One that I Saved This Summer

According to our FC President who met with John Metoyer this week, there seems to be a lot of confidence among our administration that the new leadership team is not out to blow up developmental education and “slam the door” on students who need help. As you may know (if you read his email) Metoyer has taught developmental ed and is working on a Ph.D. in that very area. According to John, through Amanda, there is a lot of genuine and open-minded inquiry going on to try to solve what is, recognizably to all, a big, expensive, and nastily complicated issue.

This week saw a couple faculty emails that were not nearly as optimistic as our President sounds.

I hope that whoever ends up working on this issue is required to read THIS, an article from Inside Higher Ed, published in July.

And the depth of our nation’s complacency over the fact that those who need the most receive the least is also clear in the fact that some students are reaching college age with third-grade skill levels. How is it possible that in the United States, this supposed beacon of hope around the world, students can reach the age of 18 and still have only third grade skills? That’s not just about community colleges being overwhelmed; it’s about our nation’s collective failure to commit to the principle of equality or even “equal opportunity” at every level of education…Old solutions that deflect attention to pedagogy rather than policy have not taken care of these old problems…Those of us who teach in the community colleges can’t deal alone with the scandal of racism, classism, and other deepening social inequalities in this country, but given our place in this conversation, it is incumbent on us to sound the alarm. We need help. Our whole educational system needs more investment, not less.

Take a look…

August Update

Hello, again, Loungers. I hope the summer months have treated you well.

There is much to report.

1) Perhaps You Noticed My Absence?: As I thought I mentioned, I planned to take a blogging vacation of sorts over the summer with the exception of occasional updates (like this!). A few regular contributors–the Realist, Ivan, and a couple others–suggested that they’d like to play around with the Lounge this summer and practice a bit. Kudos to them, as Cecilia would say, and the readers/commenters, for keeping things hopping.

Ultimately, as I’ve definitely said before, my hope is that this site will become a place where lots of faculty are posting lots of info. The more people posting information (and I mean as contributors, not just commentators), the more useful the site. The more useful the site, the more likely people will be to check regularly. The more regular checking that happens, the more effective the site becomes. The more effective the site becomes, the more people will be interested/willing to use it as a central information depot (repeat).

In other words, more people posting more stuff would be a great thing. So, make some plans to jump on in. It’s a lot like Blackboard only not as clunky.

Please consider this an open invitation to use the Lounge as a sandbox of sorts, whenever you are ready, to learn and practice some new Web communication skills. Just send me (Dave Richardson) an email (, and I’ll give you the instructions for getting started and tell you what little I know. If you’re not quite ready to commit to that, feel free to send me stuff to post. I’ll happily do it. In the meantime,  the regular features will return regularly starting August 8th.

2) DWFDW Letter: Per your stated preferences (here and here), a motion was passed and a letter drafted (with your help) by Faculty Council. The letter was sent to Chancellor Hyman and Vice Chancellor Henderson, with cc’s to the John Wozniak, Saundra Banyard, John Metoyer, and Ellen Eason-Montgomery and informal cc’s to the other Presidents of the other local FCs. After doing some re-drafting, to incorporate the discussion as it developed over the last week of school and the week after that, this is what we sent. Apparently, it rocked the boat a bit. I don’t know if it affected anything about the planning and discussion of DWFDW, but it led to a flurry of activity.

We made a mistake in that the letter got sent by mail to Chancellor Hyman and VC Henderson on the same day that it was sent as a heads up email to our local admins (John, Saundra, and John). Their response was both immediate (along the lines of “Talk to us, and don’t send it”) and too late. We were told that Cecilia was coming to HW to meet with us. Then we were  called to a meeting with John Wozniak and John Metoyer. John W told us that Cecilia had been coming to meet with us on behalf of the Chancellor (but that that meeting might not be necessary given our meeting with him). Cecilia eventually cancelled her meeting with us.

At the meeting that did happen, President Wozniak made clear in a completely respectful and collegial way that, though he didn’t condone our letter or the sending of it, he understood our position and respected our sense of investment in the work of our colleagues, the college, and the district. (He even told us that when this idea had been floated in the past (I’m guessing in 2000, since that date written in the proposal) the Presidents had been unanimously against it and some for reasons similar to ours; so, clearly he understood where we were coming from.) He emphasized that he thought we might have done ourselves more good by going to him and trying to work through him (in general and in these specific circumstances), and I don’t doubt him. I still think it was a good idea to send the letter, though, since one impression that it seemed to have made is that academic culture is fundamentally different than, say, corporate culture, starting and ending with the faculty’s “sense of ownership,” professional responsibility, and willingness to speak out in response to objectionable ideas. I would say that we definitely learned from the experience. I guess we will find out if the events were mutually illuminating.

