During the recent race for Triton College trustee, state Senator Don Harmon took the easy path by endorsing the Mark Stephens slate. Apparently, he neither follows nor cares about the style of leadership at Triton College or the significant concerns raised by various employee groups and students, all of which have had strong local media coverage. Nor has he held the formal documents of the board up to the standards contained in the Illinois Open Meetings Act to see where the truth lies.

His endorsements rang with the stuff of the good-old-boy network consisting of political alliances and friendships, rather than a good look at what Triton College needs now to regain the shining educational stature it once had.

Triton’s first president, Herbert Zeitlin, worked tirelessly against great odds to assure the college would be as free from political influences as possible and run collegially as a college should.

However, once the political inroads started, and Zeitlin was eased out, the downhill ride began. Since that time, the office of college president has degenerated into a game of musical chairs. The deciding factor to continued employment for the administration, from the president down, has become how well they dance to the board’s tune, or if they contribute to the board chair’s political fund, rather than how well they directed and coordinated the team effort to make the place a better educational institution.

What Triton needs now is a board of trustees that will stick to its limited responsibilities. It is their duty to hire staff, set policy, provide facilities, equipment and supplies, pay the bills, and set tax levels: but all this aided by the staff in place.

Equally important, the board must realize they are not professional educators. The best available academic leadership, comes from legitimate, professional, employee-based national searches. They then hire only from an unadulterated final search list, after which they dissolve into the background so that shared governance and day-to-day operation can take place.

A great college cannot exist when the board exerts an iron participatory hand on every decision. Only rarely should the phone line between a key administrator and the board chair hum with conversation, and under no circumstances should routine board business be conducted free of open discussion and under a cloak of mystery.

The Triton College board under the leadership of Mark Stephens has misplaced its priorities: Rather than the board facilitating a college, it has become a college facilitating the board.

Apparently, these issues had escaped the vision of state Sen. Harmon.

John Mueller

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