Posted on Monday, May 15, 2017

FACULTY SPOTLIGHT: The Chancellor’s Faculty Advisory Committee (CFAC): Wrapping Up AY 2016-2017

Submitted by Charles Errico, Ph.D., professor of history at NOVA, and chair of the Chancellor’s Faculty Advisory Committee (CFAC)

The Chancellor’s Faculty Advisory Committee (CFAC) convened twice in April, once for its spring semester two-day meeting with the Chancellor and his staff, and again the following week at New Horizons for a report/feedback session to a large VCCS audience. The budget and its impact on faculty positions dominated the discussions. Decreased funding and falling enrollments have created a perfect storm that has resulted in a Reduction in Force (RIF) of both faculty and staff positions at many colleges. The Chancellor praised the efforts to improve retention and promote student success that he heard on his recent listening tours. Concerned with the fate of colleagues fearing future RIFs, CFAC explored options for faculty to transfer to other colleges, share their teaching load with nearby VCCS institutions, and to take advantage of the phased retirement program.

We know that students who finish their associate degree at the VCCS save a full year of tuition and have a higher chance of achieving a bachelor’s degree than those who transfer early. Nonetheless, there is a persistent image of the community college as the fallback position rather than the college of choice. NOVA President Scott Ralls tells the story of a high-school senior who was accepted at a number of four-year colleges, but told her counselor that she wanted to attend the community college. The counselor responded, “Dear, you are too smart to go to NOVA.”

CFAC discussed the need for a systemwide campaign that sends the message that it is not only smart to start, but also to finish, at the community college. Low tuition, outstanding professors, and automatic transfer agreements are just a few of the reasons the VCCS has a reason to boast that students, and their parents and counselors, should no longer view community colleges as the “triple A farm club” of higher education.

Community colleges also address important societal problems that those students from poorer families increasingly face in America. Growing income inequality in the United States has resulted in what recent research refers to as the “birth lottery” where those born into wealthy families remain in the privileged elite, while children from parents in the bottom 20% of income brackets, in spite of their best efforts, have limited upward mobility. Only half of our students today outperform their parents, versus 90% among the post-World War II baby boomers. Alan Krueger, former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, reflecting on the class distinctions of the 1920s, calls this “The Great Gatsby Curve” that dooms, or at least places obstacles, for those who want to climb the socio-economic ladder.

Most of us have some memory of our American history course that discussed the Protestant work ethic and championed individuals such as Ben Franklin, the child of a candle and soap maker, who achieved both wealth and fame during the early national period. Unlike Franklin, who never attended college, research by Raj Chetty of Harvard and others show what most of us already know, that education is still the best route to a better life. But ever-rising tuition saddles too many students with debt, and the community college offers a solution. We need to do a better job of delivering that message.

At its April meeting, CFAC also addressed the need for greater rigor in our dual enrollment classes and to encourage high-school students in those classes to further their education at their local community college. We feel that our colleges should be safe havens for our students and that their security/safety through active shooter and adverse weather drills are important. Although not a systemwide issue, some colleges need to address the fears of their undocumented students.

Other issues discussed included shared services, rising textbook costs, multiple measures to provide alternatives to placement testing, math pathways, credit for prior learning (especially for veterans), and the development of a consistent policy for determining workload hours for science lectures/labs. CFAC also raised the issue of the need for parental leave for faculty with newborns or those who have adopted a child.

CFAC serves as the voice of the VCCS faculty. Its representatives are leaders from each of the 23 colleges. The establishment of a cooperative and collegial relationship with the Chancellor and his staff has benefitted everyone, especially our students. The 3% pay hike later this summer relieves a long drought where wages remained static; however, maximizing overloads/summer pay, within budget limitations, remains an important goal. Each academic year brings new challenges. During your free time this summer, please contact your CFAC representative (listed below) with ideas and ways that we can make our community colleges an even better place to work and to study.

Bethany Arnold, MECC                   Carol Carr, JTCC                 Charles Errico, NOVA      Susan Evans, WCC

Winona Fleenor, VHCC                  Sharon Freeman, SVCC  Ruth Greene, RCC            Ellyn Hodgis, TCC

Kim Hoover, PVCC                           Frances Lea, GCC              David Lorenz, PDCCC      Bronte Miller, PHCC

Ramzi Ockaili, JSRCC                       Toni Pepin, VWCC            Linda Pruitt, ESCC             Gary Randolph, CVCC

Jen Schaefer, LFCC                           Vickie Taylor, DCC            Theresa Thomas, BRCC  Sarah Tolbert-Hurysz, NRCC

Tondalaya VanLear, DSLCC           Brian Wright, SWVCC     Marty Zahn, TNCC'

Laura Osberger

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