FCCCC President’s Address
CCC Board of Trustee’s Meeting
Thursday, July 14th, 2011
Chairman Cabrera, Chancellor Hyman, members of the Board, Officers of the District, faculty, staff and all others present, Good morning.
My name is Suzanne Sanders-Betzold, and I will be reading Polly Hoover’s address to the Board of Trustees. She is at a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar on integrating the arts into the liberal arts curriculum. Any comments or criticisms should be addressed to Polly.
For this board report, I want to focus on shared governance and what the faculty sees, on the one hand, as a lost opportunity and, on the other, encouraging changes.
In teaching, one of the most powerful answers to any question is: “We don’t know. Some scholars argue for this answer for these reasons; some scholars argue for that answer for these other reasons.” Such a nuanced response both astonishes students who may wrongly believe that disciplines are monolithic and unchanging, and it also allows intellectual space for the students to engage in informed debate on the subject. If done correctly, this isn’t an admission of scholarly weakness, but a model of academic informed debate. This exercise allows students to participate in the acquisition of disciplinary knowledge, to learn through modeling the process of disciplinary debate, and to challenge their own assumptions about the discipline. The ensuing discussion isn’t just about the answers; consensus isn’t the main goal; and disagreement may be more fertile than agreement. In the process, we all deepen our understanding and ensure engagement.
This is also the paradigm informing the theory of shared governance: that trustees, administrators, faculty, staff and students have a shared desire to ensure the integrity of the institution, but may disagree on the mission of the institution, the goals of the curriculum and the means to attain them, and even how to encourage informed debate, transparency in governance, and dialogue across the disparate parties. The principle of shared governance is not about the power of one or another individual, or a particular position, but the collective power of the institution; it assumes that we are a much stronger institution if all the parties participate in a robust manner in the debate and contribute to the discussion (whatever it may be). And please note that the board meetings reflect this configuration of power, though some of us are less well represented than others.
First, the lost opportunity. The faculty is concerned by the limited representation in the process that brought us our new presidents and the new provost. We depend on these administrators to support the academic policies, to maintain fiscal responsibilities, and to strengthen our colleges; we are partners in this endeavor, not adversaries. And so, the process by which we saw new leadership could have been an opportunity for robust collaboration; instead, particularly with the decision for a new provost, the process seemed opaque and exclusionary. We, and by that I mean the institution, the City Colleges of Chicago, need the faculty in this discussion in more than a nominal manner.
But let me talk about the successes of the past few months. We have seen encouraging changes in faculty representation in important areas. At Faculty Council of the City Colleges of Chicago (FC4), we have expanded the governing body from the president, vice-president, secretary and curriculum chair to include the presidents of the local faculty councils. We are re-examining shared governance and our contribution to the debate; indeed, we are re-activating the various subcommittees, which had become dormant, to ensure our participation. Moreover, we are articulating the process by which academic decisions are made and debating our role in the process. We are a re-energized group.
In addition, this group of about a dozen individuals who represent all of the colleges have begun meeting with Associate Vice Chancellor Mike Davis (acting as provost) to discuss such issues of academic importance as textbook adoption, grading policies, transfer alignment, and procurement and preliminary budgets, and we have contributed to the Faculty Development Week schedule decisions. Our agenda and his agenda have become the agenda in the meetings, and we want this collaborative agenda to continue under the new provost.
And we have begun a productive dialogue with Vice Chancellor Alvin Bisarya and his team members. Since February, both individually and as a group, Vice Chancellor Bisarya and representatives have informed us about the task force recommendations and have encouraged faculty input about those recommendations. Indeed, the Task Force committees are scheduled to present the recommendations to the entire faculty during Faculty Development Week, and we commend the effort coming from his group.
In sum, we cannot become a more successful institution without robust debate and strong engagement from all of the partners in this enterprise. It may be slow; it may be sloppy; it may be contentious. But, in the end, the institution is stronger for it.
Polly Hoover via Suzanne Sanders-Betzold
President of FC4