With Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s leadership team already under siege at Chicago Public Schools, his aides running City Colleges of Chicago had their turn in the barrel on Thursday when faculty members announced a vote of “no confidence” in the community college network’s controversial chancellor, Cheryl Hyman.
Faculty Council President Jennifer Alexander announced the symbolic vote to the City Colleges board of trustees Thursday at a regular meeting, and then she and a group of about 20 colleagues walked a corresponding resolution to Emanuel’s City Hall office. Emanuel appoints Hyman and the trustees, who oversee a system of seven main campuses and roughly 100,000 students.
Perhaps the biggest gripe among faculty: A lack of communication by Hyman, and a tendency toward heavy-handedness.
Instructors said they have asked Hyman to hold a system-wide town hall meeting for faculty and students, but she has refused.
Alexander said the faculty are upset that Hyman’s administration has made a number of significant changes without talking to students and professors. The two most problematic changes, according to faculty, were the consolidation of programs into particular campuses, and the halting of registration a week before classes began, which stopped many students from signing up.
Faculty members are also upset about tuition hikes that they say disproportionately affect international students and part-time students.
These changes make the City Colleges harder to access, said Jenny Armendarez, head of the Harold Washington Faculty Council. “We see ourselves as the ‘people’s college’ and yet the actions taken are counter to that,” Armendarez said.
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Trustees seemed to shrug off the resolution. After the meeting, board Chairman Charles Middleton issued a statement saying that the board is “impressed with the significant accomplishments demonstrated by . . . Hyman.”
City Colleges officials, apparently well-aware what the faculty council was up to, padded the public participation section of the meeting with about a dozen people who came with the expressed purpose of singing the praises of Hyman and her system-wide initiative called “Reinvention.” Speakers included U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) who said he left the hospital bedside of his wife to talk in support of Hyman.
“I know her narrative, I know her heart and I know her story,” he said. “That she has raised the graduation rate in this city is phenomenal.”
In addition, businessman and activist Leon Finney spoke, as well as leaders of several major community organizations and students.
Kevin Doinggyun Woo, a student from Korea, said the vice chancellor asked him to come to the meeting to speak in support of the tuition hike, which drew some chuckles from the crowd.
In addition to making each campus a hub for particular majors, such as Malcolm X for health care, “Reinvention” has increased the amount of advising for students and focused on getting students to completing their certificates or programs more quickly.
City Colleges officials have credited “Reinvention” with helping to more than double the graduation rate. At Thursday’s meeting, officials announced updated graduation rates: 17 percent of first time, full-time students graduated within three years of starting, compared with 7 percent in 2009. (However, typically only about 1,000 of the 100,000-some students at City Colleges are first-time, full time student and included in those figures.)
Meanwhile, Emanuel’s CPS leadership has a rocky week as well, with teachers voting down a four-year contract proposal.