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Connecticut community college merger off to rocky start, according to faculty

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Connecticut’s 12 community colleges are about to merge into just one institution, but on Thursday, professors complained the rollout is already rocky.

One union organizer told state higher education regents that some staff weren’t even paid on time.

“Failure to pay your employees is yet another clear example of the failure of [human resources] shared services — when this board unfortunately decided to decimate the HR departments at our community colleges,” said Edgar Aracena, with “the 4Cs,” a division of the SEIU 1973 union representing more than 4,000 higher education employees in Connecticut.

Starting in Fall 2023, the entire system will be known as Connecticut State Community College. Every campus will remain open and most classes will still be offered, but students may have to travel for some of them.

Amid unpredictable enrollment, the merger is a cost-cutting move. Right now, curriculums are still being finalized. The new system received accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education earlier this year.

The consolidation has been controversial from day one, but the president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities, which oversees community colleges, says it’s the only option to keep campuses open.

“Our institutions and our system will not be able to cut our way out of this,” said CSCU president Terrence Cheng. “We need more state support.”

Dr. John Maduko just took over as president of the community college system. He insists professors will have a seat at the table.

“I’ve told our faculty, staff, and our students, that I am not here to sell you anything or pitch anything to you, nor am I here to control your thoughts or emotions,” Maduko told regents.

Professors claimed they had little input on a draft plan for moving forward. The system’s former interim president fired back.

“The strategic planning process has been an open invitation for any faculty that want to participate in this process,” said Dr. Michael Rooke.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers attempted to take away the Board of Regents for Higher Education’s authority to approve mergers, but the proposal failed to get a vote.

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