I am a fond believer of divine intervention, and as I am writing this, I feel the divine watching over me.
I am drying off my eyes as they become watery, the salty sting burns them as I dab up the moisture with a fresh tissue. I’m sitting in my room listening to my favorite records, surrounded by funky rhythms and my favorite comic books.
I know that I’ll always have them, and that unless my house burns down, they won’t be going anywhere.
But by the time you read this, my two favorite things will be absent from my life: Washtenaw Community College, and The Washtenaw Voice.
Saying goodbye to the person you love most can be the hardest task imaginable.
That task can be even tougher when your loved one is an entire campus community.
Over the past three years, I have dealt with terrible relationships, terrible health and the loss of friends and family through grim circumstances.
Despite all of this chaos, the one thing that I could count on for solace and clarity was the camaraderie of The Washtenaw Voice staff, and the challenge of filling 16 blank pages with copy for 18 issues every two weeks, year in and year out.
At the end of our cycles, as winter knee-jerked its way into spring, I watched as some of the kindest and most motivated people left The Voice and WCC for good, with proud eyes and an empty heart.
They’d always smile – even as they were fighting back tears. They’d pack up their belongings, give me a hug and tell me how much their time at Washtenaw has meant to them. How much Keith Gave changed their lives for the better, and how much they are going to miss the kind of headache-inducing thrills that only The Voice office can offer.
I am unquestionably convinced that God, the hand of fate or whatever spiritual force you choose to put your faith in places you exactly where you need to be at the exact moment you were meant to be there.
With that as a pretext, I know with absolute certitude that it was a higher power that pushed me through the doors of Washtenaw and into The Voice office on a balmy summer day in 2010.
Washtenaw saved my life and gave me a path to a brighter future.
I can’t imagine where I’d be right now without the guidance of the instructors I’ve had and the relationships I’ve forged with the builders of this college.
Well, that’s a bit of a lie. I know exactly where I’d be.
I’d probably be in a low-rent restaurant somewhere slaving away in front of a flat-iron grill looking forward to nothing but the bar after work and the random girl I just texted.
Washtenaw gave me a purpose.
It introduced me to one of the finest people I have had the great pleasure to call a mentor and friend, Keith Gave. WCC introduced me to the wild world of journalism, a low addiction that I can’t seem to shake since getting my first fix with my first byline all those years ago.
I’ve had people scream in my face and over phones and swear at me in ways that would make the late-comedian Sam Kinison blush (though that might be a slight exaggeration).
Yet I am a fond believer in divine intervention, and I consider WCC hallowed ground.
I’m sure a few of you have been awaiting the day that this troublemaker of a student journalist walked out those doors for good, and with good reason: I like to stir the pot; it helps me get to the truth.
But for those of you that have enjoyed my work, have enjoyed picking up The Voice and have helped me in this crazy crusade to gather news on your behalf, I want to say thank you.
I want to say that I deeply love all of you and that as I move on to greener pastures, there will be no place dearer to my heart than Washtenaw Community College.
I’ve been thinking about us for a long time.
CNN, I think we need to take a break.
It’s not that you haven’t been a good news source. In fact, for the decade I’ve been paying close attention, you have been my rock when I needed fast, accurate information without the reckless spin offered by the likes MSNBC and Fox News. I relished in the way that you gawked at election cycles the same way I did.
It was as if we were destined to meet each other, like soulmates or star-crossed lovers. I even changed my major for you, wishing to join you as a reporter on all of your adventures around the world, bringing truth to a world in peril.
But then you started to change on me. You let Larry King retire, you gave Soledad O’Brien her own morning show, and worse yet, you replaced good old Larry with an English bloke who got fired as the editor of The Daily Mirror for publishing fake photos of supposed Iraqi torture victims.
I won’t even bring up that disappointment known as Erin Burnett, and how infatuated you’ve become with her. I feel like I don’t even know you anymore.
Even with all these changes, I could have dealt with you. I could have gotten over all the new faces and the lackluster investigations into sensational stories, like your constant coverage of that godforsaken cruise ship, that didn’t deserve to grace the ticker at the bottom of the screen.
But then the massacres started happening, and you got trigger happy.
You reported that the brother of the shooter in Newtown, Conn. was to blame for the horrendous crime, setting off a string of panicked texts and Twitter posts from the falsely accused when no one even knew what was going on with those most affected by tragedy – the dead children and their families.
