Thursday, March 31, 2011

The link between Duncan and the Chicago City Colleges Grows

The Save the City Colleges of Chicago blog has reported:

Word is Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel has spoken with Giannoulias about chairmanship of the Chicago City Colleges board and Gov. Quinn has chatted with Giannoulias about heading the Illinois Community College board. (Giannoulias, who was a major supporter of community colleges, is also a close friend and hoop shooting buddy of U.S. Education czar Arne Duncan.) Stay tuned."
If Giannoulias, Duncan's buddy, is appointed Chair of the Board of the CCC, then the direct link between the White House through its Department of Education is cemented. On a weekly basis, the possibility grows of the CCC being turned into Obama's poster child for his student-tracking plan to misguide students into job-training credentials disguised as higher education degrees.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Onslaught on the Community of Chicago’s City Colleges


The upper echelons of the bureaucracy that runs the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) are in the midst of a drastic transformation of the historical mission of the CCC. This mission, like that of most community colleges across the U.S., has been to provide a path for millions of working class, poor or immigrant students to access a university education which offers personal intellectual enrichment that has long been recognized as one of the important foundations of democracy as well as professional advancement. Behind the façade of Reinvention the CCC hierarchy is moving away from these goals and instead narrowing the mission of the CCC to that of job training centers. In service to the Obama administration’s initiative to track students into associate degrees and certificates as their terminal degrees, they have invented the Reinvention. Corporate Chicago is steering this process under the guise of pro bono consultants and advisory councils. The result is the full adoption of the business model for the administrative structure of the CCC.  This has also allowed for the merging of political and business cronyism bloating the CCC headquarters with business positions, heaping on more than $5 million in additional annual salaries in the first nine months alone. This has all occurred since Cheryl Hyman, a businesswoman lacking prior educational leadership experience, was anointed chancellor. The impact on students, faculty and staff have begun with the loss of jobs, the reduction or elimination of services and the smothering of academic freedom.  The specifics of the Reinvention indicate that these attacks are just the beginning. Students and faculty have begun to air frustration, resentment, and opposition to the abuses of the Reinvention. An organized opposition to the masters of Reinvention is required in order to secure quality education, decent working conditions, and bright futures for all of those who work and study at the CCC.

The Train Has Arrived:
Anatomy of a Foretold Onslaught on the Community of Chicago’s City Colleges

In the game of basketball there is a term known as a telegraphed pass. That is when a player makes it obvious enough in which direction he/she is going to pass the ball that the players on the opposing team are able to anticipate the move and proceed to easily intercept the pass. The administration of the City Colleges of Chicago for quite a while has been telegraphing its intentions regarding the drastic and harmful transformations that it has already begun to impose on the CCC community. The truth is that the CCC has been telegraphing its intentions for quite a while, long before its infamous Reinvention campaign. But it is through its Reinvention mystique that it has finally found a vehicle to consummate its plans. And unfortunately most of us in the CCC community (or as the administrators would like to designate, in the preferred business jargon of the times, the stakeholders: students, faculty and staff) are either unaware of the Reinvention itself or caught off guard regarding the real motivations and disastrous consequences for the CCC community of this particular brand of Reinvention.
Huh? For an institution, public or private, to suddenly go on a mass media campaign to spotlight its alleged warts and deficiencies seems unprecedented. Either the folks running this institution have illusions that the Pope will beatify them for their dramatic mea culpas, or there is a grand scheme behind the boisterous confessions intended to make unassailable the decisions and actions taken by these folks in their crusade to “rectify” their institution’s alleged failures. The worse the warts look, the better, for anyone questioning the “rectification” process can be denounced as uncaring and an impediment to progress.
This is the skeptical light in which we should look at the CCC’s justifications for their Reinvention campaign. Thus it is with solemn excitement that they inform the world in their Reinvention brochure (see things like:
1. CCC enrollment has declined almost 30% between 1998 and 2008
2. 16% of students transfer to a four-year institution; only 4-5% earn their bachelor degree.
