This is in reply to Dave Gallaher's guest column concerning faculty and the leadership at Blue Mountain Community College:

It is easy to understand why even those with ears tuned by experience have found it difficult to hear, through the din, the message telling them what is really going on here at BMCC. Seems it is a very complex message. I, too, have found it difficult to hear and have been straining hard to understand, and so, with well-tuned ears pressed close to hear, I was deafened by the insincerity of your words, Mr. Gallaher.

In your guest column you say it is a "venomous" clique that is creating trouble at the college, and you speak as if you know that the sentiment of the "excellent faculty" is not with them. Since you have never assessed for yourself what we think, why do you purport to know what we think? When is the last time you did a survey to assess the feelings and thoughts of the faculty, or the whole college for that matter? Not once since I have been here. Why are we made to feel as though we have to force our ideas on you? Why are they not solicited? The whole thing is turned upside down.

Instead of admitting to yourself and to others that on your watch you let the last president run this ship aground, you cast blame on members of the faculty. Though she came into office floating on a cash carry-over of nearly $2 million, and in spite of an average general fund growth rate more than twice that of inflation, she managed to drain much of the excess and take us to the brink of ruin. Misguided spending on excess administrative personnel and expansion brought us to where we are. In the meantime, desperately needed infrastructure improvements such as a new administrative computing system were neglected. The recent downturn in state funding has simply brought that administration's hidden mismanagement into relief.

Many of that administration are still with us. So it is no wonder that you are very sensitive to critique. I can understand how you would not want to be blamed for being asleep on your watch as this ship splits open and disgorges its guts in the form of fear and anger. Run the college, indeed.

Three years ago we tried to warn you, but you scoffed, "Maybe we should have a debate, the faculty versus the administration." And now you want the faculty to shut up and make concessions in salary, benefits and the quality of education here at the college to make up for this financial mess. Unbelievable.

What we want is to be part of a collaboration, not "run the college." The faculty is a valuable source of information and wisdom and should not be ignored, let alone suppressed. Real faculty participation in institutional governance is the norm in higher education. If surveys are done for the upcoming accreditation, they will reveal our true sentiments.

So, rather than anger and reproach, an apology is in order; an apology for allowing this situation to develop in the first place. Judging by your guest column, however, that is not going to happen. We are not to be rescued. Instead, we are caught in a perfect storm at the confluence of poor fiscal management by the last administration, a downturn in state funding, a new president with attitudes and priorities inappropriate to education who is insensitive to our situation, and at least one board member unwilling or unable to do anything about it. Woe to us, and woe to me for being critical of this leadership. But let me quote a line by Anais Nin that a friend sent me: "Life expands or contracts in proportion to one's courage ..." To remain silent would mean living in a very small place.


Bob Hillenbrand is a math instructor at BMCC and recently stepped down from his position as faculty association president.

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