Since the 2022 WCC Trustee election last week, I have been asked several times for my thoughts on the outcome. The outcome is what it is. If anything, I hope it sends a message to the WCC Board of Trustees. A mere 300 votes separated two of the candidates.
I would argue that the 300 vote differential is, in fact, a mandate. It is a mandate to change the way the WCC Trustees conduct the people’s business at WCC.
It is not sufficient to simply attend the requisite number of meetings per year, approve everything on the agenda and go home. WCC needs more than that. Washtenaw County needs more than that. And Washtenaw County deserves more than that.
WCC Board of Trustees must reclaim policy functions
If the Trustees are going to describe themselves as a “policy board,” then they should damned well write their own policies. (They don’t and haven’t for years.) Asking the WCC Administration to write Board policies so that the Board can approve them is consummate laziness. It’s also a conflict of interest. The WCC Board of Trustees is supposed to oversee the Administration. How likely is the Administration to write policies that support actual oversight?
One of the first policies this so-called “policy board” should write for themselves is a Conflict of Interest policy. Such a policy would require the Trustees to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, disclose any and all conflicts of interest, and develop plans to mitigate them.
Another policy they should create is the Asset Protection clause, which they should apply to the College President’s contract. Currently, WCC’s facilities have a replacement value approaching $400M. Yet the Trustees have not obligated the WCC Administration to prioritize the maintenance and upkeep of the campus. As a result, we have raw sewage spilling into the storm water drains on campus. We have bricks falling off buildings, roof leaks, mold growth, deflection cracks in buildings, Capital Outlay Plans that identify problems but never seem to address them. The list goes on.
The Trustees have been appointed by the public to ask questions and demand performance from the Administration. The people of Washtenaw County get none of that. There is no accountability for this Administration, which is why WCC has more Vice Presidents than any community college of comparable size in the United States. With a functional Board of Trustees, how does that even happen?
The answer is, “It doesn’t.”
Trustees must advance the interests of the entire county
My hope for the next election is the emergence of candidates who are truly invested in WCC’s success. WCC needs Trustees who will demand accountability from the WCC Administration. It needs Trustees who will publicly disclose the directives they have given to the Administration and goals they have set, and enforce the consequences of failing to meet those goals.
I also hope that the next election will bring a more geographically diverse group of candidates to the voting public. Having a Board of Trustees made up almost exclusively of Ann Arbor residents is highly problematic for the rest of Washtenaw County. County residents who do not live in Ann Arbor provide an enormous amount of financial support for WCC yet get no representation. This imbalance is profound, and it must be corrected.
Photo Credit: JoslynLM, via Flickr