Oversight is probably the single most important function a Board of Trustees provides. In WCC’s case, there is literally no oversight. The current WCC Board of Trustees has turned down exactly one motion since 2014. A Trustee who requested a tuition freeze brought that failed motion to the Board. In fact, the Board of Trustees has never turned down a single request by the current Administration. That is a full decade of rubber-stamping spending requests.
The Trustees do not make their own agenda; that is done by the Administration. It means that the Trustees do not control the conversation at WCC. The current WCC Board of Trustees merely takes in highly refined (and not always accurate) information from a single source – the WCC Administration. All public communication to the Trustees filters through the WCC Administration before it reaches the Trustees. The public has no way to communicate directly and privately with the elected WCC Board of Trustees.
Historically, the Administration has “interpreted” public communication for the benefit of the Trustees. The WCC Administration gladly insulates the Board of Trustees from the WCC community and the Washtenaw County taxpayers. The WCC Administration treats the WCC community and the public like hazardous materials.
Something about that just is not right. That is not a “close working relationship” with the Board of Trustees. It is interference with the duty of loyalty that the WCC Board of Trustees has to the Washtenaw County voters.
WCC Board of Trustees needs to engage with the entire community
The danger of this kind of interference is that important issues do not make the agenda. People bury problems and hide mistakes and poor decisions. They spend money in such a way as to avoid scrutiny by the Board of Trustees and the public. Ultimately, that diminishes the value of the investment that Washtenaw County taxpayers have made in WCC.
In the most recent Trustee Retreat, I pointed out glaring instances where two different College executives provided demonstrably false and/or misleading information to the Trustees. Important functions – like providing on-campus affordable childcare to impoverished students – get eliminated because they are not profitable. (By that logic, WCC should dump the Health and Fitness Center – which is not profitable either.) There is no discussion about the public policy value of providing on-campus childcare to the WCC community. There is only the Administration’s half-assed explanation of why closing the Children’s Center is expedient.
We do not need a WCC Board of Trustees that simply receives information from the Administration. We need Trustees that actively and independently engage with the ENTIRE WCC community.
Photo Credit: Georgia National Guard , via Flickr