This month, when terror gripped the streets of Boston, you let me down for the last time. First, one of your top reporters, John King, who is known for his restraint, mistakenly reported on April 17 that authorities had apprehended the suspects in the case, only to find out minutes later that they had chased down a bad lead. As the FBI released photos of the two suspects, who turned out to be two brothers from Chechnya, we learned that the suspects were obviously still at large.
Reporters scrambled to find any clues about the two, scouring valuable sources for any break in the investigation. Instead of doing due diligence, your producers and anchors fumbled on screen with iPhones and other gadgets searching Twitter and blog feeds, as opposed to doing the kind of thoughtful reporting you were known for.
And as MSNBC reported the final chapter in the saga on Friday, telling America accurately that the remaining suspect had been captured alive, you reported their news – nearly 20 minutes later.
I fell in love with you for a reason, CNN. You were fair and balanced when others only talked about it, and you gave a careful eye to every detail. Now, you are a shadow of your former self. A hipper, faster version of the news network I cared for that cares less about me than it does about trying to break news first.
“The Daily Show” said you should change your slogan to “the most busted name in news.”
After 10 long years of dedication and faithfulness, I have to agree with them. And I have to say goodbye.
Your favorite disgruntled reporter, besides Jack Cafferty, of course.
Music production’s great ambient innovator gets the Kevin Bacon treatment
For decades, artists that sought to take their recording sessions to new intellectual and creative heights called upon one unapologetically anomalous man and his control room full of reel-to-reel tape machines and synthesizers – the offbeat and always avant-garde music producer Brian Eno.
To some, he was like a wizard in a fantasy novel, conjuring up unheard of treatments to recorded pieces of music with a few twists and turns of various knobs and oscillators.
Pop superstar David Bowie called upon this mage when he wanted to get his life together – in return, the magician helped him make what many argue were his most creative three albums back-to-back, a holy trinity of new-wave music.
When Coldplay needed a healthy dose of adrenaline, it was the wizard who returned to give them wings on “Viva La Vida.”
But Eno just didn’t produce pop albums. In fact, the majority of his work remains jarringly complex and abrasive, from his early work with ’70s glam-rock outfit Roxy Music, to the strange soundscape ambient work he pioneered in practically the same era.
No matter where you turn, you can always find a Brian Eno connection, and if you obsess about the man’s catalog like most heads do – me included – finding those connections can be a relatively easy task.
In honor of Record Store Day, here is a little game I like to call “The Six Degrees of Enosification,” loosely-based of off the old Kevin Bacon Connector – a similar game that tries to prove everyone and anyone can be connected in some way to actor Kevin Bacon.
Here are the rules:
Pick one person and, in only six moves, try and find a connection to Brian Eno (or Kevin Bacon if you want to be a dick about it). The connecting pieces can be people or things, but you have to fulfill all six moves.
A show of support: While speaking at the March 26 WCC Board of Trustees meeting, biology instructor David Wooten asks for individuals in attendance who disagree with the firing of Stuart Blacklaw to raise their hands and make their objections known. (Nathan Clark WASHTENAW VOICE)
Union concerns come to light through speeches,
solidarity at contentious Trustees’ meeting
By BEN SOLIS |
In a show of force and solidarity, over 50 unionized faculty and staff aired a second round of grievances toward Washtenaw Community College President Rose Bellanca in front of a standing-room only boardroom on Tuesday.
Their main concern: “anger” and “confusion” over the firing of former Vice President of Instruction Stuart Blacklaw – the faculty’s once-closest ally.
“We are better than this. Stuart Blacklaw deserved better than this,” Wooten said in a rousing speech as he addressed the college’s Board of Trustees and Bellanca in the public comments portion in the opening of the 4:20 p.m. meeting. “This is not the WCC we recognize.”
In his address, Wooten explained that none of the concerns brought forward at previous meetings have been actively addressed, and that faith in administrative decision-making has been strained even further with Blacklaw’s dismissal. His remarks were followed by Bellanca’s calm and empathetic defense of her actions.
“I’m asking that you give me a chance as we move forward,” she said.
The meeting, which typically begins at 6 p.m., began with a closed session at 4 p.m. Doors opened to the public at about 4:20 p.m.
Soon, faculty and staff members filed en masse into the usually lightly attended meeting in ML 150. So many members of the WCC Education Association attended the meeting, including two former WCCEA presidents, that there was talk of moving the meeting to a larger location.
“We are here because we are a strong faculty, we are a competent faculty, we are a cohesive faculty; but at the moment we are a confused and an angered faculty,” Wooten said. “We understand it is President Bellanca’s prerogative to hire and fire administrators as she sees fit. We have observed this since Day One with numerous changes to the organization of our administration; these changes have a direct effect on us as faculty, and they are concerning. Yet we are told they should not be our concern.”
