CCRI faculty picket in below freezing temperatures on first day of classes

Union representing 300 professors has been working without a new contract since June 2022


WARWICK — Temperatures were below freezing Monday morning as students strolled in for their first day of spring classes on the Knight Campus of the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI). But the cold was nothing for John Mowry, a computer studies professor who has spent years as an official in the world of professional luge.

Mowry and a few dozen colleagues endured the 23-degree chill as they picketed at the campus entrance. Bright red signs in hand, they had a simple demand: getting CCRI’s administration back to the bargaining table after 18 months without a new contract.

“They won’t even negotiate with us,” Mowry said. “And they won’t even come back with a common proposal.”

The picket line was about 50 people strong, according to rough numbers from Stephanie Mandeville, a spokesperson for National Education Association Rhode Island (NEARI), which represents the 300 professors who belong to the CCRI Faculty Association (CCRIFA). The union contends that its repeated attempts to negotiate have been sluggishly met by the administration.

Union members continue to work under the terms of the three-year contract that was originally set to expire on June 30, 2021. The contract was extended another year, said Amy Kempe, a spokesperson and chief of staff in the president’s office at CCRI.

“Since summer, they’ve come to meetings, but with no counterproposals to anything that we have,” said Daniel O’Neill, an assistant professor of art and design and the union’s secretary.

“And so we’re at a standstill. So that’s why we’ve been compelled by that lack of action on their part to come out here.”

The Rhode Island Council on Postsecondary Education relayed a statement via spokesperson Beth Bailey in a Jan. 18 email:

“The Council, CCRI, and the full-time faculty union’s negotiating teams have negotiated for more than 18 months for a new contract for this bargaining unit. During this process, the Council’s and the college’s negotiating team and the union’s negotiating team agreed to two tentative agreements, each of which were voted down by the union’s membership. The negotiation of this contract is now in the statutory mediation process, which is ongoing.”

NEARI’s Mandeville declined to specify what the dealbreaker was in these “tentative agreements,” or even when previous negotiations took place. “Yes, they [management and faculty] are in mediation, but I won’t elaborate further on any negotiations except to say future dates have not been scheduled,” she wrote in an email to Rhode Island Current.

Mowry, now in his 40th year teaching at CCRI, said the stalled negotiations indicate a certain lack of respect for an institution whose alumni feature prominently in the state’s workforce.

“Most of the CCRI students end up staying and working in Rhode Island,” Mowry said. “We are an economic engine for Rhode Island, and we should be treated like that.”

It would be difficult to confirm just how many alumni stay in the state after graduation. Kempe said via email that approximately 96% of CCRI students are Rhode Island residents, and the overwhelming majority work while enrolled in classes. “While we have not
conducted a recent survey of
graduates, I am confident that a very high percentage remain and work in Rhode Island,” Kempe said.

Rep. Enrique Sanchez, a Providence Democrat, attended Monday’s picket. Sanchez attended CCRI prior to earning his bachelor’s degree in public relations from Rhode Island College in 2019.

“This institution serves as a window of opportunity for many people,” Sanchez said. “A lot of folks come here because sometimes they can’t afford to pay the full tuition at RIC or URI or PC…I learned a lot by going here through discipline, responsibility and listening to my professors and to my educators.”

Cynthia Johnson, another alumni and an associate professor of dental health who teaches classes ranging from dental hygiene to dental ethics, said the students she encounters are diverse, whether in age or economic background: “But a lot of times the community college student does need more support, and more resources…I think when we have administration listening to our needs, whether it’s about our contract or what our students need, that’s when we have a good strong college,” she said.

“The ceiling of our salary is a little bit low,” Johnson said, “And the administration has hired many, many administrators making six figure salaries. We’re very top heavy here at the college … We’re asking for a minuscule amount compared to what they’re hiring even one person for.”

Faculty pay scales for CCRI available on the college’s website are updated to the academic year ending in 2022. Wages for assistant professors ranged from $55,683 to $83,340. Associate professors earn from $62,184 to $99,738. Full professors earn between $77,506 and $113,775.

According to the state’s “transparency portal,” which lists public payroll data for state employees, CCRI’s interim president Rosemary Costigan has a salary of $285,000 for fiscal 2024. That’s a little bit higher than the salary of Jack Warner, president of Rhode Island College who makes $279,999 a year. University of Rhode Island (URI) President Marc Parlange earns $530,000 annually.   

Costigan is the first CCRI alumni to serve as the institution’s president.

The union members picketed for about two hours.

Editor’s Note: Alexander Castro covers education and health for Rhode Island Current an independent, nonprofit news outlet focused on state government and the impact of public policy decisions in the Ocean State. For more stories from the Rhode Island Current, go to


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