Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, speaks at Friday’s protest of students, faculty and community leaders at Green River College calling for the firing of college President Eileen Ely. See more photos, see AFT Washington’s website.
(April 28, 2016) — Washington State Labor Council President Jeff Johnson has asked Gov. Jay Inslee to intervene “to help lead Green River College out of the toxic environment in which it now finds itself” after another round of faculty and student protests calling for the firing of the Auburn community college’s president Eileen Ely.
Here is the letter sent by Johnson to the governor this week.
Dear Governor Inslee:
Last Friday several hundred students walked out of their classes at Green River College protesting the actions of College President Eileen Ely, who has, once again, created an environment of distrust. The walk-out, the latest in a series of actions taken by students to protest President Ely’s actions and two faculty votes of “No Confidence” in President Ely over the past two years, was precipitated by the belief that the administration will use a theoretically “voluntary” strategic planning and evaluation program called Program Prioritization Process (PPP) as a way to cut faculty and programs from the budget and shortchange their education.
The PPP process was billed by the college as a voluntary process for evaluating the effectiveness of various college programs to be ranked by quintiles. When many programs decided not to participate in PPP, about half the college’s programs were placed in the fifth quintile (Q5) – no doubt a mathematical anomaly (I do hope no cuts are made to the math program). This action by college programs to not participate in PPP and the reaction to arbitrarily place those choosing not to participate in Q5 is indicative of the toxic environment created on campus by President Ely and the lack of any effective leadership.
The students recognize that there are surplus fees from international student tuition that could be used to cover any temporary operating budget deficits and that cutting programs and faculty as an alternative hurts their education. The students are asking for responsible fiscal management and they are asking for leadership, which they believe President Ely cannot provide. Instead, they are asking for President Ely to be removed from office.
There is little faith in the leadership of the Board of Trustees either. The faculty took a vote of “No Confidence” in the Board in November 2015 after the Board refused to address the numerous complaints brought by students and faculty on the Ely administration. Further, the Board President, I believe, violated the Open Meetings Act when, at the April 22, 2016 Board meeting, he refused to allow all those who wanted to speak an opportunity to speak and refused to move the venue of the meeting on campus so that the number of students and faculty present could actually participate in the meeting. Frustrating students even more, the Board Chair called for two separate Executive sessions during the Board meeting. Such a lack of leadership further incites distrust in the administration of the college.
What is clear to me is that someone from the outside has to bring some leadership to the situation at Green River College. I respectfully ask your office to make a good faith effort to help lead Green River College out of the toxic environment in which it now finds itself.
Jeffrey G. Johnson
President, Washington State Labor Council
► MORE COVERAGE from the Seattle Times — Green River College staff, students walk out over leadership, budget — Hundreds of students, faculty and staff staged a walkout at Green River College in Auburn on Friday, leaving their classrooms to march through campus and shouting for the college’s president to resign. The protest was the latest action in a long-running dispute between faculty and administrators over how the community college is run. The faculty has twice voted that they have no confidence in President Eileen Ely, most recently asking her to step down in May 2015.
► From the Kent Reporter — Students, faculty walk out amid high tensions at Green River College — The walkout comes on the heels of a contentious Board of Trustees meeting Thursday evening. Faculty, staff and students packed a small board room, forcing many to stand in the hallway. History instructor Mark Thomason captured the atmosphere of the meeting in a statement he made to the board:
“This has been the most bizarre experience I have ever had on this campus. It is absurd what has happened here today. Am I in some giant ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit? Is this a Monty Python movie that I haven’t been told about? I am just awestruck at everything that has happened here. It reflects an enormous vacuum of leadership — of positive leadership.”
► From KIRO TV — Green River College students say school mismanaged — Green River students and faculty accuse President Eileen Ely of mismanaging millions of dollars. An example they cite is the auto body program slated to be housed in the new trades building. It was cut soon after construction was completed.
EDITOR’S NOTE — The instructor for that program just happened to be the President of the local AFT union.