Tomorrow marks the conclusion of another semester and for several thousand students the end of their time at COD. Whether it be an associate’s degree, a certificate, enhanced skills for the job market or transfer to another institution, tomorrow’s virtual graduation will be the conclusion of their time at our institution.
The last fifteen months have been especially challenging for students and our community. While tomorrow’s graduation is the second under the specter of COVID, it is my hope it is the last. Under the best of circumstances faculty are inundated with requests to accommodate unique personal and professional situations. While those might often be viewed with skepticism, under the circumstances of the recent past I think most faculty work to be more understanding. I’m reminded of a student who became homeless last semester in my Intro class but managed to complete the class. This semester I have had several students with family members navigating COVID related issues, the challenges of parenthood and full-time jobs.
I am reminded of how resilient our institution and community are. It is my hope we emerge stronger in the face of these challenges.
I can speak for many faculty when I say we are excited to hear VP Bente’s updated plans for the return to campus in the fall. I have appreciated working with Jim Bente and Shared Governance Council as these details unfold. With the updated information that Illinois will be transitioning to Phase 5 and something approaching normalcy, many of us are excited to transition back to the routine of the classroom, face-to-face meetings and office hours.
As our institution faces this constantly evolving challenge, faculty ask that our unique circumstances be taken into consideration. Those include immune-suppressed family members, the absence of a vaccine for children under 12 and the task of addressing schooling and day care issues. We need advanced notice to order our family and work lives if significantly more faculty are expected to return in person to campus. Faculty do not treat our students with a one-size-fits-all approach and expect the same as we begin the next phase.
While she has an additional month in time at the College, I would like to take a moment and thank Marianne Hunnicutt for her service to the College. I have had the pleasure of working with Marianne as my dean for many years. She has served in so many different roles, we developed the term “Super Dean” to capture Marianne’s ability to pivot on a dime and serve an ever-expanding number of faculty and disciplines with her tireless work ethic, commitment to students and fairness. She has served as a model for what a dean should be and how faculty and deans work together. That does not mean that Marianne always agreed with faculty, but it means I always knew her door was open and she would engage in a real exchange about the accomplishments and challenges we faced. You will be missed.
I wish to call attention to the increase in abnormalities related to the search committee process for faculty and administrators. The general outlines of the process have existed for some time and served the College of DuPage well. Hiring committees are time intensive and richly rewarding as we have a say in determining our colleagues at all levels. Recently, that process has lost elements of transparency and accountability. That loss comes at a high price of trust and morale, and I ask that the board and administration reconsider these ill-conceived changes. We are all better served when the process is clear and arbitrary decisions are avoided.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the outstanding full-time faculty member English professor Jason Snart. Jason is a wonderful colleague known for his innovation in online teaching, commitment to students and colleagues. I look forward to returning to playing basketball with him in the not-too-distant future.