Pierce College’s plant facility faculty members failed to show up to work on Monday, adding another stressor to the school’s faculty and staff hiring process.
During the Academic Senate meeting on Sept. 27, Pierce Vice President Rolf Schleicher announced that faculty members from all the plant facilities, except a few who showed up to care for the farm animals, did not come to campus to work on Monday, Sept. 25.
The reasons for their absence are unknown. Schleicher was unsure if the situation resulted from issues with work duties, compensation issues, or COVID- 19.
“We’re trying to get to the root of that versus just, you know, trying to get people back. We want to understand what the needs are and what the issues are,” Schleicher said. “We’re trying to get more information from the District too. We don’t know if this is something broader throughout the District.”
During their absence, Pierce has brought in additional assistance.
“Even in the interim, what we’re doing is we’re bringing in some extra help where required. We have more cadettes and more [security officers] and deputies here that can help out with locking classrooms or opening up classrooms,” Schleicher said. “I know the administrators that are here on the campus are helping wherever they can.”
Meeting attendees like Michael Van Dyke were interested in how Pierce plans to proceed with the issue.
“Well, I’m assuming with no one showing up from plant facilities, this basically means we have no custodial staff and no trade staff. So I’m kind of under that assumption,” Van Dyke said.
Responding to Van Dyke, Schleicher explained that it is unclear whether or not staff will return to campus on Tuesday. In the meantime, he is working with Academic Affairs, the deans and interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Donna-Mae Villanueva on how to inform and notify Pierce faculty of the current situation.
Schleicher advised all the meeting attendees to be sensitive to the topic when the plant facilities faculty return to campus.
Political science professor Denise Robb suggested Pierce hire more faculty and staff to combat understaffing issues and asked questions regarding new hires.
“Well I could tell you for sure that the quicker you hire more people, the better things are going to be for faculty and staff,” Robb said.
Schleicher responded by discussing the impact of COVID-19 on custodial faculty. He explained that many individuals were working overtime to ensure the campus was safe and sanitized for the fall semester. Pierce is currently working on hiring individuals who can do interim work.
“So we were working some overtime and we got the list from the district,” Schleicher said. “It was a list of up to 34 people that they said were available. By the next day, we put every submission in, every submission to the district and were waiting for those hires to transpire. It did not. But finding eligible people who want to do interim work, such as custodial work, that’s been a challenge for us.”
Despite the challenge of gaining custodial hires, Pierce made progress in the hiring process of the two vice president positions: the VP of Academic Affairs (VPAA) and VP of Student Services (VPSS).
“We have gone through the whole process to the sense that we’re now at the point of going to interviews,” Schleicher said. “We’ll be conducting [VPAA] interviews in the next week. We have a strong pool of candidates. We feel very good about that.”
Schleicher hopes to complete the VPAA interview process by the middle of October. His goal is to complete the VP of Student Services hiring process by the end of December.
Issues such faculty retiring and a large cost structure have made the hiring process more challenging. However, the school’s HERF funds have provided financial relief during this process, according to Schleicher.
Drops in student enrollment have also complicated the faculty hiring situation.
Interim President Ara Aguiar compared Fall 2021 enrollment statistics to those from past years. She emphasized the large enrollment gap from the Fall 2019 semester.
“Our enrollment compared to fall 19 is down, has shrunk by 24 percent and compared to fall 20, we are down 15 percent and that is equal to 100 less sections from fall 19,” Aguiar said.
She explained that if there are 100 fewer sections, with 35 students per section, there is a gap of 3500 fewer students since the Fall 2019 semester.
“We need more students,” Aguiar said. “We need to add classes wherever we can. We need to maximize and leverage our resources as much as we can here.”