4/20/16 David Sam Candidate Forum

Acting Chair Mazzochi calls the meeting to order.

Pledge of Allegiance.

Notes that BoT will follow up on all questions, but some may need to be addressed in closed session.

Notes that the BoT would like feedback on all proceedings.

Co-moderator Professor Glen Hansen introduces the evening’s candidate, Dr. David Sam.

Dr. Sam thanks audience. Adds to his bio that  1988-1990 he was a faculty member at COD. That was very important to me.

My vision for COD — I am going to disappoint you. That statement is incomplete. I do not have any input from students, faculty and staff at the college. How can I have a vision for this college without input from these segments and the community? I have an incomplete vision to talk about.

But I will talk to you about building blocks for this vision so at least I will try to talk while recognizing at I don’t have anything yet from you.  I need information from students as to what should be in the vision and to underscore why I am saying it is incomplete — this college has its own institutional philosophy. (Reads from COD’s mission ) COD has a shared vision. I want to talk about a shared vision, not my personal vision (reads again from COD’s mission statement)

I have a couple of proxies that will help me come up with a vision. I looked at the COD student newspaper, the Courier, where it talks about what students wants from a new president.

Should have experience working in higher ed.   I have 30 years in higher ed. I have close to 20 years now as college president. So yes, i am someone with experience.

(Continues to read from student editorial in the Courier)

“Must have glowing recommendations from previous employers.”  I extend to you the invitation to contact any member of the Elgin BoT. I recognize that presidents must collaborate with the Board. I have done that at Elgin for the last 9 years. We have achieved some fantastic things. For example the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found us, because of parameters we set up, and we were able to achieve certain things.

I was trained as  diplomat. I have tact and diplomacy. People form the Fletcher ? School of diplomacy go out and solve things.

“Must retain a good relationship between us and faculty.”  Hello students (waves at students) I will get in your face! I will go bowling with you. I will see you at basketball games.  Call Elgin and talk to the students. They know me. I’ve shown up at all places where they have events.  Btw, I have heard you have a wonderful softball team. (Calls out to the softball and basketball coaches).

“Students should feel like they know the president or at least know what he or she looks like.”

Students and faculty should feel like they can approach the president.”  I am approachable.

“Students should feel that their opinions are considered.”  I want to establish a relationship with you and get your input.

“The president needs to be active in the COD Community.”  Oh boy, I do not watch t.v. I am in the community all the time and I love it.  Our name is COMMUNITY college. You will see me in the community.

“The president is to really care about students and faculty.”  I have some supporters here tonight — Professor Emeritus Edwin Thomas, just retired from ECC –(calls out to Professor Thomas who is in the audience)

“One thing we don’t have to worry about — they are going to determined they are entering a school with some serious problems that need to be resolved immediately. Probation is one of them.” Yes, that is a serious matter.  Probation is a serious thing and should not be at COD, which stands for College of Distinction.

It’s not a one-shot deal, solving probation — we need to change the environment here.

“There must be trust. Honesty, trust and forgiveness.” The first thing the new president must do is earn back our trust.

I’ve read many of the stories.  Hopefully students I would not keep you waiting too long for that. It is important to regain trust.

Here is another proxy — the resolution by faculty.  (refers from faculty vision for the new president)

I am modest. I am not going to say that I am the paragon of honesty and integrity. Go instead to hear from the colleges where I have worked and ask them. I will sign off for anybody to review my personnel file.

“Treat all members of the college and community with respect.”

“Have the courage to remove ineffectual leaders” I have done that before.

I am seeking input for you already for the shared vision.

“Foster excellence in academic programs.”

I am going to tell you some of the things that are going to be very important in putting together this shared vision. COD wants to be the primary college for district residents.

Mission — it is ok. COD “will be a center of excellence for teaching, learning and cultural experiences for this district by providing affordable, accessible and comprehensive education.”

Shared values — also part of this vision. integrity, honesty, respect and responsibility. These will all be part of the shared vision.