3. We lose 54% of degree-seeking students before completion of their first 15 cred hours.
4. Only 35% of Adult Education students meet their stated goals annually, and only 14 of students who state that they want to obtain a GED actually do so.

All of this information is provided without any context. For example, the 30% enrollment decline is highlighted without mention of previous decisions to eliminate programs (and the concomitant loss of students), or that there are colleges like Harold Washington College that have been breaking enrollment records every semester for several years now, to the point that it is bursting at the seams. Assuming that all of the cited figures are correct, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned. But to throw the 4-5% figure for bachelor degree completion figure without any reference to the contemporary problems in higher education, specifically the low graduation rates at four-year colleges and universities is clearly an attempt to compel us to wring our hands and kneel at the altar of Reinvention. Anyone familiar with the debates in higher education regarding graduation rates knows that many public universities have been reporting for quite a while low graduation rates; that these rates are reported using a reference point of six years for graduation; that many of these students that do not graduate in six years are simply taking longer to graduate or are forced to drop out indefinitely because many are working class students who have immense difficulties in juggling the exorbitant cost of universities, their family responsibilities, and the jobs that they are compelled to have due to the drastic reductions in financial aid that have been imposed over the past three decades.
The shock value of the CCC figures is in its capacity to blackmail us into accepting a Reinvention program whose main pillars have already been decided. The rest of the campaign is mostly smoke and mirrors.
As early as 2009, the college presidents began to enthuse their captive employee audiences at the biannual State of the College meetings with brief but seductive statements as to the plans of the Obama administration to elevate the relevance of community colleges in post-secondary education. One thing was what the presidents and/or their District Office bosses knew about the gist of the plans, and another was the intended effect of the statements: that we all would feel hopeful that finally the much needed financial resources, and respect, would be given to community colleges for us to carry on with our educational mission, particularly in the midst of the worst economic crisis in decades.
Once the Obama Plan was formally announced on July, 2009 several issues were clarified:
     1. $12 billion were to be made available to community colleges across the nation
     2. The bulk, $9 billion, will be offered to colleges on a competitive basis to focus on:
                        a) job training and the alignment of programs with job needs
                        b) dramatically increasing associate degree completion rates.
Immediately afterwards all seven City Colleges created a new position whose job description centered on the promotion amongst students, advisors and faculty of the need to encourage and channel as many students into completion of associate degrees regardless of their personal circumstances and career goals. For high level college administrators across the country who had seen the extent of state funding decline due to the crisis in state budgets, it is understandable how many were chomping at the bit of this unexpected opportunity to grab much needed funding. So the race was on, and in Chicago we were bequeathed with the Reinvention. Now, Chicago is special. It has the good luck of having Arnie Duncan, the former CEO the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) system, the man that oversaw the proliferation of charter schools and the elimination of thousands of unionized teacher’s jobs, as Obama’s Secretary of Education, i.e. the person that will oversee the Obama Plan. So this is not only a good omen for the CCC landing a good chunk of those billions of dollars—of course if they do their Reivention, as stipulated—but the luck runs in the other direction too. Chicago, and the CCC in particular, have the great opportunity of serving as Obama’s and Duncan’s personal laboratory. And if there were any doubts, the recent election of Rham Emmanuel as mayor sealed the pact.
But, before we go into the onerous details of the Reinvention, let’s first look at what is the deeper rationale for the Obama Plan. If one examines the types of jobs that have been created during the past decade, the pattern is obvious. Back in 2004, two years after the end of the previous recession, USA Today was reporting (6/29/04) that low-wage jobs were growing at a faster rate than other jobs. Similarly, after the supposed end of the Great Recession, reported from Bloomberg Businessweek on February 27, 2011 that the current “recovery” is built on low-paying jobs. According to this article, the Bureau Of Labor Statistics reported in December 2010 that “tasks that were previously performed by doctors, nurses, dentists, or other health-care professionals increasingly are being performed by physician assistants, medical assistants, dental hygienists, and physical therapist aides.”
