Faculty members at Green River College are asking President Eileen Ely to step down over possible cuts to several trades programs and what faculty say is Ely’s failure to consider staff input at the two-year institution.
AUBURN — Faculty members at Green River College are asking President Eileen Ely to step down over possible cuts to several trades programs and what faculty says is Ely’s failure to consider staff input.
Hundreds of faculty members and students held a rally on Wednesday afternoon and walked to Ely’s office to deliver signatures from those who say they have no confidence in her leadership. The faculty also has filed an unfair labor-practice complaint with the Washington State Public Employee Relations Committee, alleging Ely’s administration is retaliating against union leaders and is not bargaining in good faith.
“We do not have confidence in President Ely to carry out (these) requests,” auto-body instructor and faculty-union president Mark Millbauer said during the rally.
The crowd responded by chanting, “Ely must go.”
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Though the official count is not yet finished, Millbauer said most of the full-time faculty members are voting that they have no confidence in Ely’s leadership.
Faculty members are asking for Ely to be removed, for funding to be restored to three trades programs that are slated to be cut and for “meaningful inclusion of faculty” in decisions that affect instruction at the two-year college.
Ely, who became president of the 9,000-student college in 2010, was not on campus Wednesday, college spokeswoman Allison Friedly said.
But some cuts are necessary, Friedly said, adding that enrollment has recently declined as the economy improved and the college expects to start next school year with a deficit.
The trades programs slated to be closed have low enrollment and high costs, she said. Both the auto-body and carpentry programs are small — only 18 students can enroll per class.
That’s a class size that student Sara Beth Radical, 34, really likes, and is a reason she rises at 4:30 a.m. so she has time to take her kids to day care, then drive from her Bellevue home to attend Green River’s auto-body classes in Auburn.
“This is what I want,” Radical said. “We operate as if it were a real shop.”
Radical is most of the way through the auto-body program at Green River. If it’s cut, she would miss out on the few months of study she has left and be forced to transfer, which she said would be difficult and take time.
A third program in geographic information systems is also under review, though a fourth program originally questioned — in parent-child education — has cut costs enough to stay afloat, Friedly said.
Faculty members in the other three programs have until June 8 to make the case for their courses to continue.
Millbauer and others also accuse Ely’s administration of retaliating against the faculty union. Three of the faculty teaching these programs — including Millbauer, carpentry instructor Glen Martin, and early childhood education instructor Leslie Kessler — are union leaders, Millbauer said.
He also questions the timing of the cuts. Construction is almost finished on a new, $34.6 million trades building, set to open this fall.
The building, which was supposed to hold the carpentry and auto-body programs, won’t stand empty if those courses are cut, Friedly said. The college will just use it for something else.
Green River faculty members last voted they had no confidence in Ely in 2013, when they cited top-level employee turnover and said a longstanding culture of shared governance between the college’s faculty and administrators was being dismantled.