Good evening and a somewhat belated Happy New Year.
One year ago the college welcomed 22 newly tenured faculty members at the January 19th board meeting. One year on, it is gratifying to see under Item 8.A in the consent agenda that our President recommends that 26 faculty members be granted tenure.
One year ago we were anticipating and discussing a number of changes and additions at COD: the reorganization of academic affairs into six divisions, the concomitant creation of several new discipline chairs, the expectation of new faces on the board of trustees in the April election. And of course the lingering uncertainty regarding HLC.
All these things came to pass and the uncertainty around HLC was mercifully vanquished. It would be appropriate to acknowledge the contribution of the Accreditation Task Force that earlier today was recognized with an I AM COD award. Congratulations to them – well deserved. Now the conversation has evolved into how do we respond to the demands that HLC has made of us when it withdrew the yoke. I see that as a lot healthier and more productive discussion, and one that we spent some of our Inservice day addressing. On that note, it was gratifying to see Trustees Fenne and Walker in attendance, and thank you for your commitment to our work.
On the one hand, the need to undertake activities and file reports to fulfill these HLC obligations could be seen as a massive inconvenience and drudgery; but on the other, that obligation encourages us to take a deeper and more authentic embrace of the kinds of assessment and analysis around curriculum, educational outcomes and program review that can only improve our work and the quality of education at COD. As we think about, reflect on, and respond to the likes of the Noel Levitz and CCSSE surveys, this can only be a good thing. Hopefully, next month we will have opportunity to share some of that work with you in more detail.
Good Evening and happy new year. We are glad to return for a new semester and we look forward to the start of classes and seeing our students on Monday. It is already turning into a busy semester, but we are optimistic that our work matters and that our expertise is respected and utilized for educational work, in all of its variety, at the College of DuPage.
We are glad to see our third-year colleagues recommended for tenure tonight. And we recognize our colleagues whose retirements are listed in the Board packet as well.
In retrospect, 2017 was a significant year of change at our school; the coming calendar year promises even more change. We hope, of course, that change is progress, and progress in the right direction. As scholars and educators, we are aware of how important it is to allow for time after intense change and learning to absorb what has come to pass. It is also essential to pause, reflect, and evaluate, especially in order to understand and ensure that we agree we’re on the right track in so many ways. As teachers, we know that a timeline is a good organizational tool, but it can be hypothetical, and if the material isn’t mastered, it’s usually necessary to regroup and allow more time for study.
Our wish this year is that organizational change is made through dialogue, deliberate collaboration, and honest conversation about real students, as they are, in all of their variety at our school. As we’ve learned over and over in the past several years, complicated problems require complicated solutions. So here’s to complexity in 2018.
As the curtain closes on another year, it is hard to avoid resorting to clichés of the kind I just used. So no more of those. It has been a busy year, and one with perhaps a few more challenges than I might have expected when it began lo these many months.
This evening you will hear a presentation on Pathways from Jane Smith. Pathways had entered my consciousness in early May. By October, Inservice was dedicated to it, and it had become a major conversation. I spoke then that CODFA leadership has encouraged our members to engage fully in this discussion. I can now tell you that the Faculty Senate has created nine research groups, that will involve a significant number of our members working with other constituencies in the college to examine many aspects of Pathways, with a view to providing recommendations as to how this initiative can move forward successfully. We were invited, even challenged, to participate, and we will. This work will be completed by the end of next term, and our plan is to tell you about it then.
You will also hear from Trustee Bennett in his report on the Board of Trustees Academic Committee about the work being done in regard to the HLC response. CODFA leadership contributed significantly in the report to this committee, which was concerned primarily with the syllabus compliance. We have committed to having syllabi for the spring semester posted by January 8th so that a preliminary audit of compliance can be completed prior to the official audit in February. I anticipate that the full board will be hearing more about our HLC activities in regards to assessment and outcomes in future months.
Nor have we been idle on the Noel Levitz front. A Senate task force has developed a set of questions that will guide its analysis of the data and requests for additional information as we attempt to probe the origins of the apparently problematic responses contained in that survey.
All this while we continue to teach our classes and engage in all the other normal activities of the faculty. I want to emphasize that we engage in these activities because, at the end of the day, we are dedicated to optimizing our students’ pathways to success.
This evening we congratulate our COD retirees; tonight’s list includes a former chair of the Faculty Welfare Committee and a former co-chair of bargaining. We thank them all for their service to our great public school and wish them the best.
