Author Archives: BOT Blogger

CODFA Pres Toler Comments to the BOT | Mar 19, 2020

Because of public health measures in place, public comments were not given at tonight’s meeting. President Toler’s statement has been distributed to the Trustees.

Good evening. My comments to you tonight are mostly about gratitude and flexibility. Things we will all need strong doses of in the days, weeks and months to come as we figure out where and how to bend without breaking.

First, thank you to Jasmine Schuett for her service as the Student Trustee. You have been a wonderful advocate of student activities and the important impact they have on COD and on individual students. And welcome to Samiha Syed. We look forward to working with you.

I would like to offer special gratitude to our Learning Technologies team who are working tirelessly to support both full-time and adjunct faculty as we transition to remote teaching responsibilities. They anticipate our needs. They answer questions without judgment. They are a steady presence at an uncertain time.

While faculty are on the front lines of responding to student needs and we are committed to doing everything possible to support student success under these challenging circumstances, we know that many other groups are also providing critical college services at this time. Academic Support Services, Student Development, Records & Registration, Financial Aid, Admissions…are just a few of the essential functions we are grateful for and will continue to count on in the weeks and months ahead.

I think special gratitude also needs to be extended to our operating engineers, our groundskeepers and the COD police who will continue to keep our campus safe and secure long after the doors are locked.

As we offer flexibility to our students, we hope that the same flexibility will be evident throughout the institution. These are unprecedented times that will call for unprecedented measures. I am confident that we are capable of being remarkable in our response to this crisis. I am confident that full-time faculty, adjunct faculty, classified staff, managerial staff, the administrators and this board are ready to work together to figure out just how and where we need to bend.

On behalf of the faculty, I wish you all safety and health.

Prof Lee Kesselman, Chair of Music Programs, Comments to BOT | Feb 20, 2020

Members of the Board of Trustees, President Caputo, administrators and faculty colleagues,

My name is Lee Kesselman. I have been a full time faculty member at COD since 1981, a total of 39 years of service to the college and district 502. During that time, I have served under 6 presidents, and roughly an equal number of deans, chief academic officers, and performing arts administrators. I have spent most of my professional life at COD and have found this a great place to work and teach. I have been the only chairperson the music program has ever had, and I have served on many search committees, including five F-T members of the music faculty. As a member of search committees, I have always encouraged prospective faculty that COD is a great place to work, a high level institution and one where they would be treated fairly and professionally.

So imagine my dismay and astonishment when my outstanding colleagues Dr. Lucille Mok of Music and Professor Jackie Weaver of Art found out last week that they were not being recommended for tenure by the Provost. That news blindsided all of us who teach with Dr. Mok and Professor Weaver, plus both of them. As someone who frequently watches Dr. Mok teach and is probably as familiar with her work as anyone at the College, I am stunned… and will speak toward her situation.

She is an OUTSTANDING teacher and colleague and, in the opinion of her colleagues, well deserving of tenure. It is of further concern that she wasn’t even supposed to know that she was being denied tenure until after the Board packet came out.

Let me draw you an analogy —-
Let’s say you or one of your children were a student in my classroom. You received positive feedback from me on every assignment and classroom activity during the semester. Sometime during the last weeks of the term, one of your assignments fell below your normal work. Since that assignment was only one of many, you passed it off as a good learning experience. When the term ended, I told you that you were a solid A student.

But when you opened your grade reports you found that you had failed the course because I had been overruled by my boss, who had judged your work unacceptable, based upon the one sub-par assignment. When you asked about the decision, you were told that, unbeknownst to you, that one grade counted for more than all the other work you did in the course. You were told that you could do nothing about this until after the grade was made a part of your permanent record. Your only recourse would be to re-take the course, this time with my superior as your instructor, and hope that your work was acceptable to him this time around.

If that happened, I think you would find the process opaque, unfair and arbitrary.

I submit that this is much the position in which both Professors Mok and Weaver find themselves. Members of the Board, this is not the way this fine institution has done business in my 39 years here. I suggest that you re-consider the Provost’s recommendation in light of both the evaluation of their immediate supervisor and the process by which this decision has been made.

