Wagging the Dog in Rhode Island

Another Raimondo Tale

Ever since Gina Raimondo, (a republican in any other state), became governor of Rhode Island, she has unabashedly launched a political coup on our lone community college. She continues to exclude faculty from her pie-in-the-sky Rhode Island Promise free tuition escapade while simultaneously allowing hand-picked business types on her “higher education” board to use CCRI as some kind of educational experiment.

Past As Prologue 

I warned all Rhode Islanders back in 2016 that CCRI was about to undergo a political takeover by a highly ambitious governor.

In late 2018 I raised the issue of the dawning of the administrative aristocracy at CCRI, even informing the state that a political coup is in full swing due to inexperienced administrators, a CPSE consisting of hand-picked commerce types rubber-stamping edicts from on high, and a governor insistent on using the “people’s” college as her very own experimental laboratory to promote her political opportunism.

Down By Law

So, we now see the culmination of the coup d’etat brought to you with this overreaching, dictatorial Article 11 in H5151presented in the budget by an overbearing governor.

Before I address a few contentious proposals from Hedge Funder-in-Chief, please allow me to remind you of CCRI’s enabling statute:

16-33.1-3. Award of degrees – Curriculum and government.

The board of governors, with the approval of the president and a committee of the faculty of the community college, shall award associate degrees, certificates, and diplomas and confer honors in the same manner as is customary in American junior colleges and community colleges. It shall also be the duty of the president and a committee of the faculty, with the approval of the board of governors, to arrange courses of study, prescribe any qualifications for the admission of students and any rules of study, exercise, discipline, and government as the president and committee may deem proper.

With that in mind, Article 11 points to the utter contempt the de-facto CCRI president has for the faculty at CCRI and for that time-tested legislative mandate.                   

Servant Economy 2.0

Article 11 of H5151, with Rhode Island Promise in tow, looks to legislate unilateral actions, continue and increase  a taxpayer funded adventure, and totally obliterates faculty shared governance.

A daring and glaring attempt to subvert shared governance would be the governor’s high-handed declaration that colleges align degrees and certificates to workforce demand, and seeks to undermine and retrofit the CCRI mission by tethering academics to workforce development,  transforming  both CCRI and Rhode Island College into vocational depots.

Must be the gentrification of the “New Vocationalism”, courtesy of the ruling class.

Boola Boola!

Count’em Up

Moreover, Article 11 seeks to expand the free tuition experiment.

Has CCRI provided any raw data detailing its efficacy? And what about a full monetary accounting from CCRI for the previous millions lassoed from all of us?

Did the governor once again conveniently forget a strict income cap? Did the state get any assurances? How about a student contract to cover losses if any recipient taking free tuition in RI decides to skip town?

Did she mandate the tuition gift turns into a loan?


Without an income cap, would the students this governor purports to help basically subsidize the wealthier families because RIP is last dollar in?

Did legislators ever get an analysis from CCRI denoting the cost of each “successful” student?

It would certainly assist the state know what percentage of low income students actually benefit from this program, no?

Is it cost of tuition or cost of college?

Is it educational or political?               

Short Winter Daze            

Article 11, proposed by Raimondoaudaciously seeks to legislate learning with the contentious J Term, or winter intersession. (This abbreviated session places students in a course running 3 hours a day for 12 days).

So now the executive branch wants to play landlord over curriculum AND scheduling?

If the governor gets her way it’d be another flagrant thumbing of the nose to CCRI faculty and students.

The CCRI faculty, with literally hundreds, if not thousands of years of collective higher education experience, loudly proclaimed how detrimental condensing courses would be. More importantly, expert faculty stated all developmental courses compressed into a 12 day  delivery clearly does not benefit student learning.

The faculty also appealed to the media, picketed the college, and placed on record that none of those courses unilaterally imposed by CCRI administration were ever brought before Curriculum Review Committee.

As the state is aware, the one-sided action taken with J-Term by CCRI administrators led to only the second faculty vote of no confidence in CCRI history.

But who’s counting, right?

Well, obviously Raimondo is counting on you to cave to her imperial wishes of ceding plenary power to a college president and her own coterie of specially chosen “higher education” board appointees.

The same group of acolytes who ignored the 56 faculty-signed  statement about the current president, and arrogantly refused to meet with faculty about their concerns.                                       

Workforce Be With You

Finally in Article 11, you’ll read where the governor wants to continue to drive faculty autonomy toward Ethel and Lucy in the chocolate factory.

It’s actually very telling of her to attempt to instruct  the legislative branch that her appointed “higher education” board will approve program reviews at each postsecondary institution where each must prioritize programs and courses of study based on the state’s workforce needs?

The colleges must also identify program expansion, consolidation, and closures based on that analysis?

Buh-bye, liberal arts.

In addition, the governor wants her hand-picked “higher education”pals to set standards for making course offerings…predictable, structured, and more flexible to meet student scheduling needs.

That’s akin to a group of business folks setting standards for the American Bar Association.

See, in the governor’s ruling class factory, she prefers to disrespect the curricula knowledge and scheduling expertise of highly educated faculty, while implementing a corporate one-size-fits-all assembly line delivery.

Like Trump, she just knows more than anyone else.                  

And like Trump, it’s all about customer satisfaction.

Student learning? Fahgettaboudit.

It’s easier to push students out like widgets than it is to actually educate critical thinkers who will eventually question the motives of certain politicians like her for wanting to take away their intellectual curiosity.

Is it teaching a subject or selling Raimondo Inc.?

Community or Corporate College?

What’s next, Goldman Sachs controlling all things academic?

The Bottom Line

If the R.I. legislature does not significantly edit and strike down serious chunks of Article 11 then students will forever be arduously paving a road for a job search not riding the career path toward lifelong learning.

And by dismantling faculty autonomy, and excluding the primary stakeholders, this is what’s constructed and brought before you.

All Gina Raimondo ever provides is nothing more than a controlled manipulation of regurgitated pablum. It’s really neoliberalism run amok.

Rhode Island deserves much better.

So does CCRI.

Steven F. Forleo is a concerned R.I. citizen and tenured faculty member at CCRI.