Within the last decade, especially the last few years, tensions which have existed between the SOCCCD Board of Trustees and the academic community have risen to the point where the future of the colleges have been brought into question. What is most frightening, is that this is not the first time in the history of the colleges this has been the case. A recent archival inventory conducted by the Lariat staff in preparation for the 40th anniversary celebrations of Saddleback College reveals a pattern of internecine conflict between the major players (board of trustees, academic senate, school administration and classified employees) that form the SOCCCD community.
Disagreements over compensation, accusations of favoritism, cronyism, intimidation and failure to abide by state mandated educational protocols are only several of the issues that have poisoned the environment between the parties, so much so that the description “a climate of fear exists here” has been heard more than once in interviews with college personnel. This state of affairs is clearly counterproductive and must be addressed.
It is incumbent on all parties to remember that they are here for the students, period. Whether that means shedding one’s complacency and actively advocating what is right, or putting aside agendas that have nothing to do with the proper administration of the SOCCCD, and doing what is right, are the only reasons that these groups can insure that the academic reputation that many of us are so proud of can be maintained, improved and continued.
The Board of Trustees should rightfully direct these efforts, but that does not mean they have the right to control the entire process. To distance themselves from taking the counsel of an Academic Senate, whose members represent the entire spectrum of quality education, is folly. To concern themselves with minutiae while crucial issues such as the recent Presidential selection process and the almost-closure of the Communication Arts Program because of short-sighted planning, is unconscionable. While they may have been elected by the public, they are beholden to the college and are subject to all the laws which govern its charter.
Nor is the academic community without fault. The days of “ivory tower” professorships are over. The world moves far too rapidly and events come and go too quickly for the staff to be anything less that aggressively proactive in protecting the interests of the students rather than parochial prerogatives.
It is also necessary for the campus administrations and classified employees to remain apolitical and strive to insure that our campuses are the safest, most efficient and well maintained institutions possible.
A generation from now, those in positionof responsibility will be judged on how well they cooperated to prepare today’s students to face the world they will inherit. You cannot afford to fail them.