For Wooten and the union, the fact that Blacklaw was fired was not the core of the issue, but rather the way that it was done – in secret and “under their noses.
Full house: WCC faculty and staff members gather en masse numbers at the trustees meeting making the event standing room only. (Kelly Bracha WASHTENAW VOICE)
“We accepted we were going to lose Stuart, plain and simple,” he said. “But, the fact that Stuart was fired, ‘effective immediately’ during a time when the entire faculty was in a meeting, the fact that he was in front of us not five minutes prior talking about his continued efforts for faculty support; the fact that he was not given the opportunity to leave his position respectfully and with prior notification.
“The fact that faculty were in a union meeting discussing how to communicate and collaborate better with this administration, while that same administration was firing our VP right under our noses without any communication to us is beyond ironic.”
In a final plea of for rebuilding all broken communications, Wooten said that the current mode of solving WCC’s faculty issues “isn’t working and it needs to be fixed by those responsible.” He also added that union members “are ready and willing to come to the table” to correct the damages, and asked Bellanca, “how about you?”
In her response, Bellanca thanked the WCCEA for its passionate response to the issues at hand, and she said she agreed with what they were saying.
“You are what makes us great,” Bellanca said. “I respect that, and together we can work to reach our goal, together we can figure out a way to communicate effectively. It is going to take time, and I hope not too long. But we will continue to keep working with the same end in mind.”
To defend her actions thus far, Bellanca shared a list of her accomplishments, which included a $2.9 million Department of Labor grant awarded to the college and expanded outreach to K-12 schools.
She also compared herself to former WCC President Larry Whitworth and his first 18 months in office. Bellanca has served a total of 18 months and 26 days.
“During that time, we have had three executive-level staff departures. In contrast, the immediate past president of WCC terminated a dean and 10 directors within the first 18 months of his tenure.”
Bellanca spoke for about 10 minutes. In concluding, she acknowledged that “change cane stressful for any organization, even when that change is for the better.
“I also understand that the anticipation of an unknown change – even though it may never occur – can be just as stressful. I am confident that our direction is the right one and that the decisions we have made thus far are sound.”
After the meeting, Bellanca told The Voice that he she was not surprised by the overwhelming faculty response, and that it shows just “how important all of this is to them.”
Prior to Wooten’s speech, WCCEA President Jennifer Baker, in her regularly scheduled faculty report said that “four weeks ago, in preparation for the February board meeting that subsequently was cancelled, I delivered to you a packet of information that outlined faculty concerns and asked for a response from you. One week later, our chief negotiator reiterated our concerns to you.
“We have yet to receive a response.”
Heard and understood: President Rose Bellanca, center, listens to a speech delivered by Wooten, denouncing the sudden firing of the former Vice President of Instruction Stuart Blacklaw. (Kelly Bracha WASHTENAW VOICE)
The packet of information was a 26-page collection of documents and emails detailing all communications between faculty regarding their main points of concern – which go beyond the firing of Blacklaw and communication issues.
Aside from the two points raised by the union in front of the board, other areas of concern include chain-of-command processes, hiring decisions, financial expenditures regarding office renovations and new non-instructional staff.
According to the documents acquired by The Voice via the WCCEA, discussion about how to handle their issues with Bellanca began on Jan. 15. On Feb. 12, the department chairs met to follow up a several meetings to identify their concerns with a new path of communication that Bellanca was beginning to establish. WCCEA leadership also set up a meeting with Bellanca at this time scheduled for Feb. 18 to address the president on how the faculty would like to be dealt with.
According to the WCCEA, the intent was to work with Bellanca on a way to deal with the issues they saw arising in the long run.
Stating the need for a new mechanism for “problem-solving as it relates to student success, satisfaction and improved communication processes,” Bellanca sent out an email detailing the assemblage of a Presidential Academic Cabinet three days prior to the Feb. 18 meeting.
The cabinet, which is not the same as the administrative leadership team that already exists, would be an advisory body to the president and would be “comprised of one department chair from each division, the dean of each division and a faculty member and dean representing counseling and library services,” Bellanca wrote.
For Bellanca, this path was the best way to move forward with increased faculty collaboration. However, through many meetings, informal and formal votes, the faculty union chose to reject most of these measures on Feb. 19.
While the WCCEA members were proud of their efforts, culminating in Wooten’s speech, some were not impressed by Bellanca’s reaction statement.
“None of what she said was about the central issue that is communication. I have no heartburn with the factual content of her speech; it neatly skirts what the issue is and that is communication,” said David Fitzpatrick, the WCCEA’s chief negotiator.
