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CFCC reverses course on its controversial decision to eliminate comp time for Cape Hatteras crew

CFCC students who advocated for the reverse in the compensation policy - Maggie Oxendine, Parker Hodges, and Megan McDeavitt. Note*: McDeavitt is a WHQR intern.
Megan McDeavitt
CFCC students who advocated for the reverse in the compensation policy - Maggie Oxendine, Parker Hodges, and Megan McDeavitt. *Note: McDeavitt is a WHQR intern.

Cape Fear Community College says it’s reversing a decision to prevent those working on the Cape Hatteras research vessel from earning overtime pay. But this comes after the marine tech students vowed to protest the unpopular decision — and attend the September board meeting.

Jason Rogers is the department chair of the marine technology program. He called the students to a meeting on September 7, with Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management Sabrina Terry, Dean of Career and Technical Education Mark Council, and the Dean of Student Affairs Robert McGee, to announce that after speaking with CFCC President Jim Morton the college would return to compensating the crew for overtime.

“What is commonly used at other seagoing institutions in what is called a ‘sea day’, or ‘sea time’, so when our crew goes to sea, they will earn an hour for every hour they work over a 40-hour week. In addition, two other crew members are going to get the time and a half because of their position on the ship,” said Rogers.

Related: CFCC Marine Tech program sees resignations following changes to compensatory leave policy

Rogers acknowledged that the decision had been a “mistake,” and added that the college’s reversal in policy was in due part to students advocating in a professional manner for the ship’s crew.

“You took ownership of the situation. And you are the ones who created the flyers, who organized a sit-in, who want to go to the Board of Trustees meeting,” said Rogers.

Related: CFCC marine tech students speak out after high-profile resignations hamper program

He added that the marine tech students effectively mobilized the college into action.

“You conveyed how a potential change could directly impact you. The college has heard your concerns, and they are going to make a change, which is going to allow the sea-going heart of this program to move forward in hiring and retaining qualified professionals,” said Rogers.

But Rogers counseled the students to accept the olive branch the college administration had extended to them.

“You then don’t take it and beat them with it. Your anger is righteous, and the college has heard it,” said Rogers.

Rogers said the college will be presenting the new policy to the board on September 22.

He also said he’s hopeful that the students will be back on their research cruises this coming spring — and for fall, as of now, they’ll be taking their trips on the smaller ship, the Martech.

It remains unclear why, exactly, the college changed the compensation policy in the first place.

WHQR still has not received the public records requests from the college for the documents surrounding the changing of the compensatory policy.

WHQR asked for the captain and crew's contracts before and after the change in policy, the human resources study that led to the contract changes, and the August/September emails between HR Director Anne Smith, Rogers, Council, and Vice President of Economic & Workforce Development John Downing.

WHQR has not received any information directly from the college on this policy change, but Vice President of Marketing and Communications Sonya Johnson sent an official press statement to WWAY on September 6 about continuing the college’s marine tech program.

In part, the CFCC statement read, “It should be noted, however, the Marine Technology is a very expensive program for the college to operate. In order to make the program viable for years to come, some adjustments must be made. The R/V Cape Hatteras is aging, and a newer vessel will need to be considered soon. In order to secure a newer vessel, the college will be researching additional funding opportunities. The purchase of a newer vessel would help reduce fuel, repair, and operating expenses.”

Rachel is a graduate of UNCW's Master of Public Administration program, specializing in Urban and Regional Policy and Planning. She also received a Master of Education and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and French Language & Literature from NC State University. She served as WHQR's News Fellow from 2017-2019. Contact her by email: rkeith@whqr.org or on Twitter @RachelKWHQR