CFCC Trustee wants answers from school for Marine Tech changes that led to resignations

He wants to know what exactly happened behind the scenes that led to the resignations.
Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 5:47 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Despite Cape Fear Community College reversing course on a decision that led to two key crew members resigning, one of the college’s newest Board of Trustees member Ray Funderburk still has questions. He wants to know what exactly happened behind the scenes that led to the resignations.

The first problems arose after the college changed its policy on compensation for some of the crew on the R.V. Cape Hatteras ship. Essentially, crew members who were previously accruing overtime pay were told they could no longer receive it.

“By making that decision at the beginning of the school year, which disrupts kids programs, and still disrupts kids programs, I don’t understand why they did it, why they had to do it then, and what the reasons were for doing it. That was a question I asked, Why did you do it? Why did you do it then? And why did you walk it back? And I didn’t get an answer,” Funderburk said.

He wasn’t the only one demanding answers, according to WHQR’s reporting the resignation and changes to the policy prompted students to organize a protest.

Funderburk asked the question as to why the school made the changes in the first place, but says he didn’t get an answer.

“I would have loved just a simple explanation. I would have loved an explanation of why they did at that time, did something come up that make them have to do it, but nothing was provided to me,” he said.

According to a statement from a CFCC Spokesperson, the changes came after the school discovered an ‘error.’

“Recently, while evaluating programs and employment statuses, the college discovered a classification error that needed to be corrected for some ship personnel who were incorrectly earning compensatory leave. To correct the error, the college moved some ship personnel from non-exempt to exempt status based on their particular job duties,” according to that statement.

Students and Funderburk are not the only ones concerned with the state of the school he said. Following additional reporting from WHQR, Funderburk said he found out that there are concerns from faculty as well.

“I want to look into it because this part of it has disrupted students. But when I read the other articles, the faculty has been disrupted. And I’ve only talked to a few faculty, but they are upset, pair frankly embarrassed and they are scared. They’re worried about speaking up because they can be fired,” he said.

Regardless of the changes to the changes, he still wants answers and shared his frustrations with the school and the lack of reasoning provided to him.

“I am perplexed and more than a little bit irritated. I think it would be very easy for someone just to lay out, this is what we thought, this is why we did it and this is what we found out. But no one’s laid it out that simply explaining what happened,” he said.

CFCC has not provided any information as to what the error actually was but provided the new policy on ‘Sea Time’ for crew members.

“Sea Time is similar to compensatory time in that employees earn an hour for each hour (as opposed to an hour and a half for compensatory time) they spend over 40 while working at sea. However, Sea Time is not compensable. Please see the new Sea Time policy attached. We believe this new policy effectively satisfies the needs of both ship personnel and the college,” according to the school’s statement.

In response to the negative response from students and former staff the college admits that they caused disruption but also say it was necessary.

“We understand that the timing of this change was frustrating for students. However, the ship operates year-round, and no time was better than another to address the classification issue. We appreciate the passion of current students, alumni, and our community as we move forward to seek funding for future Marine Tech student scholarships and capital campaigns,” according to the school’s statement.

Funderburk says he’s not letting things go that easily and he still wants to get to the bottom of what happened not only for the school but for transparency in general.

“I’m a big believer in transparency, good and bad. I think the public will understand if things don’t work out the way you want them to. Just as much as they’ll rejoice with you when you do something good. So the more transparent you are, the better is and that’s why I wanted to answer in an open forum, and I haven’t gotten one privately either,” he said.