Category Archives: Leadership

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

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 A prospective full-time faculty member had a job offer rescinded.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.

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees : Aug 15, 2019

Good evening. My name is Jackie McGrath. I’ve worked as an English professor at the College of DuPage for 15 years and I am honored to serve as the vice president of our Association. Tonight we call on the board to find a pathway for settling the contract. We request the board of trustees commit to doing what’s best for our students, which is coming to a fair agreement as soon as possible. As ICCB Executive Director Brian Durham pointed out during his address on Wednesday, there are more changes on the horizon for higher education in Illinois and we need to focus our collective efforts on the work to come. Settling the CODFA contract will make it possible for everyone to work together on issues that we all care about a lot, including student success and improved transfer opportunities. Let’s get this done.

Tonight I am grateful for my colleagues and community members for gathering with the COD Faculty in support of a fair contract because teaching matters. COD is beloved, and we all have strong relationships across the district—because of the roles we play at the College, and because we are a part of this community, and because teaching matters. We also have strong relationships withIN the College. Why? Because teaching matters. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: at COD, administrators come and go. Board members come and go. Even students pass through for a short time. But faculty and staff—full- and part-time—are here through thick and thin. And full- and part-time faculty are the frontline educators who persist in the work of teaching our students, no matter what is happening, year in and year out, and we know teaching matters. Our students matter. Our community matters.

And full- and part-time faculty have been through a lot together over the years. COD has put us through the wringer. We have shared memories and shared experiences and shared expertise. And full- and part-time faculty have many common interests and values. We all care about student success. And we all believe that teaching matters. Advising matters. Students matter. Union values matter. Our COD community matters.

The decision by COD to advertise over one hundred part-time 12-week positions shortly before the start of the 16-week semester certainly created another common cause for the full- and part-time faculty at COD, and it did not have to be this way. It’s one thing to make a plan, and it’s another thing to implement it. We are very grateful for the courage and support of our part-time colleagues in the face of such pressure. We are calling for a fair contract, and we think this board can find a way to get there. We are all here tonight to ask the board to show that it truly puts our students first.

President Toler’s Comments to the Board of Trustees : Aug 15, 2019

My name is Shannon Toler and I have worked at College of DuPage for 26 years, 18 of those as a full-time faculty member. I am here tonight proudly representing over 300 members of the COD Faculty Association. These are colleagues who have dedicated their careers to preparing District 502 students for a productive future. We are a top-performing transfer institution with cutting-edge programs created by faculty who understand workforce needs.

After two weeks of debate and deliberation about mediation, we are happy that COD has finally agreed to our request to enter mediation. We hope this is an indication of their willingness to take the next step towards a fair contract.

CODFA has also offered a comprehensive package for settlement that addresses the priorities articulated by your bargaining team and also results in fair compensation for our faculty. Most importantly, we believe our offer puts our students and their needs first.

Tonight, I’d also like to ask that you stop preparing for a strike by posting our jobs. And instead start focusing on reaching a fair agreement now.

I want to thank our union brothers and sisters in the COD Adjunct Association for the brave decision they have made not to take our jobs and the lucrative incentives offered by COD in the event of a strike. Thank you for standing with us in solidarity. Please understand the last thing CODFA wants is to go on strike. We want to be in our classrooms with our students. We want a fair contract now. Thank you.

President Toler’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | July 18, 2019

At the end of June, COD lost a valued colleague, Stephen Schroeder, Professor of Speech Communication. We look forward to celebrating his memory in August, but I would like to say a couple things about him right now because he really did represent what is the best in all of us at COD, not just faculty, but all of us.

Steve taught Speech and he was also a passionate faculty adviser to Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. He served on countless committees – including years as a Division Curriculum Committee Chair. All that aside, in a nutshell, he was just someone who made all of us feel like we belonged.

Steve could bring enthusiasm when energy was waning. He could inspire confidence when esteem was not so high. He brought diplomacy, when conflict was around him. But most of all, he brought care and attention and smiles to students. I would often see Steve taking his students to the atrium for some kind of activity. It always reminded me of both the fun and the energy that can and should be found in the work that we do with our students and with each other. We will make sure that this energy and that this sense of belonging lives on.

Faculty are already looking forward to Fall. Some have new programs being launched. Others have new classes. Some have been experimenting with technology or unpacking equipment that they can’t wait to try with their students. Some have been reflecting on the last year and strategizing about how to improve for next year.

Faculty are also anxious to demonstrate to the HLC reviewers the progress we are making on our commitment to good assessment practices.

