4th speech to Board of Trustees of Washtenaw Community College 16 June 2014 M Barrie
Thank you for this special opportunity to address you on this beautiful spring day. As I attended your meetings over the years with first Ruth Hatcher, as WCCEA President, and then Jennifer Baker, WCCEA President, I have long been part of conversations about ‘what should we say to the board’. Believe it or not, my primary contribution to those conversations was to brainstorm about what we could thank you for. As faculty at the college, we are here to help our students, but also to contribute to the life of the college in positive and meaningful ways. When there is praise to be given, I want to be able to give it. When thank yous are appropriate, I want to be able to thank you, and the administration for your support, and your encouragement. I don’t want to stand up month after month and deliver bad news to you! This is only my fourth time doing that, and I’m already tired of it.
At last month’s BOT meeting, you clearly communicated with faculty that you heard our concerns. While one of you scolded us, asking us to just get along (we really have been trying to do that!), another stated that he knew of no grievances we had with the administration. We currently have 3 grievances in the works… and sadly, will possibly be adding two more within the next month. Several of you though, suggested that the only thing that could improve things would be if a third party was brought in to help mediate the communication difficulties that have been a part of Dr. Bellanca’s tenure.
I suspect you know in your hearts when communication really happens – when more than one voice is heard and when disagreements can be talked through with respect and growing understanding. I suspect you know the differences between ‘gestures’ of communication, and the real thing. Sometimes a gesture is enough…but when there is conflict, as I suspect each of us in our lives has had to learn over and over, healing doesn’t happen when one party says “I’m sorry IF I hurt your feelings, but I know I’m right and you just have to believe me, even though I’ve shown you disrespect”. Healing happens when ALL parties are able to honestly own what part of the problem belongs to them, and take on the responsibility for cleaning it up. I do see that by making FOIA requests, I have taken actions that have been seen as adversarial. I regret that. But for over a year I had been asked, by people I trust and have known for many years, to step up and do something in the face of a change in policy here at WCC regarding sharing information, financial and otherwise. I came to believe that it was my duty to the college to respond to their concerns – if only because I have a union contract to protect my employment here at the school.
A group of faculty members have taken your advice to reach out to a third party for help. We sent a request to the Higher Learning Commission today asking for their intervention. As a courtesy, I have copies of that document for you. Thank you for making that recommendation.