Green River College president resigns, healing process begins

AUBURN (June 17, 2016) — After facing three no-confidence votes, years of protests and a three-day Unfair Labor Practice strike by faculty in May, Green River College President Eileen Ely resigned effective immediately Thursday night at the meeting of the college’s Board of Trustees.

Before last month’s strike, AFT Washington President Karen Strickland released a statement summarizing five years of strife during Ely’s tenure:

“For five years, Green River College faculty members have been battling an oppressive, anti-union administration that has resulted in program closures, termination of faculty including targeted union leaders, unfair labor practices, difficult negotiations, and an unfair, unproven evaluation process to rate programs. It’s not only union members who have been targeted, but also many good administrators who believed in shared governance were fired under the current president. Furthermore, classified staff have been retaliated against and they have numerous Unfair Labor Practices in process.”

At Thursday night’s meeting where the board unanimously accepted Ely’s resignation, faculty members and their union, Green River College United Faculty Coalition, AFT Local 2195, immediately ushered in a renewed era of collaboration and cooperation, offering to work with the board to address concerns about the scheduled rollout of the troubled CTCLink software system.

GRC United Faculty President Jaeney Hoene’s report to the board on the CLCLink issue concluded with the following message about moving forward following President Ely’s resignation and urging that all parties “work together to protect the integrity of our [collective bargaining] agreement,” including reconsidering the flawed process that led to proposed Reductions in Force:

…[T]he healing and growth that needs to happen at Green River can only occur through mutual investment in that process. I have been before you a number of times this year asking that we work together, growing stronger through the differences of perspective and experience we bring to the opportunities and challenges presented to the college rather than more divided and splintered by those differences.

I hope that our future brings us together, therefore, both to discuss and seek healing generally, but also to make our intentions manifest through real partnership in advocating for the best for our College. The statement I have read regarding CTCLink outlines one such opportunity for partnership. The upcoming budget season in the legislature will certainly present several others.

I must also add that withdrawing the erroneously proposed Reductions-in-Force and discontinuing improper use of the RIF process to instigate superficial and truncated reviews of programs for closure or reduction is hopefully another such area where we can agree. The faculty at this college have always been willing, even eager, to review and assess the health of their programs. We take the matter of program closure or reduction very seriously, however. The consequences for the community, institution, current and future students, and indeed for the individuals employed within those programs are very serious and often without remedy should the decision to close or reduce a program prove to be a mistake.

We ask, nay, we insist, therefore, on serious and appropriate processes that approach those questions with the thoroughness and gravity they merit. The Collective Bargaining Agreement protects such processes. It is an agreement between the United Faculty and you, the Board of Trustees. Let us work together to protect the integrity of our agreement.

For all that has occurred here in the last year, or in the last five years, I still refuse to believe that our interests are so far apart. Nor do they need always to align in order for our relationship with you to become and remain positive and healthy. While our present may be fraught with questions that will take time to answer and about which we may not always agree, I am hopeful that we can arrive at answers together. I am optimistic for our future, and I look forward to building it with you.

Thank you.

PREVIOUSLY at The Stand:

Strong strike solidarity for faculty at Green River College (by Lynne Dodson, May 24, 2016)

Three-day faculty strike begins at Green River College (May 23, 2016)

WSLC asks Inslee to intervene at Green River College (April 28, 2016)

Rally to Save Green River College is April 22 in Auburn (April 18, 2016)

Green River College faculty, staff steps up the pressure (Nov. 23, 2015)

Why we have no confidence in Green River College’s trustees (Nov. 23, 2015)

Green River College board backs Ely; faculty authorizes strike (May 27, 2015)

Green River College faculty: President Ely has got to go (May 15, 2015)

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