And finally, institutional philosophy. “COD believes in the power of teaching and learning.” COD embraces excellence. Everything it should do will be excellent. COD values diversity. I will add to that.  Inclusion and equity are part of diversity. We must have that. COD believes in the participation of everyone in the planning. COD believes that the college will be of value to students and the community.

As the president , we will rededicate ourselves to the primacy of teaching and learning. As the president, we will make sure that the students that come here achieve their dreams. As the president we will rededicate to forming partnerships in the community with governmental agencies, to a higher level, rededicate ourselves to partnership with K-12 so more and more students will be ready when they get to this campus. Rededicate to students coming here seamlessly and seamlessly transferring.

My vision will have a few more things. Every student that leaves here will be as good or better than any student that graduates from any other community college. They will be as good or better than the students who started at four-year institutions. We’ll make sure that when employers are talking about their best employees, they talk about COD graduates.

The status quo will not be acceptable. We have to change things. I will work with every single person affiliated with the institution to achieve that we move COD to the next level.

It will be the new era. The new era of COD, College of Excellence. We have to get our SWAG back, in the language of the millennials. We have lost it a little bit.

I’ll stop there so you can ask questions.

Question: What are the three non-career accomplishments that you are proud of?

DS: 3 directly related to COD. When I was here, my daughter was born. That is an accomplishment. She is a 26 year old lady. Her name is Michelle.

I became a citizen of this great country when I was working here at COD. That is not so easy. You don’t just walk into that.  I still have the card I got from people here congratulating me on getting citizenship.

I finished my doctoral degree while I was here at COD. I had to defend it shortly after I left here. That is an accomplishment!

Question: Why did you leave COD? Why do you think you are the best person to leave the college today in spite of its problems.

I left City Colleges of Chicago and was fortunate to land the position here at COD. I loved it. Shortly after I left City colleges, my supervisor at CC went to Michigan. She called me and said “I have a position here, Dean of Sciences”  I told her I didn’t want to leave. A year later she called again and said David that position is still open. It looks like you. Then she asked me — what will you be doing in 6 years? I told her, I will be tenured, I’ll still be enjoying my classes at COD.  She said no, in 6 years, you’ll be a college president. I had never thought about this. I thought that seemed interesting. And so I applied, went there, and left COD. When I left COD, the reception I had when leaving was such that I said to myself that I hoped to have the opportunity to return to COD some day. I went to Michigan for 2 years. Then she left Michigan! So she called and said, “David, I have a position that looks like you. VP of Academic Affairs.” So I followed her there. And as she said, 6 years later, I became a college president!

30 years of community college experience. 20 at a presidential level. 4 years as chief academic officer. One year as Acting VP for Business and Finance. one year as Acting VP for student services. the last 9 years reporting to a Board. Also, but don’t start joking, I am also a lawyer.

I think my credentials, experiences and my understanding of Illinois — I understand what is happening here. My affinity for this College — I started my career here. All these things make me a good candidate.

Question: You used to work here. What if you found that former colleagues had been involved in wrongdoings?

DS –The college is bigger than any one person. Any former colleagues, if there has been any wrongdoings, we will correct them. If they are criminal — they will come for you and you will be gone. I am an officer of the court here, as an attorney, so I have an extra layer of things I have to do. If there have been wrongdoings, I will make sure they are addressed.

Question: Describe at least t3 steps you would take to improve t  COD with our district and improve our relationship

Engagement. We have to engage the community. Hear them out. I would go on the road and go to different organizations. I would go firsthand to solicit ideas. Put out my own ideas about how to earn the trust of individuals. There is fence mending, healing that we need to do. We must involve everyone in that process of earning trust that we have lost over a period of time. We will do the right things, and do them right. The community will see that there is a change in what we do and gradually we will be able to build the trust that has been eroded. There will be transparency. We will put out information. People will see a big difference with me as president.

Q: What do you think about the proliferation of adjuncts in higher education?

