Maryam’s Speech from 10/28/14: BOT Meeting

Dear Board members,

As you may know, this past July, President Bellanca asked the WCCEA board to tell her what we thought the best move forward in terms of getting a permanent Vice President of Instruction. My board strongly felt that posting the job as soon as possible was imperative. Last week, Dr. Bellanca and interim VPI Abernethy shared with me the current search timeline, along with your mandate to her that the process include a Search Firm that could solicit exemplary candidates that may not be actively looking for a job. While the process she presented to us involves many voices on and off campus, it does not accomplish what my board felt the single most important element – which is, having our posting coincide with the Fall semester, which my board assures me is when the very best qualified candidates are considering their next career move. Rather than post in December and January, I urge you, and Dr. Bellanca, to reconsider the timing of the upcoming search. There are several indications that the current dysfunctional climate here at WCC is working as a disincentive to lure quality candidates to our campus. Waiting until the end of next summer to post for our next VPI gives us more time to work together to improve the campus environment so that we will be more likely to attract the top tier of candidates, during the period when the best candidates have not yet made plans.
A year ago, Jennifer Baker, then WCCEA President, spoke to you about the struggle we were engaged in to keep full time counselors. The context then was that the faculty had asked Dr. Bellanca to replace the division counselors we had lost to retirement. Instead, the college moved 3 of the existing counselors to the divisions. At that time, the WCCEA urged the college to reconsider its policy of replacing full time licensed counselors with academic advisors. We continue to have concerns about this issue as we learned that at the end of the year, the two part time therapist positions will no longer exist. While it may make sense that the Women’s Resource Center is merging with the Counseling Center, many question the wisdom of eliminating a service to some of our most at risk students. Rather than hiring any additional licensed counselors, who can provide short term therapy to troubled students, the college appears committed to the idea of changing the face of counseling to one that deals mainly with academic advising. While advisors can be hired more inexpensively than counselors, our students face a great many obstacles – external and internal. As we hope to raise the number of students completing courses, along with increasing our graduation numbers, it makes little sense to decrease the amount of emotional support available to them here. I wonder if any thought has been given to increasing the number of security staff we have here as we eliminate the 2 half time therapists – from my vantage point, it seems likely that leaving our students with less support could have consequences for all of us.

Jennifer ended her speech last year with these words – I think they are worth repeating. “In 2002 we had 12 full time licensed counselors on this campus. Today we have 5 full time LPCs. At the heart of where the administration and the faculty differ on this issue is the question of what value we place on counseling support services to our students and what college resources will be devoted to those services now and in the future. I just want to encourage us all to stay true to our core mission –
Our college strives to make a positive difference in people’s lives through accessible and excellent educational programs and services.
The 2nd bullet point under our mission statement is this:

We provide excellent teaching, counseling, and support services.

Providing quality counseling services is core to our mission. President Bellanca, members of the board – we still need more counselors for our students.

Lastly, although for the first time since I became WCCEA President I did not receive a hard copy of the Board Packet, my board is aware of your decision to extend Dr. Bellanca’s contract an additional year and award her a raise. Perhaps your thinking was making this one of the last acts of the current board before the November election that will add at least two new members to your board would help stabilize the college by expressing your continued confidence in Dr. Bellanca’s leadership. This morning Dr. Bellanca sent out an announcement of the WCC Foundation’s new “Campaign for Success”. Sadly, I know of many faculty who have been long time supporters of the Foundation who no longer feel comfortable to continue that support. As someone who has been proud and privileged to devote my professional life to WCC (at least the last 29 years)I feel deeply aware of the tension of this moment. It is so much easier to destroy (through neglect or misguidance) than it is to preserve, or to create.
One of my colleagues at lunch told me today that even I spit gold nickels out of my mouth, while standing on my head, I could not say anything to you that you would hear. Whether or not that it so, I do know that an overwhelming amount of the faculty here at WCC voted a resounding No confidence in Dr. Bellanca’s leadership, not six months ago. Faculty are no more involved in the governance of this institution now than we were then. Your actions tonight make it clear your response to the faculty’s concerns.

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