Should tipping be phased out?

The tipping system breeds tension

Natalie Wright

Natalie Wright, Editor

After waiting tables for three years, I firmly believe everyone should work in customer service at some point – waiting tables if possible.

Providing service for others teaches invaluable life lessons, and you can make good money doing it. I’ve walked away from some shifts having made $30 an hour, others I’ve made less than $5 an hour. It’s a fact you have to accept – the good and bad days even out.

The frustrating part is that often tables that require the most work from their server pay off the least. The customers who tip well are usually courteous and thankful. The customers who tip poorly often barely acknowledge their server as a human being.

It makes no sense – the harder you work, the less money you get.

Some argue that servers need the motivation of tips to provide good service, but plenty of other businesses find employees who provide excellent customer service while being payed an hourly rate. By paying servers a fair wage, we don’t have to ban tipping. It could still be something to strive for.

Expected tipping creates tension between customers and servers. A less than friendly customer may not be treated well, because it’s assumed they won’t tip decently. A friendly server often appears fake.

Working at a restaurant in Ann Arbor, a college town that hosts hundreds of foreign students and faculty, I witnessed another toxic side to tipping: It perpetuates stereotypes and breeds racism.

Because tipping customs differ around the world, those not familiar with American standards might not realize that servers are paid next to nothing hourly.

Raising the minimum wage for servers, or including a mandatory service fee, can put an end to this tension between servers and customers.

What does your wallet say?

EJ Stout

EJ Stout, Managing Editor

Excellence deserves recognition.

It’s a value that has been drilled into our heads as Americans, be it as direct advice or simply in our daily observance of the cutthroat society around us.

In a culture saturated with mediocre efforts disguised as five-star service, sometimes it’s hard to separate the lackluster from the exceptional, and even harder to know how to reward excellence when you do see it.

As consumers, we exist in a very rigid system – marketplace outcomes largely predetermined by super corporations pulling the puppets strings of our wallets.

Not often does it feel like our wallets are doing the voting, and many industries benefit from the contents regardless of our intention or support.

Those in the service industry, however, are tasked with providing service to customers of all backgrounds, all needs and all attitudes. Their work is then immediately judged and scored in the form of a monetary tip.

In no other industry are one’s efforts so directly tied to their rewards. Servers are asked to cater hand and foot to their guests, fulfilling requests often well outside of reasonable expectation. And they are asked to do so with a glowing smile and cheerful attitude.

It’s a grueling job.

It’s a grueling job that should be rewarded for its excellence.

Removing the tipping system in our state would minimalize the efforts of every service industry worker, and it would take away our power as consumers to quite literally put our money where our mouths are.

In a culture slowly stripping away our power as citizens, we ought to fight for the chance to support each other.

New culinary class teaches organic gardening

Groce teaching students

Instructor Kim Groce, center, works with students Holden Knapp, 19, left, and Charles Schwarz, in the LA building’s greenhouse before they plant another batch of tomato seeds. The plants will remain in the greenhouse until the weather permits their transfer to the Core Garden. Gray Bancroft | Washtenaw Voice

By Natalie Wright

Kasey Shelton spent the last five of her 27 years sitting in a cubicle. One day she realized it wasn’t what she wanted.

“So you sit at your job every day and if you like it, you love it, and if you don’t, you think about what you’d rather be doing,” Shelton said. “For me it was food.”

Shelton, of Ypsilanti, quit her job working for an auto supplier, got a job at Whole Foods and signed up for culinary classes at Washtenaw. Now, she is studying baking and pastry, and is pursuing her interest in organic gardening in the Farm Harvesting and Management class that began this semester.

The class, which is a part of the culinary department, was developed by divisional counselor Kim Groce, as a support for the Core Garden project she spearheaded last year. It brings a body of labor to the garden that was desperately needed, Groce said, and gives her an opportunity to teach students, which is why she created the garden in the first place.

“It was always my plan to be able to teach students how to grow,” she said. “I didn’t know I would be able to actually have a class.”

When Vice President of Instruction Bill Abernethy had the idea to create a formal class, Groce was excited, she said, but also overwhelmed.

“We really only had six weeks. Normally it takes about a year to put together a whole new class.”

