Because you asked

Editorial

People have been asking where we’ve been, in the hallways, in our emails and at board of trustee meetings. It is good to know how loud the cries would be on this campus if the Voice were to disappear, but be assured, we’re still here.

We were on temporary hiatus, planning for the future.

In December, the Voice’s advisor Keith Gave resigned his position and accepted a job writing for Fox Sports Detroit.

Since then, administrators have been meeting with the Voice staff as a group and individually to assess the needs of the paper and students currently and moving forward. After weeks of consideration, the Voice staff is getting back to work without an advisor for now.

Because the job encompasses so many varied responsibilities, and because it is crucial to find the person with not only the right qualifications, but also the right personality, mores, passion and work ethic, we fully support the administration in holding out for that right person.

The right teacher and mentor will make all the difference for the students who inherit the Voice for years down the line.

For now, we have no information on when the job will be posted.

In the meantime, the Voice leadership will meet with the editorial board, established by board of trustees policy, on a regular basis. Faculty, students and administrators sit on this board, and will provide us with feedback, guidance and advice.

We are confident that with the support of the WCC community, the Voice will continue to be a force this year and long into the future.

The Voice is an institution, as old as WCC itself. Throughout those 50 years, in much more turbulent times than these, the students, faculty and staff have shown a great understanding of the important role of a free press.

Despite disappearing for years at a time, the Voice has risen from the ashes in the past. The student newspaper that began by editorializing about civil rights and Vietnam War protests remains and is still keeping a watchful eye on WCC’s campus, and speaking up with the voice of the students.

As long as the readers desire a free press, the Voice isn’t going anywhere.

A Year in Headlines

Washtenaw Community College is a dynamic place. The campus hosts countless events during the year, ranging from bat festivals to breast feeding workshops. It also houses thousands of students, faculty and staff, each with their own unique stories.

For those who like to tell stories, it is a treasure trove. We regret that we will never be able to fit every story in our pages, but we’ve managed quite a few.

We’d like to reflect on the stories we’ve paid witness to, along with our readers. So together, let’s remember 2014, in the stories we’ve told:

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February

Judith Hommel, beloved retired WCC staffer, loses battle with cancer

Biology instructor David Wooten presents Darwin: Books, Beetles and Blasphemy

March

WCC releases SOQs to The Voice

English instructor Maryam Barrie elected WCC Education Association president

Same-sex marriage legal in Michigan for less than a day

WCC holds first free college day

April

Obama visits Ann Arbor to speak to students

Trustees vote to increase tuition for Fall 2014

May

Faculty votes ‘no confidence’ in WCC President Rose Bellanca’s leadership

Three of five academic deans resign

State Rep. Adam Zemke, in partnership with WCC, proposes GED funding program

1,626 student graduate from WCC

June

Faculty sends letter to Higher Learning Commission, challenging WCC’s accreditation

Five new programs approved for Fall 2014

Mold discovered in LA building, clean up to cost $500,000

Students take gold at SkillsUSA competition

Five digital video students win student Emmys

July

Eight candidates file for board of trustees election, Trustees Patrick McLean and Anne Williams do not file for reelection

August

Part-time English instructor Stephanie Gelderloos sues WCC for alleged gender discrimination in hiring process

WCC, UA sign 15-year contract

International soccer game at the Big House

September

University Center opens, allowing students to take Ferris State University courses at WCC

WTMC named seventh best high school in U.S.

