All posts by Nicholas Leahey

Contract Negotiations Stalling Amid State Budget Woes

by Nicholas Leahey

The arbitration deadline for the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the Connecticut State University American Association of University Professors (CSU-AAUP) and the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Board of Regents (BOR) has been pushed back again – until June – as the state’s legislators continue to deal with the state’s ongoing fiscal crisis.

As a result, the current collective bargaining agreement has been extended.

According to CSU-AAUP representatives, negotiations are still ongoing over several key issues, as both sides pay close attention to the events which are occurring in Hartford over the State’s budget. Both parties have until August, when the current contract expires, to finalize a new one, with the state’s fiscal deadline on July first.

“The CSU-AAUP/BOR contract negotiations continue on non-economic issues,” said Dr. Elena Tapia, President and Chief Negotiator of CSU-AAUP,  in a statement.

The movement of the arbitration deadline comes after the Gov. Dannel Malloy asked legislators to reject a contract for the University of Connecticut Professional Employees Association (UCPEA), a union for non-teaching professional employees there, back in March. According to the Hartford Courant, he called the proposal too tough for economic times, and said, “Agreements negotiated between labor and management must reflect our new economic reality.” The UCPEA is currently re-negotiating their contract.

The new June first arbitration deadline also marks the third time the deadline has been moved. Both sides have openly said they wish to avoid  arbitration, especially in the state’s current fiscal atmosphere. Both parties, however, have yet to reach an agreement and are weary to discuss any economic-related issues with the state’s budget still pending.

According to official CSU-AAUP ‘Table Talk’ reports, a periodic report on the progress of contract negotiations from the CSU-AAUP to its members, has shown progress has been made on some issues, while others still remain in contention.

Specifically, in a March 14 report, both CSU-AAUP and BOR negotiators came to an agreement on a proposal which would enable multi-semester contracts to part-time faculty who have taught for six or more semesters. According to the report, eligible members and department chairs would be able to request such contracts.

In a most recent report released on April 6th, members of the CSU-AAUP, in a meeting on March 31st, asked about the status of a series of tentative agreements which they made with BOR negotiators on March 9, inquiring if whether or not the BOR had signed off on them. Members of the BOR negotiating team stated they were not done yet and that it was “a lot of tedious work.”

The same report also outlined justification for movement of the arbitration deadline to June first. It said, “This extension of the deadline represents a prudent adjustment in support of our aim to reach a fair resolution to several outstanding issues at the negotiating table.”

Calls and messages left for the BOR were not immediately answered or returned.

As negotiations continue, members of the CSU-AAUP and BOR remain tight-lipped regarding what is currently being discussed in meetings. Both parties have made it clear, however, they still hope to reach a deal in a timely manner.

Students And Administrators Attend CSU Day At Capital Building

by Nicholas Leahey

A handful of students and administrative faculty attended Connecticut State University (CSU) Day at the state capital building in Hartford last Tuesday, March 19, along with other students and faculty from other schools in the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities (CSCU) system, amid a backdrop of the state’s ongoing budget crisis.

Representatives from each school lobbied for the system in the Old Judiciary Room, talking with a mixture of fellow CSCU students and administrative faculty, as well as members of the CSCU Board of Regents (BOR), and state representatives.

“I feel that it is important that the legislators in this building hear directly from students as to why our system of public higher education is important, and why they should invest in it, which is investing in our state’s future,” said BOR President Mark Ojakian at the event, who hopes to obtain as much funding for the system as possible, while mitigating any cuts which may come towards it. “Having students interact with legislators, and relay to them their personal stories, I think will be critical as we move forward with the budget in the next few weeks.”

The event, which saw a larger than normal turnout, also featured several student and faculty speakers, including three students and two system administrators, and President Okajian. All spoke about favorable experiences during their time in the CSCU system, and why it was important to maintain and continue to fund the state’s largest public education system.

The annual lobbying event comes amid a backdrop of the ongoing state budget crisis, which has spurred cuts in state funding towards certain programs, and resulted in numerous layoffs of state workers.

