League president introduces the speakers and reads the ground rules, emphasizing civility and respectfulness of differences. Questions can be submitted to specific panelists or all the panelists. There are timers in the front row who will signal to the panelists when to end their remarks. The moderator can ask clarifying questions.
Judar: mentions what an important community asset COD is. She hopes that the event will contribute to transparency.
Alvarez: Community Lawyer of Citizen Advocacy Center. Mission is to build democracy to strengthen citizen involvement and education. Frequently deals with specific laws such as Open Meetings Act, Freedom of Information Act, and First Amendment. Asked to contribute because of transparency. Purpose of Sunshine Law is to bring transparency. Commented that the public comment policy still upheld by COD’s BOT conflicts with first amendment. FOIA requests are not clearly forthcoming as reported by citizens who have turned to the CAC.
Torres: President of Student Leadership Council, similar to student government, represent students. Current strengths of COD = variety of academics, quality of education provided by faculty, affordability. Improvement = student engagement always an area of concern, difficult to get students involved.
Hansen: President of COD Faculty Association [full text of remarks provided]. Good evening. First I’d like to thank the members of the Wheaton League of Women voters holding this forum and inviting me to participate. While I usually prefer to attend, listen, and learn; it’s a pleasure to be part of the discussion. And thank you for your continued attendance at our Board of Trustees meetings.
You have asked us to address some very important issues regarding the College of DuPage. I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to be engaged and to examine the facts and evidence. We must ignore the rhetoric that is presented by everyone and listen closely to what is being presented. We must look at what is in black and white as evidence and then listen carefully to the explanation. We cannot accept statements that have no supporting evidence and should never accept the explanation that it’s the accuser who is wrong. Business as usual is not an explanation.
We want specifics from the candidates as well as those who are current involved with the College. Platitudes are not acceptable. Specifics are required from the president, the Trustees, and the candidates. The faculty will accept nothing less.
Transparency, one of the issues you asked us to discuss, is an interesting word, almost a cliché. The faculty believe there is a tremendous lack of clarity at the College, by the president and the Board. Today’s Tribune article illustrates the resistance to FOIA requests. The President on behalf of the College railed against the use of FOIAs. Before the current round of FOIAs, the Faculty Association were the target of the president’s ire. We were filing FOIAS for contracts, Waterleaf business plans, Waterleaf profits. We repeatedly had to file in order to receive something resembling what we had asked for. Instead of the Waterleaf info I would get the Education Specs for Culinary Arts; I can tell how many brooms the educational program has in its closets but not the plan for profitability for the restaurant. There is a demonstrated practice that we should only know what they want us to know. This is a big problem.
Use of Tax Payer funds crosses political ideologies. It can be assigned to one group or another, but if we talk we find that we agree on several points. Everyone is concerned about how our money is spent. The problem is that in a large district, COD is a very small portion of our tax bill. So small that most people don’t pay attention. But when collected it is a huge pile of money. At issue is what has the 2/3-billion dollars of building referendum been spent on. Who’s vision is it and who shaped the plan? The operating budget is underspent, while tuition goes up, tax bills go up, and the unspent Balance Fund grows. That almost $200M savings account is growing without a publicly shaped plan. Faculty have asked the purpose of the fund for over 6 years, we were told it was for an emergency; if the BIC was destroyed or we went on strike. Honestly? Now we know it’s for other things, including buildings. A balanced budget is good and a planned savings is good. But, if you are going to save 10% of the budget every year for something other than operations, then say so up front and make it a line item in the budget. If you are going to take $50M of operating budget for construction, tell the students and the taxpayers you are going to do it. I asked for a clarification of this in July, and I’m still waiting for a response.
Education goals and issues are questions that need to be honestly answered by the community. Are we meeting your needs? Are we serving the non-traditional aged student needs as well as we should. There is a lot of marketing to 17, 18, and 19 year olds. What is the marketing plan for 35 year olds?
What I can say with confidence is that regardless of your age or needs we provide you with an outstanding educational experience because of the instructors we have in the room with you.
COD as a four year college? This is another issue that was initiated in the President’s office. Actually when the office was in Palatine at Harper College. Because there was no conversation with the Faculty Senate, we formed our own task force and surveyed the faculty. It is a mixed response that we have received so far. Four-year degrees would benefit some programs very well, while some faculty are opposed. Since, we have had no input to the President’s plan, we are like the blind man describing an elephant. Few know what the specifics are about the plan or the legislation that will be proposed. For certain the degrees will be very specific degrees at a greater cost than our normal tuition. I don’t think most people realize this when asking “will COD be a 4 year college soon?”
Thank you for tonight’s opportunity and I look forward to answering your questions this evening.
Collins: Exec VP at COD. Thanks for the opportunity to discuss. Agrees w/ Professor Hansen, everything should be transparent. Public owns the college. Gave a brief summary of his career starting as an engineer and moving through faculty and administration roles. Extensive experience in quality evaluation of community colleges. CoD is extremely well run. The faculty is as good as it gets. We are very fortunate to be in this rich county where we can achieve this level of excellence. CC system as created by legislators originally was supposed be funded in thirds, with a third from the state, the students, and local property taxes. Nowadays we receive only about 5% from the state. Yes, the college is very conservative in budgeting and saving, because of the state’s poor financial condition. Better to err with money in the bank. College is subject to a law limiting property tax extension. College has AAA ratings, highest possible. Thus our bonds are less expensive.
McGuire: Thanks to League, references her pride in being a member of the board of trustees. Lists responsibilities of Board – audit, oversight of president, approval of contracts and degree programs etc, advocate at state and federal level. Getting a handle on everything is a big job. (Holds up Dec board packet to demonstrate how much material it is.) Has submitted hundreds of questions about her board material. Gets responses back from college administration, all the questions and responses are shared among all trustees. Acknowledges people’s interest in seeing more discussion at meetings but not practical. Transparency: shows a set of documents available on the COD website, a great deal of public information is available to anyone. References imprest fund which has come under fire, now all online. (She begins to rush as she sees time signals.) Mentions that issues with students, such as advising, and issues with faculty (not glossed) are being addressed.