It’s hard to argue against supporting public educational institutions. It’s especially hard to argue against supporting an educational institution like WCC, which we’ve collectively spent literally billions of dollars on since 1965. We owe educational institutions our support, but we do not owe their administrators our blind support.
Education is an investment in our community, but our investment has to meet certain standards. Most of us don’t manage our own investments. We hire investment managers to provide competent investment advice and guidance. In the same way that we have expectations of the people who manage our money, we should also have expectations of those who manage our communal investments.
As a community, we have taken a huge risk by building WCC. Every community in Michigan has been given the opportunity to build a community college, but only 29 communities ever took the risk. To date, only Highland Park Community College has failed. Like the people of Highland Park, we are under the constant risk of losing our investment. The longer WCC operates, the more we invest; the more we risk; and the more we have to lose.
And the more we should expect from our investment and from those who manage it. The WCC administration always works for us. They never work for themselves, and we certainly do not work for them. Nor are we here simply to pay their bills. Their priorities never outweigh ours.
The WCC administration has an obligation to maximize our investment return. They must keep our management costs low and take advantage of all opportunities to lower our costs. They must maximize state funding because it lowers our costs. It is not acceptable to propose and fund buildings that do not take full advantage of state funding.
What should we expect from the WCC administration
Like good investment managers, the WCC administration must perform extensive research and analysis on investment opportunities, and they must both fully understand and disclose the risks of every investment they recommend. Educational investments aren’t like monetary investments. The goal of a monetary investment is to generate more money. The object of an educational investment is not to produce money. A good educational investment yields highly qualified graduates who can return value to our community. Like investment managers, the WCC administration must have a reasonable basis for recommending investments. Likewise, they never have the authority to spend our money without consulting us first.
The WCC administration must always use reasonable care and good judgment when handling our investment. They must not spend our money unnecessarily, take undue risks with our money, or expose us to liability. No investment comes with a guaranteed return, and investments can always lose value. However, our investment managers must not diminish the value of our assets deliberately or out of neglect.
Investment managers must report fully and truthfully the status of our investment. They must never mislead us or manipulate the circumstances of our investment. They must avoid self-dealing and the appearance of conflicts of interest.
Our managers must make investments that are consistent with our overall goals, and the strategies we’ve agreed to fund. If they want to diverge from our strategies, they must provide us with facts and allow us to make informed decisions about changes in strategy.
We are all investors in WCC, and we rightfully have certain expectations of those who manage it. When they damage or diminish our investment, we have an obligation to protect what we have built.
Photo Credit: FPS Insurance, via Flickr.com