This is the kind of jobs and degrees that Obama is targeting. When Obama speaks of the U.S. regaining its spot as the country with the highest college graduation rate in the world, what he means is that he wants to have an “additional 5 million Americans earn degrees and certificates at community colleges in the next decade,” according to the journal Inside Higher Ed (July 15, 2009). This is a deceitful discourse because the plan is to make the associate degree the terminal degree for millions of people. To turn the community colleges away from being a pathway into universities and bachelor’s degrees and into job training, post-secondary education centers.
For decades universities have resisted the pressure from corporations to mold themselves to the demands to narrowly tailor their programs to the needs of specific industries. This would have shifted the training costs from the corporations to the universities and held hostage the university curricula to the vagaries of the markets. But in the community colleges, the Obama administration has found the perfect vehicle for these demands because community colleges already have in place some programs that are job training oriented, such as their certificate programs. The goal is to expand this on a massive scale.
To be clear, dental hygiene, physical therapy, and associate-degree nursing jobs are honorable jobs with pay scales that are definitely an improvement from those one gets by flipping burgers at McDonald’s. However, the problem lies with the conscious restriction of higher education opportunities and the tracking of millions of working class people into degrees and jobs that have limited earning power and virtually nil advancement opportunities. This is the institutionalization of educational tiers at the higher education level. The argument and the intentions are not new. Various sectors in corporations, think tanks, and higher education have been pondering at the costs associated with remedial education, the ever increasing costs of higher education, the increase in the time that it takes an average student to complete his/her degree and the benefits of having many people with college degrees working in jobs that do not require such a degree. They have concluded that the doors to a bachelor’s degree are too wide open, that the number of students earning these degrees should be controlled. Thus on November 8, 2009 none other than The Chronicle of Higher Education published the comments of a roundtable it sponsored titled “Are Too Many Students Going to College?”
What the Obama Plan does is jolt this question. It says No, we want to have another 5 million college degrees, but then its plan in effect says Yes, by turning those college degrees into post-secondary education, two-year, job training credentials. I use the term post-secondary education because it is acquiring a new meaning; something beyond high school but with a restricted curriculum, in which a lucky smaller fraction of the students will continue to move on to four-year higher education institutions, and the rest will be stopped in their tracks with a terminal associate degree.
Speaking of tracks. One of the instruments that the CCC administration has used to promote the goals of the Reinvention through its PR wing is called the CCC Press. The CCC Press periodically sends through email snapshots of articles and stories published nationally. These are on issues that the administration wants to highlight, and many, of course, are related to the Reinvention. On the January 24, 2011 release of the CCC Press, under the instructively named section titled “College Industry News,” there is an article from the San Antonio Express ominously titled “’Tracking’ revived at community colleges.” The article starts by reminding us that tracking used to be a bad word, “conjuring images of young children pushed out of school and into the work force based on race or gender,” and we would add on class too. Then the author goes on to quote a vice chancellor of the Alamo Colleges who offers us this gem: “Tracking that is based on stereotypes usually is bad, but tracking based on solid evaluation of the student’s academic performance and interests can be good.” Or what the CCC Reinvention folks would describe as a “research/data driven” process.