Maryam Barrie, the union’s vice president, was more reflective than put off.
“The thing that I hope she understands is that collaboration involves coming to us before decisions are made,” Barrie said. “Not that we have to get our way; we just want to be consulted and involved in the discussion.
“We’re used to that. Maybe we’ve been spoiled as we have been shown a great deal of respect by past administration.”
Voice Managing Editor Adrian Hedden contributed to this report.
THECURRENT.ORG COURTESY PHOTO
With all its sneering intensity and calls for urgent action against a violent, decadent Western civilization, the punk genre gave the impression that its mission was to destroy radio pop music much like a few sticks of dynamite blow apart rotted tree stumps.
But at the end of the day, when each punker went home and took off his combat boots and patch-covered leather jackets, punk rock and its aesthetic was nothing more than poorly played rock and roll, dolled up with hair spray and bleach and made for teenage girls looking for an outlet for their first-world frustrations.
So when a band like New York’s Parquet Courts comes around nearly 20 years after punk’s great leap into candy pop, is it even fair to call them a punk act?
The tunes offered up on its debut venture, “Light Up Gold” – a reissue of the same album released in 2012 on a semi-larger independent label – are fast, stripped-down, rough and awkward. The lyrics are smart and thoughtful, filled with short quips about stoned 20-somethings (“Stoned and Starving”) living in a world shaken out of a second-wave of apathy, only to find that there isn’t much any of them can do at all about failing economies, corporate pirates (“Master Of My Craft”) and the proliferation of war (“Careers in Combat”).
At its core, “Light Up Gold” at least resembles old school punk, and the album’s self-awareness of its own rhetorical sonic aggression has caused fans to label Parquet Courts as a venerable relighting of the movement’s fizzled fuse. Reviewers aren’t far behind them, with Rolling Stone and Spin giving the band slim-yet-valuable real estate on their pages and websites.
And rightly so. Parquet Courts’ flair for mixing transcendental indie rock with punk overdrive is not only highly effective, it’s absolutely fun, despite some of the songs’ heavy-yet-veiled themes. Without pretention, or rather a heavy dose of it lampooned to near absurdity, the band succeeds at bringing back a kind of punk feeling that is as in-your-face as it is non-confrontational.
While any group that pokes fun at our government’s plight or muses about being high in the city or strums guitars without precision can be lumped in as punk, Parquet Courts lives up to the title by not allowing its music to be exploited even if it has found growing popularity – and even if the categorization seems to be misplaced.
At the end of the day, when a new wave of punkers takes off their Converse sneakers and horn-rimmed non-prescription glasses, isn’t what they’re glorifying just more poorly played rock and roll?
The members of Parquet Courts seem to direct that question at themselves, and laugh while they do it, making them more punk in the process.
The WCC Health and Fitness Center, located across the street from the Student Center, offers all the gym amenities students would expect to see after paying $140 for a semester membership. (PRZEMEK OZOG THE WASHTENAW VOICE)
Washtenaw Community College’s Board of Trustees voted to lower the student Health and Fitness Center membership rate from $160 per semester to $140, an action that could result in a $30,000 shortfall in revenue per semester for the facility.
The change reflects a $5 decrease in the four-part monthly payment plan offered to students, altering the monthly dues from $40 to $35.
The changes will be introduced as a pilot program for the 2013 Spring-Summer and Fall semesters, and will be reassessed by trustees in November for any necessary modifications. Other changes in the proposed amendment include lowering the non-credit monthly membership rate from $45 to $43.
Students enrolled in the half-credit PEA 115 physical fitness course will not be affected by the changes and the price for the course will remain at $160.
According to the amendment proposal given to the trustees at their March 6 meeting, the financial impact of modifying the rates is “difficult to gauge, as the number of students who will take advantage of the new rate is unknown.”
At present, approximately 1,500 students have memberships with the HFC. If that group of students shifts to the new fee structure, the proposal indicated, the facility could lose $30,000 each semester if the change is made permanent. Because of the reduced membership in Spring-Summer, the college could suffer a higher estimated loss of $75,000 per year.
The only measure acting against the predicted loss in revenue is the hope that more students register for the PEA 115 course.
Although she aggressively led the charge for lower rates beginning last year, when she was chair of the board, Trustee Pamela Horiszny said it was never her intention to affect a financial loss on the Fitness Center in the pursuit of offering cheaper access to students.
Horiszny added that she hopes the facility will be able to find a way to maximize student memberships while concurrently fighting abuses that may arise from the lowered rate.
