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The President's Inservice 2000 Speech

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by Dan Moriarty, PCC PresidentGood morning and welcome to our new academic year, 2000-01, our 39th year of service to the greater Portland community.I hope all of you have found time this summer for rest, relaxation and renewal of the spirit. I especially hope that you are all looking forward with enthusiasm to the beginning of a new academic year at PCC.During the summer, PCC has continued to be a busy place. Over 22,000 students attended classes this summer, a 4 percent increase over last summer, I want to thank all the faculty and staff who made the summer program successful. Even while summer school was in full swing, many of the college staff were busy preparing for the fall term, testing, admitting and orienting new students, making needed repairs, hiring faculty, doing the clean-up possible only during the summer months. We thank you for all your efforts and good work.I want to thank Dr. Jacobson and her staff for hosting us at the Sylvania Campus.I especially want to thank Dr. Roberta Wald and Lorna O’Guinn for all their work in preparing and organizing this program. The work usually begins immediately after the preceding inservice and is not wrapped up until at least two weeks after the subsequent inservice. Thank you Dr. Wald and Ms. O’Guinn. At this time, I want to introduce Ms. Maribel Pinas-Espigule, who is taking on the staff development responsibilities this year.With a great deal of pleasure, I want to welcome now all the new faculty and staff who have joined PCC since the last inservice. Will you all please stand and be recognized. Thank you. During the course of the week, you will all be introduced several times over and much more personally. Thanks to our Deans of Instruction, Shirley Anderson, Charlie Sieracki and Marilyn Davis for their outstanding work in organizing inservice for new faculty.I want to recognize the two elected leaders of our unions: Michael Dembrow, President of the PCC Faculty Federation, and Martha Wolf, President of the PCC Federation of Classified Employees.We are honored this morning to have in attendance several of our elected Board members. These board members serve as stewards of the public trust. They give purpose and direction to the college and they serve with enthusiasm and distinction. I will introduce the board members and ask them to remain standing until all their names are called: Karen McKinney, Chair, Mike Hereford, Vice Chair, Dana Anderson, Norma Jean Germond, David Kish, Doreen Margolin and Harold Williams.In addition to working closely with the board members, I also have the pleasure and honor to work collaboratively with the executive officers of this college. Each carries extensive leadership and custodial responsibilities for the college. In an institution of this size and complexity, their work and leadership are indispensable. They serve with distinction and commitment. I will ask each person to stand and remain standing until all names are called:Let me first introduce our newest officer, Vice President Randy McEwen. Dr. Bill Christopher, Executive Dean, Rock Creek Dr. Alice Jacobson, Executive Dean, Sylvania Dr. Mildred Ollee, Executive Dean, CascadeThank you.The theme of this year’s in-service is Promoting Civic Minded Citizens. We struggled with that title, not wanting to convey a smaller vision of what we intended. We do not want to limit this theme to a rehash of high school civics although that is good in its place. Rather, we want to suggest a vision more appropriate to an institution of higher education especially a community college in a world where community is often at risk.And I believe community is at risk when you consider the options held out to in Oregon. The election this fall is about more than taxes. The issues on the ballot are really about what kind of state we want to live in. There is a point of view that government simply has no place in anyone’s life unless, as one wag would have it, to fix potholes. And I guess we could take care of those holes by going back to an earlier toll road system that would collect from users. But kidding aside, there is behind a lot of government bashing in this state, an underlying vision of what society should be all about. As I see it, the protagonists see a collection of individualists duking it out for what is theirs with no responsibility for others or for the general welfare. Government would protect their property and lives and they could drive down a road free of potholes. Health care and education would be an individual responsibility and the environment would enjoy protection only in so far as personal morality permitted. And so on. You can multiply the examples. This is not a formula for associated living in a democracy. At risk is the point of view that we are all dependent on each other at every stage of our lives and in every condition of our lives and that only in a community where everyone prospers can each of us prosper. Make no mistake about it. Beneath the political rhetoric in Oregon, there really is a struggle of two visions that mightily affects where this State is going. I would like to suggest that higher education is not above this debate. We have a role to play in a number of ways, and we are busily engaged even as I speak. PCC is involved a number of partnerships to build community. Look around you. We work with new immigrants in our language programs to teach English and help bring people into the mainstream of American life. We work with government through grants to educate men and women on welfare, to help displaced workers and to provide alternate pathways for high school age youth to continue education and to prepare for the workplace. We work with business and industry to prepare workers specifically for their workplace. We work with schools and colleges to shape a system of education that provides options and allows students to move more easily through the levels of education. If you reflect even briefly on our associations, you will see the extent to which PCC is involved in building community through education and training, a core element of our educational mission.