Connecticut State Colleges and Universities Communications Director Leigh Appleby’s recent editorial, attempting to counter the fears of a student who had written a previous editorial, does a disservice to the people of Connecticut and unfairly castigates the student. Moreover, Appleby’s editorial points out many of the issues those of us working at Connecticut’s community colleges have with “Students First.”
Mr. Appleby takes the student to task for expressing concerns over being able to finish his criminal justice course of study. He boldly writes that that “is simply incorrect.” While Appleby may be comfortable in his certitude, no one else at the community colleges is. The only certainty that we understand is that after 2022, $23 million dollars will be saved, and there will be over 150 fewer people employed.
The date is telling. It is the year after the job security language in the current contract expires. That language was given to those of us who work at the community colleges when we agreed to not take raises, pay more towards retirement, and pay more towards retirement health care in an effort to help the state with its budgetary problems. As the “Students First” plan does not give any more information other than the amount saved and the date, it isn’t hard to conclude that there is going to be a lot less of something, or, more accurately, someone, if the $23 million is to be realized. It would be fair, then, for students to wonder who was going to leave and who wasn’t.
Appleby writes that “[t]he student-to-advisor ratio at our community colleges is currently 923-1.” While I do not know the ratio, I will take him at his word. He then writes, “[t]he main objective of Students First . . . is to ensure our students receive the supports they need from the time they enter our colleges through the time they graduate . . .” If that is indeed the case, then why has the system office spent so much of the community colleges’ valuable financial resources on a Vice President for Enrollment, a Vice President of purchasing, an Executive Director of the Library, and both an Executive Director and an Associate Director of Student Success, to say nothing of the three regional presidents soon to be hired?
These are just some of the layers of bureaucracy that have created a burgeoning system office that touts “Students First” yet hires people that sit in offices in Hartford instead of offices that invite students to come in. If Mr. Appleby truly regrets the ratio of students and advisors, maybe he should have been a stronger advocate for advisors on campus instead of system office bureaucrats.
Later in his piece, Appleby attacks another previous editorial for having “stooped to the abhorrent practice of fear mongering.” It is not fear mongering to ask questions and try to conclude where the system intends to take the community colleges when there is little evidence available on that direction. It is not “misleading,” as Appleby claims, to ask what the end game will look like when the system office has created a hodge podge of committees and working groups that are charged with creating general education cores, aligning programs, and standardizing curriculum, among other things, when there is no shared governance system in place that will review and affirm such work, as is required by our accrediting association.
It is the system office who foments fear with their near-total lack of transparency on many things related to consolidation, leaving so many questions unanswered. It is the system office who misleads when they create these groups without explaining how they are all going to mesh and work together, leaving many more questions unanswered. By not providing answers to those questions and others, it is the system office that Appleby works for that is misleading and practicing fear mongering.
Lastly, Appleby’s admonishment of the CT Mirror and other “reputable news organizations” for “publish[ing] verifiably inaccurate information without any sort of fact checking” is ludicrous. The system plan for consolidation lacks any type of transparency, making it almost impossible to “verify” any facts. Appleby would better serve those news organizations and the people of Connecticut who pay his salary to be a director of communications by not chastising a student but instead urge his bosses to be more transparent and communicate openly.
Terrance Delaney is a Professor of History at Three Rivers Community College.
CTViewpoints welcomes rebuttal or opposing views to this and all its commentaries. Read our guidelines and submit your commentary here.