“I think it’s certainly fair if when you offer this student rate – which in essence the no-credit per-semester rate, which in essence is $35 a month – that you put some credit limitation on it,” Horiszny said. “In other words, that it not be offered to a student who is taking less than six credits. Because I have had people tell me that they take a class at WCC, just one class, so they can get a student rate at the Fitness Center.
“So I’m not necessarily trying to encourage people to take advantage of us. I would just ask that if you could give that some consideration.”
Faculty livid at president’s ‘cowardly’ decision
By Ben Solis | Editor
By Adrian Hedden | Managing Editor
Incited by the abrupt departure of Vice President of Instruction Stuart Blacklaw, members of the Washtenaw Community College Education Association were angered by what they called a “cowardly move.”
After months of waiting for an answer as to whether or not he would keep his position, Blacklaw learned his fate when he was relieved of his administrative duties effective immediately, according to an email sent out by Washtenaw President Rose Bellanca.
In his place, Bellanca has appointed Dr. William (Bill) Abernethy, the college’s Dean of Humanities, Social and Behavioral Sciences. Abernethy will act as the Interim Vice President of Instruction until the college can hire a permanent administrator for the 2014 academic year, Bellanca said in her email.
“Dr. Abernethy has demonstrated diverse leadership and I have full confidence in his ability,” Bellanca wrote. “He is working on a transition plan that includes learning more about all of our instructional areas and working with deans and department chairs to resolve issues.
“We will also discuss a collaborative process to hire a new Vice President for Instruction for the 2014 academic year.”
And after CFO Steven Hardy resigned suddenly last November, the college must now endeavor to find a replacement for its two most prominent vice presidents.
Blacklaw was shown the door immediately after meeting with the faculty union in a scheduled monthly meeting.
“Of course it happened during the WCCEA meeting. They did everything they could to not handle anything professionally,” said graphic design instructor Kristine Willimann. “He’s out immediately, which a nice way to say he’s fired.”
Blacklaw had concluded the meeting just one hour before college President Rose Bellanca sent out the announcement, via email, that Blacklaw had been “relieved of his duties effective immediately.”
WCCEA President Jennifer Baker was bitterly disappointed by the decision as well, asserting that Blacklaw was one of the most respected VPs ever at the college.
“We don’t support this at all,” she said somberly. “It was less than ideal. I think it’s fair to say that this institution has not had a VP of instruction that has more support from faculty.
“That’s all I have to say.”
Teachers were certain that the WCCEA would take a stance against the change in personnel that they felt they’ve had little say in despite continuous attempts to collaborate with the president’s office.
“We’ve been asking for clarification on this position,” said biology instructor David Wooten as he and other union members congregated near Blacklaw’s office hoping to say goodbye after the decision – in vain. Blacklaw was already gone.
“And we’ve been getting the runaround,” Wooten added.
“What a cowardly move,” said chemistry instructor Kathy Butcher. “This is at the very least not supported by the union.”
Abernethy was unavailable for comment, and VP of Human Resources Douglas Kruzel deferred questions to the college’s public relations office.
“I think Stuart’s the most well-loved and respected VP this college has ever had,” said WCCEA Vice President Maryam Barrie. “I was a student here, so I’m used to thinking of this as a beautiful place.
“It’s heartbreaking to see ugliness intruding here.”
Blacklaw preferred to only recall the good times from his three-year tenure at the college.
“Washtenaw is an awesome place. There are faculty members here who are truly the best I have ever seen – and I have been in this business for 27 years,” Blacklaw told The Voice, Friday. “There are amazing people here who just somehow reach students and inspire them.
“I love that. I am excited by that. I think there is no greater achievement as an academic leader than to help faculty do their work — give them the tools they need, the support they need and the encouragement they need to do great things. Washtenaw’s faculty do great things.”
After months of uncertainty, mounting rumors and hushed “mud-slinging,” Washtenaw Community College’s faculty union aired its grievances concerning communication breakdowns with college President Rose Bellanca.
In front of administrators and trustees at Wednesday’s Board of Trustees meeting, the union’s chief negotiator David Fitzpatrick made it clear to trustees that the faculty feel they have been pushed aside while trying to communicate with the president and her office.
Citing various ignored emails sent to Bellanca, Fitzpatrick, flanked by science instructor David Wooten and the union’s 2nd Vice President Bonnie Tew, said that the disregarded communications have given them cause to question the president’s commitment to staff and administrator collaboration.