DS- Adjuncts play a very important role. In the 70s we used to talk about 70% full time, then it changed, and now there are many places where more than 50% are taught by adjuncts. Adjuncts are very important for what we do. But even if we had all the money to hire full-timers, I would insist on hiring adjuncts. They bring something to the classroom that is fresh. They bring things that happened right at work that day. They are a conduit for job opportunities for our students. We have to work hard to maintain a good and healthy balance between f/t and adjunct faculty.  We need to develop curriculum, create programs, things that adjuncts do not have time to do. We must have a balance. They are two groups, but they are really one group. They deliver all instruction.

Q: What have you done at ECC to deal with the budget impasse, and what would you do differently at COD?

DS– It is an illusion that if the budget impasse could be solved everything would be better. We would not have the money to do everything even if the impasse were solved. So let’s look at the budget as if we were at our own kitchen table — imagine if we are 7,000 in debt. We are hungry, frustrated. In the mailbox we have another 2,000. We know that. We don’t even want to go and open up the mailbox.  And we haven’t even included credit cards in that debt. Let’s say that the credit card debt is 10,000.  Then you look at your checkbook and see you have only 100 dollars.

The impasse is important, but let me talk a little bit here about this. This fall many students are going to make a decision about which institution are going to. They know about our state budget. How many students are going to decide go out of state? And if they go, will they come back? We have invested in them K-12. but they won’t be here to help improve their communities.

At Elgin, we put a freeze on travel. We looked at vacancies — some will be eliminated, some deferred, some filled. We have to decide. But we have to increasingly going to have to take drastic actions. We need to minimize the impact. The worst thing that could happen is losing money from the state and then we lose students. Students have to realize we are still there and still offer excellent education. If there is any parent in the audience listening — come on down. We have great faculty. We are still standing. The heart of what we do, student success, is being preserved.

Q — Have you been on record as criticized or praising any practices of COD and maybe implementing them?

DS -I may not know all the facts about the situation, but I know that what has happened here has impacted on all community colleges in the state. So I may have contributed comments on what has impacted on all of us in the state.

Q -What do you consider for COD to approach the upcoming HLC review?

DS – There are multiple pathways now. The pathway is to work with students and to provide them with The standard pathway is default. You have to work your way back to the next level. I have a document addressing the HLC challenges and what COD could do to address them I have looked at what has been developed in the community. You can write a lofty report, but what is happening on the ground is the most important thing.

One thing I would do is to meet with the HLC, to underscore the seriousness. To show them we are serious in addressing them. The HLC is in town. We should visit — a couple administrators, faculty, students. We should go dialogue with them about their report.

We need to have people who will be able to execute it well.

Q: As a president, please recount the most significant philanthropic gift and what was your role?

DS_ At ECC I am on the Foundation Bd. Assets were at barely 3 million when I came in. Now they are almost 6 million. I worked with the Foundation staff. We worked a team together to make things possible.

Chase has given us in excess of 26,000 a year for several years for our bridge program for college readiness.

The Foundation has been very successful.

Q — What innovative academic programs have you implemented at ECC and what would you bring here?

DS- Every student wants to achieve their dreams. The buildings are important, but not as important as achieving the dream.

To be a Leader College — we were made one in 2012, we started in 2009, then we got renewed in 2012. We used data to make decisions. We look at student performance and work on different things. This past year, more people graduated from ECC than ever before. We are ahead of what we had planned for 2020!

The achievement gap exists between white and African American and white and Latino students — it’s a national problem. At ECC, it’s significant between white and Latino students. The Gates Foundation came to see what we had done in order to address the achievement gap as well as we did.

Alliance for College Readiness -working with kids K-12. Working to make sure that more and more kids are college ready when they start. We know that students who come in at the developmental level, they are less likely to succeed.

Q: You have a hiring freeze at ECC. Physics, Astronomy, and other disciplines have not had a new hire in 10 years.

DS- It has never been brought to my attention as president because we have a healthy balance between full and part-time faculty. We can cover the classes with what we have.