Back to the meeting with President Wozniak: in the course of the discussion, though, I believe he came to understand, even if he didn’t exactly agree, why we felt compelled and justified in sending the letter. He hadn’t seen the original proposal, for example, nor did he know about what happened at the first planning meeting). By the end of the meeting, I think everyone there had the sense that what was not understood by “the other side” before the meeting was understood afterward, and John said he would convey the content of the meeting to the Chancellor.

In the meantime, it seems that the train was, as we suspected, already down the tracks, and so we shall spend the week of August 9th in meetings and workshops held at HW (Monday) and Malcolm X (T-F), and it will happen for reasons that I will explain, briefly, below in #3. Meanwhile, as the plans come together and the meetings start, we’ll all have the choice to expect the worst or hope for the best and, if necessary, make lemons out of lemonade, as my daughter likes to say. It’s not exactly a “dark night of the soul” or a question of Sartre’s Dirty Hands, but I think that no matter what happens, we should respect those who will have worked to make it as successful as possible under difficult circumstances and try to be honest and critical, as our academic culture emphasizes, without being mean. In truth, I don’t know any more about the plans than you do (days, times and themes, via our new VP, John Metoyer in his July 27th email . After the meeting with John W, I never heard another thing about the planning for the rest of the events (maybe someone else has?). On the 23rd of July, Metoyer had invited Faculty Council to talk with him about his ideas for the Monday meetings, but I haven’t been around to take him up on it. If I get the chance in the next few days, I’ll post another update. I’m also hopeful that the FDW site will have some new info sometime this week.

Going forward (in case you’d like to look back at the play by play), there will be minutes posted from the last few official and semi-official spring meetings, as well as the letter planning and writing process, as soon as the FC has a chance to meet and approve them. I’ll make sure there’s a front page post when those go up.

3) Coming Down the Pike: The Grand Unification Plan: So after the last update, I had two significant conversations with people who have different jobs, but are definitely in the know about what plans are being made over at 226 West Jackson, and both of them said the same thing–what’s coming is a move toward ONENESS.

Apparently there was a big budget meeting in late May, attended by all the muckety-mucks from the Chancellor down to the newest Deans (must have been a giant room!), where it was made clear that the theme going forward would be ONENESS. As in one big, giant college. One transcript, one graduation, one name, seven campuses. What’s that you say? We are seven individually accredited colleges with a single unified administration that was originally created to simplify funding and other political sorts of issues? Yes, I know.

It is that model which is being abandoned, and our new leadership has taken up the unification banner.Within two weeks I heard five different people allude to Miami-Dade as the new model for us, and PIMA was mentioned twice. Both are large, successful and UNIFIED, multi-campus models.

There will be more talk of this, no doubt, during FDW week (it is my understanding that we will get the pitch then). John W seemed very confident at the meeting we had with him that this new unification move would not affect the Credit side of the house very much (and so not affect HW very much), and, though I trust him immeasurably, I wonder and worry about unintended consequences. In the meantime, I am reading The Federalist Papers and de Toqueville to brush up on the arguments for and against centralization of the sort being pursued by our new administrative team.

I don’t honestly think it will be anything we can argue or affect in any significant way, based on the Chancellor’s remarks at her last press conference and the memo that accompanied it (you’ll want to read it at least for the preview of the jargon in play, insert Orwell reference here), not to mention the Mayor’s Office Press Release. This unification plan has the look of a fait accompli. The budget is the ultimate hammer, and it will shape the rest of the system. If you’d like to try to have some say, you might want to show up at the public meetings about the budget (Monday, 9am @ Malcolm X; Monday, 6pm @ Olive Harvey; Tuesday, 6pm @ Truman; Thursday, 9am @ District (226 W. Jackson, Room 300).

I don’t believe I’ll be able to make any of those hearings as of right now, but I’d love to hear a report on one or more from anyone who goes. Other than the snarky Orwell reference in the sentence above, I am sincerely committed to NOT simply rejecting the plan because it involves change. I definitely want to hear more about it, and I’m definitely not of the opinion that nothing can go wrong, but I’m not sure it makes great sense to have seven different sets of everything either. I hope that you will be as vocal and participatory in the discussions and debates on these topics as you were last spring. I look forward to having my mind changed by your brilliance multiple times in the course of the conversation.

I’m also hoping that we’ll get a powerful and persuasive pitch that exemplifies data-based decision making somewhere along the way during FDW, and I’m equally hopeful that we’ll hear from our union as to what their take on the rapidly progressing changes is. I am, perhaps to a fault, an optimist.

Enjoy your week. See you on Lake Street next Monday.