Category Archives: Leadership

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

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | August 16, 2018

Good evening. This is an exciting time of year, and I know my faculty colleagues are looking forward to the start of classes on Monday morning. The reciprocity we experience in the classroom with our students is always the best part of our fall semester.

In many ways, it’s been an eventful summer at COD, and today and yesterday my faculty colleagues have expressed their worries and concerns in various ways and at various volumes. We read enrollment reports, and we speculate about cause and effect. We watch our sections climb in headcount and hope our classes run as scheduled. We ask questions about the summer search for the new provost and the intricacies of Pathways developments over the summer. We worry about the insurance update and we fret about the inconvenient Blackboard shut down. We look at the ongoing squabbling in Springfield and the looming fall elections, and we wonder what it means for our students and for higher education. And beyond our district and our state, we look at what my outstanding colleague Tom Carter referred to as “dark times” in his moving speech on stage yesterday at Inservice, and we wonder how we can help our campus can become a safe and equitable place that changes people’s lives.

And yet, we must try to make progress on these issues; as Professor Carter put it, “we are morally required to try to make the world a better place.” As educators, we care about the common good and we have faith in our ability to contribute to it through the classes that we teach. I am always proud of my faculty colleagues who speak up about their concerns, whose ideas and experiences can lead to better decisions at COD when it comes to these worrisome issues. Sometimes, it is hard to have faith that progress might be made, but we keep at it, and we will come in Monday morning ready to do good work.

President Jarman’s comments to the Board of Trustees | July 19, 2018

Firstly, I would like to recognize Chairman Mazzochi’s recent appointment to the
vacant seat in the 47th District, where she will take over from the long-serving Patti
Bellock. Having observed at close hand our Chairman’s rapier intellect and zest for
debate, I have no doubt that she will contribute significantly on the wider Illinois
stage just as she has, and hopefully will continue to do at least for a time, in our
own smaller theatre.

Of course, June 27th was a singular day for public unions with the Supreme Court
finding in favor of one Mr. Janus against the AFSCME. Whatever the merits of the
arguments, we must deal with the consequences, as indeed we had been
expecting these many months. While the New York Times described it as a
crushing blow to unions, we incline at this point to a more sanguine view. This is
not the end, not even the beginning of the end – or even the end of the
beginning; but that is a different speech.

We expect our members to keep faith in CODFA and the representation we
provide, even in the absence of any obligation to do so. I would advance the
argument that College of DuPage is the beneficiary of a strong organized faculty.
Back in January 2017 we gave a presentation to this board about CODFA. We
made the following points that bear repeating:

  • Organized labor can promote harmonious relationships with employers (granted
    this gets tested at times).
  • Strong organized labor ensures a proper balance of power in the organization. (We
    could look back on recent history as an example of this.)
  • A strong association can advocate regionally and nationally on behalf of students
    and the institution and not just for itself.

I encourage skeptics to examine what has been happening nationally in states
where there have been disruptive strikes, walkouts, and protests by educators. All
of them in states where unions are weak or non-existent and where working
conditions have been driven progressively worse. Surely not a model for
promoting student success.

We are far from that sorry pass in Illinois despite the abuse that is hurled upon
our state. We look forward to maintaining a strong association for everyone’s benefit.

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | July 19, 2018

There is a common misperception that teachers do not work in the summer. Sometimes, when people find out what I do for work, they can be quick to comment, “wow, I’d love to be off for three months in the summer.”  I never know how to respond exactly, but usually in my head, I’m thinking, “define “off.” Because if you’re a faculty at a community college, when the spring semester ends, the work starts up and it doesn’t quit. Besides summer teaching assignments, it is common for COD faculty to complete a wide variety of work in June and July, ranging from attending conferences, workshops, and trainings, to working on committee projects for COD, to completing research, fieldwork, writing, and editing commitments. COD Faculty also work in summer advising, or on Pathways Working Groups, or plan in-service activities and site visits. We inventory program supplies and review annual data, and we attend regular committee meetings. We present papers, prepare exhibits, complete service for our professional organizations. Indeed, while the work may not be 9 to 5 or within the confines of an office or a classroom, and while the College is, technically, closed for business on Fridays, many of us seem to spend more time at work in the summer than we do during any other term.

Sometime around July 5th, the panic starts to set in, too. We realize we haven’t read too far into that stack of books and articles that accumulated during the previous year, or we need an extension for the revisions that journal editor requested, or we have a new course to prepare that starts in six weeks. Time flies quickly, and the August scramble begins. In the past few days, I communicated with a few dozen faculty about Fall Pathways work, and each one referenced a lengthy set of summer activities. While summer work may not be as visible or as structured, it is what makes the engine of education run smoothly year-round.

