The co-sponsors of the Harold Washington Community Roundtable on Reinvention, held about two months ago at the Chicago Temple because the CCC cancelled their room reservation at their college, delivered a list of questions and concerns to the Chancellor of the CCC, Cheryl Hyman. Below we reproduce this document and the letter they sent to Hyman. A video of the Reinvention Roundtable was produced by Labor Beat, which we linked to in our 10/2/11 post. Evidently there is much disarray and dislocation being caused by the Reinvention, which the CCC administration is trying to keep from public view. We believe that it is very important to publicize this situation and even more important for the various affected sectors to come together to oppose these attacks on public higher education and the working people that make it possible.
Dear Chancellor Hyman:
On September 15, 2011 the Harold Washington College Chapter of Local 1600, the Faculty Council of Harold Washington College, Local 1708 (which represents all CCC clerical and technical workers) and CCCLOC (which represents most CCC adjunct faculty) co-sponsored the Harold Washington College Community Roundtable on Reinvention. At this discussion we had panelists representing each of the organizations listed above and, in the audience, a variety of HWC and other CCC students, faculty members and staff, as well as community members and administrators both from HWC and CCC District Office.
Please find enclosed a document summarizing the questions and concerns raised at the event. This summary has been reviewed and edited by each of the panelists. The collection of views expressed in this document does not represent a consensus of those present at the event. They are rather a reflection of the variety of reactions to the Reinvention by those who spoke at the event, either from the panel or from the audience.
We forward you this information in fulfillment of a commitment we made to our union chapter membership and to the co-sponsors of the event to share the issues discussed during the Roundtable with the leadership of the CCC, HWC, and Local 1600. It is also the hope of every co-sponsor that this information will help the CCC administration gain a better perspective of how the developments arising from the Reinvention are affecting every sector of the Harold Washington College Community.
María de Jesús Estrada, Chair
Harold Washington Chapter of AFT Local 1600
Héctor R. Reyes, Vice Chair
Harold Washington Chapter of AFT Local 1600
cc Mr. Alvin Bisarya, Vice Chancellor of Strategy and Institutional Intelligence, CCC
Mr. Donald L. Laackman, President, Harold Washington College
Mr. Perry Buckley, President, AFT Local 1600
Key Questions and Concerns Expressed at the HWC Community Roundtable
on Reinvention Held at the Chicago Temple on September 15, 2011
2. Full-time and part-time professionals have lost many coworkers due to transfers, layoffs or retirement due to a stressful work environment caused by management, particularly at the Office of Information Technology (OIT). “There used to be six full-timers and two part-timers. We are down to three full-timers and two part-timers. We lost our webmaster during last fall’s wave of illegal layoffs. The OIT supervisor lacks enough human resources to cover all the IT needs of the college and therefore repeatedly engages in practices that breach the Union contract or displays abusive behavior toward the workers.” A common sentiment is that “There is not enough bodies to do the work that needs to be done and there is a lot of pressure on us because the supervisor comes down on us pretty hard.” Even though as the college’s president became aware of the effects of this insufficiency and pledged to hire more IT personnel, the main point is that the situation should have never degenerated to the current state. This is the result of unwise removal of the IT personnel from the college through the pervasive practice of one-dimensionally examined centralization by District Office administrators who have zero or little experience in education; this concern is one that people continue to raise regarding Reinvention proposals.
3. “The Reinvention contains some good aspects, but much of it has resulted in mass destruction. The clerical and technical workers represented by Local 1708 are a foundational element in the architecture of the CCC because they are the frontline workers. They are the first group of people that students meet when they come to a college seeking services. In the guise of the pursuit of best practices, the CCC administration through its Reinvention has ignored the practice of showing respect for the foundational success of 1708 members for more than 30 years. Now, there is a total disconnection between the CCC administration and 1708 and the outcome, under the pretense of centralization of services, has been a significant number of layoffs that have negatively affected the capacity of 1708 personnel to properly provide student services.” The President of 1708 Dolores Whithers asserted, “It’s more than communication, it’s more than a perception; it’s actually a destruction of what we know as an educational system…How do you support student success when you take the very foundational person and you display that person, that office, you take their duties and you throw them up in the air? There are offices in which the number of 1708 staff has been reduced from four to one. The part-time 1708 personnel is overworked and underpaid. They have no benefits and no right to take days off.” She also claimed, “There is a reversal of our system in play right now where part-time will become the more predominant jobs and full-time will become the minority of the jobs.”