“I want to be very concise in my language,” Fitzpatrick said. “At last month’s board meeting, Jennifer Baker reported to me that we were experiencing problems in collaboration and communication with the administration and were working through those problems. You should know now that those problems were more severe than she had lead on, and her communication with you after the cancellation of last week’s board meeting, describing in detail our concerns and the steps we’ve taken, both in the (faculty union) and with the department chairs, to move things forward.
“At present, there are three paths of communication through which we are hoping to work,” he continued. “First, Carrie Krantz (English Department chair) and the other department chairs send an email to President Bellanca requesting that she meet with that body. In liaison, on Feb. 18, the second path, Jennifer Baker and I expressed our deep concerns about the academic cabinet President Bellanca had announced. And third, we’re hoping to work through the email that Jennifer sent to you last week. It is our hope that these will result in the discussion that will fix the serious communication problems that exist on this campus and we anxiously await replies to all of those communications.
“I want to be clear here, effective communication on this campus, both lateral and vertical, have all but collapsed,” Fitzpatrick added. “This is not just a faculty perspective. We hear this frequently from administrators and mid-grade employees. This thing is not a figment of the faculty’s imagination. It is a widely held view that stretches across the college.
“In closing, I want to quote to you from an email that Jennifer sent last week. ‘It is my hope,’ she wrote, ‘that articulating our concerns to you will bring to our institution to a better place – that we can begin to operate in accordance with our policy on staff collaboration. We love this college. I am asking you personally, on behalf of the faculty, and the staff, and the county citizens, who elected you and who you represent, to address the issue our institution is currently facing.’”
Aside from the communication breakdowns, faculty have been worried since January about the future of Vice President of Instruction Stuart Blacklaw’s contract with the college, which has been rumored to be in jeopardy if he has not received a favorable review of renewal. Other topics weighing on the minds of faculty, and not addressed in the public forum, include the sudden resignation of the college’s Vice President of Administration and Finance Steven Hardy in late November.
Both situations have left the faculty union with unanswered questions, adding to the communication complaints issued before trustees.
And while this formal interaction marks the first time trustees have been made publicly aware of the union’s distress, each trustee defended Bellanca, her goals and actions thus far – and most of all their decision to hire her.
“I feel that in this point in time, my support has been and will always be with this president, Dr. Bellanca,” said Trustee Diana McKnight-Morton in an emotional appeal to the union. “Dr. Bellanca came to this table, in our interviews from the board, from the campus community, very honest, very forthright in what she had to say and what she would do for this campus and for us to be in the 21st Century. If there are any issues, I feel that we’re big people, and we know how to talk. All of this mud-slinging, and what’s going into the newspaper at The Voice, we need to say ‘let’s see if we can come to the table and try to work something out,’ because at this point in time, we need everybody’s cooperation.”
In her own brief defense, Bellanca acknowledged the issues that now face her and the instructors and vowed to address it.
“I’d like to thank the board for your support, and I will do my best to continue to collaborate with the faculty, staff and students and I know that we can work together to resolve whatever it is we have to,” Bellanca said. “We may have differences in communication, but we all have the same end in mind.”
A strange and definite sensa¬tion of being gagged and strangled has gripped the faculty and staff of Washtenaw Community College and no one’s really sure what to say about it — or anything at all, for that matter.
What was once a pretty easygoing campus filled with helpful individuals willing to share their insight with any random passersby looking for infor¬mation has now turned into an uncom¬fortable cage populated by fit-prone administrators and department heads.
Ask them one question about a ru¬mor on campus or even something as simple as what cool things they’ve got going on and they’ll start shaking in feverish bouts of paranoia and fear.
Recently, some news came down that part-time employees with more than one part-time job on campus will have to pick just one and end any other jobs they have with the college.
According to the rumors, which have been confirmed by Human Resources, these students and their supervisors will have until March 8 to declare their choice and the purge will take effect on March 22.
But nobody is saying why this pol¬icy is going into effect. Some said it was because of the new Affordable Health Care Act and the college’s fear of having to pay certain part-timers who log enough hours some employ-ment benefits. Others said that it was a way of tightening up on abuses from employees getting too many hours and milking the system.
Peter Leshkevich, director of Student Development and Activities, said he believed that HR was not tak¬ing a punitive route in getting rid of these abuses.
Yet coming down on everyone for a few lousy cases of abuse seems a bit extreme, eh?
Since many of these individuals are students, the loss of additional hours from another job or two could be detrimental to their ability to pay their bills and put food on the table for their children — not to mention save up enough to pay for tuition and books.
Take Chris Ulrich, for example. Ulrich works as a teacher’s assistant in the 3D animation and graphic design department at Washtenaw and also tutors in Learning Support Services.