(Two grants – GEAR UP and Head Start)But there is another level of engagement and it happens right in our classrooms. We are I trust far removed from any association with an ivory tower if there ever was one. Out students come to us to learn how to engage life, not live above it, or be insulated from it. Our students come to us to learn how to live intellectually, practically and even spiritually. And the living they will do is in a real world, the same world we live in. The practice of civility on our campuses and in our classrooms would model I would hope the civility we could expect in our larger communities. The value we place on diversity we trust will be carried out into our neighborhoods and work places. The same critical thinking used to derive the quadratic formula and the origins of the Vietnam conflict will be used to slice through the propaganda and logical fallacies that daily echo through the media. Interdependency among nations, among corporations, among industries, among states, among individuals that echo through our courses on business, politics and economics will be valued also in our neighborhoods and communities. Life is more than the Survivor show where people win because they are consistently and unapologetically out for themselves. As an institution of higher education and especially as a community college, and as individuals within this community, we do have a responsibility for civic engagement. I know that our speaker will address this issue far more eloquently than I. As we enter a new academic year, PCC has much to reflect on, its strengths, its opportunities and its challenges. Our greatest strength of course is our people. Last week, I had the opportunity to welcome to the college 32 new faculty members. Their credentials, their enthusiasm, and their commitment are inspiring. They join a proud tradition of faculty excellence at PCC. And they assure us that tradition will continue long into the future. We are pleased also that 13 per
cent of these new faculty are ethnic minorities whose presence helps PCC to reflect the diversity of this country and the growing diversity of our student body. And that I think is the challenge that lies behind the tradition of academic excellence at PCC.Over the last fourteen years, PCC’s ethnic minority student population has risen from 11% to 22%. We have the most diverse student population of any collegiate institution in the State. At the same time, the number of our minority teaching faculty has grown from 6.9% to over 11%, again the highest percentage of minority faculty in this state. Toward this goal of enriching our faculty base, we have tried every conceivable method of adding minorities to the application pools from which we select our faculty but not always with equal success. We are making progress but we have a way to go. I cannot stress too much the importance of diversity for this college and for the nation at large. The demographics are there. The world that we will live in increasingly will be a world of diversity and our ability to exist and to thrive in that world will be directly related to our appreciation, understanding and experience of diversity. In ten years, if we are doing our job, I would expect more than one third of our students will be ethnic minority. I would hope that more than 20% of our teaching faculty would also be ethnic minority. These numbers should also be reflected among our administrators and our staff. We owe it to our students and to ourselves. We are talking real world education here, much more than survival. Numbers are not the goal. Our goal is to experience for ourselves and our students the richness and strength of a diverse community, different ways of knowing, different ways of viewing the world, different perspectives, different approaches to solving societal and organizational problems. None of us will succeed if we cannot live in a world of diversity.In this connection, I would like to mention one program we will launch this year very much in the spirit of diversity, that is, our international program. Over the last few years we have done a lot to develop programs that bring international students to PCC and send our students and faculty to other countries. I thank all who have been involved in this effort. This year we go to another level with higher aspirations. We are establishing a full time office of international education, with the goals of bringing more international students to PCC and sending more students and faculty to other countries. Our goal is simple, to bring an international presence and experience to our students that will enrich our campuses and our student life. If we cannot all travel to other countries, then I hope that our students will be able to see even in a small way the world coming to PCC. We do a great service to our students if we can get them to see beyond their neighborhoods to the larger community of the metropolitan area, this nation and this world. Hopefully, you will hear a lot more about our international program.Technology continues to be a major strength at PCC. We have made great strides over the last ten years, and we make another major stride this year. Many of you already know that we launch this fall our new web based library system called R-Ex. The purpose of this investment and system is to make it easier for our faculty and students to use the resources of the library whether on campus or from home. The new system enables you to do more things than I have time to recount. I encourage you to become familiar with the system. I have been assured the transition is painless, even enjoyable. I thank Leslie Riester for her leadership in this effort. I especially thank Berniece Owen and all the library staff for their diligence in shepherding this project through from the idea stage to implementation. No small task. This year also marks a major enhancement of our instructional computer labs. Thanks to the funding that comes from the student tech fee, our computer labs will be open longer, have more coverage and more just in time maintenance. We will also lease this year close to seven hundred new computers for our instructional labs as part of an ongoing program to keep all computers in our instructional labs up to date on a three year rolling basis. We want our students to know that they are getting more than their money’s worth when they use the computer labs. Again I want to