CFO Bill Johnson reports $4.7 million surplus for 2013-14 academic year

October

Asbestos discovered in LA Building, increasing clean-up cost $290,000

College announces $8 million raised in Campaign for Success

WCC announces plans for Advanced Transportation Center

Entrepreneurship Center grand opening

Radiography students win big at statewide competition

Culinary Arts teams up with CORE Garden to host sustainable dinner

November

The Voice wins first place in ‘Best in Show’ contest at ACP/CMA College Media Convention

Hatcher, Fleming sweep trustee election, DeVarti beats incumbent Freeman by 57 votes

Trustees add protections for gender identity and gender expressions to student policies

Voice’s SOQ website goes live

December

WCC eliminates therapist position as semester ends

Voters care about WCC

On Nov. 4, we saw what a big difference an informed group of voters can make. Leading up to Election Day, when voters would choose three new Washtenaw Community College trustees, we heard from a lot of people, particularly WCC employees, that the community truly cared about this election.

While we believed that many cared, the question, as it often is, was how many of them are going to vote?

But as the midnight hour approached on election night, a clear picture emerged – people cared enough about this college to vote.

Although the race was tight for some, with incumbent Mark Freeman losing to Dave DeVarti by a narrow 57 votes, it was not so close for others. Both Ruth Hatcher and Christina Fleming won by a landslide. All three candidates endorsed by The Voice were elected, so, needless to say, we’re thrilled.

It’s clear voters wanted trustees who know the college, its students and employees well, and who will ask questions of the other trustees and administration.

They did not choose those with the most political experience. They did not choose those who spent the most money. They did not choose those with the most recognizable names. They chose those who promised this college needs –transparent, honest leadership and a heart for the students.

We hope the new trustees feel a heavy responsibility, knowing so many entrusted them with the future of WCC. We hope their leadership will be welcomed.

Thank you, voters, for doing what’s best for WCC. To continue to show you care, consider attending a board meeting, where you can listen and learn and make your voice heard. There are two more meetings this semester on Nov. 18 and Dec. 9, both at 6 p.m. in ML 150.

A step toward equality

For a long time, Ann Arbor has held a reputation for being LGBTQ-friendly. Jim Toy had a big part in that.

In 1970, Toy publicly identified as being gay during an anti-Vietnam War rally in Detroit. That was a huge deal at the time. He went on to form various movements and organizations in Ann Arbor, including the Jim Toy Community Center (JTCC) and the University of Michigan’s Spectrum Center.

Today, Toy is still fighting for LGBTQ rights, and he’s brought his advocacy to Washtenaw Community College. Toy, along with former WCC student Andre Wilson, addressed the college’s trustees, asking them to take the JTCC’s recommendation to add language to two board policies to prevent discrimination based on gender identity and gender discrimination. Protections are already provided for gay and lesbian students.

With the attention the fight for gay marriage has garnered, it’s shocking how much discrimination is still legal.

Right now, State Rep. Frank Foster is readying a gay rights bill to be introduced to the Michigan House. The bill would provide a long-overdue change to the state’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, disallowing discrimination based on sexual orientation. Today, Michigan employers can legally fire an employee for being gay.

One would think the gay community would be celebrating in a sea of rainbow flags at this news. But many are not. Advocacy groups do not want this legislation to pass until it is all-inclusive. It must include protections for gender identity, they say.

While the state of Michigan still has some ground to cover, Ann Arbor, as it has always done, can lead the progressive path. With all other higher education institutions in Washtenaw County already providing these protections, WCC is the last piece of the puzzle.

We hope that the trustees take this responsibility seriously and vote to add this language to the board’s policies as soon as possible. Despite personal reservations or beliefs, equality should not come with contingencies. Everyone should be protected from harassment and unfair discrimination, especially at a college, where a welcome and safe environment is key to student success.

Thank you, JTCC, for bringing this movement to our doorstep. We hope WCC can be one more step in a long string of victories for LGBTQ equality.

Faculty, administrators, it’s time to find some empathy

With every contentious story we cover on this campus, we get closer to the heart of the conflict between Washtenaw’s faculty and administration.

After interviewing numerous department chairs, deans and other administrators about the new budgeting process and its results, we see the issues more clearly than ever.

We hear whispers and rumors every day on this campus, and we chase them – trying to hunt down the sources, to get a grasp on the underlying truth, or truths.