4. 1708 understands that the proposals of the task forces of the Reinvention are taken seriously only if these proposals are in sync with the preconceived notions of the top leadership of the CCC. And they are implemented from the top. Furthermore, the experience of 1708 has led them to conclude that there are a number of members of the task forces that do not understand what a labor contract is.
5. “The total disrespect toward the clerical/technical personnel has reached previously unseen lows, with 1708 having filed more grievances now than in the previous ten years. The administration needs to start opening real lines of communication.”
6. The cavalier ways of the Reinvention “have led to a juggling of the duties between the members of Local 1708 and Local 1600, with local 1708 being compelled to file grievances to address contract violations.”
7. “The major effect of the demands and actions of the CCC administration through the Reinvention has been to downgrade the membership of 1708 from a professional unit to a collection of professional clerks.” It has transformed 1708 from traditionally being very cooperative with the administration to becoming very suspicious of the intents and decisions from CCC administration.
8. 1708 is watching the effects of the Reinvention and sees the City Colleges being transformed, but until now it has been hard to figure out what CCC is being transformed into.
9. Regarding the figures often cited by the administration of declining student enrollment, it is important for people to understand that given the work that 1708 personnel performs, they are the first ones to see the information concerning student enrollment, and that what they have observed is the growth of enrollment, in contradiction to the claims of the CCC administration.
10. “The District Faculty Council met with the CCC Chancellor and her staff earlier this year after it perceived an atmosphere of fear and explicit concerns by the faculty that they did not know what was going on with Reinvention.” There was and still is a concern that a lot of talk between the administration and the Faculty Council has taken place, with no discernible outcome observed afterwards. “Sometimes there is a lot of talk and then you leave the meeting and nothing happens and then that becomes entertainment.” In response, the College and District Faculty Councils have taken a proactive approach to communication with the administration.
11. “In meetings with the administration the Faculty Council has emphasized trust building and asked for clear disclosure. In one response to this emphasis in terms of Reinvention, the administration offered two poster sessions about the work of the task forces. Still, there is much work to be done.”
12. “The Faculty Councils have consistently pressed for more proactive responses to faculty-administrative relations through more faculty involvement, maintenance of the curriculum approval process, and consistent follow-up with administration on issues still to be addressed.”
13. The Faculty Council is also continuously reaching out to local task force members to inform the Faculty Council about developments in the task forces.
14. “The College and District Faculty Councils are interested in : (1) ensuring adequate cross-communication among individual task forces, (2) figuring out new strategies to enhance communication and transparency from the administration, and (3) ensuring that administration follows through on stated commitments.”
15. Adjunct faculty feel left out of the politics of the Reinvention. “So far it has not left a good impression in terms of transparency, communication, or clear cut goals. They understand that most students come to the CCC needing more than a just certificate. The quality of the relationship between the instructor and the student and the classroom environment created by instructors are essential to ultimate professionalism and academic success, such that quality teaching will hopefully become and remain a top priority. The adjuncts believe in the importance of a second chance for students and thus are hopeful about Reinvention’s recent attempts to become more transparent. There is concern that budget cuts resulting in personnel layoffs will ultimately affect long-term morale, availability of student services, and the quality and quantity of those who constitute the “front line” in encouraging our students to persevere.” They are concerned that students will leave the CCC with some form of credentials that will leave them with a low salary ten years from now.
16. The Reinvention’s public portrayal of the City Colleges as a failure, citing questionable student enrollment and success numbers, has resulted in pronounced anger and demoralization among faculty and staff. They are still waiting for an apology from the administration regarding the misrepresentation of said failure rates. During this year’s district faculty development week the new provost and college presidents were introduced. Some of these individuals described how they were the children of immigrants and that through sheer determination and support of others they managed to overcome great odds to obtain their bachelor’s degrees after ten years or more of tenacious work. These individuals and the CCC administration missed the rich irony that these stories today would be described as a failure by the current criteria of the Reinvention.
