League of Women Voters of Elmhurst - Voters Guide for the Consolidated Election - April 7, 2009
I am a long time resident of District 502, and a National Board Certified Counselor who earned my Ed.D. in Adult Education, from Northern Illinois University. I am a professor emeritus from the College of DuPage who, as a Trustee, pledges to strive for all A's; Accountability, Affordability, and Academic Excellence.
1. How will you make COD classes once again available to adults and children within Elmhurst city limits whether in school buildings or private settings?
The question focuses on a specific present concern, and also a broader issue of representation.
From the wording of the question, I understood there was a reduction of class offerings in Elmhurst, and there was an interest in returning services to the previous level, if not higher. I investigated the situation by talking to a number of College of DuPage faculty and administrators. I was told there is consideration of a new COD site that would provide services to Elmhurst and surrounding areas. Due to my questioning, there is a new level of awareness of your concerns, which I was told will enter into consideration as decisions are being made.
Regardless of the issue at hand, I plan to listen to your concerns, investigate issues, and bring information to COD personnel so the College of DuPage can better serve you and the district as a whole.
2. Give examples of how, for the purpose of serving our community, you have been able to work productively with others who don't share your opinions.
Whether negotiating a contract, leading an educational task force, or chairing a college governance group, I have reaped the benefits of working with those who have different opinions. With discussion and clarification, agreement was often reached. When it wasn't, other decision making techniques were used, such as consensus, voting, and/or mediation, a technique in which I have been trained. In the end, dissenting and varied viewpoints led to more reasoned, considered conclusions, so that contracts could be settled, task force results could be implemented, and college governance groups could shape the institution.
3. What specific qualifications do you bring to the position of COD Trustee?
There is presently no one on the Board who has the same higher education qualifications, which includes 35 years as a College of DuPage counselor, as well as two degrees in higher education; an M.S. in College Student Personnel Services and an Ed.D. in Adult Education. I will bring an experienced and much needed new voice to Board decisions.
4. What do you believe to be the strengths and weaknesses of federal legislation relevant to community colleges?
It is easy to think of the federal government when considering legislative activity because so many students are the beneficiaries of federally funded financial aid programs, such as Federal Pell Grant, Federal Academic Competitiveness Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Federal Work Study, and Federal Loans. However, beyond student financial aid, there actually is little federal legislation focused on any level of education, including community colleges. Even in Washington's recent economic stimulus package, allocations of $17 billion were directed toward students in the forms of higher education tax credits and expansion of Federal Pell Grants to accommodate increased student financial aid, rather than dollars for infrastructure of colleges and universities.
When considering strengths and weakness, a more expanded review of relevant legislation should include legislation from within the state of Illinois, since education is a state responsibility. In my opinion, the strongest piece of legislation in regard to Illinois community colleges was the 1965 Junior College Act that created the 39 district, community college system and ensured its continuation and development. The greatest weakness of legislative activity relevant to community colleges is the continuing reduction of state funding. In the triad of funding, when state appropriations to community colleges are reduced, financial expectations for adequate college funding shifts to students and property tax payers.
5. Given the importance of quality teachers and department heads, what ideas do you have to make the College of DuPage attractive to prospective candidates in these fields?
Quality teachers are attracted to institutions of academic excellence that have a stable, welcoming environment. The College of DuPage has enjoyed a local and national reputation of excellence. However, the present Board of Trustees has been making decisions that are causing faculty, administration, and staff at all levels to question their work environment, and this in turn has lowered morale. For example, recently the Board attempted to quickly approve extensive policy manual changes without input from those it would affect, an unfortunate departure from past practice. Faculty were concerned about this abrupt change in process and about the substantive issues that would be impacted such as infringement on academic freedom. Student leaders were equally concerned about the policy changes when it seemed that their constitutional rights could be violated. To protest a possibility of the loss of freedom of speech, about 50 students held a silent protest at a Board meeting wearing tape across their mouths. With local newspapers and national educational publications reporting these conflicts between College of DuPage core values and Board actions at COD, it is more difficult to attract the best and brightest prospective faculty, staff and students.
College of DuPage must have a welcoming, stable work environment where faculty, staff and students can see that their contributions to education are truly valued by the Board. It is necessary for Board members to focus on the mission and vision of College of DuPage. To that end, Board decisions must be more open and cooperative, with opportunities for stakeholders to actively participate in the process. The opportunity to be heard and to participate in the process in a meaningful way would decrease the unfortunate last minute public protests and would add stability to the campus climate. In an environment where people are valued, their excellence will shine through. This is the environment that the community, staff and students expect and deserve.
6. What concerns, problems, and satisfactions have teachers, staff, and department heads shared with you?
The concerns and problems that have been shared with me include: declining enrollment; unexpected personnel changes; fiscal irresponsibility; reduction of shared governance opportunities; unethical behavior by those in positions of leadership; and low morale.
In regard to satisfaction, I continually hear from the professionals who work at COD about the rewards they experience working with students. Though facilities and finances are important, the greatest rewards of working at College of DuPage involve making a difference in someone's life. Whether it is re-tooling a returning adult who has been laid off, preparing a young person for their chosen career path, or giving a single parent the opportunity to get ahead, it is through these efforts that the College of DuPage staff enjoy their greatest satisfaction.
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