The deliberate tracking of students into programs designed to meet the immediate demands of businesses without full disclosure to the students and their communities of the ultimate consequences is nothing short of criminal. These harmful consequences are many. One is the scope of the programs and curricula offered at the CCC and other community colleges that fully adopt this radical mission transformation. The drive will be toward restriction of the reach of the Gen Ed curriculum for many programs (whether new or revised), in particular the liberal arts component. Students will be deprived of a variety of educational experiences that are meant to contribute to an individual’s understanding of and capacity to critically assess the realities of society at the local, national and international levels. This is a direct assault on democracy. The outcome, whether intended or not, will be the equivalent of the assembly-line output of worker drones. Secondly, regardless of the CCC’s hype about equipping their Reinvented students with job-ready skills, the tracking of these students into narrowly tailored programs will produce graduates with very vulnerable credentials that are subject to the unavoidable swings of the job market. A student who graduates a with a narrow set of skills, knowledge and credentials is subject to find that the hot jobs of today have disappeared a few years later (due to outsourcing, technology-driven downsizing, etc.) and his/her job prospects will have radically diminished in contrast to those students who pursued a broader educational program rich in liberal arts and Gen Ed requisites, and needless to say, to those who have secured a bachelor’s degree. A concrete example is nursing programs. Currently, our CCC graduates with a an associate nursing degree are having great difficulty in finding jobs because the job market has a larger pool of nurses with bachelor’s degrees. Employers are taking advantage of this situation, offering lower wages to bachelor’s nurses, and our CCC graduates have bumped into a wall. Appropriately, higher education has historically had a long-term view of its priorities, resisting the ever-shifting wants of employers. The Reinvention has given up this principle with the goal of making the CCC subservient to industry.
The intended conversion of the CCC into a job training institution is resolutely confirmed in the March 3, 2011 release of the CCC Press which highlights an article from Northwestern University’s Medill Reports titled “Community colleges work to fill huge demand for ‘middle-skill’ workers.” The article quotes Chris Wilkerson, vice president the CCC’s Workforce Institute, who expresses excitement at the growth of [low end] healthcare and manufacturing repair jobs.
The whole deception is unavoidably constructed with doublespeak. In the Reinvention Blog website (, the CCC administration posted on December 16, 2010 the following:
The Silent Crisis
Chicago faces a growing demand for a skilled workforce that City Colleges may not be able to help meet unless we make changes.
By 2018, 64 percent of jobs in Illinois, or 4.4 million, will require some form of post-secondary education. One and a half million jobs will require an associate degree. By 2020, Chicago will need 75,000 more health care workers, more than a third of them requiring an associate degree. We’ll also need 18,000 more registered nurses and about 10,000 IT workers with associate degrees. Not to mention 4,000 new truck drivers.
If we don’t address this skills-to-jobs mismatch, tens of thousands of Chicagoans could miss what is increasingly their only chance of reaching the middle class. If that happens, it could undermine the economic base of the whole region.
City Colleges must help prepare Chicagoans for those jobs and many others.  Through Reinvention, we are identifying the careers with the greatest earnings and growth potential and will improve and expand our programs in those areas.  Business, information technology, and health care are among them.  We are working to ensure both that our programs align with workforce demand, and equip students with credentials of economic value. [emphasis mine]

This is why the whole structure of the CCC is being drastically transformed and why an intensive and manipulative Reinvention campaign is needed. We are witnessing, not only the transformation of the traditional mission of the CCC, but also the completion of its metamorphosis into a business model of administration, which in addition includes the direct, habitual meddling of businesses and corporations in CCC’s decisions. The Reinvention website lists its corporate, business associations and business foundations “sponsors.” Among the most notable ones are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Accenture, KPMG, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, and the Civic Consulting Alliance.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, together with none other than the Walton family (of Wal-Mart infamy) has been involved for years in the privatization of public schools through the backdoor by generously supporting the transformation of public schools into non-union charter schools and the decimation of teacher unions’ membership in the order of tens of thousands. Accenture was the business-consulting firm that spun off of Arthur Andersen in time to avoid being splattered with the mess that came out of the ENRON debacle. In the words of the CCC, Accenture is “one of the world’s leading consulting, technology, and outsourcing firms.” In the Reinvention webpage Accenture is credited with providing pro bono (free!!!) what-else-but business advice to the CCC. Then we have the Civic Consulting Alliance. According to the Chicago Tribune, the “Civic Consulting Alliance [is] the pro bono government consulting arm of the Commercial Club of Chicago, which is waging a public campaign for pension cutbacks for state workers under the mantra "Illinois Is Broke."” (2/24/11) Please excuse yourself if for a moment you think you are living in Wisconsin. (More about the Civic Consulting Alliance and Accenture below.)