17. At the beginning of this year, the level of frustration with Reinvention had reached such a high pitch that the District Faculty Council felt compelled to call for a full-time faculty meeting at Malcolm X College. Dozens of grievances were aired by the faculty, but perhaps more telling was the fact that many of those faculty members that attended the meeting (between 150 and 200) came to the meeting because they thought that a vote of no confidence on the Chancellor was going to be taken.
18. After the firing of all college presidents, the new hires had the four goals of Reinvention added to their job descriptions. Through email messages everyone was told that every aspect of our jobs was to be judged through the prism of Reinvention. Then, after the administration proceed to make changes, large and small, we were told that not everything had to do with Reinvention. What are we supposed to believe?
19. “So far the greatest impact of Reinvention has taken place outside the confines of the task forces, such as the poorly examined and executed layoffs and or transfers of 1708 and 1600 personnel; the business-modeled centralization through District Office of purchasing, personnel reallocation, the fading of the individual colleges identities, the execution of one graduation ceremony for all colleges at UIC, the taking over of large rooms at every college to be assigned for reservation directly by District Office, etc. are all outside of the scope of the task forces. The four goals of the Reinvention were decided beforehand (we do not know by whom,) and then, handed down to the people that were recruited into the task forces.”
20. The first goal of Reinvention, which seems to be the most important one judging from the emphasis placed on it by the administration, that emphasizes the evaluation of every program, structure and course from the stand point of the economic value of the credentials that CCC students are supposed to obtain is particularly worrisome to the faculty and staff. It makes many people ponder about the fragility of programs and courses and the indifference to the benefits of a liberal arts education in the mind’s eye of the upper level administration of the CCC.
21. It is hard to miss the immense contradiction posed by the hiring of about 50 administrators at District Office at cost of more than $5 million, while the members of Local 1708 are being offered no pay raises for their new contract. The members of the task forces have looked at the budget priorities of the CCC in contrast to other higher education institutions across the nation. They found out that typically the whole budget of these institutions has a higher fraction of the budget assigned to education and the lower fraction goes into administration, while in contrast at the CCC it is the opposite: more money is spent on administration than on education.
22. Every member of the Roundtable panel as well as many people in the audience expressed their dismay at the lack of communication, the lack of information forthcoming from the administration as to what it is that they intend to do. “The faculty, professional, clerical and technical staffs feel a lot of uncertainty and feel that they are in the dark as to the intended path of the administration.” There is a widespread sense that students are the most poorly informed sector of the CCC community regarding all aspects of the Reinvention. “So people are asking themselves which programs and courses have been marked for elimination. What new programs are in the works that we do not know of, and what resources are going to be diverted for these purposes? Faculty are asking how academic freedom and shared governance are going to be respected given what has taken place so far ? With things like the decision to install software in every college computer that effectively allows District Office to monitor every single keystroke and webpage visit in a faculty’s computer, how can they ignore the chilling effect that this has on academic freedom, when it amounts to District Office looking over teachers’ shoulders when they are performing their work.”
23. “Many faculty and staff feel disheartened as District Office increasingly hires business men and women without any prior experience in education and becomes profoundly guided by the priorities of the business world. Since the most influential advisors of the Reinvention are the Commercial Club of Chicago, Accenture, etc., and the faculty, professional, clerical and technical staff feel so uninformed and distant from the process, and since the students are so uniformed about it, and their parents and communities are not even considered to be part of the CCC community, it is understandable that so many sectors within the college have a sense of gloom about what direction the Reinvention will take.”
24. As 1708 employees get treated as insignificant and the students services they offer are negatively impacted, many students get angry. But they get angry regarding specific issues and are not necessarily aware of the larger context in which these deficiencies have been imposed by the Reinvention regimen.
25. An audience member described the faculty morale as being in the basement. Students complained that their involvement has been limited to the task forces where their contributions have been ignored. Frustrated, students have quit the task forces. No alternative method has been offered to allow for student input into the Reinvention, and there is no realistic plan to fully inform the student body about it beyond the suggestion that students can go to the Reinvention’s website and blog and read more about it.
26. A faculty member said that to primarily judge the success of students by their graduation rates at HWC is shortsighted because many students come to take a few classes to go back to their original schools or to move on to professional programs, etc. The student’s idea of success is more important than the government’s definition of success. Large-scale participation of students discussing the Reinvention is absolutely necessary.