Thank you very much for your time and attention.

Prof Tony Venezia, Motion Picture/Television, Comments to the BOT | Feb 20, 2020

My name is Tony Venezia. I am a professor in the Motion Picture/Television department.

I would prefer to be standing here boasting about the accomplishments of the students in our program. But some very disturbing events have occurred recently, and I feel that I must express my anguish regarding these activities of the upper administration.

A long healing process had begun after the dark years that the COD workforce experienced between 2009 and 2015. The air of trust amongst employees was slowly returning. Even after a contentious contract negotiation, things were still feeling on track. This past week two highly competent and skilled faculty members, Lucille Mok and Jackie Weaver, were refused tenure approval by the provost’s office after they had gone through all of the appropriate evaluations and earned exceptional reviews by Chuck Boone, our dean. In addition, Chuck, who is highly respected, competent and extremely successful in his position, was relieved of his duties as dean by the provost.

Lucille and Jackie were given no prior notice that their tenure was in jeopardy. For the first time in our school’s history, tenure has been denied by the upper administration after a faculty member has satisfactorily met all of the requirements and has received tenure recommendation by their dean. I find this action reprehensible. These activities raise many questions.

Why would this administration even consider the removal of Chuck Boone when he has proven his value to the college as a dean time and time again and is more than qualified to handle the position?

Arts, Communication, and Hospitality, the division he oversees until tomorrow, has had significant and continued growth during a time when most colleges are losing enrollment. That success can be attributed to his leadership.

Why does this administration, after knowing the history of an abusive administration, continue in the abhorrent direction that was experienced here between 2009 and 2015?

These actions have taken their toll on the morale of our entire division as well as many other areas across campus. Perhaps they are motivated by factors other than the best interest of our students.

The fact that the provost and the president have rewarded success and excellence with the demotion of Chuck Boone and the tenure rejection of Jackie Weaver and Lucille Mok boggles my mind. If it is the upper administration’s intent that we don’t rock the boat with innovative ways of teaching and administering, then you are setting our standards to attain mediocrity, and by that you reject excellence. Based upon these actions it would seem that the upper administration’s vision for our institution is truly a non-vision.

Ultimately, how does this air of mediocrity that you are instilling upon us serve our students and our community?

It wouldn’t surprise me if I were to be the recipient of some form of retaliation from the upper administration because of the comments I have just made. I am merely speaking from my heart about things that I feel need to be said.

CODFA VP Monnier Comments to the BOT | Feb 20, 2020

Good evening, my name is Christine Monnier, vice-president of the COD Faculty Association.

Over the past year or so, the Arts have been at the center of many discussions at the College, and often here at these meetings.

We all hope and expect that the upcoming Frida Kahlo exhibit will have a powerful impact on the college community and that many come to see College of DuPage as a center for the arts in our district.

But Frida will come and go. There have always been Arts at the college. Maybe not on the scale of Frida Kahlo, but we have always had arts. Arts that are part of the daily life of the college. Arts as an integral part of a well-rounded education, irrespective of major.

There have always been Arts at COD because of Art Education and Arts Educators. We grow artists here. Not all of them may end up with their name on an auditorium, but some students who pass through our doors end up in the local artistic world, and many get at least exposure to artistic productions that broaden their horizons.

Arts at COD never waited for Frida. For decades, there have been music ensembles, jazz orchestras, choirs, art galleries, and theater.

A few years ago, the Board of Trustees made the absolutely correct decision to bring back Buffalo Theater Ensemble. Tonight, the Faculty Association asks you to vote in favor of the item in your packet pertaining to BTE.

BTE deserved your support when you brought it back. It more than deserves your support now. Over its seasons since its return, BTE has provided our communities with brilliant productions across a variety of genres and was awarded Best Non-Profit Organization in Glen Ellyn by members of the community and the Glen Ellyn Chamber of Commerce.

I’m sure you’ve been to some or, maybe, all of those productions. You know how valuable BTE is to the college community.

So, the bottom line is this: there is no art at COD without Arts Faculty.
Thank you.