Now it becomes easier to understand the four major goals of the Reinvention:

1. Increase the number of students earning college credentials of economic value
2. Increase the rate of transfer to Bachelor’s degree programs following CCC graduation
3. Drastically improve the outcomes for students requiring remediation
4. Increase the number and share of Adult Basic Education (ABE) / GED / English as a Second Language (ESL) students who advance to succeed in college-level courses.
The first goal is at the epicenter of the Reinvention. What “credentials of economic value” means for the CCC administration is clearly identified in the “Silent Crisis” Reinvention Blog post presented earlier. It means that the balance of programs, departments and courses will be significantly shifted toward workforce-development associate degrees and certificates. Only the CCC top bosses know how many programs and departments are on the chopping block, and that means that a number of faculty and staff positions are at risk. The second goal is partially a red herring. While the CCC administration would welcome an increase in Bachelor’s degrees as a result of their Reinvention, the key component of this goal still is CCC graduation. The associate degree comes first, the Bachelor’s…perhaps later. The goal is to substantially increase associate degrees and certificates, and many people will get tracked into these workforce-oriented programs. The proportions will shift, and the percentage of enrolled students continuing their education toward a Bachelor’s degree will be lowered. The masters of Reinvention cannot have it both ways. The Obama Plan and the Reinvention plan call for millions of job training, terminal associate degrees, and that is the final word.
The third goal has already become a controversial biggie. In her first major public blunder, the then newly anointed Chancellor of the CCC, Cheryl Hyman, speaking to a captive audience of all-seven city colleges faculty—during the mediocre, first ever District Wide Faculty Development Week held on early August, 2010—spilled the beans when she indicated that remedial education was going to be severely curtailed. This in effect would have ended a century of open enrollment at the CCC. The immediate uproar of the faculty was heard all the way to City Hall. After a couple weeks of sending out mixed signals, the CCC administration finally settled on a formulation that gained it breathing room until they finally implement their plans. No one should be fooled, the original candid slip-up of Chancellor revealed what the administration and their business partners really think: that it is a waste of money and resources to remedy the educational deficiencies that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) high school graduates bring into the CCC; that a fraction of these students should be left by the wayside and never become the responsibility of the CCC. So the word “drastically” in the third goal refers to the drastic measure of improving the chances of successful and faster remediation by removing from the process those students with the deepest, most severe deficiencies from the picture. It is the old “Not every one deserves to go to college” argument that conveniently ignores that this group of students who will be thrown overboard have their severe deficiencies as the direct result of their experiences in CPS. And it is the City that owes them reparations for this negligent outcome. Will the City own up to its responsibilities and help these students, at the City’s expense, overcome these deficiencies and be able to go on to college, or will it simply sweep them under the carpet? Unless a student has severe cognitive disabilities due to congenital or accidental causes there is no reason why this person cannot enroll and complete college if enough support and resources are made available to him/her. Any argument to the contrary perilously slides down a prejudiced slope.
Likewise, what happens to ABE, GED, and ESL students in Reinvention World will be subservient to Goal Number One.
The Reinvention began in earnest in 2010 when Cheryl Hyman was appointed Chancellor. She is a businesswoman and former executive at ComEd. She has no experience leading an educational institution but was chosen to preside over the whole CCC system according to the dictum of Mayor Daley, who in 2009 shared with the city press his wisdom by stating that “education can’t be left in the hands of educational leaders.” Then the CCC “non-educational” leaders moved very quickly to implement a series of noteworthy changes having as a central goal centralization/consolidation. The independent Faculty Development Week held by every college was converted (and organized by District Office) into the above-mentioned District Wide Faculty Development Week—one which most faculty members qualified as mediocre and a waste of time. Then it was announced that each college was to lose its identity by having their individual logos removed from their buildings, websites, stationary. From that point on the only official logo was that of the CCC. But this was only the opening act. All seven college catalogs were condensed into a single one. Next semester all seven college registration schedules will also be squeezed into a single booklet, having one single time grid, regardless of the practical needs and ignoring the input of each individual college.
