The most recent Board of Trustees meeting at Bergen Community College (BCC), held on May 9, 2023, brought to the forefront crucial issues surrounding faculty contracts and STEM program funding, casting a shadow over the institution’s significant achievements.
Faculty members at BCC expressed grave concerns over the upcoming expiration of their contracts. They appealed to the trustees to consider the stress this uncertainty creates and to enter contract negotiations in good faith. An English teacher of 14 years, Pamela, urged the board to prioritize faculty: “Our students deserve a faculty that is appreciated… We’re depending on the board and the college leadership to enter into negotiations in good faith.”
Kelly Keane from the English Department amplified this sentiment, noting that faculty salaries have not kept pace with market value or the cost of living, particularly when compared to other New Jersey community colleges. Keane called on the board to invest in faculty and staff, emphasizing that resources spent on lawyers for negotiations could be better used.
These concerns underscored the need for a balanced approach, as Professor Dan Sheehan of the Performing Arts Department suggested. He acknowledged fiscal challenges but urged the college to support its faculty—the cornerstone of the college’s mission.
In tandem with faculty concerns, worries about the future of the popular STEM program were expressed. Despite the program’s numerous success stories and national recognition, its funding is soon ending, causing uncertainty and distress among its beneficiaries. Student representatives pleaded for support to continue the program, which has significantly impacted their lives.
One such student, Rene Moreno, a computer science student and Jack and Cook scholarship recipient, highlighted how the opportunities provided by BCC’s STEM program were instrumental in his scholarship award. He, alongside other students, emphasized the need for financial support to sustain these life-changing opportunities.
The meeting also saw students, including Richard Boala, Stephanie Arantes, and Kelly Kazala, advocating for more federal funding for Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), a significant issue for BCC, where the Latino population surpasses 40%.
Despite these tensions, the meeting was not devoid of positive notes. New trustees Mr. Damon Angles and Mr. Howard Haughton were welcomed, and the college’s accomplishments, including its ranking as one of the top 20 most promising places to work by Diverse Magazine, were applauded.
These discussions bring into sharp relief the challenges facing BCC. While it continues to make strides in providing high-quality education, the tension between faculty welfare and financial constraints, and the looming concerns over STEM funding, pose pressing questions about the future direction of the college.