Some budget cuts have been made directly to higher education, including the CSCU system. This has prompted concerns about the funding for schools in the system, many of which, including CCSU, are known for providing higher education at an affordable cost.

“You have to be concerned with the level of support services available to a student,” said Director of Research and System Effectiveness William Gammell, who voiced concern especially for community college students, who normally have a full time job and family to provide for in addition to doing school work.

“Higher education is not an expense, it’s an investment,” he added.

While many possess the same opinion as Gammell, state lawmakers still insist that they must first address with the nearly one billion dollar hole which currently exists in the state budget. As a result, as legislators try to close the gap, many have not ruled out cutting funding and spending for higher education in the state to fix finance issues.

“This type of event puts you in front of us, so that we look at you very clearly when we make these decisions,” said State Representative Toni walker, who is the Chair of the Appropriations Committee, and also serves on the Committee for Higher Education and Employment Advancement. “And that is the most important part that we have – is to try and make sure that we don’t forget the faces of the students that work in this state and live in this state, and how important they are to protect when moving forward.”

While there is uncertainty if whether or not lawmakers can pass a budget by the set May 1 deadline, they still have until July 1 at the latest. That is when the new fiscal year begins.

SGA April 6, 2016 Meeting Bullet Points

by Nicholas Leahey 

  • A motion to approve a co-sponsorship with Natural Helpers in the amount of $2,500.00 was passed after a long debate and a recess. The SGA approved the money in a 19-1 vote, with two abstentions, that will help fund an alcohol awareness event put on every year by the Natural Helpers. They requested the money after money from a grant for the event ran out.
  • Motions were also unanimously approved for Theatre Unlimited and South Asian Students Association. Theatre Unlimited had their line item request approved to move $500 from entertainment purposes to recognition purposes, and $100 from entertainment purposes to refreshment purposes. Meanwhile, South Asian Student Organization had their line item request approved, moving $600 from their student center fees to money for supplies.
  • Senator Jahmil Effend brought up the possibility of adding more seats to the senate in the form of Transfer Student seats, and discussed bringing up a motion on the matter. After some discussion, a motion was made, and passed unanimously, to refer section five of the SGA constitution to the Internal Affairs committee for further review. The issue is intended to be brought up to the Senate again before the year is over.
  • Treasurer Brendan Kruh brought up discrepancies in the media board’s budget, according to his calculation, when discussing student activity fee increase. He questioned where some of the money goes to, in order to better understand their finances, and discuss the fee increase. Student Activities and Leadership Development (SA/LD) Director Scott Hazan pointed out that some numbers he received pertaining to the operations budget for the radio station may not be correct, and instructed him to speak with Assistant Director Susan Sweeney in SA/LD.
  • Upcoming CSU Day at the capital on April 19 was discussed. Students are encouraged to attend individually or as a club, and discuss why the state and local colleges should continue to be funded. A bus will be provided for transportation, and those interested should contact members of the SGA, or Senator Wyatt Bosworth.

CCSU Police Chat with Students Over Coffee

by Nicholas Leahey

Student, faculty and Central Connecticut police officers enjoyed a cup of coffee together last Wednesday in the Student Center, in the first annual Coffee with a Cop.

In an attempt to maintain good community relations, officers of the CCSU Police Department handed out cups of coffee and talked to students on a wide variety of topics, ranging from campus security concerns, to classes and even the UConn Women’s Basketball team.

“With all the negativity about police, it seems like the good efforts we do are forgotten,” said CCSU Police Chief Gregory Sneed, who since being sworn in 2014, has pushed to improve and maintain good community relations, making it a cornerstone during his brief time as the CCSU Police Chief.

“When you think about how many police officers there are in this country and every second of the day, we’re doing something good,” said Sneed. “But none of that gets reported, it goes by the wayside.”

The event, which took place  from 9:00 a.m. to noon, and then again from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. the same day, was received well by officers and students passing by, who looked to get a cup of coffee and a free ‘CCSU Police’ portable coffee mug.

