There are a lot of local issues on our ballot for next Tuesday, and it's my patriotic duty to get informed and then make my opinion part of the collective decision making process. Who will be the new village president? Who will sit on the county board? Do we want our municipal electric co-op to buy up yet another supply source? Is hydroelectric really doing it for us? Big questions. However, the one in which I'm most interested is, in fact, the local community college board.
No, I don't attend said community college. I graduated from other institutions many years ago. But I have kids, and the options which will be available for them in a few years matter. However, I don't think most of the current board and I see eye to eye on what's important.
We live in an economically depressed area, and enrollment at the local community college is down substantially. They approximated that the 2012-2013 student body is 1k lighter than the preceding academic year. One of the problems cited is that because the local economy is stagnant, parents can't afford to send their teenagers to school, teens can't get jobs to help subsidize their education, and financial aid is no longer as easy to come by as it once was. Even the inexpensive two-year institution of my youth has now become as cost prohibitive as the overpriced private university three miles west of it.
Recently, arguably to combat this deficiency, the current board voted to take the funds earmarked for building an Arts center on campus for the homeless arts department, and instead, spend it on other building improvements and the Science/Technology department's space needs. The thinking that led to this decision is that business, technology, science, and vocational programs are going to supply their students with the experience and skills necessary to get a job, and that needs to be their focus.
Okay, I can see that a lot of people enroll in a community college in order to be job ready in two years. Considering the economic climate here, that makes a certain amount of sense. However, I think it was a decision poorly made.
The Arts are an integral part of how we experience life, and the quality of that experience. One of the reasons that high school gym classes offer quarters of bowling and horseback riding is so that students can have exposure to activities which they can enjoy long into their adult years. In the same way, Arts education opens up the door for life-long hobbies that can improve the quality of life, even for the unemployed. Of course, Arts education is the first thing on the proverbial chopping block when public school districts have to make budgetary cuts, and as a result, many turn to alternative programs, such as the community college, even before college age, in order to maintain a well rounded education for their children. Others simply look forward to college as a time to broaden horizons and get involved in the Arts that move them, but now our community college has made it clear that the Arts are not a priority.
This leaves me scrambling to read the platforms of the ten, yes- ten candidates who are running for the three available positions on the Board of Trustees. Interestingly, many of these candidates have not made much of an attempt to let us know anything other than their name, so I have developed a list of considerations.
1. Does the candidate have a website or other internet presence. If yes, read it, if no, cross them off the list. Let's face it, if they don't have a web presence, they haven't done their homework and don't belong on the Board of any educational body.
2. Does the candidate supply any pertinent information on said website. If yes, read it. If no, cross them off the list.
3. Does the candidate say anything with which I agree. If yes, continue to consider their platform. If no, cross them off the list.
4. Does the candidate mention the Arts. If yes, continue to read. If no, cross them off the list. If they don't mention it, they certainly aren't prioritizing it.
Sadly, I have, to date, only found one candidate who mentions the Arts, so I have not had the chance to employ steps 5 or 6.
5. Does the candidate outline a plan to sustain and improve the Arts program? If yes, move to the shortlist. If no, keep on the list in case no one else does.
6. Does the candidate use language conventions. Yes, at the end of the day, my decision would be swayed by grammar. That may seem silly because my grammar isn't perfect, but I feel that when one runs for political office, they need to take care to present his or herself as professionally as possible, and if a candidate can't be bothered to edit, can I expect them to treat with great care the institution with which he or she'd like to be charged with the keeping thereof? No. Consequently, grammar was going to be my tie breaker.
Now, you might not be worried about the Arts at your local community college, but the model still holds. Take the topic most important to you and put it in the place of the Arts. Maybe it's the local environment, energy resources, roads, or park district programs that matter most to you. Get informed, and get out the vote.