PROVIDENCE — The Council on Postsecondary Education is scheduled to vote Tuesday night on whether to renew the contract of the Community College of Rhode Island’s president, over the objections of the full-time faculty union.
Last week, council Chairman Timothy DelGiudice discussed the faculty concerns with members of the union, the commissioner and general counsel.
On Friday, DelGiudice called Robert Walsh, executive director of the National Education Association Rhode Island, to tell him that none of the issues raised by the union are significant enough to postpone a three-year extension of Meghan Hughes’ contract.
“We are moving forward with a vote and have scheduled a special meeting next Tuesday,” DelGiudice wrote to members of the council. “I deliberately waited until close of business [Friday] to post the meeting to allow me time to have all these conversations. I didn’t want to surprise the NEA.”
DelGiudice wrote that “the transformation that President Hughes has led has been amazing, the outcomes, graduation rates and her overall student centered focus has been locally and nationally recognized.”
He noted Gov. Dan McKee’s recent signing of a bill that makes the Rhode Island Promise scholarship, which offers two years of free tuition at CCRI to qualifying students, permanent.
“We just celebrated commencement, codified the Promise Scholarship in law,” he wrote.
“As chair, I am committed to supporting her continued leadership moving the college forward.”
In a letter to DelGiudice last week, the faculty union and two other unions wrote that management relations are strained across CCRI’s campuses.
“As you know the Faculty Association and the Education Support Professionals Association both voted no confidence in President Hughes. These votes were not taken lightly and only after multiple failed attempts to be heard by this administration,” the letter said.
“Overall, we feel disrespected and unheard,” the letter said. “The Hughes Administration has shown no regard for the professional knowledge and expertise of the faculty and staff. Decisions are made impacting students without seeking the input of the individuals who interact with students daily.”
Asked about the proposed contract Monday, Walsh declined to comment, saying that “We are always in dialogue” with the college administration.
The faculty union has been at odds with Hughes since shortly after her arrival in 2016.
In 2018, the faculty took a vote of no confidence in Hughes. At the time, the union claimed that Hughes and other top administrators had “repeatedly failed in their leadership roles at the college to the detriment of our students.”
The union was opposed to a three-week winter term, which faculty leaders said was poorly planned and lacked their input.
Faculty members were unhappy last summer when CCRI laid off 122 part-time employees as part of a wider cost-cutting effort.
Last year, Hughes was questioned by members of the House Finance Committee’s subcommittee on education over why the college had hired five high-level staffers, all of them from out of state, during a time of fiscal austerity.
Hughes’ salary for the current fiscal year is listed at $276,799.90, on the state’s transparency portal.
Under the terms of the current contract, her salary was to increase to to $283,700 as of July 1, 2020, but she refused the increase and took a 10% pay cut, a college spokeswoman said.
Linda Borg covers education for The Journal.