So much misinformation is allowed to thrive, perpetuating paranoia and anger. The lack of honest discussion between administrators and faculty only serves to escalate the conflict.

The party-line rhetoric from administrators, and the instant assumptions from the faculty that nearly everything said by administrators is dishonest, are both to blame.

This bitter, cold-shouldered approach on both sides only prevents problems from being solved and creates issues out of non-issues.

Faculty members feel isolated from decisions and discussions, so when decisions are presented to them, any flaw or misunderstanding in the presentation plants a seed – a seed that grows into the worst possible assumptions. And often those assumptions turn into “truths,” as they spread through the grapevine.

Never is there a better chance for confusion than when dealing with the budget of a $100 million institution.

After diving into the faculty’s concerns over their departmental operating budgets – some of which have been drastically reduced, some of which have been drastically increased, and everything in between – and the administration’s responses to those concerns, it is clear that the problem, in most cases, is an astounding lack of communication.

Both parties are to blame. The faculty is completely shut down to hearing what the administration has to say. And the administration is so focused on the semantics to control perception – calling the changes “adjustments” rather than “cuts” – that seemingly no time was spent explaining to faculty, or deans, exactly what that distinction means.

Some faculty members have genuine concerns about their budgets being too small to get them through the year, and about this impacting their students. But administrators assure them that if they need more, they will get it when the time comes. Trust us, they say.

But the faculty doesn’t trust. And who can blame them? Every presentation and public “discussion” at every meeting of the board of trustees feels orchestrated.

How can instructors have faith in the system when they are barely recognized as a part of it? Yes, they had a hand in the budget process, aligning line items to the strategic plan, but in many cases, it seems their contributions were disregarded. Budgets were simply adjusted to historical spending levels, regardless of what they asked for.

On the other hand, it’s hard to blame administrators for circling the wagons and keeping any information tight to their collective chest. Discussions and talking points are rehearsed and party lines are written because any hint of a flaw is seen as weakness and attacked.

As this conflict escalates, any sense of human empathy disappears.

If productive solutions are ever going to be reached, both parties need to let down their guards and find a hint grace for each other.

A ‘two-thumbs-up’ partnership

WISD-WEB-1Not every day can be a high-five day.

Our new friends and partners from Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s program for developmentally disabled adults taught us that two thumbs us can be just as fulfilling.

When WISD teacher Diane Hughes came to us asking if her students could help distribute our newspapers, we couldn’t contain our excitement, and admittedly got carried away.

We started bouncing ideas around about all the ways the students could get involved with us, how we could make them a part of our team.

Slow down, Hughes told us. Let’s try this one step at a time.

So, on Monday Sept. 22, we kicked off our partnership.

Roughly a dozen WISD students, our new circulation assistants, joined the Voice staff at 9 a.m. We divided and conquered each building on campus, showing our new team members where and how we update our nearly three dozen newsstands across campus.

As the students completed their tasks, we were eager to show encouragement and appreciation.

“Can we give high-fives?” we asked, after one student finished filling all of the stands in the Student Center.

“Today is more of a two-thumbs-up day,” we were told. For one student, the non-contact show of appreciation was better suited on that particular day.

Meanwhile, a young blind girl brightened the hallways of the Technical Industrial Building with her smile as she placed small stacks of newspapers neatly on the bottom shelf of a stand.

To help with her route in the future, her teachers have placed braille signage on each of the three stands on the first floor of the building, so she can distinguish them from the stands for a different paper right next to them.

WISD-WEB-2This partnership is a success for everyone involved.

The job allows the WISD students to take on a challenge, and to contribute to the campus community in a meaningful way, Hughes said.

Our staff has been able to make a difference by giving others an opportunity to make a difference. As if that weren’t enough, we also get to work alongside these students, hopefully throughout the year.

The students helped us bring old copies of the paper back to our newsroom for recycling and departed with “Thank yous” from both groups.

