Despite calls by the Faculty Association and others for LCC’s administration to put their “numbers” — claiming net savings from closing the Auto Body & Paint and Electronics programs — up against the Faculty Association’s analysis for public inspection and a public vote, the administration has said not a word — over two weeks later.
Clearly the administration knows that their calculations — ignoring much of the revenue these programs bring in, and fantasizing that the vast majority of students who would have come for these programs will come to Lane anyhow — won’t stand up to public scrutiny. How could they?
So, instead, the plan must be to wait us out, to “try to get to the end of the term” and hope this goes away. Such non-responsiveness points to “the college’s [bigger] most pressing problem,” as editor Penny Scott aptly wrote in The Torch on May 22.
The problem isn’t simply the devastating results of this decision for the students and faculty members in these programs, cut for literally no good reason; it’s the “distrust” and “fear” (more on that in a bit) that the administration and board breed in such non-responsiveness.
If they can’t even be counted on to respond to evidence documenting that their figures and assumptions are “unreasonable,” then there is no possibility for reason, and our college truly is “broken.”
If those with ultimate control in such matters are unaccountable to reality, there’s no process or “leaders” to have trust in. There can be no confidence if there is no accountability.
Yes, the board allowed everyone to talk (albeit not allowing everyone into the room and cutting speakers’ time to talk). Yes, we have a “college governance” system that is supposed to be making the “big decisions” at the college. And yes, administrators are usually “nice” to employees and students, and some faculty members (a minority) in previous evaluations of the administration praise the president for her openness and “communication skills.”
But we also have yet another example of blatant non-responsiveness on a crucial issue; blatant exclusion of the “college governance system” from the actual decision-making; many faculty members telling the association and saying publicly that the administration only pretends to be open and that many of them are actually fearful of criticizing the administration publicly; and a majority of faculty in previous surveys criticizing the administration for “manipulation” and “dishonesty” and ever greater “top-down management.”
Which of these two portraits of the administration is accurate? Which side is right? How can they both be true?
This paradox, like many paradoxes, is easily resolved: it is both.
The administration does appear to be inclusive and friendly, but also actually holds very closely to control; makes arguments that seem to be responses but that don’t actually respond to the evidence that shows their position is unfounded; talks about administration openness but makes actual decisions behind tightly closed doors and then defends them unequivocally regardless of merit or counter evidence, relying upon glib defenses, shifts of topic, and criticisms of critics, rather than academically honest responses to counter-evidence.
As in Hans Christian Andersen’s children’s fable, when it’s pointed out that the emperor is actually naked, the administration simply shakes their head at the innocent child and continues marching down the road, holding fast to the storyline.
Worse still, fears of speaking up aren’t limited to appearing “unsophisticated enough to see the emperor’s beautiful frock”; they come from knowing that there may be a real cost to not going along with the story (and implications that if you want administration’s support on your needs, you better support its actions).
Faculty members who speak up are criticized, efforts are made to marginalize them, meetings are canceled, other administrators are told not to meet with them, the administration works to find “other faculty leaders” to work with, critics are accused of personal or social bias or “incivility,” or, ironically, of having engaged in ad hominem attacks themselves.
Managers who are too “independent” are quickly reminded to whom they answer, and then either toe the line, leave for other jobs or are simply “let go” (if they’re even hired in the first place; it’s well-known the president tells candidates for administrative positions that her primary criterion is “loyalty,” and it isn’t loyalty to the college or academic principles).
These are the two faces of modern managerialism at Lane today: the administration presents itself as open and reasonable, but in fact, is highly controlling, manipulative and retaliatory.
The lack of real shared governance, lack of true responsiveness and trust and fear by many faculty members that they may be punished if they speak publicly against the administration and its actions, is the deeper challenge we face today.
Along with reversing the unsupportable cuts of our college’s programs, we need a wholesale shift from the claimed openness and shared governance to real openness and real shared governance at Lane Community College, and from an administration that pretends to be responsive to one that truly is responsive to all members of our college.