thank Leslie Riester for using her considerable bargaining skills with Dell and Apple to wring out the last computer possible for our dollar. So formidable was Leslie in this arena that a number of our administrators tagged along on her contract to purchase computers for faculty and staff. Good work Leslie.While technology, especially computer technology, always seems to occupy our attention, I would hope by now that we are becoming more comfortable with this tool in our midst. Even with instantaneous online trading, for example, people are still doing what they have done for ages, buying and selling, just as they did on the silk routes through Asia hundreds and thousands of years ago. Admittedly, it’s less hard on the camels and on our feet. And if we click on the computer on our desk to reserve a book on the use of imagery in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, it is still Shakespeare that is our topic, not the computer per se. I do not want to minimize the impact of computer technology. It certainly has potential to make us more productive. It can influence the way we teach and it makes education more available to our students. But in the end it is a tool, just like the ax, the tape measure and the sewing machine. We still study Plato, Emily Dickinson, frogs, elements and metals. Like many other tools, we cannot now get along without it. But we need to take computer-based technology in stride as one more change that we adopt in the pursuit of our educational goals.In fact, the almost sudden and pervasive presence of computer and Internet technology in our world and at PCC is a case study of change that comes like the tide and spares no one. That is the more subtle message behind our wrestling with computer technology. Change is inevitable and positive even if we wind up rejecting the new options with which we are presented. At least our assumptions will have been challenged and tested. For example, it is inconceivable in any organization that accepted wisdom, ways of doing things, ways of relating to our publics will not be challenged especially when we add new faculty, new administrators and new staff as a result of retirements and new positions. New blood, new ideas, new strengths, new energy are positive for any organization if for no other reason than that the whole world around us is constantly changing. Why in heaven’s name wouldn’t we change? At the end of the day, our individual capacity for happiness and professional fulfillment will depend on our ability to generate change and to adapt to change, whether it is a new web based library system, a new colleague in the chemistry department, a new President or maybe even retirement.Some things however will never the change. We are heading into a new legislative year in preparation for the next biennium. Our representatives will congregate in Salem this January and will deal with, among other things, our budgets. There is good new here. All the community colleges are united in presenting a single request to the governor and the legislature. We have been assured by the Governor and the legislative leaders of both parties that our needs will receive top priority. Given our enrollment growth, funding on an fte basis has eroded. It needs to be restored. I choose to be hopeful because the signs are positive.Prior to the legislative session in January, however, there is the unfinished business of the November election. That could certainly squash any optimism and the best laid plans of all mice and men, women too. You know about the initiatives, especially measures 91 and 93, the so called Sizemore initiatives, and measure 8, the McIntyre initiative. All would severely limit th

e resources available to fund public education at all levels. If for example measure 91 passed, the federal tax initiative, PCC would this biennium have to make up almost seven million dollars immediately. On top of measure 91, measure 8 would dictate that none of this money could be made up by tuition increases. A double whammy. We will of course live with the limitations placed on us by the voters but they will certainly have a profound impact on how many students we serve and the way we do business. Our Board of Directors will state their strong opposition to these measures at their September meeting. I urge you to consider carefully how these measures will impact education and the quality of life in Oregon.There is one other initiative that rears its head periodically and is worth addressing. Measure 9 touches on academic freedom because it would curtail the teacher’s ability to discuss homosexuality in classrooms. It is aimed directly at K-12 schools and at community colleges. Stripped of its veneer, it is blatantly discriminatory and would have the effect of segregating and alienating members of our community. Our Board of Directors will stand in opposition to this measure. Our Board of Directors will stand, however in strong support of measure 26-7, PCC’s own bond measure to raise dollars to build capacity, up grade technology and repair our buildings. We passed this measure in May by an overwhelming majority of 57%. We fell short of the needed majority of voters at the polls by four tenths of one percent and thus we lost the election. Our needs remain the same; only the urgency of these needs has increased. We are talking about the future of the college and its ability to serve the community. Plain and simple. Already we are out of classrooms and labs to serve our students. We are drawing upon our general fund to address major environmental and safety needs in our tech labs. We are under-utilizing existing facilities because we cannot do the needed upgrading to accommodate new technology. While the end is not near, it is around the corner, that is the end of the our ability to meet expected enrollment with the facilities and support systems that people expect and deserve. I ask you to vote and to urge your neighbors to vote.In the end I do choose to be optimistic. I trust and expect that our Bond measure will pass. I hope also that the regressive funding initiatives will fail. And I trust also that the Governor and legislative leaders will be true to their word and support the increased funding requested by community colleges. That might be hitting a homerun with the bases loaded but everything is