Our staff reconvened in our newsroom with smiles on our faces and we reflected on the progress and excitement we saw, and shared, during our time with them.

We anticipated working with the students again – and the growing relationships we could look forward to. We discussed what we had learned, and would continue to learn from this partnership.

We talked about the “high-five” situation, and what we would take away from it.

“Patience” one staffer said, “and understanding.”

As journalists, the nature of our work insists that we jump at opportunities, that we latch on to good ideas and stretch them to their limits, and that we do it fast, facing constant deadline pressures. Each day presents a new set of challenges that requires great tenacity to overcome.

Working with these students has reminded us that patience is just as important as tenacity.

It has reminded us that not everyone works or thinks the way, or at the speed that we do– and that when we work with others we need to be flexible and accommodating to nuances in personality and situation. This is a fundamental lesson, not just for our profession, but for our humanity.

It’s a mantra we’ve all been told countless times: Treat everyone equally despite their differences, but often that means treating people differently to suit their differences.

Patience, flexibility and understanding are virtues that can be applied to a multitude of situations, and relationships, in our lives. These students showed us how we can do that with a sincerely cheerful spirit – an invaluable lesson, and a lesson that we don’t intend to keep confined to our newsroom.

Thank you, to our new friends and co-workers. We so look forward to our continued partnership. And many thumbs-up.

Stay together for the sake of the kids

For the last two years, The Voice has chronicled a breakdown in communication between the Washtenaw Community College Education Association and the administration at WCC. The tension has been hard to watch.

But within the pages of our first three issues this semester, we, and our readers, have had the opportunity to see something different.

It started with the mold that was found in the LA building. During her speech at the July board of trustees meeting, WCCEA President Maryam Barrie thanked President Rose Bellanca and Vice President of Facilities Damon Flowers for their excellent communication regarding the mold situation. In an atmosphere where praise has been increasingly elusive, this rare bit of positivity turned heads.

Months later, Bellanca announced that she would hold open meetings for faculty and staff in The Java Spot. She asked employees to come meet her there and share their thoughts and suggestions.

“Some people just need to get to know me personally instead of this image of a president in an office,” Bellanca said.

Faculty reactions to the coffee shop meetings suggest that the face-to-face interaction has made an impact.

And more recently, Bellanca sent a letter to the faculty union, reaching out with an idea that, while not well-received, seemed well-intentioned. (See “Are mutual gains possible for WCC’s faculty and admin?” on Page One).

“I genuinely wish for a better relationship between the college administration and the WCCEA going forward,” Bellanca wrote in the letter to the WCCEA leadership.

The union’s reaction was not a very positive one. Bellanca’s outreach did not really address their biggest concerns, and they were “confused,” with her suggestions wrote Barrie.

While Bellanca’s outreach doesn’t seem to have solved anything yet, it’s a start.

Some faculty and staff have said that they see Bellanca’s actions as insincere and shallow, but here at The Voice we have no choice but to hope otherwise.

Imperfect communication is better than no communication at all.

In the past month, the president and her administration have been somewhat more accessible and transparent in their handling of interview requests and sharing of information than in the past, though it’s still a far cry from what we’d like to see.

But some transparency is better than no transparency at all.

While each of these actions may seem rather minor on their own, add them up and we see that Bellanca and the administration are making an effort. We see a noticeable difference in attitude.

And we plead with the faculty and the administration: Keep trying. Keep talking. Please keep working towards reconciliation for the students you are here to serve.

Right now, we’re going to grasp at hope wherever we can find it, and hold on tight, with a belief in this college and the possibility of an amicable future.

A sliver of hope is better than no hope at all.

Faculty flight bad news for students

Washtenaw has garnered a reputation as one of the best community colleges in the nation for a lot of reasons, but the most important, by far, is the quality of instruction the college provides.

Good teachers lead to student success. Other things help, but without the teachers, the college has nothing.

