Welcome to Winter Quarter 2009

January 5, 2009 

Dear Colleagues,

Welcome to the winter quarter! I trust that all of us managed to get some time with our family and friends, decompress from the fall and read something entirely unrelated to our work. A special thanks to our many classified professional and administrative colleagues for all their work in making sure as many students were enrolled as we could handle, that the campus was ready this morning and that our programs are ready for action.

Budget: As you know, the legislature and governor failed to reach agreement on a mid-year budget reduction package. The governor has proposed to roll this year's deficit into next year's budget, thus forcing the state to deal with a $40 billion deficit for the 2009-2010 fiscal year. As of this morning there is still little hope of a compromise between the Democrats (and the governor) seeking a mix of cuts and new revenues and the legislative Republicans who seek to manage the deficit without tax increases.

The political stalemate is disconcerting for all of us and should prompt us to vigorous advocacy on behalf of the community colleges. Indeed, our students are already planning a series of rallies and informational actions about the budget, and there is talk of another "March on Sacramento." It is my view that we should do everything we can to support our students, as well as the coalition of unions and professional associations who will be working on our collective behalf. To quote activist Joe Hill, "Don't mourn; organize."

As for the campus implications of the budget crisis, there is no doubt that we face an extremely difficult next couple of years. We have already acted to pull back our spending plans for our one-time monies, frozen the majority of open positions and cut back on our low-enrolled sections in an effort to maintain enrollment while not breaking the bank. An overall approach to spending has been approved by College Council, and we will be elaborating in greater detail how we intend to limit our costs while maintaining our quality. We will be working with the Academic Senate and the Classified Senate to ensure that the shared governance process has time and space to work.

It's very difficult to plan effectively when we do not have definitive numbers from the state. We have to work with the parameters we have and continue our commitment to maintain the academic programs and services for which we are known, and protect our people as a top priority.

Enrollment: Our enrollment is extremely strong, even with section cancellations. As of this morning, our on-campus headcount is up more than 6% over last winter; WSCH is up 1.5%. This is a testimony to our superb faculty and staff and reflects our growing reputation as the best local option for students. That said, our enrollment also reflects a statewide trend: as the economy tanks, tens of thousands of men and women want to go back to school. And yet, at exactly when we are most needed the state cannot meet this demand, and so thousands of students are finding sections closed, course offerings severely limited and programs taking longer to complete. It's irrational, but there you have it.

Final Note: Take a moment today or tomorrow, away from your office or classroom or work assignment: walk out on the campus, even in the rain, and see if you can help one more student get to the right building, find the class they need, or the Library or the Campus Center. It is one of our distinguishing elements: the personal ability to reach out to our students and help. Forget the state budget or whatever local annoyance is on your mind and let yourself absorb the energy and excitement of the students. They are why we're here, and they make everything worth it. Welcome to the new quarter and the New Year -- one which will mark the inauguration of a new president of the United States and a turning point for our country.

Brian Murphy

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