Teach ’em how to teach: educators face challenges in Colorado

Sean Kennedy

Sean Kennedy
Sean Kennedy

As we fight through finals week toward the conclusion of another school year, our minds turn toward summer and the future beyond colossal papers and ominous exams. While we look to the future, it is important to keep in mind another topic as it faces challenges and changes both on campus and around Colorado: the role of education.

It is time to get informed on the influence educators have within their own institutions, and join the conversation because however this debate plays out will have a noticeable effect in all classrooms, including those here at Colorado State University.

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On campus, faculty members are seeing their influence decrease within CSU. This is reflected both through their place in the budget and their role in shared governance via the Faculty Council.

CSU leadership continues to allocate more resources to administrative positions than academic faculty, with actual educators only making up 25 percent of all University staff this school year, while “administrative professionals” make up 45 percent of all CSU employees, a 3-percent increase from the previous year. While the role of administration is certainly important at a large institution such as CSU, the discrepancy between resources devoted to that and the actual education students are receiving is concerning, and the University offers little to the public in clarity, as their annual Financial Accountability Report makes no clear distinction between the two when discussing their expenditures. Additionally, faculty members have voiced concerns over their diminishing role in University decision making, highlighted by five members of the executive committee of the Faculty Council  resigning in April over the issue of shared governance.

As students, these trends deserve attention over the coming months because of what they mean for our education. Academic faculty need the resources and influence to effectively serve our student community, and it is in our best interest to demand more accountability for how our tuition is being spent, especially when administrators stand to comprise more than half of the institution’s staff in two years if current growth trends continue. Although the current situation itself is not alarming, these trends do raise a red flag because of other challenges to education in Colorado.

In neighboring Loveland, the Thompson School District board failed to ratify the contract of the teacher’s union that represented faculty in the school district, leaving teachers at the mercy of local legislators. Because the school board was unable to come to agreement with the union, these teachers now have little bargaining power and stand to have all aspects of their employment beyond salary – like classroom size, sick days and paid time off – dictated by the school district. In the worst case scenario, the teachers could lose their right to due process and be fired arbitrarily, without explanation.

It is appalling that such a situation is unfolding in a community so close to Fort Collins, and while this has no direct impact on us here at CSU, it should provide us warning and incentive to be more vigilant with our own educational situation on campus. CSU faculty deserve a larger role in shared governance with administration to continue to attract the best professors and keep our academics on the cutting edge. Legislative bodies around Colorado are making decisions about the role of educators within their institutions, and it’s in our best interest as taxpayers and consumers to pay closer attention to the conversation in the coming months, to protect the quality of education that we deserve. Have an excellent summer.

Collegian columnist Sean Kennedy can be reached at letters@collegian.com, or on Twitter @seanskenn.