The course could have gone into a variety of areas, Groce said, like business or environmental science, but culinary is the best fit, she said.

students mixing soil

Students Charles Schwarz, left, and Holden Knapp, 19, both of Manchester, make a fresh batch of soil from which a new batch of seedlings will sprout. Gray Bancroft | Washtenaw Voice

“We can look at the concept of ‘farm-to-table’ and teach students the importance of growing and knowing where your food comes from,” Groce said.

Charles Schwarz, a student in the class and lifelong farmer, said that even if students continue to go to the grocery store for their fruits and vegetables, this class will help make them better consumers.

“All the time people at the grocery store put down a fruit or vegetable for a ‘better one,’ because it looks brighter; it’s shinier; it has more wax on it, but that doesn’t make it better,” Schwarz said.

Learning how to grow also means learning what to look for in the best food products.

Schwarz admitted that he was a little disappointed when the class started. A farmer all his life, Schwarz, who is in his 40s, signed up for the class expecting it to cover topics like fertilizing methods, farming machinery and crop rotation.

“The first day I showed up and said, ‘Where do I park my John Deere?’” he said. “Where’s my parking structure?” While the farm harvesting class wasn’t what he expected, he stayed with it, he said, because he felt he could learn something and that his experience would be valuable for others in the class.

“I would like to see them have a good agricultural farm program here, though,” he said.

Brook Miller, 40, said that although she has been gardening for five or six years, there is still so much to learn.

“I’ve only just started,” Miller said.

While some students have as much as 30 years of experience in growing and others have never been able to keep a plant alive, they all seem to agree that more goes into gardening than meets the eye.

students gardening

Culinary arts student Chris Colaner, 52, of Ypsilanti, left, and WTMC student Imani Johnson, 17, of Canton, add water to their soil mix to bond the dirt together. Gray Bancroft | Washtenaw Voice

“I didn’t know as much about gardening as I thought I did,” Shelton said. “You have to go back generations to learn the true and tried methods.”

Only nine students make up the class, and that’s “the only way it works” Groce said. The small class size allows for each student to have more hands-on time and helps to develop a sense of community and teamwork.

On their way up to the greenhouse atop the LA building, where seedlings are housed for the winter, the students crowded 10 to the elevator.

“Family style,” Groce said.

As the packed compartment carried them up, Miller asked Groce if she needed any help tending to the plants over break.

“Absolutely, I do,” Groce said. “I’m here every day, just let me know when you want to come in.”

Last summer, Groce tended to the garden mostly on her own, for months. It was a labor of love, but took a toll on her. Having students who are not only willing, but excited to help is a huge relief for her, though she is still keeping busy, she said.

“I can focus more on the administrative side and looking for grants to help support the garden project while the students do the more hands on experience,” she said.

But she doesn’t plan to give up all her weeding and watering responsibilities. “I’ll be out there as much as I can,” she said. “I’m never letting go.”


What: CUL 103: Farm Harvesting and Management

When: Spring semester, May 15–July 17, Fridays 1-6 p.m.

Where: TI 125


WCC Dental Clinic open


The Washtenaw Community College Dental Clinic began offering treatment to students, faculty and staff on Feb. 3, and will continue on Tuesdays and Thursdays, beginning at 8:30 a.m., through April 16.

WCC dental students assist University of Michigan students, under the supervision of community dentists, with the basic dental services offered at the clinic including cleaning and exams, X-Rays, Amalgam (silver) restorations and composite restorations. Those in need of treatments not available at WCC are referred to other dental professionals.

To make an appointment, call 734-973-3332 or stop by the clinic in OE 106.

Eco-friendly competition pits Washtenaw against colleges nationwide


Through March 28, Washtenaw will be counting bottles and cans and weighing its waste in hopes of beating out more than 600 colleges in the annual RecycleMania competition.

The colleges and universities competing track and report waste figures from Feb. 1-March 28. Winners are chosen in several categories including waste minimization, paper used per person and grand champion.

WCC has done well in the waste minimization category in the past, landing in the top ten several years in a row. The category is judged on the ratio of total recycled materials to total amount of waste (trash and recycling).

For more information, visit http://www.recyclemania.org.

Click here to check your knowledge on what you can recycle

College plans yearlong celebration for 50th anniversary


Washtenaw has big plans to celebrate this milestone year, which will begin in September and last through September 2016.

