Let the people decide; Put program closures to a campus-wide vote

Commentary by Jim Salt, Faculty Association President

Editor’s note: The following has been edited for length and clarity.
The following is a condensed version of a Faculty Association response sent May 18, 2015 to President Spilde’s email and to faculty. The letter refutes claims that the administration had been responsive to the association’s analysis of the projected economic impact of the administration’s proposal to close the programs.
President Spilde,
A number of faculty members have: 1) already noted the impropriety of your and Chair Albright’s interference in Faculty Bargaining Unit communications between members, 2) rejected the administration’s and board claims about the impacts of your plan to close college programs, 3) criticized the administration’s unprofessional and anti-academic handling of the matter, 4) rejected the competing explanations offered by the board and the administration for limiting attendance at the board meeting and refusing to move the meeting to a location meeting everyone’s needs, 5) confirmed our report regarding your reaction to the board vote to lay off faculty and close programs (a reaction documented by the Torch: https://www.lcctorch.com/article/programs-axed-board-gets-an-earful), and 6) in general expressed their increasing recognition that our college is being badly mismanaged by your administration.
And here we are again with the administration misrepresenting its response to the association’s analysis of the economic impact of the proposed program closures, exaggerating the significance of the differences between our respective analyses on the aspects of the economic impact of the program closures that the administration does analyze, and ignoring the gaping holes in your analysis that we have been pointing out for a month now.
As previously noted, the administration exaggerates the expense savings next year, counts only a portion of the income these programs produce, and assumes, with no evidence or argument, that you’ll magically get nearly all of the lost revenue back by expecting students that would have come to LCC for these programs would come anyhow, despite a student survey showing only nine percent of students currently in the program said they would have come here if their program had not been at Lane.
Claiming that the administration had “made clear its view that the association’s analysis of the economic impact was flawed and that the admin’s method is a long-standing construct and methodology,” is not the same thing as actually demonstrating that including all revenues (as we do) is the “flawed” approach, or documenting the assumptions in your numbers. Simply claiming “that’s not how you traditionally have done it” does not constitute an actual argument for your method or evidence of “flaws” in ours.
This is a key reason that faculty and others are so disappointed in the administration and board. It’s not just that you are closing programs and cutting jobs, nor even that you’re doing so based upon skewed data and grossly unreasonable assumptions; it’s that we have pointed out the limitations in your data and provided evidence of the unreasonableness of your assumptions and you have simply ignored these, making superficial claims about “methodological differences,” saying things like “that’s not how we do it” and “that would be hard,” while continuing to ignore the revenues from all of the courses students in these programs provide, and avoiding the entire topic of your “88 percent recovery assumption” like the plague.
Ignoring such data and criticisms is a conscious decision, and an inexcusable one, crossing the line into malfeasance and bordering on mendacity. The fact is that we don’t know any administrators who actually believe the “88 percent assumption” and yet the administration continues to provide data based upon it to the Board of Education.
That simply isn’t honest work, and is just the latest episode in a long history of the administration making decisions and then defending them in ways that no academic institution should ever do: ignoring evidence, appealing to your qualifications rather than the merit of your data, making up “talking points” for board meetings to try to convince board members to support your proposal and treating the decision like a competition to be won and celebrated rather than a crucial decision for the college that needs to rely upon accurate empirical data and open and honest discussions.
However, if you truly believe the association’s conclusion is wrong, if you really believe that your numbers are more accurate than ours, if your email to the faculty on Sunday was really to try to get to the truth of the matter and to have a genuine public conversation about it and not simply an exercise in damage control, then we propose that we hold an open public meeting where administration representatives and association members, along with other members of our community can fully review the merits of your arguments, analysis and actions.
We propose that you table the board’s vote to close the programs and let that decision be determined by a college-wide vote on whether your plan is going to save the college money, as you claim, or if the administration’s refusal to count all of the revenue and to assume, without evidence or argument, that we’ll somehow still hold onto the revenues the programs generate are fatal flaws in your plan.
The association had previously proposed to put this question of the economic impact of the program closures to a neutral arbitrator and had committed to support her/his findings, but your administration refused to agree. Okay, so let’s put it to the members of the administration, faculty, classified staff and LCC student body who have to live with the results of this decision: One person. One vote. You make your case, we’ll make ours. The association will support the outcome of that vote; will the administration?