Monday, April 11, 2011

So When Does It Become Our Fight?

Over the past couple of weeks I have heard many of my colleagues say “This is not our fight.” This has become an all too common lament concerning the most recent events at the City Colleges of Chicago. I have had students ask me “So where do you stand?” While I am not comfortable having those conversations with our students, after hearing them on the radio Friday night it became evident to me that not only are our students fighting for themselves, they are also fighting for us. During the radio interview the host asked the students “So what are your concerns?” The student leader quickly responded, “For each six figure salary paid to a person at the district office two new faculty could be hired.” The student leader was absolutely right. My question is why are we not saying that? When does it become our fight? Does it become our fight only when it’s time to negotiate our contract?
Does it become our fight when the Chancellor and the Board finally come to the realization that the new Presidents they plan to hire will never be able to fulfill the “performance measures” approved by the Board because their non academic background does not prepare them to even know how to address those measures?
Does it become our fight when those same Presidents point the finger at faculty and say that as faculty we failed to retain, graduate or facilitate transfer for our students?
Does it become our fight when the decision is made to outsource remediation, thereby reducing our college enrollment, thereby reducing the need for a large number of our adult educators?
Does it become our fight when the Reinvention consultants decide to eliminate more programs on the campuses thereby reducing the number of faculty needed to teach courses that serve as prerequisites for those same programs?
Does it become our fight with the announcement of the next reduction in force and the loss of more clerical staff and laboratory assistants?
Does it become our fight when this zero based budget (which is code for your department is getting ZERO) determined by people at the district office who don’t have a clue about what we do or what it takes to run our classrooms on a daily basis; is mandated by the Chancellor-an individual who has demonstrated in her own affairs that in addition to the English language, budgeting is not within her skill set.
At what point do we stand up and acknowledge that Yes, this is our fight? At what point do we support the students who are attempting to support us? At what point do we support our brothers and sisters in 1708 whom have suffered the greatest loss and have yet to receive a fair contract and a decent wage? 1708 who continue to be strung along, with no contract while millions of dollars are spent at the district office on consultants? We have all seen the news, read the Board reports and know about the hiring of ill-prepared people at ridiculously high salaries at the District office. We all know that the Chancellor and her Vice Chancellor minions are trying to run seven independently accredited institutions of higher education from the District office.
With all due respect to the history and struggles of my African-American colleagues I make mention of this not to minimize that struggle but rather to highlight a comparison that is undeniable. What is currently happening at the City Colleges of Chicago is akin to the indoctrination of slavery. Once the slave was purchased the first thing to happen was that his or her name was changed. The slave was renamed by the Master, new school logos, and new school colors. The slave had no individual identity other than being known as a house slave, at district or a field slave, on the campus. House slaves always lived at bit better than the field slaves because house slaves were in closer proximity to the Master.
Slaves were taught that they were dumb and they needed the Master to survive, as in the CCC “case for change”. The slave was constantly reminded that he or she had no power, no right to self-authorship, no rights period. No autonomy for any campus, everything must be approved by District Office. Everything must be approved by a Vice Chancellor. Everything must be approved by Cheryl Hyman.
Finally the slave was indoctrinated to love their Master; so much so that many slaves turned on each other, or extolled the virtues of the Master, notice your campus Administrators as they try to sell you on the reinvention at meetings and in conversation.
Like you, I am concerned about possible retaliation. In these economic times, who does not need their job? But let’s face it, we can be promised shared governance. We can be promised academic freedom. We can be promised a lot of things. The reality is that the promises are empty. The decisions are being made by the Chancellor, the Board Chairman and the half million dollar consulting firms that are deciding on ourschool logos, our school colors, our school programs and our student’s graduation.
When does it become our fight?


  1. It's our fight right now and anyone who doesn't think so is dead wrong! Keep up the great commentary but I hope that suggestions for action begin appearing soon.

  2. How does one create the impression that they are being an effective leader? Here are some of the textbook steps bad leaders take:

    1. Fire the old administrators and create "your own team." Keep in mind one's team is built for the good of the chancellor or leader and exists to accomplish her vision, not the college's. This also creates the impression of looking tough and strong. Actually, randomly firing people to bring in your own is about the weakest thing one can do.

    2. Take a corporate model (in this case, the reinvent model from ComEd) and attempt to integrate it in an entirely different sector (in this case, a community college). Improvement is laudable, but do we really want to take corporate models of fraud, corruption, and greed from Lehman Bros., Enron, Tyco, World Com, Merrill Lynch, Bear Sterns and many others, and integrate them into education?

    3. Spend hundreds of thousands or even millions on PR and marketing to create the impression of effectiveness through words, not action. Every year, hundreds of colleges implement new marketing and PR plans with input from faculty and staff and for only a few thousand dollars.

    4. Cater to the board and ignore the advice, wisdom, and counsel of everyone else. After all, the board is your only boss. Boards don't want intellectual and academic leaders and they don't care about economic development or learning. They want waiters and waitresses. And in this case they got what they wanted.

    The story is always the same: new leader attempts to strong-arm change on an organizational culture they don't understand and, over time, when the words do not match the action and the changes do more damage than good, the leader is pushed aside. It has happened hundreds of times before and the result is always the same.

    Hyman isn't the first to attempt this. And she won't be the last to fail.

  3. I was on board with your post until you compared this situation to slavery. CCC teachers are paid. They are not physically abused and raped. They are allowed to leave the campus and walk the streets without fear of being lynched or jailed. I could go on, but I think you get my point.

    I understand that you're using this as a rhetorical device, but despite your disclaimer, comparing anything that isn't actual slavery to the enslavement of Africans in the United States is insulting, condescending, diminishes your otherwise good points, and will likely alienate people who would otherwise support your cause.