A success in an impossible place

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Confession of the Dean of a Community College

The context will help explain two points why a meeting last week was painful and satisfying.

First, money.

Different states manage Perkins grants in different ways. Here, the state allocates a certain amount for each community college. Colleges have to submit budgets to the state for approval, showing how they want to use the money. Comes with money string. It can only be used for career and technical programs, for example, and the college must follow the federal rule of “complementary, not”. In other words, it cannot be used for things that the college usually pays for out of its own funds.

As next year’s budget deadline approached, we made multiple calls to departments and programs that wanted to make funding requests. We’ve been hit with a ্যের 1.2 million request for প্রায় 600,000 in funding.

A former colleague used to say that any budget can be balanced unless you think about the consequences. But I care about the results. One thing about cutting the list in half; It’s another thing to cut the list in half by minimizing the damage.

Second, culture.

When I arrived in Brookdale, I learned through the group experience of inherited deans that internal competition was rewarding. I don’t believe it. In my opinion, the taxpayers of Monmouth County do not care about Dean at any given time. They want to know if the college is doing well. So I have consistently tried to shift the culture from one of war to one of cooperation. We have a common goal and the energy that is expended in domestic politics is not energy that is spent on common goals. The shift in culture has been frozen: slowly, but in a way that changes the landscape.

The theme is established, I hope people understand how interesting it was:

Dean, Perkins Coordinator, and I have been meeting for hours to reduce requests to meet our assignments. The good part here is: everyone just volunteered to cut from their own area. It was not controversial. There was no proverbial horse business. (None of that was real, about that.) We went around and around, offering what each area could do until we got to the total where it needed to be. Each dean was able to prioritize their respective areas, and when it came to giving bad news to their departmental chairs, they could honestly say that each area left something out. We even prioritized some items to be first on the list if other items came in lower than expected and some funds were available in the middle of the year.

The conversation was exhausting, but the tension was against our numbers. It was not that we were against each other. No one enjoyed it, but when it was over, we all knew that every single decision was made for the right reason.

Budget-cutting sessions are never fun. But I was kind of proud of how it went. The culture of cooperation and mutual respect has become strong enough to survive by cutting budgets in half. As terrible as the situation was, it was a real victory.

Obviously, I would rather have enough funds to make such meetings unnecessary. But I am proud of my team for showing that it is possible to be mature and collaborative, even when the work is not very beautiful. At the cultural level, this is a clear victory.

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Release Newsletter Release Date:
Monday, June 6, 2022
Diversity Newsletter Release Date:
Monday, June 6, 2022

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