Former trustees on raise: A “Reward for destroying the community colleges?”

Two former community college trustees are asking Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, the new system president and the board chairman what their involvement was in the offer of “expedite[d]” separations of the local college presidents and the hefty raise awarded to the system’s executive vice president.

“If the recent threats of simultaneous terminations of all 12 community college presidents was done without your knowledge or approval, the executive vice president should be appropriately punished, rather than receiving his reported 27 percent raise,” says a letter from Jules Lang and Father David Cannon to the officials. “If this was done with your knowledge, it was an outrage. Perhaps his raise was his reward for destroying the community college system.”

Malloy and Lewis Robinson Jr., the appointed board’s chairman, have both said the first time they heard about Mike Meotti’s $48,000 raise was when it was first reported by the Connecticut Mirror on Monday. The following day, 20 other raises were disclosed.

President Robert A. Kennedy has taken responsibility for “mistakenly” approving the raises unilaterally, and without board approval as the state’s attorney general has said is required.

A memo from Lang and Cannon accompanied the letter provided to the press. The memo takes direct aim how well the 100,000-student college system merged at Malloy’s insistence is going. That merger includes the four campuses of the Connecticut State University system, the dozen community colleges and the online Charter Oak College.

“If the purpose was to destroy the community colleges, it is well on its way to success,” Cannon, a longtime trustee from Preston, and Lang, from the Norwalk area, wrote.

Two community college presidents have said they were offered a “buyout,” a characterization the system adamantly opposes. Meotti said during interviews last week that college president were offered a path to an amicable separation, following some resistance from implementation of a new law governing noncredit remedial courses.

But Cannon and Lang shamed officials in the memo for the “premature removal” of these presidents without board approval “apparently because they didn’t accept his underlying belief that community college was exclusively for a better caliber of students…The executive vice president fails to understand that one of the basic duties of community colleges is to provide open access for all the state’s citizens.”

This is not the first time the community college’s “open door” policy has rankled some in higher education. However, advocates of the new law surrounding remedial education insist that no one will be turned away and the door will remain open. That new law limits how much time students can be required to take, and pay for, non-credit remedial courses before taking college courses.

The letter from Cannon and Lang ends with a request to Malloy: “It is time for President Kennedy and the Board of Regents … to carry out their obligations of oversight and take an active role in leading the system rather than permit a subordinate to run amuck. We former Board members worked too hard and long to stand by and see this fine system destroyed.”