Category Archives: Leadership

CODFA Leadership Blog
Announcements and commentary from the CODFA President and Vice President.

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

Good evening. First and foremost, I hope that all is well in your households. Sitting on a college board right now is a unique kind of stress and I appreciate your service.

We learn a lot about ourselves and the people around us during challenging times. The words, the lack of words. The actions, the inaction. We figure out who we can count on. We gravitate toward competence. We identify who inspires us. We determine who our real leaders are.

All faculty have been working hard throughout the summer in preparation for this very unusual Fall. We are ready to bring our best selves to this environment, and on Monday we will start to help our students figure out how to bring their best selves to a virtual classroom.

I am especially grateful for the work that our adjunct faculty have put in, even when the support they’ve received has been uneven and sometimes absent. They deserve our full support – and that includes not just offering training sessions, but compensation for the time spent in those training sessions and the resources needed for this format of teaching. COD should better honor the work and resources these faculty have dedicated to our students and remember that COD doesn’t function without adjunct faculty.

Tonight, you will notice two full-time faculty resignations in your packet. Both of these faculty were hired away by universities – during a pandemic that has brought much uncertainty throughout higher education. That says a lot about the quality of our faculty.

I applaud that this board has added equity as a core value for COD. Our keynote speaker today was very impressed with that, and her review of our website left her thinking that we are quite advanced on the equity front. I suppose that’s what a web site is for… to project our best self. But I’m sure many of us grimaced a little bit at this praise.

We know that professing equity as a core value is not the same as living it. And while we have a host of initiatives underway to help us move in the right direction, we are most definitely not there yet. Faculty have work to do. Administration and Staff have work to do. This Board has work to do.

You also need to reflect on the role you have played to reinforce white privilege on this campus.

You can’t be fully responsible for the diversity of the Board of Trustees. The realities of running a campaign in a large district like ours make it difficult for COD to attract economically and racially diverse candidates.

However, this Board has had several opportunities to reach into the community and invite diverse participation on Board work. For example, you appointed a replacement for Deanne Mazzochi. Did you consider any candidates of color? Did you publicly promote the open position?

You populated the Presidential search committee with community members that look like you. The CODAA President and I even questioned you about that at the time – and your response was to suggest that we could perhaps recuse ourselves from the committee in favor of diverse faculty members. Because somehow, your friends in the community had more valuable input to offer than COD constituent leaders who had been elected by their peers.

Equity is not an issue that you can point to and tell us to fix. It’s not a word we put on our web site and just let it speak for itself. Everyone one of us needs to engage in developing and implementing solutions. Campus leadership in all areas — teaching, administration, and the board — should look more like the students that walk our hallways.

I truly believe that we all want to do better. COD is incredibly fortunate and I know we want to right by that good fortune.

The next time we have a keynote presenter offer up praise – hopefully in person – let’s all feel good about. And let’s reflect back on how hard we worked to get there.

Thank you.

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.

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.

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.

President Toler’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | Sept 19, 2019

Let me be clear that I am not negotiating with you. I don’t have that authority – we have empowered a team to do that. However, I do have the authority to speak on behalf of full-time faculty, ask questions on behalf of full-time faculty and make you aware of circumstances where this board’s priorities are not being effectively communicated to us or our students.

Our negotiation team does ask these questions. At the bargaining table, they ask about implementation plans. They ask about problems that your proposals seek to solve. They ask about impact on students. These questions are left largely unanswered – hence my decision to reach out to you all – the people ultimately responsible for those proposals and a fair contract.

At our Tuesday mediation session, confusion grew even deeper when your team suddenly proposed a new, apparently very high, priority that has never been discussed before in over seven months of negotiations. And so 6 hours later, no agreement on that issue. And no TA’s on anything else.

We started this week looking forward to mediation after a successful first session, but by Tuesday night have grown increasingly concerned that you don’t share our same sense of urgency around getting this done.

These negotiations are built on a pretty shaky foundation. A foundation that lacks both trust and confidence. The types of changes that you are describing in your proposals are the kinds of things that a healthy college would have discussed prior to negotiating. It’s confusing to us that people with little to no teaching experience, and even very limited interactions with our students, are deciding what faculty need to do in order to be more effective at their jobs.

This could’ve started by asking us about what is happening in our classrooms. This could’ve started by working together to figure out how to better ask our students about what they need.

Before all this, if the Provost had asked, if any board member had asked, plenty of us would have been happy to have you visit and see what we do. These classroom evaluations that you are proposing – should be just as much about the administrator learning as the faculty member learning.

