Why we have no confidence in Green River College’s trustees

Following is the Faculty Report delivering the vote of no confidence in the Green River College Board of Trustees at its Nov. 18 meeting.


I don’t know how many of you are familiar with the history of community colleges in the United States. The first one was created in 1901, but the first major burgeoning of community colleges was during the Depression era, offering programs to train and retrain workers in order to address widespread unemployment. The second wave of community college development occurred after World War II with the creation of the GI Bill and the Truman Commission’s initiative to create colleges that would serve local community needs.

The Green River College Board of Trustees.

The third and perhaps most notable community college boom occurred during the 1960s, inspired by a variety of forces, but especially the civil rights movement, in which community colleges figured as part of a social justice movement to redress the lack of educational opportunity for minority populations, especially African-Americans. More than 450 two-year colleges were created during that time, as much as doubling the total number that existed in the U.S. previously.

These three waves neatly highlight the mission of community colleges: job training, serving the local community, filling the opportunity gap in education, particularly for populations that have suffered the scourge of discrimination.

My own story of coming to be a community college teacher involves having initially pursued a PhD path towards a scholarly post at a 4-year college. I was well on my way, with a full ride to a PhD program, when I changed course for reasons that were at first personal: call it a mid-twenties crisis. That change of course led me to teach as an adjunct faculty member at South Seattle Community College where I discovered a relevance and power to my work that I had not felt teaching at a four-year college during my MA studies.

I felt called by the theme of social justice that so clearly ran through my work as a community college faculty member. As I learned more about the community college mission, my professional goals changed. I am at Green River because I believe in those goals still, and I have helped to create a Writing Center, served as chair of my division for 10 years, and am the president of the Union because I believe in them and that part of my job is to protect them.

I share this with you because I want you to fully understand why, tonight, I am here to present you a Vote of No Confidence by the faculty in your work as a Board of Trustees.

While this vote is certainly about prolonged contract negotiations, inadequate salary funding, negligent and oppressive policy decisions, harassment of employees, retaliation against union leaders, and mismanagement of college resources, it is also critical for you to understand that this vote represents the faculty’s belief that your actions or inaction, as the case may be, represent that you have turned your backs on protecting the mission of this community college and all community colleges.

We, the faculty, come here tonight with hearts full of wrath and compassion. It is not our desire to be your adversary. We would rather call you partners, leaders, even mentors. But we cannot. Much as we may desire peace and feel loath to sit or stand before you today, delivering a message that we know will be received with anger, disdain, and, quite rightfully, discomfort, we have an obligation to speak this truth to you.

A successful education is more than the sum of its parts. Like a work of art, it cannot be measured by the limited metrics of color, technique, and form because those metrics do not measure beauty in all of its manifestations. And this college has been beautiful. When I look behind me at the people who are here to attend tonight, I still see that beauty: the commitment, the camaraderie, the eagerness, the passion, the sacrifice, the pain, and the creativity that makes education into art.

You have allowed the insatiable appetite of a hungry ego to erode this beautiful thing, this just and necessary thing. You have widened doorways and planted gardens for those who could pay the most while closing the doors of opportunity for those who have little, but struggle greatly.

There is an “old link” between the word “opportunity” and the passage in a stream blocked by a fish trap. It refers to the opening the fish must find or make to get through the trap — the pathway it must create for itself. Like fish before the trap in the stream, our students come to us to slip the traps of poverty, racism, domestic violence, sexism, ableism, and other social ills community colleges were created to address.

I ask you: how has your work on this board helped them? How have you protected them? Who has profited from your work?

Green River College in Auburn, Wash.

You cannot be a part of a community college and not have a little something of the subversive in your heart. A community college is not a corporation, or a branch of government. It does not and should not work the way those kinds of entities work. It is uniquely designed to be the opportunity through the trap that such entities often participate in setting and maintaining. If you do not see that, then you never belonged here in the first place.

We have lost confidence in you for many reasons that are enumerated in the document that has been sent to Governor Inslee today, but perhaps most greatly because you appear to have lost your way and forgotten what a community college is as well as the sacred trust vested in you to protect it.

We are here to remind you, out of our commitment, with grief in our hearts, and also with hope that our confidence in you might still be restored. We hope you can hear us, not as your adversaries, but as the allies of this beautiful college on a hill.

Jaeney Hoene is President of the United Faculty at Green River College in Auburn, Wash. She delivered this Faculty Report to the college’s Board of Trustees at its meeting on Nov. 18, 2015, and it is posted here with her permission. Read more here.

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