Faculty to select new union president

By Gabriel Quiroz, Staff Writer

It may not be a commonly held belief that professors need help, but they certainly do and one of their main sources of help may soon change as the United Faculty is currently holding elections for the position of president of its Executive Board.
The United Faculty (UF) is the bargaining unit that represents all of the faculty in the Contra Costa Community College District.
Contra Costa College Academic Senate President Beth Goehring said, “The candidates have excellent leadership skills and a ton of experience.”
Only two candidates are vying for the position of Executive Board president.
Current UF President Donna Wapner is running for re-election and opposing her is a representative for the Academic Senate of California Community Colleges (ASCCC), Silvester Henderson.
Henderson has worked in the district for 25 years and has taken on many district roles.
He is currently Equity Diversity & Action Committee chairperson for the ASCCC and professor of choral/vocal music at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg.
Wapner has worked in the district for more than 26 years teaching health science and addiction studies at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill.
Wapner joined the UF Executive Board halfway into her career taking on many different UF roles over the years.
Wapner’s first job on the Executive Board dealt with health and medical insurance issues when she was vice president.
Henderson said, “I think I have a better understanding (of student needs) with 40 years of experience in higher education.
“I’m sensitive to the issues of the faculty. Being a person of color gives me a greater understanding of those needs.”
One of the problems Henderson sees with the configuration of the current board is that there are too many of the same faces reprising roles on the board.
“I will bring in a team respecting those who are there now and move forward. If you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far bring the tribe,” he said.
Both candidates understand the importance of the UF presidency and know that dedication and communication is a big part of being successful.
Wapner said, “People say that I’m fair and spend a lot of time working on things that I really believe in.
“Since I’ve been at the helm (of the UF) we have accomplished a lot and we are very stable and in a good place with the district.”
She said the previous four years have been spent fighting against low faculty wages, improving staff evaluations and funding for professor development.
Members of the Executive Board spoke about both nominees in varying tones, but held to the fact that they both have a tremendous amount of experience and skill.
Goehring said that she worked with Henderson previously and he was like a mentor to her and others she worked with before he shifted positions to the state Executive Senate.
According to Goehring, the current Executive Board has many years of experience and has communicated the needs of the faculty well.
The UF plays a much larger role than many people know. It determines how the educational system functions and how faculty is compensated and treated for its efforts, she said
DVC professor Glenn Appell served as president for two years and has been in the United Faculty for eight years.
Appell said there is a long history of people rising through the ranks on the Executive Board of the UF.
“Henderson made no effort to (join the UF Executive Board) in the past. However, the UF is open (to anyone) so if he wants to participate he can,” Appell said.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to change it (leadership) right now because of how well they (UF) are currently working together. “
Appell said he has worked alongside Wapner and has confidence in her leadership abilities.
“She (Wapner) is super thorough and a responsible faculty member that does whatever she can to fix a problem. She also fights for faculty issues,” Appell said.
Few people have been president without being part of the Executive Board first, according to Wapner. But UF Vice President Jeffrey Michels assumed the president’s role during a tumultuous time.
Michels said there was a steep learning curve when it came to taking the role of president.
“Henderson is extremely accomplished and an excellent music professor. Music faculty have to be particularly talented since it is such a competitive job. But I think it would be better for him to serve on the Executive Board first,” Michels said.
“Donna has been an excellent president and the Executive Board team is incredible and doing so much right now. It would be a strange time to make a change.”
Voting began Tuesday and will continue until Oct 17. There will also be public forums at CCC, DVC and LMC in the coming days.
The UF president is elected by current members of the UF.