The Elephant In the Lounge

UPDATED: The Lounge, and this post in particular, have been getting a LOT of traffic over the last 48 hours. Consequently, I decided to make this one sticky for a couple of days as news spreads and information travels.

I’ve been hesitant, as I said in a comment on the “Next Up!” post, to say anything here directly about the layoffs until more information comes out, out of concerns for accuracy and the privacy of those involved. Like you, I’ve heard a lot of things, but that doesn’t make them so. Even still, this may not be the forum to discuss them. If what I’ve heard is true, though–and I have heard the same names from multiple people–then we lost some really great people on Friday, who provided a ton of service to students and faculty alike. Hopefully, someone will figure out how to bring them back one way or another.

In any case, I wanted to at least express my certainty that Faculty Council will be discussing the recent events at length at our November meeting (November 9th @ 3:30 in room 1046). It is my understanding that some departments are considering meeting to discuss possible responses. Other possibilities include faculty letters of support and thanks for our colleagues who were laid off, either collective or individual, and Truman is giving their faculty a survey designed by the AAUP to gauge the climate and faculty perception with respect to “Shared Governance.”

If you have any other ideas, I’d welcome them here or by email (drichardson2@ccc.edu OR philodave@earthlink.net, if you’d prefer to be off the record, so to speak). Mostly I just wanted everyone to know that I know, and I know that you know, but I think it’s wise for a little while, to talk with each other on campus, until we all know more about what happened and why. That is just one person’s (mine) opinion, though. I’m open to hearing arguments for other approaches.

27 thoughts on “The Elephant In the Lounge

  1. What happened is an outrage. We should be outraged. We lost some excellent people on Friday in a most egregious way. Imagine being given 20 minutes to pack your things and leave the building, escorted and watched by HR and security – people that you have known and worked with for years. People who were your friends and colleagues. Not because you did something wrong, but because the woman in charge has an agenda that has nothing to do with helping students, but in making a statement. Forty-six new administrative positions have been created – positions that have little to no direct contact or impact on students, while those who serve the students, who have worked hard to improve student success and the student experience are being pushed out. Some of those people who were fired on Friday were former CCC students. Students who began in remedial education, worked hard, passed their classes, graduated from CCC or transferred out, and came back to serve the system that helped them rise above whatever situation they came from (sound familiar?). We are supposed to be reinventing ourselves to get students the credentials they need to get a job, but our success stories, we toss them out in the cold. People are afraid for their jobs, but we cannot suppress our outrage. I hope that the new Mayor of Chicago has enough sense to give us a Chancellor who actually does put students first, and who realizes that a Chancellor is not a dictator. An effective Chancellor asks, “What can I do to help my faculty and staff better serve our students?”

  2. Just last week, I needed some help from HR and of course, talked with Cynthia Crump. I coordinate adjuncts and often have questions regarding employment. Cynthia answers her phone and emails and always has an answer. I talked with her and then had a second to visit with her in between visits to HR and the President’s office.

    Just last week, I was in the elevator with Dennis Macklin. I asked him about his fantasy football team. With a big smile, he shared his standing in the league and how some of his players were doing. We shared some insights and parted ways. Dennis always accommodates my usually last minute request for postings to the website. He always does a beautiful job creating weblinks for the Black History Month Oratorical Festival, for the
    HWC plays and many other activities.

    Just last week, Devon Glover helped me out by reading the meditation commemorating Olivia Hernandez-Sebolt at the annual memorial service. She did an outstanding job reading and afterward stayed to speak with the family members and to share memories with other members of her department. She confided in me that she was nervous reading but it was not evident. She did a beautiful job.

    Just last week, I saw Alma Gaona on her way to lunch with her sister Sandra I saw Alma and Sandra talking at the security desk and they all had big smiles on their faces. I don’t know if there is anyone else on campus who understands Peoplesoft like Alma but I know there is no one on campus with as beautiful a demeanor and as someone said today, “Alma is the smartest person at this school.”

    Just last week, I was talking with Inggrid Yonata in the President’s office and at the Memorial service. Some of you may remember Inggrid as a student. She participated in the Black History Month Oratorical Festival and has continued to be involved in many of the extra-curricular activities at HWC. A few weeks ago she helped organize the White House roundtable discussions regarding Community College education.