Next month, we’ll begin the fall semester, and as colleagues ask each other, “how was your summer? what did you do?” the consistent answer from faculty in every field, will be, “I worked.”

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | June 21, 2018

Good evening. Tonight we take a moment to acknowledge the resignation of Associate Dean Mark Collins, whose work at our school was appreciated by teachers and students across campus. He is a talented leader with a valuable skill set, and he is a model for facilitating change and for deploying available data to make meaningful decisions in several important areas at COD, from the English Department to the Office of Adjunct Support. He also really likes and understands teachers and students and cares about inclusivity in word and deed. We will miss his graciousness and his sense of accountability in our workplace and we wish him well in his next endeavor.

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | May 10, 2018

Tonight we congratulate the COD students who will walk across the stage next Friday night to receive their diplomas. It is an important ritual and we are proud of them and the work represented by the conferral of degrees.

We also want to congratulate all COD retirees; we celebrate their service and we will miss these valued education professionals. And of course, we welcome our new faculty hires and we are proud of our outstanding faculty colleagues as well as the professors who are being promoted tonight.

It’s been a busy year at our school, and teachers and students at COD continue to absorb significant changes—from various reorganizations of people and space, to the lifting of COD’s HLC probation and how we must prepare for our next site visit, to changes in federal law and policies that impact many of our students. Many of these changes have been a long time in the making; some are welcome, and some are not. So it is important in an education environment to value and build into the change process a period of evaluation; to ask the question, did these changes accomplish what we hoped? How can these concepts be improved or corrected? Enacting change without methodically evaluating its impact can create questions and doubt, and cultivate resistance to the next big idea—even if it’s a good one.

As we move into the next academic year, it will be important for faculty and administration to work more collaboratively on establishing the priorities for our college and our students. As we revisit the Strategic Long Range Plan and the Facilities Master Plan, we must do so through processes that are inclusive and that tolerate and then integrate dissenting views in order to reach rigorously vetted conclusions. And it means relying on experienced education professionals to evaluate the outcomes of those plans, and cultivate an institutional openness to re-evaluate and change based on an honest assessment of what is right for our students, for real students, overall.

President Jarman’s comments to the Board of Trustees | May 10, 2018

The term gallops at an ever-increasing frenzy to its conclusion as we look forward to Commencement just one week away; and even the weather has finally deigned to acknowledge the appropriate season, lending an of colorful and much-admired splendor to our campus.

It is a season of celebration and in the packet tonight I find much to celebrate. Of course, I am biased. Under item 6, Outstanding Faculty are being recognized. Congratulations to all of them for their outstanding service. A note on Tom Carter – Outstanding College-wide faculty member from physics. One generally first encounters Tom by his voice. I heard him before I met him, back in 2003 in my first division meeting. As loud and as forceful as may his advocacy be, he is as humble and unassuming in all other regards, and has lent his tireless hand to many significant STEM initiatives. It has been my personal pleasure to have worked with Tom on some of these projects, and he is always one to enjoy a really good argument with. Totally well-deserved is this recognition.

Then, under 8.q we have seven faculty members being recommended for promotion to the E range, which marks the pinnacle of professional development for our members at College of DuPage. Congratulations to them as well.

It has been a year of substantial achievement for our college as we have faced down previous challenges and embrace new ones. You will hear later about the Pathways initiative. That noun entered my consciousness about one year ago. I don’t want to detract from the presentation but I can assure you that we are fully engaged in the process and committed to working collaboratively and constructively as it moves forward.

We learned recently of the move of many of the areas of administration into the BEEM building across the street. The objective here was to increase space for instruction in the BIC that research has shown is in demand (don’t we all know it). I would like to take this opportunity to commend our Cabinet members for taking the initiative in this selfless move, along with Mr. Schmiedl who no doubt has contributed to the logistics of this not-insignificant effort.

See you next Friday I hope.

President Jarman’s comments to the Board of Trustees | April 19, 2018

It was a particular honor and privilege to attend the event Wednesday morning to celebrate the Innovation DuPage initiative along with so many members of our community partners from all walks in attendance. This new business incubator provides tangible evidence of the restored union between the village (my village actually) and our college that was so needlessly and unnecessarily sundered years back.

From the paper dresses to the music to the flower arrangements all done by students, along with the galaxy of initiatives shared in the presentations, it made me proud to be a part of this college. I look forward to our members contributing their skills towards, and hopefully benefiting from, the entrepreneurial adventures soon to begin downtown.