But we also don’t forget that the reason we have even faced this increased scrutiny from the HLC is largely because of the board and the administration – maybe not all of this board and maybe not all of this administration, but a board and an administration all the same. See, from our perspective, this is an important reminder that the people and personalities may change, but the systems that govern us – specifically, the contract that governs us – endure.

That’s why this work that we are doing right now – and I think you know the work I’m referring to – is another layer in the foundation for the future of COD. We need a thoughtful, strategic foundation that withstands that change but also helps us to move forward and thrive in an increasingly competitive environment.

So we’re coming back excited for a new year, but we’re also coming back ready to stand up for ourselves and our colleagues and our programs and our students.

Because we know that when it’s all said and done…. Teaching Matters.

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | July 18, 2019

Good evening. Tonight we recognize our colleagues whose retirements are listed in the packet: Franz Burnier and Tom Montgomery Fate. It is hard to imagine the COD English department without them. In particular, Tom Fate is a talented and gracious colleague whose departure will leave a cavernous gap within our ranks He’s taught many of us more than he knows about writing and being a generous and inspiring resource to new and veteran artists. We wish them well.

We also mourn the passing of our esteemed colleague, Speech Professor Steve Schroeder. His skill, intelligence, diplomacy, and personality shaped the College of DuPage in so many ways, and it is impossible to catalogue how important his work has been at our school for our students, faculty, and staff. We will miss him tremendously.

In the heat of the summer, as we look towards the start of school in August, faculty do have a sense that the clock is running out. But our sense of solidarity and our commitment to COD is strong, and we look forward to the horizon with a sense of purpose and unity. See you in August at Inservice.

President Toler’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | June 20, 2019

Even when the weather isn’t telling us that it’s summer, our parking lot does…Summer is a neat time around here.  

We have lots of students who are new to COD.  Some are here to get ahead…some are here to catch up.  No matter what their motivation, I am proud that we have so many full-time colleagues who are here to help them achieve those goals.  I’ve heard our new President talk about the importance of enhancing our image with parents and high school students in our district. One of the ways we achieve this is with high quality experiences for these summer students.  They go home and tell their parents, their friends and maybe even colleagues about COD.

It’s also when we start to welcome students who will join us in the Fall.  We have 29 full-time faculty working as part of the new student advising team to help get these students started on the right path.  In these first three weeks of June, new student advising has served over 550 students. And this is the “slow” summer month.

I’d like to congratulate John Kness for his nomination to serve as Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  In the time that John has been here, I have valued his advice and considered him great resource.  And that says a lot when you consider that I was often approaching him as just a faculty member. Honestly, I think I’m glad I didn’t know his full bio before last week because I probably would’ve felt silly calling him with my questions.  I think it says a lot about COD that we can attract this kind of talent, even if for a short time.

Finally, on behalf of the faculty, I would also like to offer congratulations to Dr. Caputo and thank him for his willingness to serve as our President.  We look forward to working with him as we navigate both challenges and opportunities in the years ahead. Ultimately, as faculty, we stand ready to serve an institution that truly values, supports and celebrates our work with students.  

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | June 20, 2019

Good evening. Tonight the Board contemplates a proposed budget that we hope is aligned with the fundamentally instructional mission of the College of DuPage. And it is on the heels of an improved state allocation as well. According to the Chicago Tribune, the recently approved state budget provides that “Community colleges will receive a 12.3 percent increase from the 2018-19 school year, up $33.2 million for a total budget of $303 million.” So in addition to our recently increased student tuition, and this improved state funding, it will be telling to watch how and if COD’s reserve fund balance continues to increase as well.

Over time, it is clear that the COD Board and Administration have been very fiscally responsible and conservative in building up a large reserve fund. And for a lot of school boards, no fund balance is too large, especially as they look to an uncertain future and recall unpleasant memories of the recent state budget impasses. But as the saying goes, we fund our priorities. And when we look at the decisions that have been made over time by COD Boards, especially regarding capital projects at this school that have ultimately made for unpleasant headlines, we are left wondering: when you look at the trends (in our audits more so than in our annual budgets), do expenditures at COD reflect the instructional mission of the College of DuPage? Have instructional expenditures increased, decreased, or remained static over the past ten years? When COD receives higher than projected revenue (say, beyond the conservative estimate of a 1% increase in the tax levy), is that planned into instructional expenses, or is it swept into the fund balance?

Ultimately, you are contemplating next year’s budget, but we urge you to reflect on the trends represented in the past ten years of expenditures at this College, and consider the question: is instruction a priority at COD and is that priority reflected in this proposed budget?