    Just last week, I asked Mario Diaz how things were going this semester. Shortly after that, a student collapsed on campus and Mario was in motion to help with the situation. I met Mario a few semesters ago when he helped me with an unruly student. Last semester, when I voiced my concerns about the smell and selling of marijuana in front of the school, he had already identified this problem and considered it his number one priority to address.

    Just last week, these people and others whom I didn’t know as well, were marched out of HWC by security.

    These people are integral members of the HWC community. They provide real services for students, faculty and administration. The loss of their knowledge will end up costing HWC and City Colleges more money then is saved by their salaries. The rumors suggest that another round of firings will occur in 4 weeks. All of this is occurring in the midst of a district hiring frenzy; thirty new administrators (at district level) hired in the last 6 months. Thirty new administrators, making an average of 80,000 a year, who will never have the same impact on the students as the people fired at HWC and throughout the other city colleges have had.

    To all those fired, I hope to see you again soon and I am sorry that you were disrespected by an organization which should have supported you and thanked you for your service

    • Just last week, I worked closely with Zalika Brown on the Foundations of Excellence Initiative, the Early Alert System and making sure the correct syllabi were being sent to ICCB for approval. A kind-hearted, hard-working woman who always had a pleasant smile, a professional demeanor and was completely focused on the students. Chancellor Hyman, Gery Chico, Brandon Pendleton, you should be ashamed of yourselves.

  3. The firings are one thing; how they were reportedly carried out is something else altogether. I seriously doubt even the most cutthroat corporate environment would handle things as unprofessionally as they’ve been described above by Outraged (the same things I’ve heard in a couple of hushed conversations with fellow faculty and administrators). When someone is let go in the business world, standard practice is to communicate this to all employees and to explain how the duties of those now ex-employees will be shifted to other individuals. This prevents rumor-mongering (which is what we’re experiencing now) and confusion/disruption in day-to-day operations. Our school is not a corporation, but when it comes to issues such as professionalism and communication–essential to any successful workplace–it could certainly learn a lot from the “real” business world. So, thank you, all “leaders” at DO, for embarrassing our institution, belittling your employees, and giving us a collective black eye. Given the fiscal calamity we’re in, you may not have had a choice in removing these people from their positions (debatable, given the recent hiring flurry at DO), but I’m certain you had a choice in how these layoffs were carried out. If they were carried out as described, then it’s pretty obvious what happened: you fucked up, and I suspect all of us will pay some kind of price for the enemies you’ve made.

  4. What to do, what to do? Can we do anything that actually has an effect? I really can’t see letters to District from FC, academic departments, or even from all HWC faculty accomplishing anything. But maybe if there’s enough outrage at other campuses we could do something a bit bolder. How about a no-confidence letter for the Chancellor sent to the Board and the Mayor’s office?

    • I say we make sure the media hears about what’s REALLY going on at CCC. They seem to only be getting Hyman, Chico and Daley’s versions. Perhaps an anonymous note dropped off at ABC down the street?

      • I do not understand what is going on either, much like the rest of the students at HWC, but the difference is I have a desire to inform my peers.

        The Herald goes to print next week. I can also be emailed at gfairbanks@student.ccc.edu

        • I offered my student email but I find now that I was naive to think anyone would actually use it. My mistake. The Herald does not wish to write an expose or sensationalist piece about what is going on with the re-invention process. What we want is to inform our peers about what is happening and how it may or may not affect them.

          Thanks,
          Greg

          • Greg,
            We probably all applaud your desire to tell the story, but as you might have surmised, these are uncertain times when good people are being fired. Perhaps you should directly contact district office and tenured faculty by name. I’m not a reporter but I saw that old movie about the Watergate guys. It seems they spent a lot of time pursuing the story with many different sources…and they used the phone and face-to-face contact. Nail down specifics and always check your sources. And while you are at it… can you help me find a new catchphrase for the new chairman of the board and the chancellorette? BTW- I think the new investigators from district may be on to me so I may change my name…. or use some other established name. This forum can help you figure out the questions to ask but cannot be your source.

            Good luck and let us know when you get through to the Chancellor.

  5. I have been looking at the Board reports (http://www.ccc.edu/brpublic/) and see that there have been “Reductions in force” in those reports in the September and October reports (see the section “Personnel Report – General/Funded”). However, it sounds like the latest round was not included in the board report. Is that correct? If so, is that a violation of the procedures?

