“Is this an incredible cloak of silence between the administration and the faculty through all this?” asked Electronics Technology program faculty member Doug Weiss. “I remember there being a lot more communication and looking at a lot more alternatives before this sort of action was ever taken,” he said.
Weiss was speaking at the Faculty Council’s public forum on Tuesday, June 2, convened so that people could air their views and concerns regarding the Board of Education’s decision to cut two programs and the process that led to that vote.
Almost 60 people attended, including faculty, administration and classified staff.
Council co-chair Joseph Colton invited attendees to speak, starting the discussion with the question: “How shall we respond to the recent program cuts, and what course should we recommend moving forward?”
Communication and trust, or the lack thereof, in the decision-making process received the most attention, among discussions about budget criteria, job trend data, the validity of data and the handling of Board of Education meetings.
Weiss complained of hitting a wall repeatedly in his attempt to help cut costs in the electronics program, with no one in the administration willing to answer direct questions or to look at alternative ideas. “We had all kinds of ideas for cost savings, but we were completely ignored,” he said.
Health professions instructor Christina Howard criticized the budgeting process, which relies on employment forecasts as a primary guide, stating that there are several factors beyond this one simple metric. She called for a formal institutional structure that would incorporate faculty expertise into the process.
“We want to help guide evidence-based decisions and are qualified and passionate about it,” Howard said. “[We] can do it if there’s a structure that will welcome that and will be more than input. It would be reciprocal in nature.”
Language, Literature and Communication instructor Russell Shitabata recalled a time when faculty and administration worked together. “In 1999, it was a far different college than it is now. There was more participation and coordination between employee groups,” he said. “Fellow faculty and managers and administrators worked to involve faculty in things, like in the self-study, in hiring committees.”
But since that time, “I feel the college has become more of a top-down structure,” Shitabata said. “The fact that the union has to go out and get data and put together a case in support of those programs already is an indicator that something’s gone awry.”
Shitabata continued, “In a true relationship, the faculty involved in those programs that are under scrutiny, would have been involved in the process of scrutinizing. They would have been participants in collecting and putting together that data, and I think that’s a big part of why there’s so much tension on this campus. It’s the degree to which faculty feel excluded from the future directions of the college programs.”
Faculty Association President Jim Salt reiterated his criticism of the college’s handling of the program cuts decision. “There’s a fissure in the college right now. It’s because of a lack of trust in the process,” he said.
Salt continued, “I don’t plan on giving up the fight to protect these programs because they’re being cut based upon a misrepresentation of reality,” he said. “It’s not in our community’s interest. It’s not in our students’ interest. It’s not even in the college’s financial interest.”
The power differential between administration and faculty received mention in various forms throughout the forum. Communication and discussion do not seem productive to all stakeholders when decision makers appear to disregard input and simply follow their own agendas. Speakers want budget planning and program review to be a dialogue.
The meeting progressed with people speaking respectfully on problems with organizational structure and information bottlenecks. Some commented on the administration’s reliance on interim managers and department chairs to convey information to faculty, often without success.
LCC President Mary Spilde identified under-funding by the state as the underlying cause of the current budget concerns. “We’re fighting over the scraps in terms of the money we’re getting from the state,” she said.
The meeting ended with incoming Faculty Council Co-chair Steve McQuiddy’s closing remarks. He encouraged attendees to think and talk about what’s going on, saying that this process will continue through the summer into the fall.
“Let truth and falsehood grapple in the open arena,” he said, quoting John Milton from the 1640s. “We’ve got some uncomfortable things to talk about. There’s going to be more of that,” he said. “Let’s do it. Let’s put it out there and let’s find a way to make these things work.”