Vice Chancellor Laurent Pernot,
We thank you for taking the time to meet and speak with the selected group of faculty at Harold Washington College on September 5th and September 25th. Those present were able to voice some concerns, and gather some information regarding important matters unfolding at HWC and CCC. Your comments and responses have been relayed to the HWC Faculty Council, and we would like to offer some responses of our own.
During the Sept. 25th meeting, you remarked that faculty are resisting the biometric identification system because faculty “historically resist.” We, the faculty of Harold Washington College, do not make it a habit of resisting for the sake of resisting, and we take umbrage with that implication. We resist decisions that we believe will negatively impact our students and/or our work environment. We expect that decisions of this nature are accompanied by thoughtful, explicit, and thorough explanations.
In the meeting on September 5th, you stated that the purpose of the biometric identification system is to prevent fraud. We requested the data regarding fraudulent attendance that was used to make this decision. To date, we have yet to receive data supporting the implementation of the biometric identification system. You stated that, “if [we] are doing what [we] are supposed to be doing then [we] should not be concerned.” You mentioned that you believe faculty fear “accountability.” As faculty members, we are daily accountable to the students we serve. We are dedicated to providing quality education and learning environments that support our students in achieving their educational, professional and personal aspirations. It would be extremely difficult for a faculty member to commit attendance fraud. If a faculty member does not show up to class, thirty-six students will be witness to it; certainly, multiple absences will be immediately noticed. Our students at Harold Washington have no problem with bringing issues to the Dean of Instruction, and faculty absence would be duly noted and handled appropriately.
The issues that faculty have brought forth regarding the biometric identification system have to do with privacy regarding fingerprints and all the information that can be obtained from one’s fingerprint, the redundancy of having to swipe both an ID and a finger, and the cost versus the benefit, including the cost in employee morale. Had faculty been included in the decision-making process surrounding the biometric identification system from the beginning, these concerns could have been addressed, and faculty “resistance” mediated. Instead, faculty are notified of decisions after money has been spent and decisions finalized, though the logistics of implementation have not been fully considered by those making the decisions.
During the Sept. 25th meeting, you avoided the topic of fraudulent attendance altogether, and instead stated that the purpose of the biometric identification system is to convert our payroll system into an electronic format to save time and money. If this is truly the goal, then why the need for biometrics? What other electronic systems were researched? Where is the data that shows that the biometric identification system is the most appropriate and cost effective solution for our specific institution? We have yet to hear directly from the Vice Chancellor of Human Resources, who is the person who must have researched, requested, and proposed the biometric system.
When asked for faculty involvement in decisions such as this, your response was, “You were not hired to ensure that taxpayer money is spent efficiently.” We argue that in fact, as faculty, our job is to ensure that the monies allotted to us by the taxpayers and our students are used effectively and efficiently. We do this through ensuring that candidates we hire for full and part-time teaching positions are qualified, effective teachers. We do this through the proposal of a budget which takes into account the resources that teachers need to be effective in the classroom and that students need to be successful in their classes. We do this through selecting and engaging in professional development opportunities that will benefit faculty and students. We do this through engaging in curriculum development and revision, ensuring the integrity, effectiveness and value of the courses and programs we offer. We do this through developing innovative programs, courses, and resources that will best serve the needs of all of our students. As residents of the City of Chicago and taxpayers ourselves, we are fully invested in ensuring that all taxpayer money entrusted to the City Colleges of Chicago is spent wisely and efficiently.
When we are constantly asked to increase enrollment/offerings without adequate financial support dedicated to hiring faculty, when our access to markers, paper, technology, printers and copiers is restricted under the premise of saving money, and we then see hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars spent on a system that has no direct benefit to students, yes, we will question and resist. Any leader of an academic institution should be suspect of a faculty body that does not question the decisions of administrators. We teach our students to engage in critical thinking – the act of gathering information, examining it from multiple perspectives, recognizing implicit assumptions, synthesizing, analyzing, and drawing conclusions. Administrators should expect and encourage faculty to engage in critical thinking regarding all decisions that are made, without referring to it negatively as “resistance.”
It is the lack of transparency, communication, and data-based evidence regarding the need for the biometric identification system which is driving so-called faculty “resistance.” If we are to truly become a data-driven institution, then all decisions should be based on and driven by data that is made readily available to all affected by such decisions. If the decisions are in fact beneficial, logical, and supported by evidence, if, in your own words, “you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, then you should not be concerned” with involving faculty in decision-making processes.
The Harold Washington College Faculty Council