“I think it’s pretty good that you have the cops here meeting their constituents,” said student Daniel Juhasz, who found out about the event through a friend. “It gives it more of a personal, or sort of intimate connection here. It’s friendlier.”

“Coffee is the gateway,” said Sneed. According to him, CCSU Police achieved their goal of handing out more than a hundred cups of coffee to a mixture of students and faculty. He hopes it will help spread word of the CCSU Police around campus. “If one hundred people tell one person, that’s two hundred people we’ve reached.”

For the eight CCSU Police officers that volunteered for the event, they too felt opening a dialogue with the community they serve, will aid their efforts when policing.

“I think it gives the students another aspect of who we are and what we stand for, and what we do,” said CCSU Police Sergeant Orlando Oliveira during the event. “We get to know more about them, they get to know more about us.”

Some in attendance believe the community outreach event showed CCSU Police’s commitment towards public and campus safety, causing them to appreciate the event more.

“After everything that has happened with past events in the media, it’s great that we have this assurance to reach out to the students saying ‘hey this might be happening somewhere else, but it’s not happening her,'” said Sergeant Oliveira.

The first-time event was deemed a success by Sneed and other members of the CCSU Police Department, who plans on putting on the event again in the near future, with plans to expand it even more.

“Maybe [we will have] cookies,” said Sneed on what he may add in the future.

Damn, Dannel

by Nicholas Leahey

As the Connecticut Democratic and Republican primaries loom, Connecticut residents and students of Central Connecticut prepare to cast their votes to make their voice heard on the national level. As the races in both parties continue, many can only speculate about who will win Connecticut’s Democratic delegates in the closed primaries – especially when the 88th governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, is a Democrat.

Upon closer inspection, however, it seems inevitable that Bernie Sanders fans might have to face the fact and acknowledge that despite their best efforts, Hillary Clinton may win the primary. No thanks to Gov. Malloy himself, who endorsed the former Secretary of State last year.

While this may be just another piece of speculation, it is still important to analyze certain facts that prelude it, which include Gov. Malloy’s already significant ties with Clinton.

In late February, leading up to the March 1st Massachusetts primary, Gov. Malloy actively campaigned for Clinton in Springfield, Massachusetts. According to a Fox 61 report, he said, “She gets it. The little stuff and the big stuff, the personal stuff, and the policy stuff.”

Malloy’s clear support of the Clinton campaign is not the only time both politicians helped out one another, as was shown when the Hartford Courant reported that the state director in Connecticut for the Clinton campaign, Michael Mandell, was a ‘veteran’ of Gov. Malloy’s 2010 and 2014 campaigns. Malloy won both elections.

While Malloy has attempted to give Clinton a boost in Connecticut, Gov. Malloy and Clinton also share a common denominator of their relationship with President Barack Obama.

According to The New York Times, President Obama has made candid remarks about his support for Clinton as the Democratic Party nomination. In addition, it is still worth mentioning that Clinton was the former Secretary of State for the Obama administration.

Meanwhile, Gov. Malloy has embraced many of President Obama’s liberal policies, including tougher gun control laws, a higher minimum wage and Obamacare, to name a few. According to a Hartford Courant article, his “fealty to the president’s agenda” even earned him a spot during President Obama’s State of the Union Address in January.

While it may seem somewhat far-fetched, my journalistic skepticism (being skeptical, not cynical) tells me that his placement next to the First Lady during the speech was not a coincidence, but rather a lesson out of the playbook from the Netflix show, “House of Cards.”

While Gov. Malloy may be pro-Clinton, he has no direct impact on the electorate process, but he can certainly use his political influence to lean and help push the Connecticut Democratic Party leaders towards political views that mirror that of Clinton. Including Chair Nick Balletto, who helped Malloy obtain important New Haven votes during both the 2010 and 2014 elections.

As the primary grows closer, Clinton’s ability to exercise her political power through an arguably established party network may prove to be too much for Sanders, simply because the vote may already be decided before voters head to the polls. I have faith in the democratic process to allow the right candidate to win. If this is the very same democratic process, however, then it is arguably broken and something must be done to fix it.