More than 100 employers, students, faculty members, classified staff, and members of our community came to Wednesday’s LCC Board meeting with barely a day’s notice after learning that the Administration wants to cut our Auto Body and Paint, Electronics, and Medical Office Assistant programs. Dozens of students, many dressed in MOA medical scrubs, supported their colleagues’ call to maintain programs that provide good jobs with family wages and excellent benefits, and defended the quality of their programs from the spurious and unconscionable criticisms of top LCC administrators who secretly reviewed a number of our programs, with no knowledge let alone involvement of our faculty, using “methods” even our students recognized as worthless. A number of the students plan to start their programs this fall, some having been at LCC for a year or two, spending lots of money taking classes to prepare to start the program, and who would not be part of any “teach out” for students already enrolled. Employers of past graduates of these programs came to make clear these are top-notch programs and faculty, much needed in the community, that provide great jobs for employees and that strengthen our economy; some were even “respondents” in the “survey” the Administration is using to justify their claims about program quality, who were livid that they were being used in this assault on programs that they have the greatest respect for, and depend upon to educate their future employees. Faculty members teaching in the programs challenged the grossly false claims about their programs, demonstrating just how valuable these programs are, to our students and our community. Others decried the Administration’s call to establish a robust program review process, which ironically was completed just the day before, contrasting that professional review process with the secret and scandalous “review” that passes for the Administration’s “management” of this issue, while others noted the continued failures of this Administration, including the long list of Accreditation Review findings against the college, and this latest nonsensical claim that closing programs that generate more revenue than they cost is somehow “necessary” to balance the budget.
On that last point, the Association presented evidence that the Administration’s key assumption, that somehow 75% of the students who come to Lane would come here even though the career tech program they want to attend was eliminated, is nothing more than wishful thinking, necessary to justify calling for these programs’ closures. Rather than pulling self-serving numbers out of the air as the Administration has done, the Association surveyed the current students in these programs yesterday, and as you’ll see below, only 5 of the 56 students completing the survey, or 8.9%, said they would have come to LCC if their program had not been offered. Most would look for another school, and some wouldn’t have gone to college.
The Admin claim that somehow 75% of students would come anyhow is simply not justifiable. (In response to Vice President DeWolf’s claim that they’d reach out to students to encourage them to attend other programs: How do you reach out to students who aren’t here in the first place?)
Plugging in the results from this survey into the Administration’s calculations, correcting for their other errors in projecting expense savings from the closures (e.g. projecting savings of a contracted faculty salary and OPE when they know that by contract the full-time faculty member would displace part-time faculty, and therefore the savings would be only the part-time salaries), and including the many additional sources of revenue the Administration leaves out of their calculations, shows clearly (see below) that cutting these programs would COST our college money, not save it (and that doesn’t yet factor in the net revenue when including all of the courses that these programs’ students must take as prerequisites). It’s only through spurious empirical claims that the Administration can maintain cutting these programs will help the bottom line.
Q and A
Q. How did the Administration respond?
A. They maintained the same arguments, ignored the evidence about their 75% assumption (until Board member Gary Leclair pressed them on it), and argued that the Board either needed to do this or do something else they don’t want to do, ignoring all of the evidence that this would increase the deficit, while seriously harming many many lives.
Q. How did the Board respond?
A. The Board found itself in a difficult position, typically believing they need to show “support” for the Administration and largely depending upon the Administration for information. But many clearly recognized that claims about the savings and criticisms about the quality of these programs were facing very strong evidence to the contrary. Several strongly requested that “both sides” work together to adjudicate the starkly contrasting empirical claims, a request that we welcome and will take up, but one that President Spilde responded to by typically saying that “staff” (meaning Administrators) would review our numbers and give the Board a report, which no doubt would leave the Board with the same competing claims, forcing them to decide between “supporting” an Administration, or believing the many, many voices of faculty, staff, students, employers, and community, and the evidence we’ve provided that the Administration’s numbers are simply invalid. We will be calling on the Administration to fully and publicly share and defend their calculations, and to defend their wild assumption that somehow 75% of students that come to Lane to take our programs and many other classes to prepare for them will simply stay at the college if their programs are eliminated.
Q. What happens next?
A. The Board takes up this issue again, and will likely make its decision, at its May 13th meeting. That gives us all five weeks to demand the Administration step back from their nonsensical “plan” to “balance the budget,” to expose the illogic and lack of evidence for it, to help demonstrate the value and quality of these excellent programs, and to demand that Administration stop secretly “reviewing” our programs with absurd “methods” and data and to work with the faculty in truly professional program review processes. Please take every opportunity to encourage the Administration and the Board to take the obvious steps here. There will be many calls for action and ways to stop this assault on our programs, our faculty, our students, and our college. It’s up to each of us to stop this.