Posted on behalf of Michael Heathfield and FourSee Faculty
Campus Zero Campus Woes
You can’t take the context out of the college, whatever your status, you really can’t. Let’s just say life just got a whole lot tougher for Rahm’s crew at Campus Zero. The ballot box dispatched Anita Alvarez faster than it takes for a college president to get a master’s degree! Who knows whether the CZ crew will just double down on some disastrous decisions made of late or join with students and faculty as stakeholders with considerable expertise, opinions and power.
In my last post I asked my top ten questions. Needless to say, there have been no responses from people with the data at Campus Zero. It’s strange how data disappears when more challenging questions are asked of it. Of course, some is buried deep in the hope it doesn’t see the light of day. Some, if very politically inconvenient, is ignored and the PR lights move onto the latest glittery distraction.
It may also be true, since these things are rarely exclusive, that the best minds at Campus Zero do not fully understand the consequences, assumptions, and miscalculations in their policy decisions. It is very difficult to impute intentions when so very little of substance is provided for public debate and dialogue. I get it as a political and management strategy. I really don’t get it as an academic strategy that should embed itself firmly in students, teaching and learning – these are primary drivers of all we do.
Everyone at CCC, including the CZ crew, exists on this simple foundation of students, teaching and learning. Nothing around it exists without this trilogy. We are not a research institution; no one gets paid based on the amount and impact of faculty publications. Postgraduate students don’t do the bulk of frontline teaching and grading work while stellar academics do the occasional star performances in huge lecture halls. This is not who we are or what we do. So maybe I need to be clearer in my intent – when I ask questions of Campus Zero initiatives that are built upon our crucial foundations. Public education is exactly what is says, public. So private decision making and shutting down discourse is not the context in which we exist.
The Chancellor has publicly said she doesn’t care about recruitment – only retention and graduations. Now, I have never been a full subscriber to the “logic model” approach to education, but surely you can’t have any outcomes that don’t have a relationship to inputs? This has never been truer when you look, for example, at the quiet crises unfolding at Kennedy-King and Olive Harvey, where recruitment is significantly down over the past five years. Full-time faculty at Olive has been struggling to make load and have already been shuttling off to other campuses. I have seen nothing to convince me that, when finally complete, the new logistics and distribution center is going to lift everyone up together.
What will happen to declining numbers at Kennedy-King when Social Work and Addiction Studies transition to Malcolm X as planned? Despite being the first-ever winner of the Aspen Award, Kennedy-King also stands as a stark rebuttal of the mantra, “If you build it, they will come”.
So tell me again why we are pulling Child Development programs from these important south side colleges? How do we support our important colleagues as community disinvestment continues to surround them?
When the CZ crew makes a $21 million hole in the operating budget, by over-estimating how many students they can “incentivize” to become full-time, do we think budget impacts will be distributed with equity? The differing states and fates of our vital seven colleges are intrinsically tied to broader social issues that raise Chicago’s profile on the national stage in very unflattering ways.
I live in Edgewater, very near Truman College, soon to be another north side recipient of capital and human investment as Child Development programs leave HWC and their south and west side neighborhoods. I can walk to my new 2013 library, next to my new Wholefoods, while I live right next to my new Mariano’s. What is happening here?
Chicago remains a very divided city. The only resource that is shared with grace and equity from north to south is the lakefront. Step away from there and you will enter different worlds that tragically demonstrate how politically controlled public resources are riddled with injustices. Compare my Edgewater Library to the Woodson Regional Library, home to the Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature. The façade of the Woodson has been surrounded by scaffolding for fourteen years. The Woodson is in the Washington Heights neighborhood. Yes, fourteen years.
When taxpayer resources are distributed with such disregard for equity, justice, and accountability – public servants must expect to be called to account. Questions and answers can be very challenging. As Alvarez discovered, Chicago residents can deliver a very firm answer when public officials, and their decisions, are aired in public. National attention is trained on Chicago because of what elected officials and their chosen public servants are doing. This is the context in which political decisions are being made. Public debate is essential, however painful or uncomfortable it may be. Community college policy decisions, by political appointees, are on the agenda and no amount of “business as usual” will shift this gaze.
— Mike Heathfield for FourSee faculty