Category Archives: Leadership

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

President Jarman’s comments to the Board of Trustees | Sept 20, 2018

One month ago, Mark Curtis-Chavez was an item in the consent agenda. One month on, he is here in the flesh occupying a seat at the cabinet table. I wanted to welcome him once more. In early conversations, he has already shared one initiative around enrollment with us in which he identifies faculty input as important to its success, and we look forward to working with him on that and other ideas in the coming months.

Turning to this evening’s agenda, you are set to approve renewal of the employee benefit plans tonight: item 8.d. I can report that our members did approve the college’s health insurance proposal with 88 % of the members voting in approval. I appreciate the effort made in crafting this proposal that will moderate the alarming and perhaps unexpected increases in premiums for the existing high deductible plan.

Nonetheless, when change is mentioned relative to insurance, emotions run high; people fear losses in something that is intimately essential and personal. And, it seems, the price always goes up. Given the inevitable tightness of the timeline between getting reliable data in July, to finalizing a proposal by August, people feel rushed, under-informed, and insecure. A lot of work went into the education process and I want to thank our Welfare representatives for their effort in this.

I am haunted by a phrase I heard at a board meeting back in 2016: the need to bend down the cost curve. Of course it is necessary to have costs commensurate with revenues. Health insurance cost increases constantly outpace revenue generation, largely due to factors beyond local control. Inevitably, this problem will be revisited again. Are there perhaps more radical approaches to the whole health insurance question to be explored here? Something perhaps to explore going forward.

VP McGrath’s Comments to the Board of Trustees | Sept 20, 2018

Good evening. Tonight we congratulate our retiring faculty colleagues listed in the Board Packet: Professor Barry, Professor Reed, and especially Professor Tallman, who served many years as a CODFA leader and as our local Grievance Chair during some very difficult times. We wish him a well-earned retirement and the satisfaction of knowing that his intelligent and persistent efforts have been affirmed by what has transpired in the past several years. We also wish Associate Vice President Karen Kuhn all the best and appreciate her work at the College of DuPage.

There are several important items before the Board tonight that have long-term implications for teachers and students, especially the Strategic Long Range Plan update. As COD faculty continue to weather significant changes in administration and organizational structure, there is a serious theme emerging in faculty questions and concerns that is also evident in the Planning Update itself: establishing priorities in the short term and the long term means including and accepting the work and insight of higher education professionals, including full time faculty, staff, and administrators who will be working on the front lines to realize these plans. So while it is valuable to be inclusive of representatives from these groups, it is essential to be able to show where and how their contributions are manifest in the document itself. It is one thing to have a voice at the table; it is another thing entirely for those voices to manifest into reality.

President Jarman’s comments to the Board of Trustees | August 16, 2018

As we begin another new academic year here at College of DuPage, I would like to welcome all the new fulltime faculty members. By my count we have fourteen teaching faculty, two counselors, along with three temporary one-year appointments. Some have already worked at COD for many years, while others are brand new to the college, and some from far-flung locales. We wish them all well and look forward to working with them going forward. It is an exciting time to be working at COD. In all the right ways.

I also want to recognize another new addition, or should I say potential addition, as the appointment of Mark Curtis-Chavez is subject to your approval this evening (Item 8.k). Firstly, the merging of student and academic affairs under one cabinet position makes sense strategically. Secondly, speaking as one who served on the search committee, I believe that Dr. Curtis-Chavez will bring the right kind of experience from a background of large institutions not dissimilar to COD, and in the kinds of innovative projects highly relevant to our work here. I know that Jackie and I, along with the rest of CODFA leadership are committed to working with Mark to move the college along through challenging yet exciting initiatives such as Pathways. Proper alignment of services will be crucial for the success of this process.

I know that many of our members have yearned for stability at the pinnacle of academic affairs and, hopefully, this appointment will provide that stability and allow the remaining organizational pieces to fall into place. I would like to thank Kirk Overstreet for steering the academic ship these past few months.

So, in the fond hope that this is not premature, on behalf of the full-time faculty I would like to extend a welcome to Dr. Curtis-Chavez and we look forward to working with him in the months and years ahead.

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.