Open Letter to Chancellor Salgado

November 13, 2017

Dear Chancellor Salgado,

We read with interest your response to the article published by the BGA. We too believe deeply in the success of our students. As we look at the article, however, we do not see that its intent was to undermine our students. The issues that faculty had with our previous chancellor are directly related to those mentioned in the article. While faculty members may not have known many of the specific details outlined in the article, there certainly was an overwhelming belief that data was being manipulated and that City Colleges leadership was exaggerating graduation rates in order to provide a false impression of institutional successes under Reinvention. Thus, it’s not the BGA article that is harming our students. To the contrary, if the claims made in the article are reliable—and at this point no one from CCC has discredited them with verifiable information—then we believe it would be more accurate to say that CCC policies (long predating your arrival) have undermined the value of CCC’s data reporting, which appears to rely on providing multiple degrees to the same students, encouraging AGS degrees, and awarding retroactive degrees to long-ago students to boost the numbers.

We are especially concerned that the BGA has had to file a lawsuit in order to gain access to public records and documentation: what has the BGA asked for in this lawsuit, and why is CCC not providing BGA with the data requested? More information could help answer questions we all have. For example, one claim often heard, and you included in your response, is that “City Colleges more than doubled the number of degrees awarded and the graduation rate since the launch of its reforms.” You also wrote that this is true “even if one were to pull out the successes questioned in the report.” This seems fairly straightforward. However, the BGA report raises some issues of concern, including the awarding of multiple degrees to the same student. For the sake of clarification, could you simply tell us how many individual students earned their first CCC degree in 2010 (before Reinvention began) and the total number of students earning a degree (their first) in 2016? This is a simple question. The BGA also says that the two statistics—the number of degrees awarded and the graduation rate—are not the same, though Mayor Emanuel conflates the two.

Could you explain the difference in how these are calculated?

Additionally, we’d like information on the success of our College-to-Career programs. We all enjoy reading about the success of our students, such as those you included anecdotally, but we’d like a more complete picture. The BGA quoted Mayor Emanuel as saying in a 2014 New York Times interview that “now we’re giving [students] an education that ensures them a job.” Can you share with us the data on job placement for C2C graduates?

The BGA points out the steep decline in student enrollment since Reinvention began, and you’ve acknowledged this is a significant area of concern. One important policy change to address enrollment is the tuition schedule change of July 2015 which incentivizes full-time enrollment and punishes part-time students. This misguided policy change was also made in an attempt to increase graduation rates, but it resulted in dropping enrollment due to making classes unaffordable for some of our students. Many faculty and staff believe the declining enrollment is also due to reduced course offerings at the college campuses, which are a direct result of the College to Career consolidations. What are your current plans for returning programs to the colleges, especially those suffering the greatest student losses?

As faculty and staff members at CCC, we are looking for serious leadership that understands the scope of the problems created by the negligent behavior of our previous administration. The concerns raised in the article are serious and do not deserve to be brushed aside as “unfortunate” or as an attempt to “tarnish” our students. That is not a serious response. In a democratic society, it is the role of journalism to hold public institutions accountable for the claims they make. We hear enough from President Donald Trump, whose views we assume you do not share, about “fake news.” Under the Trump administration, journalism and journalists have never faced a greater threat, a threat which directly impacts the public, who has the right to know how public institutions operate. Our democracy is thus deeply threatened by such dismissals of serious journalism, and we hope that you will not engage in this kind of dismissiveness.

We also know that we are living in a time when politicians and foundations have sought to discredit the value of public education, and the burden is on all of us to fight as fiercely as we can to maintain its undeniably important role in our society. If CCC is using misleading measures to represent its successes, this plays directly into the hands of those who wish to eliminate or defund public education by giving them evidence of incompetent (if not corrupt) leadership in publicly-funded schools.

We, as faculty and staff at CCC, believe deeply in our students and in the power of education to transform our students’ lives. To help our students succeed, however, we must know how our colleges are truly doing, how many students are earning degrees, how well our students transfer or enter the workforce.

This is not possible if we are working for an institution that is using dishonest measures to gain political points. Our students are not numbers and they are not talking points.

As soon as possible, we would like to meet with you to discuss what was highlighted in the article. We understand that the policy decisions questioned in the article were not made under your leadership, so you are certainly not being held responsible for them. You are, however, responsible now as Chancellor to address our concerns openly and honestly. You have a responsibility to our students, to the public, and to CCC faculty and staff to explain the report’s detailed allegations, to acknowledge mistakes, and to move forward together in good faith. We do not want you to simply defend the mayor’s policies or the policies of the previous administration. We want to see real, systemic change on behalf of City College students and the communities our colleges serve. This can only begin, however, with serious consideration, in an open meeting, of the charges and claims made by BGA.

We ask that you schedule such a meeting with us at your earliest convenience. We’d be happy to host you at the CCCTU Local 1600 office space, or perhaps we could hold the discussion at one of the colleges.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

Tony Johnston
President
Cook County College Teachers Union, Local 1600

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