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City Colleges Faculty Votes No Confidence in Chancellor

Faculty at the City Colleges of Chicago are saying they have no confidence in Chancellor Cheryl Hyman.

Faculty Council President Jennifer Alexander, an early childhood development instructor at Richard J. Daley College, presented the declaration of no confidence at a board meeting Thursday morning.

“We are exceptionally concerned that our chancellor’s actions are destroying our mission, the values and the integrity of the City Colleges,” she said.

Alexander said faculty discontent has been brewing for some time, largely in response to sweeping changes that have been part of the school’s “Reinvention” initiative. That effort, launched under Hyman six years ago, aims to increase the number of degrees attained, strengthen job placement and promote career advancement for students.

Under the Reinvention plan, the system of seven community colleges has relocated academic programs, changed tuition incentives and undertaken significant capital investments. In public comments at the meeting today, faculty said they were especially concerned about the recent decisions to raise tuition for international and part-time students, and to shorten the registration period for classes.

“Both of these actions limit student and community access to high-quality programs, and violate the mission of the City Colleges of Chicago,” said Alexander.

Early in the meeting, Hyman addressed the Board of Trustees, laying out the school’s successes and saying that when she was appointed by Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2010, the network was suffering a “crisis of confidence.”

“Six years later I am pleased to report our metrics are up across the district and City Colleges has been hailed as a national model,” said Hyman. “A City Colleges of Chicago credential equips our graduates with the skills to succeed.”

Regular attendees of board meetings said the gathering was atypical, as dozens of leaders spanning civic, political, higher education and community organizations -- including Congressman Bobby Rush -- turned out to speak pointedly in support of Hyman. Several students, too, shared their comments, including a foreign student who said he supported the decision to raise tuition disproportionately for international students like himself.

Melanny Buitron, a student at Wright College, said a personal meeting with Hyman in 2011 compelled her to attend City Colleges after graduating from high school. “She told us (her) story, about how she attended City Colleges and how she got to where she is now, which I respect a lot,” said Buitron, “because at a young age, as an undocumented student, I said ‘If she could do it, so could I.’”

But faculty members say that other students have been affected adversely by decisions that Hyman and the City Colleges board made.

“They’re closing vibrant programs at certain colleges and only going to offer them at certain colleges,” said Alexander. “So nursing was taken away from Daley College -- it was closed. And now they’re saying they’re going to close child development at Daley College, and that those students would have to go to the North Side...My concern is that my students are not going to be able to do that, and I don’t want to lose my students.”

Alexander said she already did lose some of her students as a result of a sudden and unexpected tuition hike that the school announced over the summer.

Kim Knutson, an associate professor of English at Wright College, says the consolidation of academic programs to certain campuses will further reinforce the city’s existing patterns of segregation. She points to the decision to move transportation programs to Olive-Harvey College, and Culinary and Hospitality services to Kennedy-King College, both on the South Side.

“So, you live on the South and Southwest side, you can be a truck driver, you can be a cook, you can work in a factory. That’s pretty much it. They kind of decided that’s what you’re destined for,” said Knutson. “And Harold Washington gets all the business and professional services. Great, but why can’t you now take accounting if you grew up in one of the more impoverished areas? We’re already talking about populations that are not privileged to begin with and now they’re further parsing it and acting like they don’t know… It’s really unconscionable.”

Faculty members delivered a copy of their resolution to Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office after presenting it to the Board. A statement from that office praises higher graduation rates under Hyman’s leadership, and says:

“The Mayor is committed to working with the Chancellor as CCC continues to provide an affordable pathway to a four-year degree while also expanding industry-aligned opportunities that provide great value to both our students, as well as to top employers seeking highly qualified candidates for the jobs of today.”

A statement from City Colleges’ Board said trustees remain “impressed with the significant accomplishments demonstrated by Chancellor Cheryl Hyman and her unwavering commitment to preparing Chicagoans for the workforce and further higher education.”

Odette Yousef is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her @oyousef and @WBEZoutloud.

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