City Colleges more interested in claiming success than in teaching

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Kennedy-King College. | Sun-Times library ORG XMIT: CST1411191502161407

In the late 1970s, I was a student at the old Loop College, on East Lake Street, just off of Michigan Avenue. I found my instructors at the City Colleges to be dedicated and the material rigorous. I never felt then, or now, that they were pulling their punches. When I earned my two-year degree, it meant something to me.

Decades and degrees later, I taught for several years at Truman College as an adjunct instructor (I also served as the ad-hoc campus representative for the adjunct’s union), but I found the experience to be less than rewarding. (Except for my students, God bless ’em.) I quickly came to see the administration of the City Colleges as being anti-faculty, the full-time faculty as being anti-adjunct, and the atmosphere as being anti-student.

Campus pundits back then would probably howl in protest over my appraisal, but the graduation rates then, and now, tell the story.

OPINION

This month, the Better Government Association published a report in Crain’s Chicago Business titled “A degree? Easy. Getting an education? That’s another story.” Authored by David Kidwell, the report convincingly claims that the City Colleges have been issuing degrees to students who hadn’t earned them (or even wanted them). Further, the City Colleges manipulated data on students while denying requests by the BGA for information.

In the following issue of Crain’s, Andy Shaw of the BGA wrote a column titled “Buy one, get one free is not a good look for City Colleges.” It restated the main points of Kidwell’s report and called for the inspector general of the City Colleges to investigate the matter. Shaw also urged that aldermen who had campuses in their wards call for hearings.

Papers will be shuffled, but nothing will happen.

Our experiences frame our perceptions. As a former student and instructor at the CCC, I pay close attention to anything in the press concerning that troubled system. After reading the report, I was hardly surprised given what I learned about the system a decade ago. The City Colleges were, and obviously still are, more interested in image rather than substance, and in politics rather than education, with education here defined as the pursuit of knowledge rather than the acquiring of minimal job skills.

I have a single yet important question to pose: Why isn’t the Higher Learning Commission investigating this travesty of education, as that organization is responsible for the accreditation of colleges and universities in this region? To issue degrees to students who have not earned them, to have manipulated data, and to have denied requests for public information, should be more than sufficient grounds for the loss of accreditation.

For anyone in Chicago who doesn’t think that this is an important issue — the City Colleges don’t affect me! — take out your last property tax bill, the one issued this past summer, and look at the itemized list of taxing bodies, specifically the entry, “Chicago Community College Dist. 508.” Taxpayers are footing the bill for a practice that is nothing short of a form of academic fraud foisted upon the public in general, and specifically upon the students directly involved, as well as upon other recent graduates of the CCC, as the value of their degrees has been cheapened by this practice.

Hopefully, the Chicago media, and the Sun-Times in particular, will pursue and highlight this issue up until the last vote is cast in the mayoral election in 2019.

The administration at City Colleges answers to the system’s chancellor, who is in turn appointed by the mayor. The mayor is answerable to the public.

John Vukmirovich is a Chicago-area writer, researcher and book reviewer.

Send letters to: letters@suntimes.com.

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