Prof David Ouellette, Dept of Art, Comments to the BOT | Feb 20, 2020

My name is David Ouellette, I am an associate professor of art history and the chair of the art program here at COD. I was disheartened to learn that our promising junior faculty member Jackie Weaver would not be approved for tenure at tonight’s board meeting, despite receiving glowing reviews throughout her probationary period.

This is extremely troubling, as I have worked closely with Jackie since her hiring under tense circumstances in 2017. During this time I have watched Jackie embrace the mission of the college and integrate herself within the community. I watched as she tackled new initiatives, including writing a Resource for Excellence grant to fund an artist-in-residence program, and develop new and exciting field studies courses. I worked with her as she revised outdated curriculum and wrote new classes with enthusiasm and scrupulous attention to detail. To put it simply, Jackie has done everything we’ve asked of her and then some, with grace and without hesitation. She harbors no animosity and has no hidden agenda. She only wants to be a good teacher and colleague.

Not confirming her for tenure just does not make sense, unless there is some ulterior motive. Why else would administration seek to keep the denial of tenure secret? Why else would there be no disclosure to Jackie for the reasons WHY she was not being confirmed? If truly about her performance, why were there no warnings, no meetings to address issues with her instruction, or proposed corrective actions? Instead she has been blindsided at the 11th hour with no opportunity to defend herself or adjust her practices to correct what the college sees as an issue.

Surely this is not about enrollment. Since Jackie began teaching time-based media and digital art courses, enrollment has tripled in those areas. In fact, since Jackie started in 2017, the art program’s enrollment as a whole is up nearly 7%.

Perhaps the goal here is to remove Jackie from our program in order to make room for Chuck Boone to return to faculty. Despite being deeply unfair and unethical, I should remind the board and administration that we already have an empty position waiting for Chuck, one that was vacated by Jennifer Hereth last year, that we are not being allowed to fill.

I cannot accept that this was a carefully considered decision by the administration, who seem to be serious when they refer to the college as a center for arts and culture. If this were the case, they would know that innovative arts programming and cultivating arts advocacy in the community begins with the art program, and is something we’ve been doing for decades. The best way to be a “center for arts and culture” is to support our art faculty.

Artists like Jackie embrace constructive criticism because critiques are part of the process of making art. All of our students know this. Our students learn that giving and receiving criticism is the basis for growth. It allows for honest and open dialogue about what is working, and what is not. If there was a problem with Jackie’s performance that was brought to her attention in a timely manner, there is no doubt in my mind she would have responded in kind, and made efforts to address any concerns the college had. Perhaps our administrators should take studio art courses to learn something about transparency and accountability.

CODFA Pres Toler Comments to the BOT | Feb 20, 2020

Good evening. First, I’d like to offer congratulations to my colleagues being recommended for tenure tonight. I am especially pleased that three of these newly tenured faculty are counselors who are truly at the front line with classroom faculty in supporting student success and retention.

Unfortunately, there are a couple names missing from that list, and as I’m sure you can already tell, faculty are disappointed, confused and concerned.
At In-Service, I joked about disagreements on the horizon. They arrived sooner than expected, but here we go.

Just because an action is legal, that doesn’t mean it stands up to the highest standards of moral character and ethical behavior.

In a complicated world, in a complicated profession like teaching, truthfulness should consider multiple streams of information and data. And trustworthiness, well that is earned. It is difficult to trust a system that changes midstream – especially when those changes are not even communicated to those of us doing the swimming.

There is no courtesy or dignity in putting off difficult conversations or even simply not having them.

The first step in fulfilling obligations and taking accountability is communicating the measure of those obligations.

In case it isn’t clear, I am weaponizing the stated core values of this institution. Much the same way this administration is preparing to weaponize the gathering and utilization of student performance data.

I don’t doubt that the best of intentions guided the creation of these core values, but they feel especially hollow right now. I don’t doubt that we have good intentions around using student performance data to help us improve, but I don’t have confidence in this administration pulling it off.

Any administrator who tells you that once tenure is awarded, that means we’re stuck with someone for the next 30 years, is basically warning you that they can’t do their job. That’s like me walking into a classroom of Intro to Business students and telling them that anyone who’s on academic probation should probably drop now because there’s no way you’re going to be able to succeed in this class.