“Celebrating the anniversary over two years gives us the opportunity to recognize both the year Washtenaw County voted to establish WCC, 1965, and the year the college first held classes, 1966,” said Janet Hawkins, associate director of public affairs.

Hawkins has been planning the year’s celebrations since 2013, she said.

While formal celebrations won’t kick off until the fall, Hawkins hopes to launch a blog in late May, featuring archive photos, interviews with former employees and students, testimonials and a calendar of events for the year.CELEBRATION-LOGO-SQ-WEB

“I’m really excited about getting reacquainted with some of the retirees, former employees and definitely some former students,” Hawkins said, adding that in the interviews she has done so far, she has been happy to hear how positive interviewees memories are about the college.

“I am excited about welcoming all of these people back to campus to see how we’ve grown and evolved over the years, to hear more of those stories about the campus in the early years and to be the facilitator who is bringing all of this together,” Hawkins said.

There is also some talk of establishing a WCC volunteer corps, Hawkins said, which is really just a way of recognizing the volunteerism already taking place at the college.

The events planned for next year include:


Anniversary Kickoff

Saturday, Sept. 26

Playing off the concept of Free College Day, which the college has done in the past, this event will open up the entire campus for community members to explore. Faculty and staff will teach free, specially designed courses to community members. Hawkins said she hopes to have a class representing each academic area and building on campus.

The event will also incorporate the annual Cars & Bikes On Campus show, where students and community members show off their rides and compete for prizes.


50th Anniversary Gala

Early February 2016

The gala will take the place of the annual Mardi Gras fundraiser for WCC Foundation scholarships. This event will be more formal than Mardi Gras, Hawkins said, and will “celebrate the past and present, with an eye toward the future.”


Free College Day

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A day of free learning for community members, this event offers the chance to get to know WCC from the students’ perspective. Community members are invited to come to campus and learn from WCC instructors about a variety of topics.



Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016

Fifty years after Washtenaw opened its doors for classes, the college will celebrate homecoming, welcoming back WCC alumni, retirees, former employees and the community at large.

Anyone with ideas for how the college can celebrate CELEBRATION-LOGO-SQ-WEBits 50th anniversary can email Janet Hawkins at jhawkins@wccnet.edu.


A good day for sunshine


On Jan. 17, Gov. Rick Snyder (R-Michigan) took a stand for transparency by signing HB 4001 into law. The bill is the most significant reform to Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act since it was written almost 40 years ago. The reforms set tighter limits on the fees public institutions can charge, establish an appeals process. They also enforce stricter penalties on institutions that are sluggish in their responses to FOIA requests.FOIA-WEB

Most importantly, Snyder said, the reforms make it clear that those in government are working on behalf of the citizens who should not be discouraged from learning about how the government operates.

A history of open doors


statueEvery day, thousands of students pass through the shadow of the “Gateless Gateway” statue, most oblivious to it’s meaning.

The statue represents Washtenaw Community College’s open-door policy, which was central to the college’s original mission of serving the populations that were falling through the cracks in the education system.

This open door policy, a “fierce commitment” from the college’s founders, and the formative environment of the 1960s and ‘70s shaped WCC into the institution it is today.

A unique mission

As the baby boomers came of age in the 1960s, they shattered the traditions of their parents and grandparents. No social norm was safe. Civil rights, women’s liberation and the antiwar movement were all in full swing. Drug culture and the sexual revolution were spreading.

“These were exciting times, depressing times, a time for great creativity and a time of great anxiety,” former WCC President Larry Whitworth wrote in “A Fierce Commitment” (“AFC”), which chronicles the first 10 years of the college.

“It is during this time that the community college and the community college movement were born,” Whitworth wrote.

As citizens of Washtenaw County considered the possibility of a community college, critics argued that Michigan, which already had 10 four-year colleges and universities, and Washtenaw County, which had three, did not need any more higher education institutions.

“We had to carve our own niche. That was a tall order,” WCC’s first president, David Ponitz said in “AFC.”

But Washtenaw was not alone. Across the country, community colleges were springing up, and many shared the same mission – to offer what four-year colleges could not. They found their identities by filling in the educational gaps in their communities, serving populations that may not have the opportunity to attend four-year colleges.