President Toler’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | May 16, 2019

Good evening. It appears that tonight we have concluded the public part of our Presidential Search Process. You have three excellent candidates to consider and I hope that you are reviewing not just the numerical ratings, but also narrative comments the college community has provided. Please respect that our administrators, staff and faculty have a unique understanding of our leadership needs. You, as the BOT, are the guardians of our resources. This President needs to be the leader of its people.

I hope that there are plans for the Board to think about how this entire process has reflected on COD and that you will be discussing how to improve it in the future. We had two highly qualified candidates, sitting presidents from other institutions, who were not treated like candidates for a top-level administrative position while they were here. We conduct faculty and staff searches that are more transparent, more rigorous and more welcoming and I encourage you to learn more about how we do that.

Your credibility with us, the internal college community, hinges on some of those same things you know your voters and taxpayers demand. We expect to see transparency. We expect to see rigor. We expect to feel respect.

For almost a decade, this internal college community – especially faculty and staff – have kept this institution on track despite dysfunctional board dynamics, changes in leadership, bad reorganizations, and initiative fatigue. This college strives to be a “center for excellence in teaching, learning and cultural expression” – and we can say that with a straight face because this internal college community has never lost sight of that.

And that is why there is a sea of red out there. Faculty are asking you to respect and acknowledge the work that we do to keep things humming along. Project Hire Ed is not really a thing without faculty. Pathways is also not a thing without faculty.

Finally, last month I talked about the responsibility we had to our students. This month, I think that the day before commencement, is a perfect day to express gratitude to those students. When I talk about the fact that our internal college community has stayed on mission and persevered, the real inspiration behind that is our students. Their perseverance, their inquiry, even their occasional indifference – energizes us. They are they are the yin to our yang. They are why we know Teaching Matters.

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | May 16, 2019

Good evening. Tonight we wish congratulations to the 2019 COD graduates. We are proud of them and we enjoy witnessing their success at commencement. And we are happy to celebrate our outstanding faculty colleagues as well as the professors who are promoted tonight.

It’s been a busy and chaotic year at our school, and teachers and students at COD continue to absorb significant and sometimes questionable choices made by the Board of Trustees and the administration—decisions that impact teaching and learning in the short term and in the long term, too often with the potential for undesirable headlines and undesirable outcomes (including the impact of multiple internal reorganizations, at least one inadvisable appointee to the presidential search committee, and the perpetual increase to the fund balance well beyond what is required by board policy).

Despite the chaos, as COD Faculty, we put our students first, and we are focused on providing high-quality education to the wide variety of students we work with every day. For COD faculty, teaching matters—above all else.

COD faculty also do more than teach classes. We helped COD retain its accreditation, and we are working to prepare for this fall’s HLC site visit. We are on the frontlines helping students with all sorts of issues so they can finish a class, or a program, or transfer to a four year university, enter the workforce, and ultimately succeed. It’s our faculty who keep our students coming back year after year. We are the face of COD.

As we move into the next academic year, we face an uncertain summer and fall. The faculty contract expires in 89 days, and the process behind the search for the next president has raised serious questions. The message this BOT sends to our students and the community is that we still have a long way to go before we’ve healed from the past. COD Faculty watch this BOT from the sidelines, and we think, it doesn’t have to be this way.

COD Faculty Association announces Spirit Week, May 13-17

The College of DuPage Faculty Association (CODFA) will hold a series of events the week of May 13-17 to emphasize the strength and unity of the college’s full-time faculty. CODFA is currently in negotiations with the college administration for a new contract, with the old contract set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on August 13, 2019 – the day before faculty return for fall semester.

On Tuesday, May 14, faculty will gather at 2:15 p.m. in the Student Services Center “living room” and walk through campus buildings wearing red to honor the strength of our association and to support our own negotiations team. This represents the national “Red for Ed” movement which calls for improved support for public school students and educators.

At the College of DuPage Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, May 16 at 6 p.m. in SSC 2200, faculty will turn out in a show of unity to demonstrate to the trustees that we are united for a good contract that is settled by the time the 2019 fall semester starts.

At COD’s annual commencement ceremony on Friday evening, May 17 at 7 p.m. in the PE Center, faculty will wear red carnations with their academic regalia to underscore their concern for successful contract negotiations.

Several other events during the week will not be public but will further develop faculty involvement and communication within the association regarding the negotiations process.

CODFA Vice President Jackie McGrath, a seasoned organizer, stated “COD faculty care about moving our college forward and we are prepared to raise our voices to advocate for our students and for ourselves.”

McGrath added, “COD faculty are proud to work at an open access public community college, teaching students with a variety of preparation and diverse backgrounds, and we want the best for all of our students. That’s why we believe it is time for a fair contract.”