Recent budget cuts announced by LBCC’s administration propose to slash Computer Science, Adult Basic Skills, and Criminal Justice programs as well as gut the library of faculty in what the administration is calling a final decision.
“The opposition to the programs and faculty cut is rooted in a lack of communication and transparency from the leadership, as well as concerns about the impact on students. This is not just a matter affecting those who will soon lose their jobs,” said computer science instructor Norah Wang.
Wang is among many LBCC faculty who have voiced concerns about confusing and misleading language from the administration around the budget cuts that were announced in March. Along with the budget cuts, LBCC announced that it plans to institute a 6% tuition increase to supplement the gap between the college’s revenue and expenses.
“The decision-making process has been opaque. The administrators have not provided data or metrics to support their decisions. This has led to confusion and mistrust among the faculty and students,” Wang said.
Outcry and disapproval is coming from both within and outside of campus. In a recent letter sent to LBCC President Lisa Avery from State Librarian Wendy Cornelisen, Cornelisen stated that she was disappointed with the recent news of the termination of LBCC’s library faculty. She listed a number of ways in which LBCC librarians have made far-reaching contributions to student and college health, including open educational resources, work to elevate diverse voices in the LBCC community, and noted they are pivotal players in the success of the Linn Benton Community Literacy Project.
“Creating a socially just learning environment is fundamental to the mission of a community college. They are a key path to education for some of the most underserved and under-resourced communities in Oregon, and community colleges are an especially critical gateway for first-generation college students,” Cornlisen wrote. “The faculty librarians at LBCC have shown themselves to be not only excellent librarians but also critical navigators for some of the most vulnerable students at LBCC.”
Faculty librarian Richenda Hawkins expressed concerns not only for the impact the loss of the librarians will have on the community but also the “gutting” of the Adult Basic Skills program.
The library and Adult Basic Skills work closely to provide easy access to resources for people with low literacy skills and non-English speakers that are looking to get an education and learn English.
“Just about 50% of our (ABS) student population identifies as Latino/a and roughly 60% identify as having a home language other than English. Our staff can provide services in Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, Russian, German, French, and more. About half of our staff is proficient in at least one world language other than English,” said Joyce Thompson Graham, Adult Basic Skills Department coordinator and chair. The department has served nearly 500 students in the 2022-23 school year.
Alongside the concerns of being able to effectively serve the community, transparency from the administration and the future of the college’s accreditation, equity is another topic in question when dissecting the budget cuts. Six of the 10 faculty members to be cut are people of color. To put it into perspective that is 25% of LBCC’s Hispanic faculty, and a loss of 46% of LBCC’s faculty of color in an institution where over 90% of LBCC faculty are white.
“The college is cynically seeking to become a Hispanic Serving Institution,” said Hawkins, commenting on how LBCC is cutting services that are pathways to credit classes such as English for non-English speakers and GED in Spanish classes, as well as staff that are equipped to help with non-English-speaking students such as the bilingual faculty and staff in the library and Adult Basic Skills Department.
Hawkins pointed to interaction records from fall 2022 for both the reference and student help desks in the library – “At least 5% of all interactions at each desk were in Spanish.”
“By cutting resources for people with low literacy skills, non-English speakers, and people seeking a GED, the college is reducing accessibility for approximately 11,000 Linn and Benton county residents to acquire skills needed to obtain gainful employment or higher-paying jobs,” Hawkins said.
When talking about the importance of providing ease of accessibility and ease of use for Spanish-speaking students, Hawkins pointed to an infographic published by ProLiteracy.org, stating, “A mother’s reading skill is the greatest determinant of her children’s future academic success, outweighing other factors, such as neighborhood and family income.”
Ease of access extends past just bilingual signage; time is also a factor in ease of access to education.
“Over three-quarters of ABS students attend classes from 6-9 p.m. and on Saturdays. Other LBCC support services are rarely available during those hours,” said Thompson Graham.
“This was not an easy decision, there were no cuts we could have made that won’t affect the students and the college,” President Avery said at LBCC’s Spring In-service presentation. Avery discussed the budget, saying the programs and faculty that were cut will save the college $2.4 million over the next two years.
The administration hopes that funds raised between a 6% tuition increase, a grant from the Lumina Foundation to aid student recruitment, and an updated federal Farm Bill will help the college’s budget become more stable.
President Avery also shared some good news at the in-service presentation regarding the college, stating that enrollment was up for programs such as welding, non-destructive testing, and dental assisting.