High school graduates who did not have the grades or finances to attend four-year colleges, adults, already in careers, who needed to sharpen their skill sets and those who needed second chances could all find a place at a community college. The new, two-year institutions focused on occupational and vocational programs, preparing students to transfer to four-year colleges, developmental and remedial courses, non-credit and continuing adult education courses and community service.

“It’s a remarkable place to have wedged between these two monsteruniversities, where you can fail a little bit … You can fail; you can explore; you can find, and maybe even get a job,” said Ruth Hatcher, a WCC trustee who began teaching English at the college in 1979.

Open doors

Central to WCC’s mission of serving underserved populations in it’s community, was the college’s policy to accept any student with a desire to learn, regardless of past education, age, gender or race. This open door policy brought an incredibly diverse set of students to campus.

The college enrolled dropouts from universities across the state, Vietnam veterans, single mothers, high school dropouts looking for a second chance, factory workers hoping to learn new skills and students from the federal correctional institution in Milan and the women’s prison in Ypsilanti.

“I remember when I had students in my class who didn’t know how to read,” Hatcher said. “It was an opportunity for me to help them go in the right direction.

“After they started having more rules and regulations, my classes were more like honors classes, and we could go better and further, but I miss those folks that couldn’t read and were motivated to learn. Now they’re put in a reading class, and OK, maybe that’s better, but I’m from that old school, where this was a magical place,” she said. “It was magical for ESL students. After Vietnam, it was magical for soldiers.”

WCC’s open doors were flooded with students, eager to further their educations. When registration opened in September 1966, enrollment was more than double what administrators had predicted. More than 1,200 students took classes the first fall semester, and by winter more than 1,500 had enrolled. Next fall enrollment nearly doubled to 2,394.

Faculty and administrators had to search for extra space to hold classes.Eventually the Ann Arbor Public Library, the YMCA and several churches in the community all hosted WCC students.

“Many of WCC’s new students were the first in their families to go college,” former speech instructor Char Hanson said in “AFC.” “They probably wouldn’t have ventured to Eastern, almost certainly wouldn’t have enrolled in Michigan, but when the school came to them, they knocked on its doors, and WCC changed the course of many lives.”

‘A fierce commitment’

As President Ponitz and the college’s first administrators searched for teachers for the new college, many assumed they would be seeking candidates holding doctorate degrees, because WCC was located among so many educational institutions, but WCC’s founders had something else in mind.

“Our priority was to find people who could really connect with our students,” Ponitz said in “AFC.” “We developed a hiring profile for our faculty members – which is where the phrase ‘A fierce commitment’ came into play. There was a shortage of teachers in those days, but we still focused on finding the best people, people with real world experience as well as good teaching skills, people who cared about students and shared our vision.”

Dennis Bila, a WCC math instructor, who started at the college in 1969, said that the college’s success is due in large part to great leadership in those early years.

“They hired great staff at all levels,” Bila said. “Now that doesn’t just happen. People have to have that as part of their mission, and that starts from the top.”

The philosophy applied to positions in all areas of the college, he said.

“If you look at the grounds, for example, you’ll notice they’re as well kept as any institution around,” Bila said.

Because the concept of community colleges was so new, the employees who first came to work for WCC took a big risk.

“These people left solid jobs … when no one knew if it was going to work or not,” Hatcher said. “It was a true act of faith in what education is about.

The “pioneers,” she said, were amazing people who sacrificed a lot for the vision of what WCC could be.

“I know it’s hard to keep a pioneer spirit going,” she added. “I have some of that fairy dust on me from them.”

100 days

When the first employees were hired, they had to put that “fierce commitment” mentality to the test.

In the spring of 1966, the new administration and trustees had a decision to make: They could open the following fall, or wait another year, which voters had given them funds to do.

Ignoring the fact that most community colleges were taking two to four years to establish, the founders pushed forward, opening that fall – in only 100 days.

There was a sense of urgency, Pontiz said, because there was so much need in the community.

To make this possible, the administration developed “the undulating cone.”

“It was a pyramid-style form of management, with the board and president at the apex. It was undulating because decisions traveled up and down and across. It wasn’t a rigid system,” Andy Ford, who was the director of the Technical & Industrial division at the time, said in “AFC.” “We were intellectually and pragmatically movers and doers. We had to be if we were going to get the college up and running in such a short span of time.”

