LBCC Faculty Speak Out Against College Budget Cut Targets
ALBANY – Tensions are high among the faculty at Linn-Benton Community College. In what some are calling an unceremonious and vague announcement from LBCC’s administration, faculty are sharply criticizing administration plans to cut 10 faculty contracts and three programs, along with budget cuts to Adult Basic Skills. Among the programs that will be discontinued are criminal justice and computer science.
Initial buzz is centered around three faculty members in particular, LBCC’s three faculty librarians. Their fellow faculty note that the librarians play a central role that touches many aspects of the college, including the health and upkeep of the library, and teaching and assisting students with research.
Fellow faculty members are in an uproar; sending letters to college President Lisa Avery and Vice President Ann Buchele expressing shock and confusion behind their recent decisions and urging them to reconsider.
“They can keep the building open but there are lots of things they cannot do,” faculty librarian Bryan Miyagishima noted if the library staff no longer includes faculty.
As stated in their contracts, the duties of the librarians cannot be carried out by anyone other than a faculty librarian; not management and not classified staff. Miyagishima questioned whether the college could continue to be accredited without the proper support for the library.
“When staffing for librarians, we model ourselves off of our comparator institutions,” Miyagishima said, referring to neighboring community colleges such as Mount Hood, Lane, and Chemeketa. “They all have three full-time librarians and a director to oversee functions of the library.”
Miyagishima cited the library’s website, for example, which not only gives students online access to library resources but also allows books to be checked out. No one besides faculty librarians can assume this maintenance work. This means that students and the public could see the library fall into disrepair over time.
“All that we have heard from the college was the recent press release saying that the library will remain ‘fully operational,’ ” Miyagishima said.
“I don’t know how the college plans to maintain the library after the librarians are gone,” he said. “When I asked the library’s director, Samantha Hines, what the plan was for the library, she told me at the time they had no idea.”
At the time of publication, the library planned to move forward with Director Hines and three classified library staff.
“We want to protect academic programs, which is part of why we made the decision about the librarians,” President Avery said in an interview about discontinuing the faculty librarians’ contracts at the end of this school year. “The library is going to continue to stay open and flourish.”
“This was a hard reduction to make because it is also important to LB’s mission,” Avery said, “but when we are trying to save instructional programs, and if we can’t get the resources from there to save instruction, then where can you get them? Our librarians don’t teach per se, they certainly do a lot to support education but they themselves don’t carry course loads. That, along with further management reductions, is something we have to look at.”
LBCC is known for the high-quality resources the library and librarians provide.
“LBCC is known for being a leader in affordable textbooks. Richenda (Hawkins) has been a visionary in our state and our institution for open education and free or affordable course materials,” said Colleen Sanders, Open Education and Course Material Resource faculty. Hawkins is one of the faculty librarians who would be cut.
“LBCC has enjoyed and earned a reputation statewide for being a leader in open educational resources and textbook affordability,” Sanders said.
“Richenda was an early visionary for using library resources to offset textbook costs for students, which is a win for equity and access, which is our institution’s mission,” Sanders said.
Hawkins’ work has included helping start the open educational resources program at LBCC, which has created jobs including Sanders’ position at LBCC as well as a position at the state level.
“Currently, librarians do all the selection and purchasing of the new books coming into the library,” Miyagishima added. “ We meet with instructors from across the college and learn what their instructional needs are to determine what we should purchase for the collection.”
Another concern is how the college will meet the requirement of teaching students about information literacy; a skill taught by librarians in Writing 121 classes.
Miyagishima also noted how cutting all three librarians from the library removed both people of color from the library. All remaining library staff are white. Overall, six out of the 10 campuswide faculty to be cut are people of color.
“My goal is to keep the college open and financially safeguard it for the future,” Avery said.
A press release from LBCC’s administration noted a $4 million gap between expenses and revenue, and this year’s gap is $3 million.
“We can’t afford to be all things for all people. We have to get smaller. We have to be strategic and meet most of those needs,” Avery said.
“As we shrink our footprint you will see the college emphasize the things that make LBCC unique, that you can’t get anywhere else,” said Avery, referring to career and technical education programs such as welding, non-destructive testing, and radiology.
In addition to library faculty, the administration intends to cut the college’s computer science and criminal justice programs, which have seven full-time faculty in addition to part-time instructors. Those faculty positions would continue next school year as the college conducts a “teach-out,” which gives current students one year to earn their degree. The contracts of those faculty would run out following the 2023-24 school year.
Amid the announced proposed budget cuts, the college’s Board of Education approved a 6 percent tuition increase for the coming school year.
Check back for further coverage as more of the story of LBCC’s proposed budget cuts unfolds.