The trend is easy to identify. Following the guide of business practice—yes, those folks that brought us the wonders of the Great Recession—costs are being cut at any cost (pun intended). Thus we now find ourselves with every college purchase needing approval by District Office. Needless to say, this has already created a traffic jam of purchase orders that has the poor folks processing them at 226 W. Jackson (District Headquarters) going nuts. But the worse consequence of any cost-reduction, centralization campaign is the loss of jobs. Thus last fall, without forewarning a wave of layoffs swept all seven colleges, including both low-level administrators and unionized employees. These folks were treated to a 20-minute limit to pick up their belongings and the opportunity to be escorted by security guards out of the building. This was meant to serve as a warning to everyone: no one will be spared.
But the intimidation value of this maneuver paled in comparison with the firing of six college presidents that took place on February 23. They were told (and the public) that their terms would expire sometime in May because the college president’s job description had been revamped to include the four goals of the Reinvention. If they wish, they can reapply for their vacated positions, but will compete with other candidates identified from a national search to be carried out by a private consulting firm hired by the CCC administration. Who will they be stacked against can be ascertained from the new appointment of the seventh college president who was hired under the new criteria. On February 20, 2011 the CCC administration announced with great enthusiasm the appointment of Donald J. Laackman as president of Harold Washington College. Mr. Laackman is a former Arthur Andersen manager who jumped ship with Accenture, were he was Managing Director for many years before moving to the Civic Consulting Alliance and becoming the manager of its Workforce and Education program. The incestuous relationship between the CCC and its Reinvention business partners couldn’t be more grotesque. Remember from above, that Accenture is providing pro bono advice while the Civic Consulting Alliance also provides pro bono government consulting as the tentacle of the Commercial Club of Chicago that wants to gut Illinois’ public employees pensions? Now Harold Washington College, the flagship of the CCC system, will have as its president a businessman and workforce development specialist. The same fate awaits the remaining six colleges. For decades the City Colleges served as a bridge to untold numbers of students toward four-year, higher education institutions. Now they are being pulled away from them, toward job-training centers.
As we have seen, the end of February 2011 was momentous at the CCC. However, there is one additional development that has remained unpublicized, but which betrays more than anything else the mindset and antidemocratic compulsions of those governing the Reinvention. During the last week of February 2011, on District Office orders the IT staff at all seven colleges installed software in every CCC computer which allows District Office to monitor every task performed at every computer. Thus in a single stroke the CCC administration managed to squash the academic freedom of all faculty members by looking over their shoulders at work. It is an act that would have made proud the bureaucrats that used to run the now defunct Stalinist Soviet Union. To those who parrot the typical business response to such an action by saying that the CCC has the right to do it because people are not supposed to conduct personal business on CCC property and time, one’s answer must resolutely be that nothing justifies the destruction academic freedom in an institution of higher education because it will turn it into a rigid instrument for the production of rigidly trained drone-graduates that evokes the assembly-line school images that Pink Floyd depicted in its movie The Wall. This is paramount to allowing the police to search every home in a neighborhood without a search warrant issued by a judge on grounds of probable cause. We have all been rendered suspect. This is a clear act of intimidation directed at further atomizing the faculty and staff, to interfere with our interaction and communication during working hours, to choke any dissidence. Furthermore, this new software is also intended to hyper-centralize the CCC’s IT services by helping remove the bulk of the IT personnel from each college, transferring a fraction to District Office and firing the rest—while leaving a skeleton IT crew at each college tending to thousands of computers. Yet another recipe for disaster brought to you by the Reinvention.