“One of the things that strikes me about the beginning of the school was that it never occurred to us that we couldn’t make it work, even though none of us had ever done this before,” former English instructor Edith Croake said in “AFC.”

With passionate teachers who were led by the “fierce commitment” mentality crowded in the close quarters of the college’s temporary Willow Run campus, this communication system functioned well.

“It was kind of fun,” Bila said. “We were all crowded together so we got to know each other very well.”

And the rest was history

As WCC continued to grow, so did the obstacles that faced it. The ‘60s and ‘70s were a turbulent time, and as students erupted in protest on a regular basis, and rioters burned down Detroit, those who cared about the college felt a strong responsibility to protect it.

“We suffered from our share of traumas,” Ponitz said in “AFC.”

“Several times during the days of the riots, when Detroit was burning, Dave Pollock and I linked arms with folks from the Willow Run area – black and white – and we stood arm-in-arm all night, afraid that the campus would be torched.”

Ponitz described driving home from a meeting one night and seeing smoke in the distance. He thought the college was burning, but it turned out that the Ypsilanti dump was just burning dried Christmas trees.

“It was a symptom of the times that my first thought was that the campus had been torched,” Ponitz said.

Several times, bombs were lobbed into WCC offices, luckily never going off, and countless times, the college received bomb threats. Angry black students, associated with Panther groups in Detroit, would bring shotguns and Molotov cocktails in their cars.

But sometimes, the employees were the ones on the picket lines. In 1979, there was a faculty strike that Hatcher described as “nasty.”

“It was a serious strike – people barricading so that supplies couldn’t get it, so that part timers couldn’t get it. The place was shut down,” Hatcher said. “There were car nudgings … people got hurt.”

“We had people go to jail,” said Bila, who was the faculty union president at the time. “There was some violence on the line.”

The faculty and the administration couldn’t agree on much of anything, Bila said.

“Community colleges were still relatively new, so it was a high school model. The faculties in the college weren’t given much in the way of determination of the curriculum or whatnot,” Bila said. “There was a lot of distrust on both sides.

But the faculty and administration eventually reached a consensus and the

faculty got back to work.

As with every challenge that faced WCC in its formative years, the employees’ “fierce commitment” to the mission of the college and the students and community that it served, carried WCC forward.

Today, the college has grown ten-fold, serving more than 12,000 students every semester. While few of the founders are still around, their legacy lasts in the mission of the college and those who still have the “fairy dust” on them.


Editor’s note:

A sincere thank you goes out to Bob Phillips and Diana Pacella for their help sorting through the WCC archives, and to those dedicated WCC employees who put together “A Fierce Commitment: The First 10 Years of Washtenaw.” The greatest ties to Washtenaw’s past, the archives and the book tell an amazing history that otherwise would be lost with the people who created it.


RELATED ARTICLES: How WCC came to be, College plans yearlong celebration for 50th anniversary

How WCC came to be


June 30, 1962 – County demonstrates need for community college

After Washtenaw County voters rejected a proposal for a technical high school in the late 1950s, the Ann Arbor board of education told the Chamber of Commerce Education Committee that there was a need in Ann Arbor for a community college that could provide vocational training. However, community colleges were a very new concept at the time, and few were sure of exactly what role a one might play.

The Education Committee was hesitant and decided it would be best to involve the community in the discussion. It asked University of Michigan professor Raymond Young to conduct a survey starting on June 30, 1962. The Chelsea Milling Company  provided the $10,000 needed to carry out the Citizen’s Survey of Washtenaw County Community College Possibilities.

In September, the results of the survey and the committee’s recommendations were announced.

They stated that there was a “demonstrated demand by county youth and employers for a post-high school program offering technical and semi-professional occupational training.”

The survey found that finances were the biggest barrier between high school seniors and college.

Fifteen percent of high school seniors surveyed said they were not planning on college, but would reconsider if more money was made available to them. Another 18 percent said they would have continued their education if finances were not a problem.

Three different populations would be served by a community college, the commission said: Recent high school graduates who lacked skills or finances to attend a four-year institution; adults, already in careers who needed to improve their skills or learn new skills; and “late bloomers” who hadn’t pursued their education and needed a second chance.