Ulrich said that the changes wouldn’t affect him as much as oth¬ers, but it would put a damper on his savings as he prepares to leave WCC for greener pastures. He did express concern that by having his tutoring job taken away, his students would lose a valuable resource provided by his experience.
One of his supervisors, animation instructor Randy Van Wagnen, said that losing someone qualified like Ulrich is what makes this change so tough — for faculty and their students.
Learning Support Services Director Debra Guerrero said that she didn’t know how it would affect her staff, but that the tutoring services department has a high turnover rate as it is.
While these bits of information break this story, a two-week hunt for other sources turned into a failed fish¬ing expedition that displayed what kind of pressure these people are un¬der to not talk to anyone about even the most routine happenings around the college.
Why such loathing on a commuter campus? Why such dire expressions of fear and paranoia, which ultimately imply that there is more going on be¬hind the scenes about a small story than meets to eye? By not providing a reasonable explanation — and we trust there really is a reasonable ex¬planation or the college wouldn’t be doing this administrators instead give us the feeling they’re trying to hide something.
Even simple requests for mere confirmations of the changes were met with coded language, ending with Human Resources officials saying that they would rather not talk about why the changes are coming down until after everyone was notified.
Is this the new marketing strat¬egy? Shut up until told to speak? Are people so afraid others will find fault with them if they give reasonable an¬swers to reasonable questions from a campus newspaper editor?
Between searching stares and dart¬ing eyes all over my body, as if those I seek to interview are looking for a wire or some other insidious record¬ing device, vital sources of information on this campus seemed paralyzed by uncertainty.
And I know it’s not coming from me. I am, after all, just the messenger. I’m just here to help.
Outraged students commented on this photo of campus posted on the college’s Facebook page while Washtenaw refused to cancel classes during the Feb. 26 snowstorm. What was meant to be a playful gesture quickly turned into a self-inflicted slug fest. (PHOTO ILLUSTRATION PETER HOCHGRAF WASHTENAW VOICE)
For the last couple of years now, the new leaders of Washtenaw Community College have been pre¬occupied with presenting a pristine image of student success to poten¬tial donors and perspective students through clever marketing and out¬reach opportunities, including bill¬boards and social media outlets.
By focusing on its diversity of population and course offerings, as well as its secure campus environ¬ment, Washtenaw has updated its public image without many hiccups in the process.
The college may tout its many great academic programs, the success of its graduates and its low campus crime rate, but what it has failed to convey to the students who are already enrolled is the sense that the leadership of WCC actually gives a damn about them. And rarely is that more evident than in in¬clement weather situations.
Last year’s Dexter tornado fiasco left administrators red in the face and in a position of stymied embarrass¬ment that has still yet to fade from the memory of its students and long-time faculty.
When the campus alert system failed to inform students of an incom¬ing cyclone, many at Washtenaw were left scrambling, searching for shelter, wondering what to do and where to go.
Worse, the college failed to prop¬erly distinguish designated torna¬do shelters throughout the various buildings on campus. Adding to the confusion, even campus safety and security could not determine which rooms were safe for sanctuary, effec¬tively expelling whole classes from the appropriate locations.
The entire campus community was outraged, and with good reason, but aside from a few articles published in The Washtenaw Voice, news of the miscommunications went generally unnoticed.
The dent on Washtenaw’s reputa¬tion among its denizens prompted then-new President Rose Bellanca and since-departed Vice President of Administration and Finance Steven Hardy to vow that such an occurrence would never happen again.
That is, until we were hit by the late-winter storm last week that pum¬meled the Midwest, causing yet an¬other fiasco.
Taken nearly 24 hours after the initial snowfall on Feb. 26, an icy tundra still engulfed Washtenaw’s campus during an unorthodox and long-overdue snow day. (ALEX PARIS THE WASHTENAW VOICE)
As 61 schools and 16 college campuses closed their doors last Tuesday, fearing for the safety of their com¬muter students, Washtenaw stuck to its regularly scheduled programming, ignoring the multitude of weather re¬ports starting a day in advance that warned of the potential severity of the storm.
It is well known that the Michigan-born-or-bred college student is from a brave and often foolish tribe. We will ultimately throw caution to the wind in rough weather and get to where we need to be, not because we’re inher¬ently stupid, but because we can take it.
So when Washtenaw decided not to close, we were not so much upset as we were annoyed.
As the weather got worse, as rain turned to freezing sleet and then heavy, wet dangerous snow on icy roads, the fear and paranoia began to set in, and the dread of a late-night spin-out filled our minds with fiendish vision.