We have already described above the furious pace of centralization that the Reinvention masters have undertaken in the name of modernization and the increase in efficiency at the CCC system. When people are losing jobs (with more losses to come) and resources and services are being rationed, one would expect that these actions are leading to a significant reduction in the expenditures of the CCC. Bear in mind that during the faculty strike of 2004 it was revealed that the CCC held the infamous distinction of having the highest administrator to faculty ratio in the country. However, when one examines the frenzy of new hires at District Office that has taken place since Chancellor Hyman took over her functions, one is baffled by hers and the CCC Board’s brazenness. In just the nine months since July, 2010, the Board has filled 54 positions, all of them at District headquarters, having a combined annual salary of $5.14 million—with an annual average of $95,000 per position. (Please see the details in the enclosed table found at the end of this document that was thankfully put together by another one of us peasants.) Now, this is not only typical Chicago patronage politics. The nature of the positions is business inspired. One can see the hand of Accenture, the Commercial Club of Chicago (through its “pro bono” Consulting Civic Alliance) and other business partners generating the job descriptions. This is the in-your-face consummation of the marriage of Chicago’s public, higher education bureaucracy and their business mentors.
A much hyped element of the Reinvention is the formation of task forces (TF). Seven such TF were pre-assigned specific areas of work by the CCC administration that were not subject to modification. These seven TF are made of administrators and a select crew of faculty, staff and students (60 handpicked out of 300 applicants). They are supposed to work through several phases of the Reinvention.  In their first phase of participation they are supposed to meticulously work gathering data, probing the various sectors of the CCC community, other college systems, etc., and produce their recommendations by May 2011. In their second phase of participation, freshly staffed TF will implement the chosen recommendations during the summer and fall of 2011. The guiding criteria for the recommendations is once again pre-chosen by the administration and it is none other than the four goals of the Reinvention, which are also not subject to modification.
The faculty, staff and students of the CCC have been hungry for years for the administration to hear them out regarding the many issues that need attention at each college and at the whole system level. But we have rarely been heard. So when the administration announced that it was forming TF for people to put forward their ideas, it is understandable that plenty of folks got excited and hoped to participate in the process. Unfortunately, the Reinvention TF are not the honest, democratic instrument for us to positively and extensively transform the practice of the CCC. By the time the TF were formed, the dice had been rolled, and they were loaded. While these folks have been tirelessly working in the TF, the rush of Reinvention has been galloping and has left them behind. A truly honest and democratic transformation process, would have begun with a blank slate and allowed the whole CCC community to examine all potential directions, prioritize them, and then choose the specific areas of work that broad-based committees would undertake. But the Reinvention process is the opposite. The four goals that the administration and their business partners chose have become articles of faith for the rest of us. And the TF work areas are their direct consequence, as well as the boundaries beyond which they are not allowed to thread.
The most significant value of the TF is in their PR effect. Through the participation of a small slice of the faculty, staff and student community, the CCC administration can make the claim that the outcome of the process is fully supported by most faculty, staff and students. Any one criticizing and/or opposing the Reinvention priorities and its outcomes will be immediately declared an impediment to the modernization of the CCC and to the “noble” goals of the Reinvention. The pile of scorn, pressure and public blackmail to befall on any detractors is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Unless we begin to speak loudly and forcefully against the existing Reivention (not its public fable as invented by the CCC PR machine) we are essentially allowing the creation of a public perception that we consent to our dismembering. The uncritical participation in these task forces turns these well-intentioned folks into unwitting tools of the administration. Their naïve participation becomes a double-edged sword that ultimately will be wielded against the rest of the CCC community and therefore ultimately against them. For the major pillars of the Reinvention have already been decided by the CCC upper hierarchy and their business mentors, and many of their nasty consequences have already been implemented or are swiftly approaching. A significant and almost invisible associate to the TF are the External Advisory Councils which work in parallel with the TF and who come from a very select segment of Chicago’s society. The councils’ members allegedly have the following kinship: “Academic,” Business, Capital Planning, Civic and Foundations, “Community.” Two thirds of the co-chairs of these councils are businesspeople, and the rest are their golf buddies. Judging by the naked business decisions already taken by the CCC administrators, it is hard to doubt whose recommendations will have more clout, the TF’s or those of the Advisory Councils.