The defection of welding instructor Coley McLean to Schoolcraft College is worrying news for students, as is the departure of English instructor Stephanie Gelderloos, whether permanent or temporary. (See page A1)

Both of these women were praised by their students and colleagues at Washtenaw.

McLean taught here for 16 years, Gelderloos for 10. Both surely changed the lives of hundreds of students. They were fixtures in the college community and will be sorely missed.

Washtenaw has always been a coveted destination for college instructors, drawing some of the best from nearby universities and other community colleges around the state.

Washtenaw has a reputation for luring the best of the best away from other institutions.

Now they’re being lured away.

Some of our best are leaving angry and frustrated, and going to colleges where they say they they’ll be allowed to do the job they want to do – to give their best to students.

Despite how one might feel about controversies that have been simmering on campus, there is no denying that the loss of these instructors is a blow to student success.

And if this is foreshadowing of a larger flight looming, everyone with an investment in this institution should be worried.

It is not unthinkable, given what we’re hearing from so many employees about the climate of distrust and fear growing among them.

If the best teachers leave, the best students will leave. Period.

And this institution is too good and too important to go out that way.

 

‘O captain, my captain!’

We were back on the treadmill. Our new staff had produced a summer issue in July that we were immensely proud of, but now we were starting on our real first issue – this issue – the one that would be on stands when classes started and students came back.

Our first staff meeting of the fall was in full swing. Reporters were pitching stories. We were brainstorming photo and design ideas. We were thrilled to be back to doing what we love. Our core group was experienced and hungry, and we fed off of each others’ energy.

Then faces appeared in the windows of our door.

Our visitors let themselves in as we realized they were the administrators up our chain of command: Our adviser’s boss Pete Leshkevich, director of Student Development and Activities; his boss, Evan Montague, associate vice president of Recruitment and Student Enrollment; and his boss Linda Blakey, vice president of Student and Academic Services.

The staff was surprised and nervous to see Blakey – who was supposed to be in a meeting with our adviser Keith Gave.
Montague, who is new to WCC, introduced himself to the staff, and then Leshkevich proceeded to talk about changes we would be experiencing this year.

A lot of time was spent discussing logistics, like how we would be paid and newspaper circulation.

As journalists, we couldn’t help but notice that Leshkevich had buried the lead. As we read down the list of changes they had passed out to us, we saw a header: “Student Newspaper Advising.”

A few passages jumped off the page: Our adviser’s position would be “transforming.” He would remain responsible for “arranging the logistics” of the newspaper, but would “no longer be working in an advisory capacity.”

Instead, it said, a “collaborative advising model” would be developed.

Long story short: The adviser role had been eliminated, and Gave had been offered a new job doing paperwork in an office in the Student Center.

We asked when exactly Gave would cease his advising role. “Immediately,” they told us.

We asked when this new “advising model” would be in place. Probably in a few weeks, they said, admitting that not one member of this board had been selected yet.

In the meantime we had a paper to put out.

The administrators assured us that they were confident we could do it, and that we had their full support.

“What if we have questions? What if we need help?” we asked. Could we reach out to Gave?

We didn’t get a straight answer, but Leshkevich assured us that mistakes are OK, and we should expect them. The first issue in the fall is never as good as the last one in the spring, he said.

We weren’t going to accept that answer. Yes mistakes may happen, but that’s no reason not to strive for perfection. Clearly, he doesn’t get what we do, we thought.

As abruptly as they arrived, the administrators left.

We were stopped dead in our tracks.

No one was thinking about what we were supposed to be thinking about – filling 16 blank pages that would be on stands two weeks later.

We knew that Gave would help us, whether he was getting paid for it or not. But not having him in the office was eerie.
For the next two days we mourned. We came to terms with what had happened and considered our options, one of which was quitting the WCC student newspaper and creating our own news website where we would continue to do what we do, but for free.

