Editorials

Marlene Woodson-Howard: SCF trustees destroying region's community college

Former SCF President Sarah Pappas asks members of the colleges board of trustees to reconsider Tuesday their decision to end tenure for faculty members hired after July 1, 2016. MATT M. JOHNSON/Bradenton Herald
Former SCF President Sarah Pappas asks members of the colleges board of trustees to reconsider Tuesday their decision to end tenure for faculty members hired after July 1, 2016. MATT M. JOHNSON/Bradenton Herald

I am writing as an alumnus of Manatee Community College (I took accounting and math classes there), a math professor at MCC, director of Institutional Advancement at MCC, and the first executive director of the Manatee Community College Foundation. One might say I have a vested interested in this education institution.

As the chief fundraiser and grantswriter of the college, I would have protested loudly when the Board of Trustees decided, without public input and without any understanding of the history of the institution, to change the name from Manatee Community College to the nothing name "State College of Florida" (maybe the other 27 colleges in the system would also like to be "State College of Florida").

When the identity of the institution was stolen, fundraising became much more difficult. I understand it would likely cost $500,000 to change the name to "Manatee (or even "Manasota" College of Florida"). I would be glad to help raise the funds to do that. So many people feel as I do, so why don't we fight?

Now, the board has decided to challenge the historical structure of the faculty. The process of qualifying for continuing contract ("tenure") is stringent, and the process exists to remove a faculty member who isn't competent. Tenure (continuing contract) gives due process in the firing process.

There is a probationary period in which the college may decide whether to renew a contract -- by no means is tenure automatic. In the absence of tenure, a college would be able to staff with more part-time instructors who may have fewer qualifications and are paid at a lower rate. Why not, if saving money is the objective of the "business?"

Abolishing tenure is an assault on academic freedom. This concept allows ideas to be debated and tested without feeling the threat of dismissal. Critical thinking is a major objective in the education process.

I am also writing as a member of the Florida state Senate (1986-1990). As a former legislator, I take issue with the audacity of the Board of Trustees to decide they want this exceptional educational institution run "like a business."

That decision should not be the prerogative of a single college, which is a member of a 28-member college system. If that change were to be made, it should only be made statewide to (as the business men and women say) "level the playing field."

This action would not have seen the light of day statewide.

Now, I understand that requiring a new employee to "bid" for the job is on the board agenda. The absurdity of that concept for a college intent on attracting the finest educators is laughable.

I am angry to see the destruction of one of the finest community colleges in the country. For what purpose?

I served and worked closely with Hal Chasey when he was chairman of the board. He must be spinning in his grave.

Marlene Woodson-Howard, Ed.D., is a resident of Bradenton.

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