Before the current crisis emerged, the EAGLE staff pondered the destiny of our publication: Was it to be, we wondered, a paper of some worth to its community, perhaps even a force in history, or just a rag like so many others?
As part of our deliberations, we began to circulate some documents about mission of the academic community, and our relationship to it. We consulted with the college librarian and others and in October published a short article.
We are reissuing a revised version of that article because it is clear to us that it is the college mission which must be the measure by which we judge the bureaucracy and ourselves. In the end, the mission itself may need to be recast to provide an adequate vehicle to carry us into the new milenium.
By King Collins
Recent activity and discussions around the college and around the EAGLE have made it clear that we all need to take some time to think about the purpose of our activity together.
If you are a faculty member, an administrator, or on the staff of this newspaper, it is important to do some soul searching about what your goals are, and how your work relates to the college and its goals. We feel that the real problem is not just that "this college is a public institution run like a private club" (anonymous faculty member) but that the institution does not have an adequate mission. The following article was originally printed in the October issue of the EAGLE:
In a recent issue of the EAGLE we printed an article on the front page which set a significant, though not exclusive, agenda for the EAGLE. "The EAGLE is not 'just' a student newspaper. It is by and for the entire college community. At Mendocino College, the EAGLE is currently the only place where the college community publicly thinks about itself. This thinking or dialogue will sometimes be profound and sometimes silly, but underneath it all is the awareness that there is a lot at stake. What is at stake is not only the college but the community it is a part of. Mendocino College is an institution of higher learning located in an area of Northern California where there are no other similar institution for many miles-the nearest college campus is 60 miles away! Therefore, to be worth its salt, the college must be more than a grab-bag of programs and stepping stones for our academic or professional careers. We are in the midst of a communications revolution, and this college and this little paper are part of it. In such a time, the college, its newspaper and the newspaper's staff must rise to the occasion. Is there any doubt?
Perhaps the idea is not one that has occurred to you in such exact terms. So then, yes, let us ponder the question for awhile. Maybe you will take the time to write your own version of the college mission. The significance of our effort together does not mean that we have to be weighed down by it. It just means we have to be clear.
Our first step for the EAGLE is to see what has been officially stated as our goal. With the help of some members of the Academic Senate and the staff of the library we have something to report about that.
The Official College Mission
According to the College Catalog, the mission of Mendocino College is to:
- Provide quality educational programs and support services to meet the needs of a diverse and ever-changing community.
- Maintain a comprehensive curriculum that includes transfer, associate degree, vocational certificate, basic skills, community extension, contract education programs; and a variety of support services which facilitate and enhance the operation of the institution and the educational programs of the college.
- * Maintain an environment that values diversity and emphasizes and encourages teaching, lifelong learning, scholarships, creativity, critical and independent thinking and social responsibility.
- Provide students with opportunities to fulfill their academic needs, enrich the quality of their lives and develop the competencies needed to function productively and responsibly in society.
Quoted from page 24of the College catalog.
So that is Mendo's official goals. What do you think of them? Do they cover your interests? Do they cover the interests of the wider community? Perhaps you can decipher some meaning but I defy you to get inspired about them! They sound like the drivel dreamed up by a committee on a grant application. We should look at some of the more coherent and inspiring missions of other colleges. (Perhaps in a latter article). In the meantime, there are some other matters to be concerned with.
The Accreditation Process
For any college in California to be recognized as such, it must periodically undergo a review by the official "Accreditation Commission." Mendocino College is fully accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. This status is granted for an unlimited period of time, with a provision for an institutional self-study every six years, along with review and visitation by the Accreditation Commission. Our college was reviewed last year. On leaving, the Committee issued a report. A press time the EAGLE did not have the full report, but we do have a summary of the Commission's findings contained in a memo from our president, Dr. Carl Ehman. Here are the relevant parts of that important document:
"At 1 pm Thursday the 28th (1996), the Accreditation Team gave their exit presentation...:
Recommendations (for Improvement):
- Work to develop an overarching vision to assist in priority and decision making, which speaks specifically to our college.. * Evaluate the work load of all staff; develop strategies that address equitable work loads.
- Assure timely and consistent evaluation of classified and management/confidential staff.
- Make the library a high priority in funding. Increase the library and Learning Center resources (collection, staffing, technology, and space.) * Consider clarification and simplification of the budget planning process so it is understood by all; integrate budget and planning. * The Board, administration, students, faculty and classified should reach consensus on the meaning of shared governance, with an eye toward streamlining the process (committee structure, etc.)
So, what can we say about this report? It is clear that recent events have highlighted several items
1) The first recommendation by the Committee is that we "develop an overarching vision!" Needless to say, the EAGLE agrees. I am reminded of a conversation with a faculty member who said that the trouble with the college is that the planning is driven by funding sources. Another said that the College is a public institution run as a private club.
2) Assure timely and consistent evaluation of classified and management/confidential staff. When the EAGLE first considered this one (at the beginning of the year) we had no idea that it would become a salient point. We now know that Dean Bell, herself, feels that her evaluation-by the President and Vice President of the College-was mishandled. Will the Board of Trustees act on Dean Bells concerns?
3) Make the library a high priority in funding. Increase the library and Learning Center resources (collection, staffing, technology, and space.)
Yes! Definitely! The library should be a high priority for the obvious reason that it is the place where most of our intellectual resources are stored and accessed. Regarding the library and technology, is it true, or just a rumor, that a few years back, the college turned down the chance to connect the Library to the main campus network for a mere $2000? If there is substance to that rumor would someone please come forward and tell us about it?
Another related issue that should be high on the technological agenda is the problem of providing email for part-time faculty and students (see letter from Susan Keegan in the previous issue of the EAGLE). Here, we find that the administration is extremely concerned with security (how to protect grades and other confidential files) and is dragging its feet in providing this fundamental communication tool to everyone on campus. Arguments that there are not enough computers is subterfuge. The point is to provide it to students and part time faculty in as many places as possible. Right now it is only available to administrators and full-time faculty. The EAGLE unequivocally supports email for everyone. And for good reason: we find that some of the most newsworthy discussion about our college is taking place by way of email on the college network.
4) And yes! We should "reach consensus on the meaning of shared governance, with an eye toward streamlining the process." That is a good critique! The college needs a clear and timely process for getting action on good ideas. The recent outpouring of dissent reflects the feeling that talent, creativity and good programs are often discouraged before they can bloom. The November 19 forum on Hiring may help if we can keep from being suffocated by what is not allowed to be discussed and the gentility of it.
Let's get on with it!
Whatever your role in the college, please speak up. The dialog has begun. Communicate with the Academic Senate and with the EAGLE. We-the EAGLE, concerned faculty and administrators- are on the case.
And we are going to stay on the case.
Copyright Mendocino College Eagle 1996
Permission granted to excerpt or use this article if source is cited.