Conflict continues; Administration process called undemocratic

Conflict continues; Administration process called undemocratic

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Credit: Shashana Herzog

Credit: Shashana Herzog

The programs selected for elimination at Lane will end, unless something unexpected happens. They are only part of the story, however; the way in which decisions are made at Lane is in question.

According to LCCEA President Jim Salt, at the Budget Committee meeting on May 20, members Twila Jacobson, Carmen Urbina, Matt Keating and Bob Ackerman “not only refused to approve the proposed budget, but criticized the process for being undemocratic and rushed, and the substance for including program cuts that were harmful and unnecessary.”

Their protests failed to change anything and the budget, which includes the program cuts, was approved. Regardless of this latest development, the potential still exists for a different kind of governance at Lane. This would require one of two things to happen:

1. The administration and board advocating reversal of the decision to cut the programs and then enacting a different inclusive decision-making governance system at Lane.

2. People, faculty and others, speaking for their convictions in numbers large enough that they can’t be dismissed or ignored.

When stakeholders watch from the stands, instead of getting into the game, the status quo remains.

The Board of Education does not exist to maintain the status quo or to support the administration. Rather, board members are elected to safeguard the college, which should include evaluating whether processes are fair and conducted appropriately.

Board members Keating and Ackerman not only voted against the cuts at the May 13 meeting, they think the process was undemocratic and rushed according to Salt. So do plenty of other people.

My support for reversing the decision to cut programs is based on there being too many conflicting opinions. Board members are elected to protect the institution and, therefore, should at least investigate what’s going on.

I’m calling for a prudent delay.

I do not favor top-down management input-only-from-others models, even though they are commonplace. Lane is definitely not an anomaly in this regard. Many can identify with the effects being felt at Lane. I’ve seen this over and over in the corporate world.

Most companies I worked with had top-down management from their inception. Resentment and sabotage were everywhere, mostly in the form of energy-draining perpetual gossip, arguments, complaints and litigation.

One company that I loved working with, started out with a genuine shared governance system. It’s employees were among the happiest and enthusiastic I encountered. They didn’t want to leave and rarely did, and there was a wait list of people wanting to work there.

The company was enjoying huge success with a healthy bottom-line. Then it was bought out. Top-down management became the new order of the day, and the life drained out of the place. A climate of distrust and resentment replaced the once open and energetic environment.

The job of changing a culture from one of distrust to trust and collaboration begins with radical honesty, and it takes time and patience. Things often get worse before they get better on the way to creating a thriving healthy culture, but it’s well worth the effort.

Rare are those who want power and control for their own sake. Rather, power and control are usually a means to an end that people really believe in. I have no doubt whatsoever that LCC President Mary Spilde is working hard towards what she believes is best for the college.

Giving up control can be scary — it can feel like things might fall apart. That’s what I think we’re seeing with the administration. Others aren’t trusted to make the best decisions or trusted to follow through and be accountable.

I’m not taking sides when I say that Spilde should yield. It shouldn’t be about “us versus them.” The college currently has this divisive posturing, which is perpetuated by both sides, and that’s what needs to change. Part and parcel of a new governance system would require that Salt and faculty do some yielding too.

I hate to say this, but I think programs will need to be cut. But I’m concerned about the way in which the current three were chosen and then dispensed with so quickly.

If programs must be cut, let them be chosen in a different way by different people. If the same three are chosen then it would be obvious that they must go — I doubt whether a complaint would be heard anywhere.