LLC instructor Sue Williams told the board that she has been a college teacher since the mid 1980s and that the classes she is teaching now are the largest she has ever taught.
“The basic values of this college have been violated,” science instructor Dennis Gilbert said. He asked the board to correct what he called a misstep that the college has taken.
Student government president Michael Weed read a letter to the board from his chief-of-staff Robert Schumacher. Schumacher’s letter states in part that, “At the start of this fall term our campus underwent what is a significant change; a significant change that ultimately impedes our campus from achieving its core objective, student success.”
He explained that he has less access to his writing teacher, adding that other students whom he mentors have experienced similar strains. Schumacher acknowledged the budget constraints that the college is facing, but concluded that limiting students’ access to instructors, who are an invaluable resource, is counterproductive to what LCC is all about.
In his closing statement, board chairman Pat Albright said that it is a policy of the board not to comment when people come to talk at board meetings. He, therefore, spoke on the matter of increased class sizes at the end of the meeting.
Albright said that when he started as a writing teacher in 1975, he had a book stating that, to be effective as a teacher, writing classes should be no larger than18 students.
“I have to confess that I can’t argue with the folks who came here to speak,” Albright said. “Except for the fact there is a bigger picture, I absolutely agree that we should have small class sizes, especially in writing classes.”
Albright went on to say that the college is in a difficult situation, likening it to a balancing act.
“Balancing issues is limiting our ability to do what we know is right,” Albright said.
President Mary Spilde said that analysis of the relevant data had not yet been completed and that she only had an overview regarding the impact of the increases on certain classes.
A cursory look, Spilde commented, suggests that most classes were not that much bigger than the target number.
“It’s not universal,” Spilde said. “Some were larger.”
She said that rather than jumping to conclusions about the class sizes, a closer look at the data is warranted, adding that the information will be shared once it has been reviewed.
“That’s one piece,” Spilde said. “The other is that this was part of a collective bargaining agreement, which allowed us to put more money on the table, and we have a million and half riding on the budget based on that.”
She explained that the class registration increase was part of a consensus agreement and a budget recommendation from the budget subcommittee.
“You can’t just unilaterally pull out of a collective bargaining agreement,” Spilde said. “Let’s make an evidence-based decision before we decide to undo anything.”