We didn’t want to lose our newspaper, but we didn’t want to be there without Gave, either. And we didn’t want all of our time to be taken up dealing with the things he deals with everyday – specifically his exchanges with the administration.
We are students who are here to learn, and they had taken our teacher away.

The next day, the board of trustees was holding a special meeting to take action on the adjunct faculty contract. Two of our staffers felt compelled to get up and tell the trustees and WCC President Bellanca what a mistake this was, and how much the students and the college would miss Gave.

Normally, we discourage our staff members from speaking at these meetings. We are there to sit quietly in the back and listen. We report the news; we don’t make it.

But in this situation we were students who felt we had been wronged, not reporters.

Faculty union President Maryam Barrie addressed the trustees first, and mentioned what had happened to us, calling it “disturbing.”

Christina Fleming, our online editor, spoke next.

“You should know that Keith Gave has been much more to us than an adviser,” she said. “He is a rare kind of teacher that inspires his students.

“You have just benched a star quarterback, and he does not belong there. He belongs with us. He belongs with the students.”

Jon Price, one of our staff writers, followed Fleming. He spoke about how Gave introduced him to journalism.

“Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that I would find my calling in the halls of this community college,” Price said. “It seems counterintuitive to eliminate a faculty member who gives students a reason to stay here.”

Bellanca then took the time to respond to these speeches, saying that Gave had not been terminated, and his position, really, hadn’t changed much.

“He’s still gonna be there for you. He’s still gonna be able to answer your questions,” she said. “The intent wasn’t to move him away from you.”

Everything she said was completely contradictory to what we had heard – and read – in our newsroom the day before.
“I’m sorry if somehow the message was not communicated effectively,” she said. “I hope that you choose not to leave the paper. I hope you continue in this role. It’s very important to us. So is Mr. Gave’s role.”

When the meeting wrapped up, Bellanca asked the five Voice staffers present to stick around for a quick meeting with her.

Bellanca, Blakey and Director of Government Relations Jason Morgan circled up with us in the board meeting room. Barrie also sat in on the meeting at Bellanca’s invitation.

The administrators asked us to explain our view of the situation and how we were feeling. They wanted to listen, Bellanca said.

We reiterated much of what Price and Fleming had said in their speeches: Gave is so much more than a teacher to us – he is a mentor.

We told them that this felt like retaliation for students publishing controversial stories.

We told them that we would be happy to meet with an advisory board (something we have always done), but that we wanted Gave back. It would be impossible for us to do the work we wanted to do without him.

It would be impossible for us to recruit new students and guide and inspire them to make their work publishable, something that Gave does like no one else. We are not teachers, we are students, we told them. We cannot fill his shoes.

The administrators took it all in. As we left, Bellanca assured us that this action had been neither retaliatory, nor personal. She implied that a compromise might be possible.

We gathered back in the newsroom, and some staffers were optimistic that maybe the administrators were willing to compromise. But most of us weren’t buying it. We didn’t think there was any way we would get Gave back.

That night several of us gathered to watch “Dead Poets Society.” Our hearts ached in understanding as the students stood on their desks and wished farewell to their teacher, their mentor. “Oh Captain, my Captain!” … and the tears finally flowed.

Two days later we got word from Gave that Blakey had offered him his job back – no new job, no conditions. Just a short phone call. No explanation.

The next day he was back in our newsroom. It was more than we ever dared to expect.

We are shocked and grateful for this stroke of goodwill from the administration. We can’t speak for their motives, but whatever we said that changed their minds, we are so relieved it did.

These same administrators talk a lot about “student success.” Gave’s reinstatement is all about the success of our students, both inside and outside the Voice newsroom.

Situation critical at WCC, but hardly unique

stock-sc-sculpture-4The Washtenaw Community College faculty union knew exactly what they were doing when they asked the Higher Learning Commission – the college’s accrediting body – to intervene in an effort to quell the acrimony on campus.

