Rampage Editorial: Communication Is Key

Story By: Rampage Staff, Rampage Reporter

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Last week’s report from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges reveals serious problems within the State Center Community College District. The problem is centered on both the mechanism and processes for communication. Presently, our district lacks a cohesive plan for communication and cooperation between itself and the colleges and centers it governs.
This is a major concern because communication is essential to the success of any institution, especially a multi-campus district. There is a confusion that is palpable among students, faculty and staff that must be acknowledged and dealt with.
For us students, it is a concern that our college was issued a warning by the accrediting team that visited last October. Among the areas of concern was the gap in communication, the lack of a clear understanding in the way things should work.
This should not have come as a shock to the district because the chair of the accreditation team had mentioned this issue in his closing statements. He had said he feared that the college was losing its momentum and that his team noted gaps in communication.
We know the gaps. Most students enrolled in F.C.C. know the confusion expressed by faculty members regarding the district’s add/drop policies. At the start of the semester, instructors are not able to add students over the cap. Students who sat on the floor of lecture halls, hoping to be added to rosters can describe the torture and uncertainty.
Faculty after faculty repeated that they were under stringent rules and couldn’t add anyone. But just as we were getting used to this rule, the district did a complete turn and told instructors they could add as many as they wanted. And after the third of week of classes?
Yet another example of the breakdown in communication is the summer school debacle. Again, no one consulted the different constituencies. Students – the main reason we are a college district – were not asked for their input. Faculty and staff said they received emails that summer school was cancelled followed by other emails that it was not.
This form of conflicting action does nothing but confuse all parties involved. This is what the accreditation report means by a lack or gap in communication. The different constituencies are not able to play any part if they are obscured by a constricting bottleneck in the organization’s conduit of information.
There is a sense of confusion rippling through the faculty about which policy to adhere to. They say it undermines their relationship with their students and erodes trust. Students accuse instructors of having two different agendas. Students who have attended every class are informed that there is no room, but a few weeks later, an email completely contradicts the previous policy.
Keeping students on their toes is necessary, but this back-and-forth is severely disturbing. While the district may have been operating under difficult circumstances, their lack of coherent communication made it seem as if there was something to hide. If all stakeholders had been part of the decision from the beginning, there wouldn’t have been as much anxiety.   
When trying to reach a diverse community, there are more effective means than using student email. If past experiences are anything to go by, emails to students do not work. It should not be the only notification to students and faculty about an upcoming meeting. The district can communicate its efforts towards change through fliers on information boards, letters to the departments and ads placed in the college newspaper.   Forums and Town Hall meetings would be conducive to an efficient flow of information between the levels of administration, students, faculty and the district.
There needs to be a greater transparency when it comes to how the district conducts business. Yes, there are varying constituencies that must also play their parts, but it is the district that controls the game. It is the district that the colleges look to for guidance when it comes to structure. If there is no sense of structure, there is no model for needed.
To remediate the recommendations proposed by the accreditation team and to guarantee success in future accreditation exercises, there is much work to be done. As a college, FCC leaders have the responsibility to stand up and be assertive while the district needs to patch the holes and effectively communicate with the masses. Coming together to achieve this goal is the only way to avoid problems in the future.