Please don’t take us wrong. We do believe that a number of recommendations from the TF will be accepted or accommodated. After all, there is much common sense that is actually missing from the current practices of the CCC administration. Furthermore, the slope down which most of the recommendations will slide has already been built into the process by the four articles of faith and the corresponding circumscription of the seven areas of work imposed on the TF.
In the final instance none of these recommendations will be consulted with the rest of the faculty, staff and students, nor will we be allowed to vote to accept or reject the recommendations. The upper hierarchy of the CCC administration has already announced in the Reinvention website their plenipotentiary power to be the ultimate judge:
The senior leadership across the district, including the college presidents and vice-chancellors are responsible for evaluating and shaping the ideas in each one of the task forces that they are leading as well.
Ultimately, the Chancellor and the Board of Directors will be evaluating the task forces’ recommendations on how promising they are in terms of having the greatest likelihood of ensuring student success in a scalable and sustainable manner. [emphasis mine]
Public. Most students are vaguely aware that there is such a thing as Reinvention. Some acknowledge receiving periodic emails from the administration about the Reinvention, and that they do not know what it is about. The faculty and staff are more aware of the Reinvention because they have been witnesses to many of the abuses of power carried out in its name. Many are resentful and frustrated. The rest of the city residents, if they have heard about the Reinvention, is through the carefully choreographed PR campaign of press conferences with the mayor and the chancellor, press releases and ads found on the sides of city buses and similar advertisement vehicles that present the mirage version of the Reinvention. There is an immense lack of information and analysis about the true aims of the Reinvention and about the actions carried out in its name and their devastating consequences. Until recently the score was CCC Reinvention 100, the CCC community 0. Thankfully, a group of students belonging to the District Student Government shined a light into the matter by contacting the media and holding a press conference on March 4, 2011. They denounced the summary firing of the six college presidents, the elimination of many positions since last July that provided support services to the students, and many other decisions that came as a surprise to them. Speaking to the Sun Times, the president of the District Student Government Association, Theodore Fabriek, said “City Colleges has a very long history of not including students in very important decisions that eventually end up drastically affecting them.” Then on March 11, 2011 150 faculty members from all colleges congregated at Malcom X College for a meeting called by the District Faculty Council to address serious concerns that the council members had regarding the total disregard the CCC administration had shown toward shared governance—in essence by-passing the rights and duties of the district and individual college faculty councils by arbitrarily imposing its decisions without due process. The teachers aired a multitude of grievances such as: the lack of accountability of the district CCC administration, the draconian withdrawal of every academic department’s ability to have a budget, attacks on academic freedom, the misrepresentation by the CCC PR machine of the quality of education received by CCC students, the bloating of the administration, a possible vote of “No Confidence” on the chancellor, and many others. They agreed to further action by the District Faculty Council in the form of a survey of all faculty that took place the following week in order to identify the most prominent concerns to be systematically discussed and addressed through additional actions.
These are very important initial steps. But we need to up the ante. We need to undertake an extensive campaign to inform the students, the faculty—both full-timers and adjuncts—and all the staff of what the Reinvention is really about, of its dire consequences and how we can and need to come together to halt the Reinvention in its tracks. And we also need to make the rest of the city and the state aware.
We need to have the student organizations, all the unions, and the faculty councils at the City Colleges working together analyzing the terrible plans and actions of the CCC administration, finding ways to spread this information, counter posing our own ideas of how to improve the CCC and deciding on joint actions to stop this madness. We need to:

1. hold joint press conferences and submit joint press releases exposing the true nature of the Reinvention, and denouncing all the abuses and improprieties of the administration
2. hold public meetings at every City College in which both the students, their communities, the faculty and the staff can come together to learn more about the truth of the Reinvention, and to discuss how to oppose it.
The train has already arrived and it has already caused plenty of casualties. The worst is still to come. Yet, we still have time to derail the train. The big question is, are we up to this task?

by PEARL (Publicly Exposing the Arsenal of Reinvention Lies)