Letter: End the corporate takeover of Rock Valley College

As a graduate of Rock Valley College, a citizen of Rockford, a taxpayer and a voter, I am extremely distressed by the changes taking place at the college under the current Board of Trustees (BoT). The excellent education I received at Rock Valley College was a direct result of the highly qualified and experienced faculty. It was not the result of new buildings, more administrators, or the continued corporate takeover of the BoT by Rockford’s business and development community whose main objective seems to be profit over students.

On February 28, I attended the BoT meeting and watched as board members Jarid Funderburg, Katherine Kelly, and Patrick Murphy, voted yes to a Reduction-in-Force, or to RIF, 28 professors, thereby voting in favor of the continued destruction of RVC. While the board used the state budget crisis and declining enrollment as their rationale to “right size” the faculty, it is their fiscal mismanagement—construction projects, raises to administrators, and reliance on an expensive Chicago attorney—that has exacerbated the college’s budget problems. Absent from the important vote on February 28, were trustees Bob Trojan and Mike Dunn Jr.

Mike Dunn Jr. chose not to run for reelection and his term as a board member was set to expire this spring; however, in mid-February he surreptitiously resigned from his soon-to-be vacated seat. And at a hastily called BoT meeting, a few days later, he was appointed to fill a vacant seat with two years left on its term. Dunn’s appointment bypassed the election process and the will of the voters. While the reappointment was not illegal, as stressed by Patrick Murphy during the meeting, it was unethical. It was another power play made by certain board members in order for them to maintain the corporate stranglehold on the faculty and students of RVC. Patrick Murphy offered a weak defense for the appointment of Dunn Jr. citing Dunn’s experience. If Dunn Jr. has so much experience, then why did he miss the vote on February 28, in which the board laid off 28 professors and proposed a tuition increase for students?

One of the candidates for the board of trustees is Marlana Dokken. Dokken works at Rockford Metropolitan Agency for Planning, where Dunn Jr. is her boss. This is a clear conflict of interest. How can Dokken be objective and put the best interests of students and the community above the interests of her boss? To make matters worse, Dokken does not believe that education is the primary mission of Rockford’s only affordable institution of higher learning. Instead, as she wrote on her Facebook page, “Rock Valley isn’t ‘just’ an educational institution, it’s a driver for community, economic, and workforce development.” The continued focus of the BoT on having RVC be everything to everyone has diminished the mission of a liberal arts institution in favor of programming that subsidizes the business community, shifting the cost of “community, economic, and workforce development” onto students and taxpayers. Like her boss, Dokken wants a position on our community college’s board in order to enrich a small group of business and community members.

A vote for Dokken is a vote for the continued corporate takeover of RVC, whose current board’s actions and decisions are contributing to the anti-intellectualism of America and the dumbing down of Rockford. Follow the money – which BoT members are benefitting from the destruction of Rock Valley College? The upcoming election on April 4th, offers Rockford voters a critical opportunity to elect candidates to the RVC Board of Trustees who truly believe in the educational integrity of Rock Valley College.

End the corporate takeover of Rock Valley College. Vote for Paul Gorski, Angelique Bodine and John Nelson on April 4.

Dina Sipiora 

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