Letters to the Editor


Dear reader,

For the past year, a very troublesome situation has embroiled Mendocino College. Alleged transgressions by the college administration have frequently brought front page attention to the college. While Ms. Leanne Lambert, of the Ukiah Daily Journal, is to be applauded for her unbiased reporting of this unfortunate situation, such front page attention to only this one issue leaves our community with an adverse impression of Mendocino College; particularly the way in which it is governed.

The Board of Trustee and the top administrators have been under a well intentioned, but misguided, assault by a small segment of the college community and the public who feel authority should be shifted from the administration to the Board of Trustees. Such a shift would result not only in curtailing the authority of the administration to propose and carry out policy, it would also result in diminishing the participation of all employee and student groups in the formation and execution of college policy.

As recently as 10 years ago, college governance in California was executed in a more centralized fashion than it is today. After a long, hard fought battle by the Academic Senates throughout California to give faculty a stronger voice in policies involving academic issues and academic standards, the State of California passed AB1725, establishing shared governance. AB1725 mandates that all employee groups, and when practicable the student body, have representation on all decision and policy making committees.

The trustees and administrators at many of California's institutions of higher education resisted sharing their authority. This was not the case at Mendocino College, where the current board and administrators have espoused and cultivated shared governance. They recognize and value the insight and expertise of those they charge with carrying out the policies of the district; thus, they encourage their participation in the formation of policy.

An excellent example of shared governance in action at Mendocino College grew out of the alleged transgressions in the hiring policy. When a group from the college community questioned the policy, the Academic Senate passed a resolution calling for revisions to the policy. The Academic Senate forwarded their resolution to the President's Advisory Committee (PAC), which is comprised of representatives from each employee group and the student body. These representatives agreed to revise the hiring policy and sought advice from their constituents. While much of the work to revise the policy was done by the Academic Senate, approval from PAC was required before forwarding the revisions to the Board of Trustees for final approval. The Board of Trustees approved the revisions as forwarded, mandating the implementation of the revised policy for all current and future hirings.

Bernard Lemke's participation as a board member has been crucial to the success of shared governance throughout this troublesome situation. He asks the hard questions he feels are necessary to ensure he and his fellow trustees make the best possible decisions to guide and shape Mendocino College. If he feels uncomfortable with an issue, he calls for as much open discussion as is allowable under the Brown Act. If the discussion does not satisfy his concerns, rather than calling for a vote on the issue to facilitate moving onto the next item as quickly as possible, he will make a motion to have the issue tabled until the next meeting to allow for further research and discussion. At the same time, when individuals, either from the college community or from the public, bypass the shared governance process and bring an issue directly to the board, he listens with interest to their concerns and asks questions to help him understand their position. However, even when he may support their position, he understands the board's role in shared governance is to allow change occur from the bottom up, instead of being dictated from the top down. Rather than attempt to sway the board to act on such an issue, he attempts to educate the individuals involved about the process of shared governance, and he insists the issue be brought to the board through the appropriate channels.

Bernard Lemke's experience as a trustee and his dedication to Mendocino College, as well as the communities it serves, are vital to resolving this current troublesome situation, and to returning the primary focus of Mendocino College to its mission of serving the students and the community in the best way possible.

Lucia Giovannetti


Have you ever looked back at your life and wished that you had done something differently? I have, many times. It is just such a feeling that prompts me to write this at this time. After teaching here since 1987, there are some things that I have noticed.

Did you ever walk down these hallowed corridors of learning at night and wonder if you were invisible? OK, maybe not invisible, but definitely not seen by many; and, in more ways than your physical being. Again, I have.

It is an insidious process, for the first several years you may not be aware of anything but your work. After all, it is my firm belief that we all care much about what we do. Our students are foremost in our mind, they come first- and they still do. It certainly isn't just our wages, for after you take into consideration all the outside class work you do, wages lack much luster.

For me this insidious process began several years ago. It was 1993. June 29 of that year I had open heart surgery, a quadruple bypass. On August 24, 1993 I taught my usual class. Breathless after each hour I continues and lost no time. I was there. The students were wonderful in their understanding. In 1994 I was asked to teach a class at the Lake County Center. This was an addition to the class in Ukiah. After about two weeks a second class like the one I was teaching was started. It was that year that I had one of my smallest classes, yes, the one at the Lake County Center. I didn't even get a thank you for teaching that extra class from anyone at that center.

Recently, I found out that recognition for teaching was limited. If you only teach once each year it would take you twenty years to get a ten year certificate. Hell, I'm not so sure that I'll be around that long; my doctor only gave me a ten year warranty on my heart! So I just wanted to let you all know that I was here. And I wanted to let all of the part-time instructors know that I think they are doing one heck of a job.

I cannot go placidly into the night without having said these words.

William J. Russell
Advanced Medical Specialist, U.S. Army, Retired

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