This was written in response to an opinion piece that ran in Friday’s edition of the Southern Illinoisan.
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to Dr. Hancock’s assertions with regard to John A. Logan College.
First, he criticized the $1.6 million Logan had to reimburse the state. He fails to mention one of the primary drivers of loss was the decision by the Illinois Community College Board to change the manner in which the college could claim credit hours at the Community Health Education Center from course enrollment to membership. A lot of current worker training had to be changed so it did not generate credit hours in the same way Logan had been crediting hours in the past. Ironically, both of these practices were the result of practices Dr. Hancock put in place when he was president and now he blames the board. These changes have affected the loss of credit hours and enrollment over the years, just as the pandemic has.
Second, Dr. Hancock criticized the promotions from within to “high level positions” without references, consideration of experience, and academic degrees. Since I have been on the board the past four years, the three promotions to leadership positions have all been qualified, with two holding doctoral degrees in their areas of expertise and one having served for many years in the very area in which she has been promoted.
Because the administration has not promoted Dr. Hancock’s desired person, he has disparaged the ones who were promoted.
Dr. Hancock alludes to an “arbitrary dismissal” of staff. During the years 2016 and 2017, the state budget impasse resulted in no state payments for nearly 2 years to JALC. The need financially at the time was to reduce the budget by $5 million to cope with the budget impasse with no state funding in sight.
Although it was painful for the people involved, the future stability of the college depended upon that action. Although I was not on the board at the time, it wasn’t a choice anyone wanted to make, but 55 people were included in the reduction-in-force. The board voted 7-0, including Dr. Hancock, to effect this reduction. Eventually, all of the tenured faculty who wanted to return were rehired. Seven are still pending a settlement agreement to be recompensed for their job loss as they should be.
Regarding Dr. Hancock’s criticism of facilities. The only space that has been added to JALC in the last 7-8 years is a metal pole barn being used for Highway Construction Career Training and will also be used for Solar Installation Training. Both of these programs will prove valuable given the likelihood of a federal infrastructure investment for both. All of the square footage added in the past 15 years was added during the time of greatest enrollment growth. A close look at the facility master plan, which is continuously being developed and adjusted by a campus wide committee, makes it clear that the colleges focus is on taking care of what it has, not building new space.
Dr. Hancock talks about a $4 million deficit. He is confusing budgets to actual year-end results. A look at the FY20 audit is pretty amazing in the way JALC turned out. The operating funds experienced less than a $750,000 deficit and when you consider all funds, it was still less than $750,000.
A $750,000 deficit in a $62 million budget is good when nine months of the year, we were on lockdown for COVID. The actual FY21 year-end projection was a $2 million deficit. It is natural that institutions do not spend everything for which they budget. Ironically, during the years Dr. Hancock was president, the budgeted deficits were much larger than the present board and administration. I have every confidence that given the federal and state assistance coming to the college for pandemic relief, the budgeting gap for FY21 can be closed.
The FY20audit also points out that our legal debt limit is $56 million. Our present debt is $23 million, less than half of what we are safely and legally entitled to borrow. As chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee, I pay careful attention to our fiscal matters and for years, not a single material finding has shown up in any of our audits. We are conservative and we are safe despite misgivings you may have been led to believe.
While Dr. Hancock has found much to fault, he fails to mention that we’ve had excellent audits, consistently good bond ratings, the highest accreditation one can receive, 10 years, from the Higher Learning Commission, nationally rated career and technical education programs, a nationally recognized cyber security program, excellent cooperation with SIU, and designation as a Center of Excellence by Homeland Security.
I do not write this as a criticism of Dr. Hancock, but we have significant differences on the way we see Logan. This college has outstanding faculty and staff and a board that tries to do its best to meet its fiduciary responsibility to the public.
I love this college as does fellow board member Jake Rendleman, who is up for re-election. This is an excellent college, not without its faults, but certainly not the picture that has been painted by Dr. Hancock.
Glenn Poshard is a JALC board member, former Illinois State Senator, U.S. Congressman, gubernatorial candidate, and is a former President of the Southern Illinois University system.