Not wishing to pre-empt Trustee Bennett’s report on the academic committee, but you will hear about the first report due to be submitted to HLC. From our side, we are very satisfied with the outcome, and I think it represents a model for collaborative work on a challenging issue across different constituencies to meet a common goal. Now we can look forward to addressing the weightier issues surrounding assessment that we have made reference to in previous presentations to this board.

Co-curricular activities are among those items cited by HLC for evidence of assessment. Our colleagues in Student Life can provide qualitative and quantitative evidence that involvement in co-curricular activities promotes retention and success. Which brings me to item 11.f in the consent agenda: BTE Agreement Renewal and Funding. You heard my advocacy for BTE in the past. You have seen the financial targets hit but I wanted to highlight the student engagement data: 450-500 students directly engaged in BTE each season, 52 students working on BTE productions, and other items besides.

BTE provides the kinds of co-curricular activities that sets COD apart from the norm. We heard Dr. Rondeau proclaim Wednesday that the MAC is a center for great art. Rightly so. Both for the community at large and our students within, let us continue and expand that tradition.

Thank you.

President Jarman’s comments to the Board of Trustees | Mar 15, 2018

I wanted to acknowledge the good news recently received about Standard & Poor’s upgrading the College of DuPage bond rating from “AA” to “AA+” and affirmed its rating outlook of “stable” on the College’s outstanding general obligation bonds. It is a notable achievement in an era, particularly in Illinois, where few institutions of higher learning can only dream of having even one A letter beside their name.

While an argument might be sustained that the visitation of probation that prompted the down-grading really had nothing to do with the actual financial health of COD, it is gratifying nonetheless to see its return up the ladder. Though I am moved to point out that what provoked the ire of the HLC in those days did not include non-compliant syllabi. On the latter, I think you will hear at some point this evening some encouraging news re the audit.

But I will stick to a financial theme as I note item 8 in tonight’s agenda, APPROVAL: Tuition and Fees Effective Fall 2018 Term.

As the information supplied in the packet demonstrates, COD has had an exemplary record in its tuition rate since 2015 (how many colleges can boast of a negative increase in these challenging times?). During this era, COD moved from the top of the table to below midpoint. However, at some point, as the cost curve inches inexorably up, increasing revenue becomes inevitable. The modest $1 seems entirely reasonable.

What makes this proposed increase more palatable is the evolution of the board’s attitude towards the reserve fund. No longer is it referred to as the “rainy day” fund for rains that will never come (at least in recent memory), and no longer is it treated as something sacrosanct. We note a logical rationalization of the allocations and a willingness to put part of it to productive use.

I would only advocate that, as the plan to generate revenues evolves, the burden fall not only on the fee payers but equally on the community that benefits from our services and even beyond in any creative ways possible.

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | Mar 15, 2018

Good evening. Tonight we congratulate our colleagues whose retirements are listed in the packet, and we recognize the creativity and productivity of our colleagues whose sabbaticals are listed for approval. It is the culmination of a rigorous and collaborative process, and it is part of what makes COD a great incubator for teaching and learning.

Great teaching and learning requires careful budgeting, of course, and we respect the process behind the proposed $1 increase in student tuition for Fall 2018. But parallel to such necessary increases, we encourage stakeholders at the College to examine and champion initiatives that could help students manage the cost of college, including an institutional effort to engage with and support the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) and a deliberate strategy to address and resolve the chronic and systematic under-funding of higher education in our state over the course of several decades. These efforts, in concert, might send the message that we are working on every front, as a College, to address costs for students with imagination and foresight. COD offers an important public good within our district, and a global point of view would focus on sustainable and effective public policies around resources for that public good.

President Jarman’s comments to the Board of Trustees | Feb 15, 2018

Good evening. Just a few brief comments. Item 7.a under resignations, I wanted to acknowledge our colleague’s Gary Roby resignation this coming May. Gary has been here too few years but in that time has made considerable contributions to the chemistry discipline and the college in general. He has been recognized as outstanding divisional faculty member.

Further, under item 8.o retirements, I wanted to acknowledge the contributions of three faculty members, David Ficht and Bea Jaynes in mathematics and Robert Nichols in Computer Information. Collectively, they have contributed over 53 years’ service.

I also note the impending retirement of one Charles (Chuck) Currier at the end of June. Chuck is the longest serving senior administrator in the Cabinet and I could say we go back a long way. I wanted to acknowledge Chuck’s service to the college in all things computational. He has always been someone willing to have a conversation to discuss issues.

Under item 6, I am looking forward to the presentation on progress in mathematics being given by Professor Hill. Good to see in-depth work by faculty presented to the Board. While this work was and is intensively faculty-driven, I would like to recognize the administrative leadership of the math and natural sciences division in this project.