Jan. 3, 1965 – Voters establish Washtenaw Community College

While heavy snow led to a low voter turnout on Jan. 3, 1965, one-fourth of the 72,000 registered voters in Washtenaw County made it to the polls, and set the wheels in motion for the creation of Washtenaw Community College.

On the ballot, voters were asked to approve the establishment of a community college and to agree to a one-quarter-per million tax levy. The results were a resounding approval, with 11,109 voters in favor and 5,085 opposed.

Voters also chose six of 38 candidates for the college’s first board of trustees. They faced a difficult decision, as the candidates were very highly qualified across the board, with 17 having experience in education.

TRUSTEES-WEB-1On Election Night, officials announced that Samuel Harmon, Evart Ardis, Ralph Wenrich, Edward Adams Jr., Richard Creal and Elvira Vogel had been elected. However, two days later, they announced that there had been errors in the count, and that Kenneth Yourd had actually won the sixth seat, not Vogel.

Surprisingly, Anthony Procassini, who had been chairman of the Education Committee that spearheaded efforts to create the college, lost by just five votes, but he was elected to the board the following year.

The board was highly qualified and diverse.

Harmon, who earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from U-M, owned a company called Sensor Dynamic, and had previously owned Bendix Systems Division.

Ardis was director of the U-M Bureau of Appointments and Occupational Education, and previously worked as the superintendent of Ypsilanti public schools.

Wenrich was chairman of the Department of Vocational Education and Practical Arts at the U-M and previously worked as associate state superintendent of Public Instruction and state director of Vocational Education.

Adams was the president of the National Bank & Trust Company of Ann Arbor and a director and trustee of several state and local institutions.

Creal was a known figure in the Ann Arbor public school scene. A lifelong resident of the city, he had a master’s degree in school administration and supervision from U-M and participated in all phases of the local public schools.

Yourd was the assistant dean to the U-M Medical School and previously worked as a senior attorney for the Columbia Broadcasting System and director of business affairs. He also served as vice president and treasurer of the National Educational Television and Radio Center in Ann Arbor.

In a 1982 interview with WCC history instructor Flavia Reps, Ardis reflected on the board’s diversity.

“The board had a lot of different points of view and that fact became evident as we grappled with all the crucial decisions that had to be made immediately,” Ardis said. “The board was committed to a lot of openness. They felt that it would give the institution credibility if the people felt it was truly their college.”


Aug. 13, 1965 – WCC trustees appoint college’s first president

Although the board of trustees had received applications from all around the country for the college’s first presidency, several trustees felt the ideal candidate had not applied of his own accord, and they set about convincing him.

PONITZ-WEB-1David Ponitz was working as superintendent of schools for Freeport Illinois and president of the town’s new small community college.

The 32-year-old held a bachelor’s and master’s degree from U-M and a doctorate from Harvard University.

When Ponitz called Ardis, an old colleague from U-M, to ask for a recommendation for a person to fill a position in his school district, Ardis redirected the conversation, trying to convince Ponitz to apply for the WCC presidency. Wenrich joined in later, working hard to convince Ponitz to get behind the community college movement.

“I wasn’t sure that made sense,” Ponitz said years later. “I worried that some people would want to replicate the University of Michigan’s programs, and I felt that any new college would have to be really different in order to meet the needs of people whose needs weren’t being met by the University of Michigan or Eastern Michigan University.”

Ponitz traveled to Ann Arbor to talk to the board, though he was still reluctant.

“It was an exciting idea, but daunting,” he said. “At that point, the college possessed not a pencil or piece of paper.”

And Ponitz wasn’t the only one with hesitations. Although some board members were sure he was the man for the job, Harmon had doubts.

“I was the lone holdout for a while,” Harmon said. “It was clear that he was very, very competitive, but not clear if he would have a passion for the population I was most concerned with.”

Harmon was concerned that Ponitz was very conservative in relation to the place and time where the college was being created.

So Harmon drove to Illinois to meet with Ponitz.

“Both of us persuaded each other that we had the same vision of what this college should and could become,” Harmon said. “I became Dave’s greatest supporter, while he became one of my greatest friends.”

On Aug. 13, 1965, the board announced that Ponitz would be WCC’s first president. Soon after Ponitz spoke to a reporter from The Ann Arbor News.

