22nd BOT Speech 26 January 2016
Good evening, and Happy New Year.
As WCCEA President, I’ve asked on multiple occasions for details about what sort of support WCC will provide its faculty members who HLC may determine to be unqualified to continue doing the work they have been doing. While multiple ideas have bounced across the table, I’ve yet to receive any definite answer. I have numerous faculty members deeply concerned about their future here, and as you can imagine, their confidence in the classroom is undermined in a variety of ways by this issue. We have adjunct faculty here who have devoted more than 20 years of their lives to the school, who have worked with hundreds of students and changed their lives, who feel that their ability to continue to buy groceries is being compromised. There are currently at least 42 faculty members (15 full time and 27 adjunct) who have received notice that the college thinks HLC will find them unqualified to do the work with students they have been doing. I want to be able to say to them and to our community, that our college values and supports its faculty – and for that to be clearly demonstrated in how this issue is handled. Several of these people are preparing to return to school to earn the additional required graduate credit hours, but they need to know the administration’s decision about what support will be offered in order to make their plans. Our adjunct faculty in particular may well not be able to pay those costs out of pocket. I urge you to value the work that happens in the classroom by making support for our faculty tangible, and easily accessible.
A likely outcome of this widespread shakeup of what defines highly qualified faculty will be the need to hire more full time faculty, as we may not be able to rely on continuing to easily find qualified part time faculty. Because of that, I’m recommending to you as a Board that you urge this administration to bring us as an institution closer to the current authorized strength. Hiring additional full time faculty throughout the college would solve a variety of problems facing different areas, and would ensure that as we get closer to the HLC deadlines, we remain able to meet our students’ needs. Since I know that campus security concerns are on your agenda tonight, I might as well throw out another plea that we hire more Licensed Professional Counselors. I was glad to see Interim Dean Liz Orbits announcement this evening that we have two new part time LPCs. I don’t know if these new part time hires are meant to replace the recent loss of two full time LPCs (John Rinke and Pat Taylor) but would suggest that in these challenging times, we offer even more support to those in our community who may be troubled.
Lastly, I wanted to mention that when I returned from the holiday break, I found an anonymous letter in my mailbox, attached to a Xeroxed chapter from William Deresiewicz’s Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite. The letter was addressed to President Bellanca, VPI Nealon, VP Blakey, Dean Good and me. I have spent some time with the book and am impressed. The last paragraph of the letter we received is what persuaded me to pursue the book:
“Happy New Year from just one of the many disheartened, disappointed, and sad faculty members who does happen to remember – and believe in – what the purpose of true education is, and who therefore laments how difficult it is to be a good teacher at WCC, given that the administrative policies that frame our working conditions do not create the necessary “space” for genuinely good teaching.”
I would love to be able to affirm in the coming months, that we are working together to support quality instruction. Help me make that so.