks of COVID-19, the UF are taking necessary measures for the public to know about local issues.

Intern for UF Kristin Lobos said, “Because of COVID, not a lot of people are comfortable knocking on doors.”

Instead of knocking on doors, they decided to put up signs on street corners, post flyers and hang door hangers around the ward.

In the UF’s recent Table Talk, the union expressed support for Propositions 15 and 16.

UF President Donna Wapner said, “Our community colleges are appropriated way less money per student than most other institutions of higher education.”

According to The Century Foundation (TCF), an independent educational think tank, only 38 percent of students get a degree from attending community college within six years.

“Community colleges are given the fewest resources to educate those students who tend to have the greatest needs,” TCF states on its website.

Proposition 15 would require commercial and industrial properties to be taxed based on their market value. 40 percent of revenue from the change in taxation would be distributed to K-12 schools and community colleges.

Michels said the resources are needed for community colleges, especially in Contra Costa.

Proposition 16 is supposed to repeal Proposition 209, which banned the use of affirmative action involving race-based or sex-based preferences in California.

UF feels diversity in faculty members is important to match the district’s diverse populations.

“So we really are trying to let people know that Proposition 209, which bans affirmative action in California, is really operated as a barrier to their hiring practices,” Michels said. “Proposition 16 will help us reform our hiring practices to try to have a more faculty environment resulting in a very high priority for our union. We would like to improve diversity among faculty.”

“We encourage everyone to vote [in the election],” said Mickles.

The United Faculty are taking advantage of social media to spread the word about causes they support – their Facebook page can be found at @UnitedFacultyofContraCostaCCD.

The UF would also like more interns and volunteers to help with campaigning. Those interested can email Mickles at [email protected] for more information.