“I am here because this appears to be one of the finest challenges in education,” he said.


Summer 1966 – WCC finds temporary location at Willow Run Village

In May 1966, Ponitz and the trustees decided that classes would begin that fall, giving them only 100 days to create the college, when most community colleges were taking two to four years from establishment to opening.

This meant that WCC would need to search for both a temporary location and a permanent location, as well as faculty, administrators, staff and students.WILLOW-RUN-WEB-3

Dave Pollock, one of the college’s first administrators, was tasked with finding a temporary site, a difficult job at a time when real estate was tough and vacant spaces that were big enough were extremely rare.

When Pollock visited Willow Run Village – the community built for bomber plant workers during World War II – he thought the place was entirely unsuitable.

“I walked around the school, saw the broken windows and overgrown site, then go into the car and said, ‘There is no way this place is appropriate,’” Pollock said. “I would later have to eat those words.”

Ponitz did not approve of the site either, but there was nothing else they had seen that would work, he said. Willow Run offered two things that the other sites didn’t, Ponitz said: The college could be self-contained there and the location was close to two low-income neighborhoods that would be served well by the college.

“The shortcoming of the location was that it wasn’t central; it was almost on the Wayne County line,” Pollock said. “On the other hand, it was in the heart of a depressed community and those kids who had been throwing rocks at vacant buildings might be the kids who would benefit most from a community college.”

State officials inspected and approved the location for one year, although the college would remain there for three.

Buildings in the village were fixed up and adapted to suit the colleges needs. Foster School, which was built to educate the children of bomber plant employees during WWII, became the new College Hall, where most of the general studies and occupational studies classes would be held.

A former firehouse, which had been transformed into a meat market in the years since, would house the administrator’s offices. Employees joked that this was where one could find the “meatheads” on campus.

A ten-minute walk from College Hall, an old bowling alley became counseling and faculty offices and a library.

Later, as the college grew, several corrugated steel Quonset huts and other temporary structures were used for offices, classrooms, a bookstore and a daycare center.


Sept. 15, 1966 – Washtenaw Community College opens student registration

Voters had given WCC enough money to spend a year planning before opening the college, but the trustees and President Ponitz decided to use those funds to buy equipment to start occupational programs.REGISTRATION-WEB-1

They pulled together all of the pieces for the college in just 100 days, and were prepared to launch 72 classes in the first semester. Fifty full-time faculty were hired from all across the country, and 1,207 students enrolled for classes that fall.




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Source: A Fierce Commitment: The First 10 Years of Washtenaw Community College


RELATED ARTICLES: A history of open doors


College re-examines faculty evaluations


The faculty evaluation committee began meeting with the administration in January to re-examine how the college evaluates faculty.

Last winter semester, The Washtenaw Voice obtained access to the student opinion questionnaires (SOQs) that are filled out by students and used to evaluate instructors.

The faculty union’s contract states that these evaluations must be kept confidential, but Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act defines them as public documents. The union filed a grievance in response to the SOQs’ release.

The meetings with the administration could result in “anything from the retention of the current SOQ system to an entirely new evaluation system that could include some proportion of student evaluations, dean observations, peer observations, faculty portfolios, self-evaluations and/or other duties outside of the classroom such as curriculum and assessment work,” the evaluation committee said in a letter to union members, which asked them to fill out a survey to guide the committee.

English instructor and faculty union president Maryam Barrie, biology instructor David Wooten, communications instructor Bonnie Tew and automotive instructor Mike Duff sit on the evaluation committee.


RELATED LINKS: Board of Trustees

10 things you missed at the Jan. 27 board of trustees meeting


1. Board elects new officers

At the first convening of the college’s new board of trustees since November’s election, the trustees elected a new slate of officers.

Richard Landau, who said he has served on the board for 15 years, was elected chair. Though Trustee Ruth Hatcher expressed some concern that Landau had missed meetings often in the past, Landau assured her that he would make more time in his position as chair, she said.

Diana McKnight-Morton was elected vice chair. Although she was absent for the vote, Landau said he had received her acceptance of the position early that day.

Christina Fleming, a new member of the board, was elected secretary, alleviating a concern that no new board members would be elected. Having one of the new members as an officer was an important step towards cooperation among the board, Trustee Dave DeVarti said, because the board has had more turnover this year than at any time in recent history. Fleming is also the first student to serve as an officer of the board, Landau pointed out.

