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Former JALC faculty express 'lost confidence' in abilities of board of trustees, President House

Contributing Writer
Posted on 3/2/2017, 5:00 AM

CARTERVILLE - The board room at John A. Logan College was packed Tuesday night with dissenting voices, as former faculty members rose to object, once again, to the faculty and staff layoffs a year ago.

Gary Caldwell, retired JALC psychology professor, stood and read a letter signed by 13 former and retired faculty members expressing their loss of confidence in the president and the board.

"As emeritus faculty concerned about the future of John A. Logan College, we find recent actions taken by President (Ron) House and approved by the board of trustees to be very troubling," Caldwell said. "While the college has faced financial hardships at various times in the last 40 years, those problems were solved through a cooperative effort by faculty, staff and administration.

"Never in the history of the college has a president instituted such a drastic reduction of experienced full-time faculty with minimal discussion and input from the vice president of instruction and dean of academic affairs and no input from department chairs."

Caldwell was talking about the board's unanimous vote on March 1 last year to approve 55 faculty and staff layoffs. College administrators said they recommended the layoffs in order to make up a $7 million budget gap created by the budget stalemate in Springfield.

Caldwell went on to cite members' concerns over the "criteria used to determine which faculty were cut," that Social Sciences and English "appear to have been targeted," and that little thought and less discussion was paid to the impact of these cuts on students.

"For example, cuts in professional staff will have serious consequences for our deaf and hard of hearing students," he said.

The cuts and layoffs represented 38 percent of the college's full-time instructors, 35 of the 55 employees whose jobs were cut, many of them tenured faculty with long histories with the college. (At a subsequent meeting, the board reinstated 13 of the staff and faculty who had been let go.)

Helen Nall, one of the original eight full-time faculty members, who taught history at the college for 25 years, also rose in support of the reinstatement of David Cochran, history professor, who was one of the full-time faculty members whose jobs were cut.

"This month you are celebrating black history and there is no historian here," she said, arguing that full-time faculty members add value to the college. "Part-time faculty don't interact with students, serve on committees, participate in the life of the college, build up a discipline and contribute to college morale. Please honor the value of history in the curriculum and re-install this full-time position."

Caldwell also said that these cuts were made without a corresponding reduction in administration, making JALC "clearly top-heavy administratively when compared to other community colleges in the state."

"Finally," he said, "it is our perception that in the last few years there has been a breakdown of administrative lines of authority, responsibility and accountability, leaving faculty, staff, students and citizens unsure about who is making decisions and how those decision are being made.

"For these reasons, we have lost confidence in the abilities of President (Ron) House and some members of the Board of Trustees to act in the best interest of the college and those it serves."

The board had no comment.