6 things from April 28 board of trustees meeting

WCC campus

By Natalie Wright
Editor
And Taylor Robinson
Staff Writer

 

1. Board approves nearly $1 million project to repair Student Center roof

The repairs consist of a $388,000 replacement for the Student Center skylight and a $531,748 bridge and roof replacement.

Despite comments by former WCC physics instructor William Campbell protesting the project, the board unanimously approved funds for the repairs.

Campbell, who owns a roof thermography company, requested reports from the college and found “inconsistencies,” he said. There were 16 parts of the roof that were marked wet, but only eight were shown in the images in the report, he said.

“I have a lot of support in the community that you really need to get a second opinion on this roof,” Campbell said. “You need a thermographer to get a professional opinion on it,” he suggested, insisting that he was not there for business or personal gain.

When it came time for the vote, the trustees asked Vice President of Facilities Damon Flowers if he had gotten a second opinion.

“We got a third,” Flowers said and went on to explain more about the necessity of the repairs and the bidding process for the project contract.

The images that Campbell referenced were infrared photos, Flowers explained, which only give you a certain range. He would not expect them to capture every inch of the roof, he said.

“We’re monitoring and inspecting the roof with my own staff on a quarterly basis, and so we know the condition of the roof, even without a third party,” Flowers said.

 

2. Administrator “mysteriously disappeared” from campus

Washtenaw’s Chief Information Officer Amin Ladha stopped coming to campus sometime in February, confirmed WCC President Rose Bellanca, after faculty union President Maryam Barrie said he “mysteriously disappeared.”

As for where he went?

“There are some things you can’t say,” Bellanca said. “He’s still an employee of the college, and they have probably been saying that because he hasn’t been on campus.”

Although he is still listed as a college employee, Barrie spoke about him as though he would not be back.

“Amin reliably welcomed faculty input for his projects and has long been an intelligent communicative and warm resource for many of us here on campus,” Barrie said. “He is missed.”

 

3. Curriculum leaders say college is skirting academic chain of command

Among the long list of concerns raised by faculty in the last several years, one of the most commonly repeated is that curriculum is not being properly filtered through the academic chain of command.

There is a trend in nonacademic vice presidents interfering with the traditional curriculum process, said Kelley Gottschang, chair of the Curriculum Committee.

“Faculty chairs, deans and, in some cases, the vice president of instruction have not been consulted regarding the institutional academic initiatives,” Gottschang said.

Michelle Garey repeated year-old concerns about the college’s dual enrollment courses.

“We are creating and teaching high school courses to high school students who are clearly not college ready; yet, we are still calling these courses college courses for college credit” Garey said. “It is both alarming and concerning.”

These courses have been offered for more than two years without the inclusion of the committees, she said. Sometimes courses will be pushed through without approval on a special basis, to meet a deadline and will be put through the process at a later time, said Vice President of Instruction Bill Abernethy.

Trustee Ruth Hatcher asked the instructors how many courses are being offered without passing through the chain of command.

“We don’t know,” Gottschang said. “We are investigating and trying to unearth the answers to those questions.”

 

4. College proposes 2015-16 budget

In the second year of a new budget preparation process, Chief Financial Officer Bill Johnson said that it went smoother than last year. When the new process was introduced last year, it drew much criticism from faculty and staff, but this year, Johnson told the trustees, he got “100 percent support” from the department chairs and organization leaders who helped write their budgets.

“Engagement is getting better,” he said.

The budget plans for a $2 million surplus at the end of the year.

 

5. Teachers fear WCC lacks adequate counseling

Barrie opened the meeting with a speech emphasizing the need for more counselors on campus.

“Sadly, I’ve heard of several instances within the last month that involved troubled students being told at the counseling front desk that ‘personal counseling is no longer available,’” she said.

After the meeting, Vice President of Student and Academic Services Linda Blakey said that the college absolutely still offers counseling, and that it is not true students had been turned away.

“There are counselors that are probably really offended by that statement,” Blakey said.

English instructor Maxine Gibson said that she recently took a student to the counseling office after learning she was running from an abusive boyfriend. The student was asked to wait and left, without being helped, by the time Gibson’s class was over.

“In fairness to the counselors, they were probably with another student who was in a state of crisis,” Gibson said. “As Maryam suggested, there are a lot of crises right now.”

Although there are counselors meeting with students at the college, they are not able to meet the demand, Barrie said.

“We have excellent counselors here – we just need more,” she said. “Unless we believe that we are in a position to only admit and enroll students who have little stress in their lives, who come to us with excellent self-esteem and wonderful skills in hand, then we’re not meeting their needs by not providing more counselors.”

 

6. Instructor advocates to keep lab in environmental sciences department

Life sciences instructor Emily Thompson spoke to the board about her concerns for the fate of OE 135 – a lab currently used for environmental sciences classes. She heard that the room might be given to Washtenaw Technical Middle College, she said.

Environmental sciences is a fast-growing field producing jobs nationwide, Thompson argued. Enrollment in classes at WCC alone has increased by 600 percent since 2010.

Although Abernethy was not immediately available for comment, Thompson said that he has been working to stop the switch as well.

“I did hear that Vice President Abernethy is trying to negotiate this all around. Thank you very much, sir, for your hard work to try and help us keep our room,” Thompson said.

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