Student success is our “main thing.” Student success is also a really complicated thing. This is a challenge that requires innovative, sometime experimental, individualized solutions. And… you need these solutions to play out in our classrooms.

The administration seems to view our contract as a collection of carrots and sticks. Carrots and sticks may be able to motivate those engaged in rote, mechanical work. There is nothing rote about teaching at a community college. You are thinking about extrinsic motivation when you need to be thinking about intrinsic motivation, and you are destroying it. It’s been dying a slow death all over this campus for a while now, and this kind of thing just accelerates it.

The biggest disappointment to me over the last week is the characterizations I heard of these faculty and the vehement declarations of needing to protect our students. These came from people who have never met these women. From people who have never seen them teach. From people who apparently didn’t view the classroom observation reports as even remotely credible.

If, as a faculty member, I let a narrow data point drive my impression and reaction to a student like this, you and my colleagues would be so disappointed in me. And that’s where I am. Disappointed.

CODFA Pres Toler Comments to the BOT | Jan 16, 2020

We are in the midst of In-Service days that reconnect us all to each other and the institution before students return next week. Yesterday, we participated in advising training that will help strengthen classroom-based advising activities. Today, we rolled up our sleeves and worked on rating more than one thousand assignments that were collected as part of our critical thinking general education outcomes project. This assessment data will be reported out to all faculty later this semester so that we can begin discussing how best to further support the development of our students critical thinking skills. This work is an important part of the story we will tell HLC when they return next year.

You may remember approving a software purchase to help facilitate these kinds of activities – well, we put it to the test. Thank you for that, and much gratitude to Faon Grandinetti, Director of Assessment and Lisa Stock, AVP of Assessment & Student Success, for their organization and facilitation of todays work. And thanks to John Santiago, professor of philosophy and David Smith, professor of engineering for their leadership as co-chairs of the SLAC.

There is something special about the start of a decade. You don’t just reflect on the last year…you reflect on the last 10 years. And your hopes – they aren’t just for the next year, they are also for the next 10 years. I will not launch into a detailed retrospective, but, just as a point of reference, in January of 2010, we were one year into the “Breuder era” and we were on the verge of starting the major physical transformation of our campus. We’ve come a long way.

There is one word that sums up the pride I have in my colleagues and this place when I think about the last 10 years and that’s resilience. Turmoil, embarrassing headlines, probation, uncertainty, none of that stopped the people at COD from focusing on students and the community. My hope for the next decade is that we can use this resilience not just for survival, but use it to propel us forward. I hope that in 10 years, we look back and say “wow, who even knew this was possible?”

I don’t have any real predictions for the next decade – but, one thing that I am pretty sure of is that in 10 years we will look back and remember that this is the year we hosted the Frida Kahlo exhibit. I hope we remember not just the number of people it brought to our campus, but that everyone in here also remembers which painting was your favorite. And that everyone takes a moment to think about how Frida Kahlo is an incredibly appropriate exhibit for this institution at this moment in time. Because Frida Kahlo pretty much personified resilience.

So, as we start this new decade, CODFA looks forward to collaborating with all of our colleagues – adjunct faculty, administration, classified and managerial staff, and the Board – to crack the code of student success, to prepare the people of DuPage county for the 30’s and beyond, and to make this not just a first class institution, but a first choice institution.

Happy New Year!

CODFA VP Monnier Comments to the BOT | Jan 16, 2020

Good evening. My name is Christine Monnier, professor of sociology at COD, and newly elected Vice-President of the COD Faculty Association. I have worked at the college for 19 years and occupied many institutional functions in faculty leadership. I will spare you the details of that long list. Just know that all these years at the college have been very professionally fulfilling for me.

Tonight on your agenda is a topic that is of great importance to me: Open Educational Resources. You will receive a presentation from Library Professor Denise Cote, who has been the heart and soul of OER initiatives at the college for many years. Unfortunately, for most of those years, Denise has worked without much institutional support. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. Provost Mark Curtiz-Chavez is now providing the much needed institutional “muscle” needed to propel OER at the college to the next level. We now have a working steering committee for OER, that provides both leadership and resources from across the college, to foster the adoption and development of OER.