    • These people were not given advanced notice. The rumor from the security personnel is that a KK staff (faculty?) member barricaded himself in his office when he was given advanced notice, so HR wanted to avoid any incidents like that. I’m not sure I believe it – sounds like hype to justify the method. HW people were given 20 minutes notice before being escorted out of the building (with a choice of going out the front door or the back door). According to the 1708 contract, 30 days notice is required, but I believe that 30 days pay was given in place of notification. I don’t know what the policy is for administrators.

  6. I’m waiting for my cccpress email notification to alert me of the firings/dismissals that took place.
    Oh wait, maybe those strong gusts of wind that were reported via ccc alert was a covert message to that effect…

    Hang in there y’all. Friday Spotlight will be related to this post.

  7. I am blown away by the layoffs! The people that we lost are those who make a huge difference at our school and really make us stand out from other colleges. I feel as though the quality of our institution is eroding.

    I really feel like this is an example of how our current leadership is not qualified to be a chancellor. She may run a tight ship over at Com Ed, but hell Com Ed even seems like a mess.

    Regardless… large corporate strategies don’t work! I think that has been evidenced with our current economy.

  8. I have heard that there is going to be another round of layoffs on Tuesday, November 2, even bigger than last Friday’s actions. I don’t know about you, but I’m planning on having all of my personal items out of my office before then, so that if I am to be escorted out of my office, I can at least do so with dignity.

      • These are not rumors. The layoffs are coming. Whether or not the date is accurate is a moot point. Also, what everyone should be aware of: District is re-examining all faculty credentials and deciding what we are and are not eligible to teach. This means, what you were hired to teach, you may no longer be “eligible” to teach. What you have been teaching for 20 years, you may no longer be “eligible” to teach. Nice way to get rid of tenured faculty, huh? Again, this is FACT, not rumor.

        • Not to speak for my colleague, but I suspect that the rumors reference was primarily related to the commentators blog and invitation there to share ventings, stories, rumors, etc. (see the comment on the Reinvention page for more info on that, but note that the blog requests that you interact with it on non-CCC equipment).

          That the District office is re-examining credentials may indeed be fact; that they are doing it in order to get rid of tenured faculty is (alarmist) speculation, which is a fancy phrase for rumor and so should not be identified as fact, in my humble.

          If you’d like to elaborate on what good may come of spreading such a rumor, I’d be happy to hear, as I’m sure Heraclitus would. For the moment, though, I am with him. I’d go as far as to say that fact is good, thoughtful speculation is necessary, but fomenting rumors and innuendo muddle the view rather than clarify it, and can easily make things worse rather than better, especially when speculation is presented as fact. I’m sure you can come up with your own historical and institutional and personal examples of when the spreading of rumors made things worse for all involved, even if done with good intentions, especially when they were presented as facts.

          • I guess I’ve been living with the fear of losing my job for so long, and with the lack of any concrete information about my future with the institution for so long, that to me, a rumor, heard from multiple sources, actually feels helpful to me. Feels more real than all this glossy talk about Reinvention. But upon reading some of your replies, I can see that others do not find them helpful, so for that I apologize. I can only refer back to the news articles at the end of July 2010, in which the Chancellor publicly stated her intention to lay off 225 non-instructional positions. At the time, Ken Gotsch said that they would, “likely take place over the next three months.”
            chicago tribune article. Again, I apologize for causing stress to anyone. As I said, for me, any information, even if inconclusive, felt better than no information at all. Best regards to all.

          • I understand the anxiety, dntbom, and I understand your desire for information. I don’t mean to diminish or demean either. Furthermore, I share your expectation that there will be more layoffs and for the reason you provide.

            I agree with you that it would be nice to be hearing more about what is going on and why.

    • I’d prefer quality sources to multiple.
      I heard from multiple sources told Santa existed, too.

      I’m not saying it isn’t true; I’m just saying that evidence without corroboration might be preferable to corroboration without evidence. Best is both.

  9. Whew! Ok, what a whirlwind. Thanks everyone for the advice last week. If I would have known (or maybe just said… “Greg, Really?) how things were gonna unfold I would have just wrote a nice little article about which microwave heats up my lunch the fastest at HWC.

    The thing is, things are unfolding like an old rag that was soaked in Elmer’s glue during an art class at a school that got rid of art in the 90’s and was closed last year due to Renaissance 2010.

    Thanks for having this forum and letting us (if there are any other students looking…you know who you are)post.

    • So…things are unfolding slowly?

      Just teasing a little, Greg. Keep digging and talking to people. And asking questions.

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