By David Struett
With the appointment of a new chancellor, faculty are seeking greater representation after dealing with an administration that left them feeling voiceless.
In the name of “shared governance,” Faculty Council has asked for a faculty member position to be put on the Board of Trustees, and for the reinstatement of the provost and chief academic officer. Faculty has also seen its first representation on the board of trustees in the recent chancellor and provost search.
“The search committee process was the first time I’ve seen shared governance happen on the board,” said Jennifer Alexander, president of Faculty Council, FC4.
The chancellor “search committee” included Alexander and four other faculty members. The committee narrowed down the list of applicants for chancellor, but Mayor Emanuel got to pick the final candidate.
Asked about Faculty Council’s recent proposal for a faculty board member, Alexander responded “that we could become an exemplary model of the best ways to run a college system.”
Faculty at the seven city colleges of Chicago have become used to the top-down decisions from the district office, located downtown on Jackson Ave., but have consistently pressed the district office for greater participation in those decisions.
“Faculty did not dream up the idea of “shared governance”: rather, it is required by [the Higher Learning Commission] for our Accreditation,” said Alexander in a December 2015 board report, months before Faculty Council took a vote of no-confidence in Chancellor Hyman.
For over a year, Alexander has presented monthly reports to the board of trustees in which shared governance is the dominating theme.
Faculty eventually felt so left out of the decision making process, with the program consolidation and tuition hikes of “reinvention,” that they gave Chancellor Hyman a vote of no-confidence.
Faculty Council cited four reasons for voting no-confidence in Hyman:
1. Program consolidation that ignored proper analysis and the elimination registration one week prior to classes starting,
2. Lack of a dialogue with faculty.
3. Ignoring pleadings to reconsider tuition increases
4. Eliminating the district academic affairs department.
Alexander is glad the incoming chancellor, Juan Salgado, has recognized the tenants of shared governance.
“[W]e have been reading the news stories and we are happy to see that he understands the importance of community relationships and that he plans to listen to faculty and students in the spirit of ‘shared leadership,’” according to FC4’s April board report.
Faculty Council is also hopeful for the appointment of a new provost, a position eliminated by Hyman in 2015. The provost’s job is meant to focus on academic decisions, while the chancellor should focus on budgetary and political issues, according to Alexander.
“In a well-functioning college, the chancellor would handle the funding, the mayor and the state. The provost will handle the academic side,” she said.
“The provost is in charge of all things academic. They’ll have the training, the history, the background, to be able to claim authority in those areas,” said Alexander.
A “search committee” is currently searching for a provost from a pool of applicants. Salgado said he will work with the provost once they are appointed.
Faculty Council recently asked for a permanent member on the board of directors. The entire board is currently appointed by the mayor, and the addition of an elected faculty member would be a first for the colleges. This decision to include a faculty member would be made by the board of trustees.
“I proposed that there be full-time faculty on the board,” said Alexander. “I didn’t say the number. I wanted to get the seed planted. The next board, April or May, I will present the research.”
Asked whether the appointment of a faculty member to the board would be a step toward a fully elected board of trustees, Alexander said the latter idea was so political that it had no connection to her proposal.
City Colleges of Chicago is the only community college in Illinois without an elected board of trustees, according to the Illinois Community College Board.
Other faculty hope Salgado will run the colleges differently than Hyman. Among their chief concerns is that the new administration consider the nuances of the city colleges.
“I want the new chancellor to listen and learn from the presidents [of the colleges] about the communities they serve, the challenges that are unique to the college, and those difficulties that run across the system,” said HWC professor David Richardson.
“I hope he spends a long time learning what the city colleges do and how they serve the students in ways that go beyond easily memorized data points,” he said.
Some faculty are concerned that administration has become so interested in student outcomes, specifically the graduation rate, that the bigger picture of the college’s mission is overlooked.
Asked what he wanted the incoming chancellor to consider, HWC professor Michael Heathfield said he wanted Salgado to “[t]ake a deep look at how we work with young people and how we help assist what some of the young people face in Chicago right now; how we can pull more students from challenged neighborhoods and challenged backgrounds to come to HWC and be successful and gain a new trajectory in their lives.”