possible. I hope you will join me in that kind of optimism. The future is bright for PCC and the people we serve. Education continues to be a top priority for almost everyone even if we disagree on the details. In particular PCC is prepared to seize the opportunities with which it is presented and to weather the storms, if any, that might come. There is no reason to be discouraged and every reason to be optimistic. Our strength ultimately resides in the individuals who make up our community and in the mission that gives us purpose and unity. And we have many great individuals in our midst. I would like in particular to acknowledge the Board members past and present who have given firm, stable and objective guidance and direction to our college. They have concerned themselves with policy, budget, and outcomes. They have never micromanaged and never allowed personal bias to intrude. Their interest has always been in the public good. I have been very fortunate, and we are all advantaged. Our Board over the years has been nothing less than exceptional. Because of them the future will be bright.By choosing optimism I do not wish in any way to ignore the challenges we face in the coming year. I have talked about budgets and dollars. We know too about the continuing challenges posed by technology , distance learning, lack of space. We need to do a better job in Newberg, in Columbia County, in Southeast Portland and western Washington County. Internally, we have a major negotiation to settle; externally, we have to sort through the myriad of partnerships we have developed with schools, colleges, universities, prisons, non-profit agencies and businesses. We also have to find a way to serve better the immigrants who come to us seeking language skills. I think you might be able to add a few challenges of your own. But all of these challenges are positive and have the potential to make us stronger. Some of them affect every organization and some are peculiar to PCC because of our size and importance to the community. We will find a way.There is another challenge that deserves special mention. On behalf of the Board I want to report to you on the current status of the Presidential Search. The Board has interviewed two search firms, one of whom they will choose to assist them in the search and appointment process. Jerry Donnelly will work directly with the Board to provide administrative support in this search. After consultation with its consultant, the Board expects to appoint a search committee representative of all constituencies on campus and members of the public. This should happen early this fall. The Board expects interviews to take place in the spring and they expect to appoint a new president by early May. This is the plan. You will be kept informed along the way. The Board recognizes that this process and selection are preeminently their responsibility. They take it very seriously. I must say that there is a certain liberating feeling about making this report, a suggestion of some distance which feels good. As you know, I have announced my retirement effective the end of next summer in order to provide some transition for the new president. While I do feel some distance from the search process, I feel no distance from the life of this college. I savor and enjoy it tremendously and intend to be in there 100% at least until Jerry Donnelly sends me the usual retirement letter, cancels my e-mail account and sends me my lifetime parking pass. Thirty years ago I was asked by the first graduates of Dundalk Community College in Maryland to give the commencement address. Among other things I quoted from Robert Frost, Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening. Frost ends that poem with a line that I guess describes each of us at every stage of life. The narrator of the poem has stopped to enjoy the woods and the moonlight but he finally hurries on and says "I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep." I certainly feel that way about my responsibilities this year. For me, the race will not be over until the baton is firmly in the next person’s hand.I want to take this occasion to thank all of you who have allowed me to lead over the years. I think that is what leadership is about, getting to the point where people allow the leader to lead. One of our retired staff said to me in parting , thanks for letting me do my job. I really liked that. And you have allowed me to do my job. Part of allowing people to do their jobs is also insisting that they do their jobs, challenging the leader to do his or her job, evaluating whether that job is being done. There are many comments I would and could make but I will wait until another time. I do want to note what I think is an extraordinary quality of the people who work at this college. Year in and year out, I have been impressed with the individual commitment I feel every employee has to the college and its mission. It is extraordinary loyalty and it is the stuff that makes this college great. Retired employees, new employees, the sense of commitment is the same. I am not quite sure how this has come about, but it seems a permanent part of the culture. I congratulate you on that. It is certainly a tide that raises all boats and inspires all of us who come from outside. One week from now, we will welcome to our campuses and centers over forty thousand students. This is what we work for, this is what we prepare for. These s

tudents will come to PCC with their dreams, their ambitions and their hopes. Please think about that when you encounter each student. Behind every face there is a story, a personal story and a complicated story. There is nothing impersonal about education, nothing impersonal about what you and I do every day. I see in the journeys these students undertake their optimism about the future. And I am inspired by that. We cannot let them down. Take care of them and help them realize their dreams. Take care also of each other. We depend on each other for logistical support, for moral support, for collegial support. Every one of us has a contribution to make and we can begin by helping each other to succeed. The year beckons, our students are here. I am delighted to have you all back together. I wish you well. Have a great year.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »