The Opposite of Morale Boosting

The Sun-Times reported yesterday that CCC students involved in District Student Government are holding a press conference today to demand a meeting with Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel to complain about the Presidents’ removals.

This is interesting for at least three reasons.

Interesting Point #1: Look at what “Reinvention is doing for our reputation!”

After the lede, the writer kicks into a context paragraph. Here is how she describes the City Colleges of Chicago:

The long failing community college system, where half of students drop out after only four or five classes, is engaged in a “Reinvention Initiative” launched by Hyman, who came in one year ago. Officials denied students are being left out of the decisions, stressing the changes that have upset them are sorely needed.

Nice. Not “The largest community college system in Illinois” and not “The 7 college system that serves 120,000 students,” not “The City Colleges, which provide everything from free GED and English classes to college credit courses that are credit equivalents to courses at another state school in the city, the University of Illinois Chicago, but at about 12% of the price,” and not 896 other things that I would have said about us first…no, no. Instead, it’s “The long failing community college system.” Really nice.

Interesting Point #2: So, the reporter reaches out to the CCC PR people who, instead of admiring the chutzpah of the students, their activism, their willingness to stand up for themselves and what they think is right, etc., responds this way:

City Colleges spokesman Ron Schofield reiterated the system’s dismal statistics cited in launching a national search to fill the top jobs. The 200 positions the students complain of had to go for reasons of efficiency and redundancy, he said.

And he maintained the system’s 120,000 students are represented by a student member elected to the Board of Trustees.

So, let’s get this straight, basically the response was A) the schools are in terrible shape; B) the schools were bloated and wasteful with their resources before our arrival and layoffs; and C) the students are wrong–they get input through their student member who sits on the board of trustees. So our own SPOKESMAN, starts out by “reiterating dismal statistics” (which are deeply misleading, as we all know, fails, again, to mention that we’re trying to do a lot with a little (state funding is down, federal funding is non-existent, property taxes are not so great, students are knocking down the doors to get in, etc.)–no, no. The layoffs were necessary because CCC is a bloated bureaucracy. And then, to top it off with a cherry of delight, points to the NON-VOTING student rep on the Board of Trustees as a source of input from 120,000 students.


I have seen this sort of thing before when I worked in marketing at the CTA, and it made me nuts there, too. We, the marketing people, had to try to convince people to ride the CTA–fast, convenient, inexpensive, good for the environment, and all the rest. As we’re trying to do that, the press people were putting out press releases and holding news conferences to talk about how decrepit the system was, how old the buses and trains were, how many slow zones there were, etc. They needed to create the impression that things were really bad so they could get funding from the feds and others to fix things up. But of course, the more they talked about how bad things were, the more that perception gained hold, and the less people wanted to ride, and if they had 50 rides and one was bad, they’d walk away saying, “Yeah, what can you expect from the CTA; it’s falling apart,” because that’s what they expected. The other 49 rides didn’t change their mind, because “good system” did not fit with what they were hearing from the CTA itself.

And so, here we are. What does our institution say about itself? Our institution hypes up the claim that “only 7 percent of the students graduate” and “more than half drop out after only 4 or 5 classes”–note the language there: not stop out temporarily (as we know many do), not transfer out (as we know many do), not return to their other or co-enrolled school (as we know many do); no. Drop out is what they say. Nice. I’d love to know how that is serving the interests of the students. It certainly doesn’t give them confidence that they’re getting a quality education. It certainly doesn’t help our rep with other institutions of higher learning (and so doesn’t help our students who are trying to transfer out). It doesn’t build good will in the business world that would make them want to hire our students (whether they have graduated or not), nor help build good will in the communities we serve. How in the world does saying what our spokesman said do anything to help anyone outside of 226 West Jackson? It’s an honest question. I simply can’t see an answer. I’d love to hear one.

Point of Interest #3: The reporter then talked to the student trustee, who is named in the article (and whom I don’t know at all). The student said this:

“Many of them consider their presidents part of their school community, and it is not unreasonable to expect that the students would respond negatively to this,” she said.

“There is no doubt in my mind that there is some faculty influence in the background, and I would have preferred that we go about this discussion in a different way, but the council certainly has the right to bring their issues to the table if they feel that their voice is not being heard. They are the consumers and the customers, after all.”

Whose fault is this brouhaha, this student insurrection? Faculty. Res ipsa loquitur.

21 thoughts on “The Opposite of Morale Boosting

  1. Very troubling all, except student activism. Three cheers for that.
    Regarding a possible surreptitious faculty move to support presidents? Give me a break!

    Regarding the statement “students drop out after only four or five classes,”(the S-T writer) let me hark back to Ravitch:
    “Teachers alone cannot be held responsible for poverty [of the students]…”
    My point: do students drop out due to the structures, conditions, situations in OUR colleges, or do most of them drop out
    for other reasons extrinsic to our institutions? Do we have any research on that?

  2. Thanks for the update. I would have missed this story without the Lounge. I wonder why it didn’t appear in my daily City Colleges in the News email?

  3. Clearly not everybody is on the email list , I don’t know if they just missed it , or if they think only selected faculty member and student should know about whatever is happening in CCC

    BTW, just wanna keep you all posted, DSGA does not represent all other seven SGA boards in this conference thing.

    I personally don’t believe anyone would be qualify to say that he or she is representing all CCC student bodies , that’s just BS .

    • Yes, I meant to make that point–my understanding is that HW SGA decided not to participate in the press conference. I don’t know whether the SGAs at the other schools are on board or not.

  4. My goodness, it is exhausting to be in education, these days. Keeping up my own morale is a constant struggle and I see the same struggle in faculty, staff and students lately. It is sad. I have been faculty for over ten years and never before – NEVER- did I feel so continually disrespected and suspicious of as I have in the last year. Disagreement and debate is one thing – we’ve always had that (we are academics for gosh sakes – that is our life blood) but this new tone in the last year…

    I question every day (until is starts to upset my constitution and I have to stop) what is wrong with ‘them’ (those individuals being in positions of administrative power that have not one wit of educational experience – but so much corporate experience…and that only pretend to want expert opinions) that they are unable to truly work with students, staff and faculty to strengthen issues at the colleges? Are we frightening? Is our experience, passion, genuine care for our vocations, and desire to always work toward the best for the system not valued…perhaps we don’t have credentials of economic value?

    I think the current environment is wearing on the soul. An environment dictated by power and fear is toxic to all. Usually, I would never advocate putting one’s head in the sand…but I am so close to looking for the biggest sand box I can find.

  5. but I forgot to mention that I second the cheers for the students! You, go, Students – protest and demand what you want and need!

  6. I find it very disturbing that a student, a student who is supposedly representing all 120,000 CCC students would suggest that this was influenced by faculty. Is she implying that the students could not possibly care enough about their schools to take a stand for what they believe? Or perhaps she doesn’t think that CCC students can think for themselves – they are just pawns influenced by the mean, conniving faculty. If I were a CCC student, I would immediately move to elect a new board representative.

    I don’t know you Gwen, but you just disrespected not only the faculty, but every single one of the students you are supposed to represent. Shame on you.

    • Please everyone, continue to follow this situation but give it time to mature. There are a lot of different influences/people involved, which requires the information to be confirmed. In the meantime, yes Dave, the media loves to say that CCC is a failure. In lieu of using profanity, I will just say that I vehemently disagree with the facts and figures of a failing institution. Especially since last year we all agreed that they did not represent what is really going on at CCC and district told us that they would work to correct that. Meanwhile, that is all we hear, from mass media, about CCC. Very disheartening.

      I did not come here to be a failure, I came to surround myself with success. I hope that works out for me…and you all as well.

      “Let’s go to work. Thank you.” –
      — Harold Washington

  7. No vision here on the part of the powers that be.If the goal is to contribute potential workers to the labor force IF I WERE HUMAN RESOURCES and I had one candidate from the failing ccc and another from Oakton CC or Harper cc guess which one I would hire!
    Is this not cutting your nose to spite your face?

  8. Some one wrote that the extrinsic factors affecting student success should be researched/identified.Do the administrators have a clue about the issues our students wrestle with on a daily basis? Should it not have been logical for them to collect and analyze this data prior to putting out negative press(sound bites).I am sure this function is an intrinsic part of their job,even if not explicitly stated.

  9. Also, to just keep it real, the chancellor was touted as a product of CCC. As someone who had rose through the ranks and came back to help the troubled institution she had left behind. She said that CCC needed more Cheryl Hyman’s. She feels like it is her calling. What I have to ask is, if 120,000 plus everyone else is screaming into a microphone, who the hell is she really supposed to listen to? Does she get to sleep? I stay awake thinking about the 120 conversations I have everyday, and the “El” doesn’t help. Without a collective, determined and methodical voice, nothing can be heard.

    “Chicago is one city. We shall work as one people for our common good and our common goals.”
    Harold Washington

  10. Were all of us cut out of the same cookie cutter? What form of social engineering is this?
    There should be more Cheryl Hymans indeed!#?
    What happenened to diversity and creativity coming from different ways of thinking ,thinking outside the box and many ways of knowing?
    This is what educators do by identifying,empowering,motivating and nurturing intrinsic qualities and strengths of our students helping them to succeed.
    I am sure someone at OH did that for the Chancellor which is the reason where she is so my question is did it benefit or hurt her ,hence “QUO vADIS REINVENTION”?

  11. What I was trying to state was, how can any one voice be heard? It does not matter who it is, from the chancellor to the student who drops out after a semester, their voice is lost amongst the din.

  12. I wonder what the Higher Learning Commission thinks of this, after giving HWC its highest possible rating during the accreditation process. Hmmm… Nothing about failure in that report. Has anyone asked them how Reinvention might impact our accreditation?

  13. In addition to discussing and commiserating here on the Lounge, shouldn’t we also be writing directly to the media (like the Sun Times in this case) when they exhibit lazy reporting?

  14. Though we are nicely represented in the comments section of this article online at Sun Times, a printed letter to the editor, from CCC faculty, perhaps would have wider readership. At the very least, we should be reiterating the frustrations above – and painting the real picture of student success – to the public, everytime we hear otherwise. (Is this the motivation behind 1600 PR committee idea?)

    Two additional ideas:
    1) An open forum between faculty and students to talk through the issues. How much do our students know of the full course of events? How much do we really know their perspectives on this and related issues? District and the media have clearly disregarded their voices; how are we advocating for them? (Or do we feel our voices are also disregarded – so much so that protesting would be futile?)

    2) Our students have the right idea; have CCC faculty requested a meeting with Rahm?! Would he ever agree to one?

  15. check out this poem video by Taylor Mali, not sure what it should go under but ….

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