But looking at Math and English areas, I saw that the ratio was overwhelmingly skewed towards adjuncts. So 2 years ago working with the ECC community I proposed to have 2 new math and 1 English faculty in one year, then 2 new English and 1 new math. This year, only one new position was filled, and that was in math. Now we have put 5 unfilled position on hold till the time that we are able to address the financial challenges. Yes, we may not have good ratios in some areas, but we have some that are being addressed at this time.

Q – Describe areas where you have been a turn-around agent at institutions and what strategies would you apply.

DS- AT Houston I have been told I did well. At Elgin we made changes. When I go there, I held meetings with many many groups. I asked, if you were to conduct a survey at a college in this state, would Elgin be mentioned among the top 5. I got the answer, “no.” But today if you conduct that survey in this state, Elgin would be among the top 5. We just got a report that stated that. We could do the same thing here. We are an excellent institution. We have great faculty, I know that. I will work with faculty directly. I will work on student success. Retaining them, graduating them. Awards, recognition, great. But graduation is my biggest turn around. More people have graduated from ECC these 9 years than in many more previous years. That is very important.

Student success is what we should be about. Whatever dimension we look at, student success should be up there. Students come here for that.

How do administrative and faculty structures differ here than at EDD

Faculty do not put much input into tenure process. The HLC says that should happen. We need to make sure that faculty has a strong input in the tenure process of their peers.

Curriculum — let’s face it – it is owned by faculty. Faculty need to make their recommendations for programs that need to be shepherded. Those are big ones. We need to have a cultural shift. Cultural shifts happen. We can do that. We will be joining colleges that have been doing that for many years. I will ask faculty and administrators that you think are great and let’s look at how they handle the tenure and the curriculum process.

Question: Discuss you criteria for hiring full-time faculty and the characteristics you look for.

DS_ I want passion. Passion for learning. A faculty member has a much more difficult job than faculty at selective colleges. We have students at very uneven level of preparation. Faculty have to be supportive of this. I ask a new faculty member for anything innovative you have done. What is your experience with diverse students? If you are unable to describe anything innovative, then we will have a problem. I also want to hear your passion for your academic area. What have you don’t too show you are committed to student success at an institution? I want you to do anything to make sure that this student succeeds. It doesn’t mean you have to lower the bar. In fact it means you have to raise the bar.

As if we were training someone to go to the Olympics — we can get up early and train with you, we provide you with all the support, through use of technology or other means, to get over the bar, but when you have to jump over the bar, you have to do it all by yourself.

Tutoring services are important. I tell students that they need to use tutoring.

I want a faculty member who believes in the support services the institution has to offer -tutoring, etc.

Faculty have to have a passion and to take risks, and work with colleagues to advance our discipline. That’s why we need colleagues to opine on the tenure process.

Q: Have you participated in union negotiations? What is your process?

DS – Yes, in spring of 1990 I was here at COD and we took the vote to see if we had a faculty union. I was part of that.

In Michigan there were 5 bargaining units. In Michigan, I worked with the union on many issues, MOU, settling disputes, grievances. I became VP and was the point person for the college when it came time to negotiate.

I worked with union leadership in Houston. In Elgin we have a faculty union, a _ union, and the IBEW with some electricians. The BoT usually wants me to be outside of the process rather than in the middle of it. I am in the back room providing support for the process. As an attorney in law school I got a good idea of the value of unions in an institution. I am fully competent to deal with union issues.

Q – How does your educational philosophy transfer into your governing philosophy?

DS – You can tell, I was born and raised in another country. I came here as a high school exchange student in Eureka Illinois. After my exchange student period, i had to go back to my country for two years. Then I came back. Then I wanted to make something of myself. I wanted to be a basketball player and play for the Chicago Bulls. I looked at my DNA and said, it ain’t gonna happen. Then I decided to go into education, something i care deeply about.

I believe strongly in education and what it can do for a person. What it can do for a person. Education did it for me. I am committed to working with every single person, anyone who believes they can benefit from an education. I can’t do that alone — that requires a team. Shared responsibility.

If I am the president I have a requirement of every employee-  bring your A game every day. That day you don’t have your A game with you could be the day you turn someone off.

Why should I expect anything less than your A game?