Pam Horiszny kept her post as treasurer.

“I consider Trustee Horiszny’s acumen and control over the finances of this college second to none,” Landau said.

2. DeVarti questions college living wage policy

When the board was asked to approve a list of new hires, DeVarti expressed concern with the $11.14 an hour rate that several support staff employees were making.

“I don’t consider that to be a living wage,” he said. “Do we have a living wage policy?”

Board Chair Landau said that they would not discuss individual wages at the meeting, adding “I don’t even know what you mean by a living wage.”

Landau suggested that the discussion could come up at the March board retreat, or that the question could be directed to the president at a later time.

3. Hatcher expresses concerns over vacant positions

During the discussion over new hires, Hatcher said she was concerned with the number of open positions on campus.

“We’re saving money on the back of unfilled positions, which, if they go unfilled, I guess that’s great,” she said. “We’ll make a lot of money.”

She asked the administration to provide a list of open and temporarily filled faculty and staff positions.

4. Three new deans hired

Among the list of new hires were three new deans, all of whom have held the same positions on an interim basis since they were vacated last spring.

Kris Brandemuehl is the dean of Math and Natural Science, Kim Hurns is the dean of Business and Computer Technologies and Brandon Tucker is the dean of Advanced Technologies and Public Service Careers.

The search for a dean of health is still ongoing, President Bellanca said.

5. Board considers new investment opportunities

6. DeVarti proposes televising board meetings

Following through with campaign promises to push for more transparency among the board, DeVarti suggested that the administration pursue options to televise the meetings.

More members of the community attend the public meetings than the meetings of the Ann Arbor city council, said DeVarti, a former city council member.

There is a clear community interest in the inner workings of the college, he said, and he has received a “strong outpouring of support” from community members with whom he shared his idea.

This would be a “fairly major change” to how the board operates, Landau said, although he personally had no objection. Landau suggested the administration research options and present them to the trustees at the March retreat.

7. Progress made on VPI search

Since Stuart Blacklaw was fired in March 2013, Bill Abernethy has filled the vice president of instruction position on an interim basis. Since then, it has been unclear whether he would eventually be the permanent hire.

At the meeting, WCC President Rose Bellanca made the first public announcement regarding a search for a new VPI. She met with faculty union President Maryam Barrie to review hiring firms, she said, and they are focusing on one.

“According to the timeline they gave us, we should have the right person in place by May, or at the latest, June,” Bellanca said.

However, Barrie said she’s not sure which firm Bellanca was referring to, because she did not believe they had reached a decision.

8. Foundation scholarships announced

The WCC foundation provided $230,000 in scholarship funds to 372 students this semester, Trustee Stephen Gill said.

9. Hatcher corrects minutes language, takes stand for faculty union

When the board was asked to approve the minutes of the Nov. 18, Dec. 9 and Dec. 17 meetings, Hatcher raised concern with the way faculty union Maryam Barrie’s speech was summarized in the Nov. 18 minutes.

The minutes stated: “The WCCEA believes mutual gains bargaining will not be successful due to distrust in the administration.”

Hatcher asked that the minutes be changed to reflect Barrie’s exact language.

“Dr. Bellanca, in her remarks at last month’s board of trustees meeting, reported that the union had refused her offer of mutual gains training. That is not accurate,” Barrie said in her Nov. 18 speech. “Our difficulty with this administration is that we are no longer included in the governance of this institution, not that we have encountered problems in negotiations.

“Finally, according to the literature she directed us to, mutual gains only works when a climate of trust already exists,” Barrie continued, adding that the faculty did not approve of the administration’s suggestion to hire outside consultants to help with negotiations.

10. Farewells said to long-term employees

The board approved a list of full-time ending employment, and took the time to recognize employees who were retiring after many years at the college.

Richard Westcott, superintendent of grounds engineering and fleet maintenance retired after 30 years at the college; Gayle Waldrup, secretary to the dean of Math, Science and Health retired after 26 years; Raymond Everet, a building maintenance worker, retired after 18 years and Leslie Gibson, a recycling technician retired after 17 years.


RELATED LINKS: Evaluations