It is the close of another semester, and we celebrate the accomplishments of our students. We also root for students who did not succeed in our classes, lamenting each piece of homework left incomplete, each paper or exam that misses the mark; despite the best efforts of a teacher, in the end, students are responsible for their own learning and individual agency within a given classroom. Education professionals create the conditions of possibility. Students bring to bear their own creativity, curiosity, motivation, values, ethics, and sense of reciprocity and mutuality. At its best, college education is a site for shared labor and respect for the distinct but collaborative roles between students and teachers. It is meaningful work all around.
It is hard to create the conditions of possibility for college students at a time when higher education is under siege in America. This month alone, Congress proposed taxing graduate student tuition waivers, and the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act appears to include a redefinition of credit hours, the removal of student financial aid repayment benefits, and deregulation of online and for-profit providers. At a time when COD is working to repair its reputation and fulfill some fair but rigorous demands from its accrediting body, it feels like swimming against the rising tide.
At COD, we know all too well what it looks like when the worst thing happens, because it already did when we were placed on probation. Our work moving forward must continue to question: what did we learn from that, and how can we prevent it from happening again? The answer lies somewhere in the realm of collaboration and memory. And so we persist, in part because we believe in this project of public education and community good.
Two years ago faculty were horrified by the verdict of the HLC: probation for COD. It was a dark time and we are relieved probation has been lifted. Faculty did not cause the problems that lead to that determination; instead, we watched as the Board at that time played politics with our school.
Faculty are pleased and relieved that the efforts of the past months have resulted in a positive outcome and we are off probation.
Tonight it seems worth pointing out that the HLC response team was a very multidisciplinary group of education professionals. It included faculty and adminstrators; they used multiple methods and drew many people into the process to research facts and collaborate around their report and their decision. It was, in fact, a good model of collaboration between faculty and administration, and one we should look to as we are moving forward in taking on new challenges at COD, in the sense that while we continue to respond to HLC challenges, we have also spent time this semester exploring a Pathways theory for COD.
The Faculty Senate hopes to move forward with Pathways in partnership and collaboration with administration and staff at COD. We hope that leadership for this effort will emerge organically from the process of researching the needs of our students. The aim of the Pathways Theory is to create structures within which students find their way and thrive on the road to reaching their own goals.
With that value in mind, we do well to celebrate that COD is a comprehensive community college and we offer a comprehensive transfer-focused and transfer-driven curriculum that is side by side with our excellent offerings in vocational, technical, and career areas, and our size and scope is part of what makes COD a special place for students to go to school. That collaboration between the administration, staff and the faculty has to be based on understanding the equal importance of transfer curriculum alongside career and technical programs.
It is clear we all have a lot to learn and discuss.
Obviously the news that circulated earlier this week that the Higher Learning Commission had officially removed the yoke of probation from the college’s shoulders was very gratifying. No need at this point to revisit the past, but I did want to acknowledge the work of our board, our president, particularly Jim Benté, along with members of our faculty and staff for putting in the work on the narrative report. I know that we have our issues to address, and that we will do in a thorough and professional manner.
I did want to make a comment on item 4.q in the consent agenda: tax levy resolution. As I understand it, the resolution calls for a levy of $81.7 MM for the current year, which is $1 MM more than 2016, which I calculate to be an increase of 1.23 %. The CPI is quoted as 2.1 %, so this resolution leaves about $695 K in the taxpayers’ pockets. Doubtless, the accounting staff are poised to correct my mistakes in any of this math stuff. Granted, the $1 MM is substantially more than the frozen levy of last year, but that $695 K will not be collected this year and every year hereafter – in perpetuity as a former president was wont to say.
To be consistent, I acknowledge that, in the past, CODFA leadership questioned the magnitudes of the annual tax levies and the arguments then used to support them, the net result being large surpluses that brought us the giddy fund balance. Sound financial management you could argue. And we have since advocated that some part of that surplus should be used to compensate students and community members through maintaining tuition and the tax levy. And, indeed the tuition has remained constant, putting COD in the middle of the pack in that regard.
However, the days of the big surpluses are gone, and the cost curve trends ever upward. At some point it becomes sound practice to bring revenue generation up to a par with that cost curve. Who knows to what low value the CPI might fall in future years to reduce the ability to raise the levy.