In fact, while you are keyed in on having deans perform in-classroom evaluations, in your most recent academic Dean position posting, your minimum qualification is “at least one year of teaching and/or training experience at a community college level or higher.” That’s one year of working directly with students in a classroom. So, this BOT, who presumably has little to no teaching experience wants to hire deans who also have little to no teaching experience to evaluate the level of engagement and organization in the classroom of full-time faculty who have been teaching for 10, 15, even 20 years. Some of them with Master’s degrees in teaching. My suggestion is that the deans should visit our classrooms – and perhaps they should be evaluated based on how many of us invite them into our classroom and on what they learn while they are there.

There is an overarching level of disrespect that comes with these proposals when taken as a whole. Honestly, it feels like what I caution my students against when they are working on a group project – the divide and conquer approach. They all do their part and then meet five minutes before class to put it all into a single PowerPoint. This feels like a collection of disparate proposals – all asking for things – without the writers ever coming together and thinking – well, we’re only offering them .4% increase on their base salaries, we know that means about a third of them will get just that .4%, so maybe we don’t need to lift all 52 duties from this other school’s faculty guidebook.

I understand and respect fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers. I am a District 502 taxpayer. Fiduciarily speaking, we all appear to be an expense line on a beautifully presented, award-winning, balanced budget.

But we, along with our adjunct colleagues, along with managerial and classified staff, the groundskeepers, the FOP, the engineers, and even administrators, are also the future of COD. And that future is supposed to be focused on students and student needs. And if our students need Frida Kahlo – and I think they do. If our students need a new STEM Center – and I think they do. And if our students need Navigators – I think some of them do. Then they certainly need great faculty.

President Toler’s Comments to the Board of Trustees: Aug 20, 2019

Our students have returned, and in their world, everything is as normal as can be when a lot of them are in the throes of figuring things out – parking, navigating from one class to the next, timing lines at Starbucks. Faculty – both full-time and adjunct – are excelling at the jobs we’ve been hired to do. As the kids say today, this is “our jam.” (Kids may not really use those terms any more – I’m about three years behind on my tv and movie watching so I know I’m not that hip.)

I do know that being at these meetings is not really our idea of a good time.
Already, things have happened that are not likely to be forgotten. A prospective full-time faculty member had a job offer rescinded. Phone calls were made to new hires to give them the “opportunity” to rescind the full time positions that they had worked so hard to earn. I don’t know what prompted that kind of drama. There are rumors out there that you were planning to lock us out. I hope that’s not true. I’m not sure it matters any more.

What do we need to do to get this done? Is it about Promotion?

I researched promotion schemes at the 30 Pathways schools in the first AACC Guided Pathways class. I was able to get a pretty good look at 26 of them – of those 26, 20 had promotion schemes very similar or even identical to our current structure.

Is it about evaluation?

I went back and read our HLC site visit report form April 2017.

Higher Learning Commission – Core Component 3.C
Institution has the faculty and staff needed for effective, high-quality programs and student services.

We met this criteria at the April 2017 site visit. I’m not sure what the indicator is that we are sub-standard on this front.

Two components of this that I think are of special concern to this board are 3 and 4:

3. Instructors are evaluated regularly in accordance with established institutional policies and procedures.

4. The institution has processes and resources for assuring that instructors are current in their disciplines and adept in their teaching roles; it supports their professional development.

Our contract defines the policy and procedure, so I think that #4 gets at the crux of it. Does our evaluation process assure that instructors are current in their disciplines and adept in their teaching roles?

Right now, full-time tenured faculty are evaluated based on teaching, advising, curriculum development, institutional committee work and other relevant activities. Student evaluations are conducted every three years – and sometimes more often than that. So far, HLC has deemed this process as meeting their standard. What is our indication that this doesn’t meet HLC standard? Why hasn’t administration shared this concern with us sooner?

Our proposal is a way for all of us to move forward.

There are things we wanted that we won’t get in that proposal, including financial increases on Summer, Insurance, Professional Development.

Current faculty salaries pool is 2.7% lower than it was in 2016. Our proposal to increase the base salary by 3% means that the pool increase each year would be 4.85%, 4.6% and 4.45% each year. Keep in mind that does not include promotions or retirements.

Cost of the entire proposal is less than 1% of the fund balance and is only about $800,000/year more than what you have proposed.

Our negotiation team has worked hours developing proposals and debating the rationale behind these proposals. Again, this is “our jam.” If you want to geek out about HLC criteria or monetary value of proposals – we’re your people. Ask us questions.

This whole process was not set up by any of us in this room. It was a previous board and previous leadership that decided against interest-based bargaining. It was previous leadership that thought discussions around this table would poison relationships between academic affairs administration and faculty.

I think we’ve proven otherwise.