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 | Nov 15, 2018

It’s been three years since COD’s Board fired a past college president, and three years since COD was placed on accreditation probation. Our school suffered through the headlines in the wake of that time, and we all worked hard to repair the damage done to the College. While our national accreditation and our local reputation is largely restored, and we celebrate the work President Rondeau did to move our school forward and wish her well in her next endeavor, it is fair to say we continue to uncover work that needs to be done at COD, even as we enjoy an improved outlook overall for our school and our students.

But hard work and general resilience cannot fully insulate us from the challenges posed by yet another crossroads. As we head into the next year with another presidential vacancy and significant changes in state-wide leadership, it is important that the COD Board and administration continue to build collaborative and responsive relationships with faculty and staff in order to understand and resolve issues for our students and our school. After all, Board members come and go; Administrators come and go; even students, as important and central as they are to our work, individually spend a very short time at our school. It is front-line faculty and staff who persist, and our institutional memory, knowledge, and experience keep the engine running while the other pieces change around us.

While change is inevitable, and it can be argued that higher education on the whole is facing similar challenges, we really do seem to experience more than our fair share at the College of DuPage. We can’t help but wonder if it may be possible to mitigate some of the whiplash and change fatigue by asking ourselves, as we contemplate various significant issues, will that change actually create improvement, and does it really need to happen right now? Or can we take some time and gather more ideas and dialogue about it before we decide? In that vein, we appreciate efforts to revisit the SLRP (Strategic Long Range Plan) in whole and over time, and we hope for increased time to incorporate and uphold stakeholder input on that document. We appreciate efforts to contemplate and discuss the appointment of an interim president (and we look forward to working with Vice President Caputo in that capacity). As in these two examples, we hope that other searches and organizational decisions will take time, not haste, and rely on the expertise and take seriously the point of view of the stakeholders who are here for the duration.

President Jarman’s comments to the Board of Trustees | Oct 18, 2018

Of course one cannot let the night pass without some reference to the announcement last week by Dr. Rondeau of her imminent departure to the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. I look forward to my invitation to visit. While coming out of the blue at this juncture, I balance the sense of loss with the realization that this was a calling that she could not deny. It is not yet time for the heartfelt farewells since we have two more months of shared work ahead, but I will say that for these past two years it has been my honor to work with Dr. Rondeau as the faculty representative. She has modeled the covenant leader to the maximum.

Thanks in large part to her work, the college is in excellent shape to navigate the transition. The selection of fine senior cabinet members has been a hallmark of her presidency. I don’t wish to prejudge your discussion of the succession planning (item 10), but I am quite confident that our members would be accepting of an internal appointment of an interim president.

In similar vein, I see no reason at this point to alter course on major initiatives like Pathways, for example, about which you will receive an update this evening. More than fifty faculty members are involved or have been involved in this complex, evolving, multi-dimensional undertaking and I sense a high degree of shared commitment in this work. Not everyone shares that view of course.

I do need to share a sense of, for want of a better word, change fatigue among a significant fraction of our members as they see the disappearance of another president, the appointment of another interim, the installation of a brand new provost, even for some the consequences of Pathways, and the prospect of a reorganization, with pieces moved around big and small. I know that change is part of the business, but I am urging careful consideration of all the issues and proper engagement of all the players so as to minimize any unintended consequences.

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.