“Past is prologue.” Thus began our President’s opening address at Inservice Day this past Tuesday. I am always inclined to take note when Shakespeare is invoked. I have attended many Inservice days and Convocational days – call them what you will – but perhaps few had as much import for the college as this one, as we wrestle collectively with the implications of Pathways for College of DuPage and how it might be implemented and what form it will take, all we hope to benefit the future generations of students that will pass through these carpeted hallways. Such times naturally bring many questions, uncertainties, and attendant discomfort.
I want to stress that, from the beginning, the position CODFA leadership has taken is to encourage our members to engage fully in this discussion. We established a Senate task force to review Pathways at other colleges in order to identify potential problems and make recommendations. One of our team participated in the recent fact-finding mission.
“Show me the data,” one of our former presidents once proclaimed. The pathway to Pathways is through analyzing the data, connecting the dots, and co-constructing a structure thoughtfully and holistically, recognizing those aspects that already exist, and revisiting the past to rediscover those aspects that worked then. This is a work in progress.
I want to dispel any notion, lest there even be a faint glimmer of such, that the “union” – our Association – presents any impediment per se to a Pathways future, whatever that might look like. Just as there are board policies to guide your operations, so our contract provides a framework to guide the relationship between the administration and the members; and of course within both there are attendant constraints and limits.
Thinking on showing data, when we see, we will believe. And the rest will follow. “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”
The following Faculty Senate resolution was read at the CoD Board of Trustees meeting on Dec 15, 2016.
BE IT RESOLVED BY The College of DuPage Faculty Senate that we thank Glenn Hansen for his long and dedicated service to the Association and to the College of DuPage as a whole.
Glenn Hansen has served seven years as President of the COD Faculty Association. His first term was from 2006 – 2008, and he returned to lead the Association in January 2012.
Glenn has set a model for leadership in a complex organization and guided the Association through a period of great internal strife. Glenn undertook bold resolutions with courage and dexterity and in all his interactions with COD administration demonstrated courtesy and respect.
He handled daunting tasks, including appearing before the editorial board of a large urban newspaper in 2014, with skill, and his beliefs, actions, and comments always focused on teaching and student learning in every venue. He modeled civic engagement not just as a local president, but as a leader in DuPage County, especially on issues that matter the most to students and taxpayers.
His guidance and support for CODFA members and leaders regarding teaching, learning, and forging relationships with administrators and board members has been invaluable. Glenn Hansen ends his leadership of the Association having set it on a path for future prosperity.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this resolution will be provided to the Board of Trustees and posted on the CODFA website and appropriate social media.
As you know there was a meeting of the Board of Trustees Academic Committee today in this very room. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend personally as I was committed to meet with Barbara Johnson of the Higher Learning Commission andthe Faculty Senate to discuss progress in the removal of COD from its probationary status. I am sure I am not mistaken in asserting that all constituencies in this college hold the removal of the stain of probation as a consummation devoutly to be wished.
One of the agenda items for today’s meeting was “impediments to teaching and learning.” CODFA leadership conducted a survey of the membership to solicit their opinions. We are interested in issues both within the college and the outside world that impact the progress of both instructors and students. A summary of key issues identified was presented at the meeting today.
It is not my intent here to discuss any of those issues but I did think it an opportune moment to encourage this board to consider what it might be able to do to advance the interests of this college in the legislative realm and in the political arena in this state. The ongoing budget impasse has wrought havoc on higher education in particular. This cannot continue. Our Association through its union is actively pressing lawmakers. But we are just one constituency. This threat to the stability of higher education impacts everyone.
State Representative Peter Breen takes credit for his role in legislation motivated by the toppled regime. He has praised the new board members for their roles. All good. But that is in the past. I would like to ask him what, if he values this college and its students as highly as he ought, will he advocate for to promote its interests to make it stronger in the future and protect it in these financially uncertain times. What might you do in this regard?
There are consequences for our actions or inactions. I have called for the resignations of ALL who contributed to this black mark on our College. This certainly applies to the 3 Breuder Trustees, who never said no to him and to this moment support him, and any administrator who can’t find the courage to own their mistakes. Only Joe Collins has offered an apology to the College Community. For some an apology will not excuse the lack of judgement. Time has run out.
People have been hurt by the Breuder legacy as rendered by HLC, careers have been or will be hurt. We are all accountable for our actions and can’t blame others for the choices we willingly make. It was a good party but it’s time to leave. You blew a really good thing.
Chicago Tribune: College of DuPage gets 2 years of probation from accreditation agency