We will share in responsibilities knowing that every day we bring our A game.

Our institutional goal is excellence.

Q: We have faculty and students who are from your district — what would you do to make sure that ECC stays afloat?

DS- First, if I am president, I will move back to the district. We have a solid foundation at EDD. The college will move forward. We have a wonderful Bot. I told my Board chair before I submitted my application that I was doing this. They are all strongly in support of me. We have outstanding individuals and programs that are at the heart of the college, ECC will continue to be successful At the time I went there, ECC was an outstanding institution. We didn’t have the data to back it up. We worked hard, the data was seen by people and we were recognized.

Q: Discuss how you view the importance of diversity, equity, multiculturalism, equity

DS – The COD philosophy has diversity. So is equity and multicultural. I like that you already have those in your mission.

Appreciate, include and utilize the talents of everyone that we have. It goes beyond ethnicity. It is social economic background, gender. There is strength in that. It is a way of life.

The most democratic form of higher education is the community college. The doors are open to all. We have to make sure that is the situation at COD and embrace it. We must seek people from diverse areas to add to the richness of the institution. So that students feel that they belong here. Are part of the institution. That is what diversity, inclusion and equity is. Equity recognizes that some people are disadvantaged form the beginning. You must do something to being them to the starting line.


We need to have college graduates to maintain our standard of living. No one group can meet that goal./ Every conceivable group must help us get there. We must embrace and utilize it.


Paul LeForte -If I were to go talk to the BOT chair at ECC, “describe to me Dr. Sam’s style of management — what else besides enthusiasm would they say?

DS  Inclusive, bring people to the table, resolve issues, provide leadership to move forward, am even-tempered.  From the book “Good to Great Leader” I would be a level 5 leader.

Modest, have students at heart, get the job done. They will miss me but I have their blessing. Moving beyond support, I have their support.

Karin Evans, English faculty member-Good evening, my name is Karin Evans. I am a member of the English faculty and I have been teaching developmental writing here for 13 years. During this time, I have experienced the value of working alongside counselors who are integral members of the faculty.  In recent years, the number of counseling faculty at COD has declined, although in my classrooms, I have seen an increase in students with needs for counseling support, for mental health issues, assistance making career and transfer decisions, managing multiple placements in developmental coursework, etc.  Help me understand how you have addressed these needs at ECC and what you feel is the ideal approach to providing effective counseling service to students in an open-admissions college with many first-generation college students, and many academically and socio-economically at-risk students.

DS- The most embarrassing questions are heard at ECC from community members, from many years when I was there — when are you going to do something about counseling. We knew there were challenges. Our reports had minutes from our counseling department they recognized that there were challenges that they could not be addressed. It became clear that there would be no changes. We were asking for counselors to come to this millennium. We were in a situation were records were not being kept. Students went to see a counselor and there was no record of the transaction after that. So we kept talking and probing. Then I was told that maybe we should bring in a consultant. We brought one in, he did a study, met with a lot of people. Came up with a report saying that today there are multiple approaches to guiding students in college. There is the advising model and the counseling model. At ECC we chose to go with the Advising model.  Were able to hire more advisors. We hired a couple professionals who were able to help with wellness, social, mental and health issues. One comment  I read related to our accreditation — I have been here for 3 years and haven’t met with a counselor. But now in my last term I have an advisor. Why couldn’t you do this earlier.

I would have to see what are the challenges here. I would have to understand those challenges to address what you are talking about.

Session over. Chair Mazzochi thanks audience and Professor Hansen acknowledges the selection team. Asks committee members to stand up.


Mazzochi reminds everyone that the BoT asks for feedback from everybody and refers them to the website where feedback can be submitted.

8:30 Board of Trustees meeting is called to order.


Trustees Mazzochi, Olsen, Napolitano, Bernstein, Student Trustee Escamiila,

Absent: Birt, McGuire, Wozniak

Public Comments: No public comments.

Next item: Closed Session begins.

No action will be taken following the closed session. Bot will adjourn after the closed session.

So moved. Roll call — unanimous.

BoT closed session begins.