Officially, the faculty has put the college’s accreditation in question. But they know, and we know, and hopefully everyone knows the chance that the college’s credentials would be stripped is extremely doubtful. The faculty’s actions are a cry for help and awareness from the community at large.

WCC cannot lose its accreditation – the consequences to the county and the state would be devastating.

This college is a pillar of this community – and its economy – and, despite the worsening friction between the faculty and the administration, the college is still achieving what it’s known for – changing lives.

The faculty’s fears appear to be that we are headed in a direction where the college may eventually lose its ability to do that job, but, for now, the college’s accreditation is most certainly safe. The most the faculty can expect is for the HLC to send mediators in to mitigate the disorder and facilitate communication.

Whatever happens next, we can only hope that the right people act quickly. However, based on the comments from an HLC representative, we probably shouldn’t expect a sense of urgency on its part.

Faculty members have asked the trustees, as one of them wrote, to stop “burying their heads in the sand.” The trustees’ response has been that they are paying attention, but that it is not their responsibility to micromanage faculty’s issues. All of them have noted that they have many constituents to answer to, including local businesses and state government.

Considering the faculty’s complaints, one thing is clear: They think the administration is placing too much focus on the money, and it’s taking away from the education.

Two of the areas that have been sources for faculty concern – K-12 initiatives, which are strongly tied to state funding, and the $3 million Department of Labor IGNITE grant – are big sources of income for the college.

Complaints from the faculty allege that the administration was too quick to act in these cases, without enough forethought and input from involved faculty.

To put it in perspective, it is clear that this tug-of-war between financials and instruction is not unique to this campus, or to this point in time.

Conflict between faculty and administration goes back to the roots of education itself.

Former faculty union President Ruth Hatcher explained this historical perspective to The Voice a few months ago, and it seems especially pertinent now, when the college’s conflict appears to have reached its breaking point.

“The origins of education were one-on-one,” Hatcher said. “And then there were two kids, and then there were 20 … And then the teachers needed administrative help to collect the money for the paycheck.”

It has always been a balancing act between the education and the money that is necessary to provide that education.

The faculty and administration, by nature, should butt heads sometimes. It’s healthy and keeps the school doing its job.

Right now, at colleges across the country, the scales are tipped a little too far to the money side.

When the WCC faculty held its no-confidence vote, the trustees and college President Rose Bellanca were quick to point out that these votes have become trendy, and they were right. WCC’s no-confidence vote was the fourth in Michigan this year.

Since 2012, these votes have become more frequent across the country. And, unlike in the past – when faculty dissent was most often the result of contract negotiations and a desire for higher wages – more and more faculty members are complaining that they are being marginalized and that their campuses are being run like corporations. They are asking for more involvement, not more money.

The two most noteworthy cases in the last few years were at New York University and St. Louis University.

Four colleges held votes of no confidence against the NYU president in the 2012-13 academic year. The faculty argued that the school was being run like a business, not a public institution, and the students held a protest against the president’s policies.

All along the college and trustees steadfastly professed their support for the president.

Sound familiar?

In 2012, the Faculty Senate at St. Louis University held a no-confidence vote in the university president, eventually forcing him to resign. Just like at NYU, the students got involved, forming “SLU Students for No Confidence,” because, they said, the university was being run like a corporation – and that was not what they signed up for.

The fact is, higher education as a whole has become a lot more about the money and a lot less about public good. Tuition is skyrocketing, and so is student debt.

It’s hard to fault anyone at WCC too much when this mindset is so pervasive.

So how does this get fixed?

Who is accountable to fix the larger problems? Who is accountable to fix WCC’s problems?

The answer to both is taxpayers and voters.

This fall, voters will have the chance to choose three members of the board of trustees. Although three seats do not make for a majority, voting for candidates who commit to placing more focus on education would undoubtedly change the board’s conversations – if not its actions.

And changing the conversation is the first step.