It was not until we learned well into the storm that the extension cen¬ter in Dexter, which many of our stu¬dents drive through to get to main campus, had been closed, that annoy¬ance turned to shock and anger.
Shortly afterward, the college an¬nounced that the Board of Trustees meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. —the same time most evening classes were to begin — had been cancelled. Here was proof enough that the people who run this college seemed to care more about their own well-being than that of the students, faculty and staff who populate the campus most weeknights.
If that wasn’t enough of a slap in the face, a social media expert employed by the college made the ill-fated decision to post a photo from the second floor of the Student Center showing the campus encased in the wintry shroud, extolling the beauty of a freshly fallen snow.
For those using Facebook while sit¬ting in class, biding their time before their treacherous journey home, the post was considered a heinous insult, another slap in the face.
A comment stream formed, with mad posters calling the college lead¬ership irresponsible and dangerously out of touch.
The photo – it really was lovely – re¬mained on Washtenaw CC’s Facebook. The snow continued to fall. A convoy of snowplows were busy by 11 p.m., attempting to clear the parking lots, which would prove to be an all-night challenge. And finally, mercifully, the powers that be cancelled classes on Wednesday.
The announcement was made at 4:42 a.m., nearly 12 hours after it should have been made, when the weather caused the roads to be dan¬gerous enough to keep the trustees away from campus.
Saying shame on those who make these decisions for not closing down the college would be outside our realm of moral jurisdiction, and calling foul for poor judgment when using social media would be futile, at best.
Suffice to say the students of Washtenaw Community College have spoken, and on Tuesday, Feb. 26, they spoke the words for us, for the world to see. And they weren’t pretty.
ILLUSTRATION BY PETER HOCHGRAF THE WASHTENAW VOICE
Below are comments from the Facebook Pages of Washtenaw Community College and The Washtenaw Voic, regarding the col¬lege’s decision not to cancel classes. The comments from WCC’s page are in response to a picture posted by the college that showed the snowy abyss from the top of the Student Center. Many respondents were outraged. Some of their comments (edited for brevity, clarity and grammar) follow:
Rebecca Linton, 22, Howell
“…I should have stayed home. The roads are awful and my 45 minute drive turned into almost two hours. They need to learn when to cancel classes before we all die trying to get to class.
“I just find it extremely annoying to be honest. I, along with many oth¬ers, commute to this school and in weather like today’s it’s a nightmare. I think that if every school in the area is closed, we should be too.
“I was terrified my entire drive to class, and I am not looking forward to my drive home.”
Nathan Knapp, 27, Ypsilanti
“There was a total of six people in my class and they called class 25 minutes in. Why didn’t you just save everyone time and gas money and just close the school.”
Caitlyn Rachel, 22, Highland
“I have had a problem since start¬ing at WCC in August 2009 with them not closing the school down when it is necessary. I should not be complain¬ing now as I live five minutes from the school. However, in the beginning I was driving form Manchester, then I was driving from Jackson just to get to class.
“I feel like administration does not have any level of concern for those (students, staff, and faculty) who are driving a long distance. It is such a shame, because for those of us who chose to stay home on days when it was just awful out, our attendance suffers.
“I am so glad I will be done with this school in May.
Andrew Crumb, 26, Whitmore Lake
“I think we should all complain on Facebook instead of talking to some¬one about it who has anything to do with (whether) the school should close or not. You know, this is prob¬ably someone who is in charge of the website and not the president or any¬one with the authority to close school. Cry to someone who cares.”
Shawna Gerry, 33, Jackson
“I am going to make a prediction that even if all other schools close to¬morrow (including other WCC cam¬puses) that the main campus will still be open. Even though many of us drive PAST said closed campuses to get to there.
“It is difficult, because they know that so many of their students com¬mute. If they deem the roads in the Dexter area to be dangerous enough to cancel class at that campus, then those of us that are from Dexter or drive through Dexter still have to trav¬el those same roads.
Becky Pagels, 27, Folwerville
“Pretty sad that our money is worth more to them than our “voice” and safety. Epic fail WCC!
“I feel that keeping the campus open is a safety issue for those who have to make a commute. For the safe¬ty and well-being of the students, I think it would be in the college’s best interest to close class for the day, or at least until road conditions are not as hazardous.”
“We have a small child (age 3) that attends WCC Children’s Center while we are in class, so not only are we risk-ing our lives, but our child’s life when they refuse to cancel classes. It is just not worth it in my book. Please think of your students and their families, WCC!”