Commentary by Lee Imonen, Art and Applied Design Faculty
The long-standing habits of top-down management and rubber-stamp boards have proven not only to lead to the college’s further programmatic and financial decline, but also the disempowerment and dissolution of many college employees.
Relationships at Lane, and with our broader community, are built on a social contract and a set of core values. Sadly, these values and principles seem rarely apparent in the process for decision-making and governance structures of the college.
The present ill-advised and poorly justified administration recommendations and short-sighted board approval to cut programs, lay off instructors and restructure programs is just the latest evidence of this reality in which we find ourselves.
As programs continue to be shifted from credit to non-credit, and now evidently are slated to have their redesign outsourced to private industry, who should be the ones to raise the alarm?
Honestly, we all should. It is the responsibility of all of us to consider and stand up for the long-term best interests of our college. This means faculty, staff, managers, administrators, the board and, most importantly, students. It is their degrees, certificates, marketability and futures that ultimately hang in the balance over these decisions.
Within the current faculty angst and uproar over the program eliminations is a deep-seated lack of trust in the college’s ability to govern effectively and serve the long-term best interests of the college. For many of us faculty, classified, managers and students, this statement rings true.
Where are the necessary checks and balances in a system, which give final say to those who created it? The college’s vast expertise is reduced to an “input only” capacity. No wonder so many employees at the college feel so marginalized in their work.
How are faculty and classified employees expected to engage in the work of the college when their opinions and experience are so often minimized or overlooked altogether? How is it ethical to chastise them for not doing so, when it is clear that it often amounts to so little?
Recently much has been made by the administration about the newly developed Program Review Process. A process which was developed jointly by faculty, staff and administrators and which looks to provide real and necessary input from all stakeholders in assessing and determining the work of their programs.
It seems disingenuous to at once applaud the collaborative nature and importance of the review process while eliminating programs rather than reviewing them using the newly developed criteria. How are faculty to trust that their programs won’t fall under that same faulty and undefined set of measures?
I agree that the college is broken, a sentiment expressed by union leadership and held by many across the campus in all variety of positions.
What are we going to do about it?
I challenge the college to heed the recommendations set out by the recent NWCCU Accreditation process:
“In order to ensure the quality and relevancy of its program and service offerings, it is recommended that Lane Community College administration, faculty, and staff continue to engage in establishing and implementing comprehensive program and service review processes that are informed by data and connect to its planning and institutional effectiveness processes (Standard 2.C, 4.A).”
These programs: Electronics, Auto Body and Paint and Medical Office Assistant, deserve the same considerations being offered the rest of the college through the newly agreed upon Program Review Process.
I further challenge the college to adhere to and go beyond the NWCCU accreditation recommendations concerning college governance and shared decision-making processes. Create a truly inclusive and collaborative system for college governance.
“In order to ensure a widely understood and effective system of governance that supports mission fulfillment it is recommended that Lane Community College review and clearly define the authority, roles, responsibilities and communication methods associated with its adopted decision-making structure (Standard 2.A).”
I challenge the Board of Education to think critically, ask questions and seek answers at a deeper level. Don’t wait for the better options to be handed to you. Seek them out, do your homework and help to create the necessary solutions to the problems we face collectively. Drive to Salem and lobby.
The board position is more than saying yes, and fulfilling your philanthropic obligations. Some of you know this and others seem to have missed that memo.
Lastly, I challenge faculty and staff to re-engage in the work of the college. Fill the myriad of vacant committee positions and appointments. Make your voices heard and your opinions valued. Do not take “no” for an answer.
Stand up for your programs and those around you that need your support. Don’t stay below the radar and try and ride it out. Active engagement and participation is the only sure way to influence change.
The college is broken, and the collective engagement of the community is what will be needed to fix it.