ROCKFORD — Twenty-eight Rock Valley College faculty members lost their jobs today after the college’s Board of Trustees voted 3-1 to reduce staff to help the college balance its budget.
The board also approved a labor contract with the college’s new support staff union without the union’s support. That vote was 3-1 as well. Trustee Lynn Kearney voted no. Trustees Bob Trojan and Mike Dunn Jr. were absent. One seat on the board is vacant.
Nearly 200 students, faculty, staff and community members packed an auditorium on campus to show their opposition to the board’s plans. Several of them expressed their dissent through impassioned 3-minute speeches during the meeting’s public comment period.
One of those students was Ryan Wilcox of Rockford.
“Nothing swayed their minds. They just went along with their vote and steamrolled the whole thing,” Wilcox said after the meeting. “I have experienced so many great professors here who have done a great job in helping me achieve my potential as a person. … To have them be so stressed out and so worried about their jobs because the people who are supposed to be leading the college aren’t being open and transparent is very difficult.”
The college has struggled to balance its budget since fall 2015, when the state pulled the plug on roughly $6.6 million in annual funding. The board laid off 30 people and eliminated 14 vacant positions in December of that year. The college left several other positions vacant and cut more than $1 million in nonsalary expenses in 2016 but continues to face a $1.6 million deficit for fiscal year 2017, which ends July 1.
College leaders say the layoffs announced tonight, which go into effect this fall, will help close that funding gap. The board also discussed raising tuition a second time in two years.
Laura Williams, an RVC graduate, and RVC student Mitchell McMahon, who helped organize tonight’s protest, said they want to provide a platform for students, faculty, staff and community members to express concerns.
“Our main concern here is to show the Rock Valley College Board that these people are now watching what they’re doing and that they should be acting contingent with what the community desires as our vision for this college,” Williams said.
The college’s 159-member Faculty Association declared no confidence in college leadership Monday.
Dozens of faculty attended the meeting, wearing their signature yellow T-shirts. Faculty Association President Mike Youngblood said he doesn’t understand the college’s reasoning behind the layoffs.
“We’re just building a new health services building and look at the number of nursing faculty that the board has just given RIF notices to,” Youngblood said. “Why would you build a health services building at the same you RIF the nursing staff?”
“You have an entire business program that’s been decimated. Trustee (Patrick) Murphy said they weren’t going after programs, but that’s almost the entire business department. We have one business professor left,” Youngblood said as he looked over the list of the 28 faculty members who were laid off.
RVC President Doug Jensen said some of the faculty members could get their jobs back in the fall depending on the college’s financial position, enrollment or bargaining with the union, which starts Wednesday.
“This is not a good day for anybody when we have to make these kind of decisions,” Jensen said. “The question we need to ask ourselves is how do we not put ourselves in this position in the future so we don’t have to revisit this.”
The college’s Student Government Association has scheduled an open forum with Board Chairman Patrick Murphy at 3 p.m. Thursday in the Performing Arts Room on RVC’s main campus, 3301 N. Mulford Road.
Corina Curry: 815-987-1371; firstname.lastname@example.org; @corinacurry
RVC faculty that received layoff notices
John Skupien, automotive; Moria Nagy, biology/microbiology; Karin Blaski, business; Gary (Scott) Gardner, business; Lydia Slater, business; Gerald GeRue, business; Stacy McCaskill, business; May Cline, accounting; Robert Lay, accounting; Shuneize Slater, chemistry; Lisa (Lanis) Graciana, dental hygiene; Laurie Ambrose, dental hygiene; Mary Flynn, developmental reading; Stephen Fleeman, electrical engineering technology; Thomas Lombardo, electrical engineering technology; Jonathan Poore, composition; Kenneth Webb, composition; Katie Travis, CPR, first aid and activity; Natalie Rodakowski, nutrition; Yiluo Song, systems librarian; Patricia Holden, nursing (medical terminology); Amy Easton, nursing; Shannon Satti, nursing; Rebecca Myers, nursing; Cheryl Troxel, nursing; Elvira Ventimiglia, Spanish; Paul Laprade, music; Richard Ross, physics
01-All No Sub,02-Pol,03-HL,04-Pens,08-RK,12-Coll,16-Econ,XHe1
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February 28, 2017 at 03:01PM