I do not have to tell you how important this initiative is. We know that many students do not purchase course materials whose cost is prohibitive. We also know that a lack of course materials leads to poorer outcomes. On the OER steering committee, we see availability of open materials as central to student success.

I urge you to give Dr Cote’s presentation the attention it deserves, I hope that you will be as supportive of this initiative as our provost and the CODFA leadership.

Thank you.

Senate Resolution Honoring Outgoing CODFA Vice President McGrath

BE IT RESOLVED by the College of DuPage Faculty Senate that we thank Jacqueline McGrath for her service to the Association. She has served three years as the Vice President of the College of DuPage Faculty Association (2017- 2019), over 10 years as delegate to the IEA, over 5 years serving on the Welfare Committee including multiple rounds of negotiations, and in various leadership capacities over time, including Faculty Senate.

Jackie has been a champion of faculty causes over her time at the College of DuPage. Her tireless work to improve the faculty morale and working conditions including her family leave initiative that has greatly improved parental leave, her countless hours fighting for better health insurance, and her dedication to workplace safety has had a direct impact on all of us. She also created the faculty perspective essays and forums that helped start important dialogue between faculty and the Board of Trustees regarding the best learning environment for students.

In her pursuit of providing that best learning environment for students, she was heavily involved with creating an English class for the residents at the Illinois Youth Center in Warrenville. Through teaching at the center, she extends her mission of establishing English literacy to some of the most marginalized members of the community.

In addition to her College of DuPage commitments, Jackie has helped forge relationships between our local Association and communities of educators throughout the state. Through her diligent involvement with the IEA, which includes her participation on the IPACE executive committee, our Association has become better partners with our local IEA brothers and sisters. Through the IEA, she is currently part of a team that is leading a statewide initiative to improve developmental English education. Having such a strong faculty and student advocate connected to local associations and Springfield has and will continue to pay dividends to College of DuPage long into the future.

Since joining the College of DuPage faculty, Jackie has been a warrior for faculty and students alike. Her fellow CODFA officers have described her as honest, trustworthy, and a perfect teammate. Her dedication and integrity to the values in which our Association strives to uphold is evident in all that she does.

The Faculty Senate expresses our sincere gratitude to Jackie McGrath for her continued service to our Association. We acknowledge her role in making positive change at the College of DuPage and look forward to her continued pursuit of the best learning environment possible for faculty and students.

CODFA President Toler Comments to the BOT | Oct 24, 2019

Last night we welcomed program advisory committees from throughout COD to our campus for meetings and an appreciation reception. This event is a great example of how our staff, faculty and students can come together for impressive results. Barb Groves worked with culinary and hospitality faculty and students, as well as horticulture faculty, staff and students, to create an event that really did make everyone attending feel appreciated.

Charles Schwab once said, “The way to develop the best that is in a person is by appreciation and encouragement.”

I think we often have a tendency to do one or the other – offer appreciation or offer encouragement, but we don’t think about how the two should really work together. Especially when it comes to student success. We do a lot to encourage students – inside and outside our classrooms. We may need to think more strategically about how to really appreciate them.

Faculty look forward to having these kinds of discussions around student success and how “one size fits all” measures are exactly what has fueled our current achievement on that front – which, by the way, is in line with most of our peer institutions. But if we are serious about moving the needle, we need to think creatively about our students. We need to think about appreciating them as individuals. We need to appreciate how they make us better teachers every day, better advisors every day, better Deans every day, a better President every day, a better institution every day.

We also need to make sure that we appreciate and encourage all constituent groups – whether they teach, counsel, protect, fix, organize – whether they do that for 10 hours/week or 60 hours/week. Developing the best in our people will help us develop the best our students.

Finally, I think we can all agree that it’s nice to get back to a more normal rhythm around here. I look at what is happening around us and I am especially grateful that we were able to reach a compromise that will support innovative teaching, first class curriculum, continuous improvement and, ultimately, student success. I’ve talked in the past about how learning is hard. One of the things that makes learning hard is the listening – not just hearing, but listening. Thank you, all of you, for listening when we really needed you to.