KFT protests expected staff layoffs, BOT extends Farahi’s contract

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By: Rebecca Panico on Sept. 16, 2015 

The Kean Federation of Teachers protested impending layoffs for student services’ staff during the Board of Trustees Sept. 14 meeting where university President Dr. Dawood Farahi’s employment contract was extended.

About 30 people from the Center for Academic Success (CAS), Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) and library are expected to be laid off as a result of a June 29 BOT resolution, according to Dr. James Castiglione, KFT president.

RELATED: Tempers flare as BOT votes to outsource maintenance staff

“These students need more support, not less,” said Dr. James Castiglione, president of the Kean Federation of Teachers, in the public session. “Yet the reorganization seems to be targeting the programs that have the most at-risk students.”

The EOC provides students ― including those in the Spanish Speaking program ― with advising, counseling and academic support services, while the CAS assists students ― especially those who are under-prepared and at-risk ― with services like tutoring and career placement.

In June, the BOT voted to increase tuition and fees by 3 percent, and gave Farahi authority to reorganize departments after he cited a shortfall in the budget due to a decline in state funding.

“Tuition and fees are going up, but student services get cut,” the KFT president, who represents professional staff, librarians and faculty, said to The Tower. “So what are they paying for?”

Castiglione was joined by Faculty Senate Chair David Joiner and Eric Richard, a New Jersey representative from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, who both echoed similar sentiments.

“It is difficult to imagine large scale changes being made without any impact on services or academics,” Joiner said in his prepared statement to the BOT. “And as of yet, there has been no effort to seek input from Kean faculty or Kean students about the direction and needs of these units.”

Joiner later pointed out that no one from the Student Organization, which represents the student body, was present at Monday’s meeting, though two student representatives sit on the BOT.

Farahi said he’d meet with university officials and “have lunch” with the Faculty Senate to figure out a way to lessen the negative impact to the laid off staff.

“If there is a way for us to find a mechanism a tool, a procedure or a system to help the majority of the people who will potentially be impacted, we’ll do that,” he said.

He also added that he’d look “within the university to see if there are other ways of achieving the financial savings and minimizing the impact on our employees.”

The Tower asked a university spokeswoman to elaborate on the cause of the layoffs after the meeting, but there was no mention of it in her statement. She did say, however, that “all three areas are in need of performance improvements to better serve our students.”

After a closed executive meeting ― where the BOT said they’d discuss issues including potential litigation matters on the Merck property, real estate matters and contract matters to the budget and staff reorganization ― the BOT unanimously approved the continuation of Farahi’s employment contract.

The University plans on reorganizing the three affected departments by shifting from the use of books to more digital media in the library, having faculty lecturers provide advisement for EOC students and restructuring the CAS with a “laser focus” on improving retention and graduation rates, according to a statement from the university.

This story has been updated to reflect new information. 

Rebecca Panico may be reached at panicore@kean.edu. Follow The Tower on Twitter@KeanTower. Find The Tower on Facebook.

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  • It seems like the process is: there is no need to plan first. Let’s act (to cut) and then we will have a plan (over lunch) to see what we can do to serve students better. What a model (he makes planning such a casual thing). This must be the new Public Administration model that Farahi defended in his PhD or later.