The concept of shared governance came of age in the 1960s, when colleges began to liberalize many of their processes. Faculty and student groups making governing decisions undermine the authority of elected trustee and the college president. Shared governance has bankrupted the City College of San Francisco, the largest community college in California.

Professor David Michael Smith, a Marxist and COMUnity president, has fought College of the Mainland presidents and trustees for years trying to force this concept at COM. 

Carol Voight, a candidate for the at-large trustee, Position 6 agrees with Professor Smith and has shared governing as part of her platform.

In the ’70s, President Fred Taylor attempted to bring COM staffing and finances in line with other community colleges and was met with stiff opposition. Smith and his cohorts have opposed every COM president. 

The only COM president to meet COM-Unity approval was Larry Stanley, who, in the ’80s, used the shared governance concept. Smith and COMUnity loved Stanley and the copious benefits, job security and tenure policies.

Today, Smith and COM-Unity file lawsuits, claim mistreatment and then use this as proof to win public support, trying to force the administration to adopt their agenda.

Jack Cross, Texas City

(31) comments

Carol Voight

Mr. Cross,
Dr. Smith wasn't at the college in the 80's when President Stanley was hired. And while I agree with shared governance, it is not something bad for the college. The college was governed under a shared governance platform during the time I was a student there and during this time., there weren't any discrimination or sexual harassment lawsuits. The college was praised at the time nationally for its inclusive working environment and the way all employees and students had a stake in the college.

It may surprise you to know that many colleges throughout the country operate under a shared governance platform and thrive. The problems at COM will not be solved with more people that will rubber stamp anything without knowing how it will affect the whole college community.

COM needs someone on that board that has a college degree, understands and supports public education, and is interested in focusing on COM, not being a politician. That person is not your candidate, sorry.

Jack Cross

Ms Voight, I agree with you, if you give the professors and the employees what they want, there will be no problem. That is what shared governance leads to.
But this creates a problem for the budget and taxpayers and it is the reason this governing model has fallen out of favor across the nation

The term “shared governance” is used to refer to processes that involve faculty, staff, and students in decision-making. The American Association of University Professors uses the term widely to describe institutional governance processes and the role of faculty in university governance.

However, “governance” in community colleges also refers to the role of the board of trustees. What professor Smith and COM -Unity won't accept is that Faculity, student and staff decision-making and recommendations to the board does not replace the board’s governance role.

The data shows that COM is out of step in staffing and costs per students with similar Community Colleges across the state. Bringing these cost in line is what taxpayers are demanding and something COM-Unity won't accept.

The data shows that COM is out of step in staffing and costs per students with similar Community Colleges across the state.

Eveyone knows the state is cutting funding, COM will have to make a huge refund because of the Valero Lawsuit. Valero has a pending lawsuit for 2012 if they win that, it will be devistating to COM.

George Croix

There are documented cases of skydivers surving the fall when their parachute failed to open. The exception is not the standard by which sky diving success, or running junior colleges, should be measured. Although I do admit that some of the major daily TV soap opera divas have a say in the direction of each episode.
The problems at COM are in sum total greater than a big fish in a little pond can influence alone. Still, as the tallest lightning rod there, let's review.
A 3/26/2002 Houston Chronicle article said this:
"A Marxist who teaches American government won some job security Monday when College of the Mainland board members granted him protection from being fired for his political views.
Smith, 47, one of the most popular teachers at the 3,400-student college, says he believes capitalism is an oppressive economic system and he wants to see some form of democratic socialism instituted in this country."
Several students spoke in support of tenure for the professor. Among them:
"I am neither young, dumb nor stupid," said Carol Voight, 37, a chemistry student from Texas City. "And I am certainly not gullible and have not been manipulated by anyone. When I took his class, I was 34 years old, mother of four and a wife."
There were detractors, too, including the following:
"There is no doubt there is a large number of the staff of the College of the Mainland that is very liberal, which is a shame, but I think Dr. Smith is moreso than any others and is a leader of the left-wing agenda that many at the College of the Mainland oppose," Holbrook said. "Dr. Smith is an admitted Marxist and has written extensively of his beliefs and his opposition to U.S. government policies and to American culture in general."
Smith himself had a few words to say:
"Today's meeting should not be about politics, neither mine nor yours," he said. "As I see it, at today's meeting the board of trustees will simply decide whether I have met the criteria for tenure outlined in our college policy."
Ultimately, tenure was granted. Chairman of the Board Holm issued this postscript:
"Board chairman Ralph Holm said after the public hearing that Smith met all criteria but that tenure did not mean he could never be fired. If Smith violates school policies or academic principles, he can be dismissed, Holm said."
Hamburgers or borscht.
You decide.

Robert Buckner

The current governance isn't working either Jack.

Jack Cross

Robert, the board is trying very hard, COM staffing and Cost per student has been way out of line with other community colleges. They are bringing this down and being met with stiff resistance from COM-Unity. Isn't that what the public wants? How can we expect them to do what taxpayers ask and then knock them when they do these things? Most of the COM employees feel COM is a good place the work but when they speak out the Socialist wing at COM knocks them down.
Michael Smith doesn’t give a rat's you know what about cost. I am a 35 year Union member but these public sector unions would drive COM into bankruptcy like they have in other states. Help to continue the reforms that the board is by voting this week for the right trustee and it's not the one who thinks David Michael Smith is good for COM. I have a Texas City Sun 1980's guest column where the Marxist COM professors said the capataist system needed to be replaced, Profits were bad, Advertizement was bad. And these are the people who want to govern. COM is a valuable Asset to the people in the COM district and we need to support the trustees and expose who Smith and his supporters are.

Gary Miller

Good management is destroyed when the privelege of suggesting or requesting becomes the "right" to demand.
Smith, a progressive, is more dangerous than a communist. COM and the union are both at risk by his actions.

Carol Voight

And the College is at risk at the silence of all others. Dr. Smith is the only one who isn't afraid to speak out.

I supported Dr. Smith's tenure, as did the board and President, back then because despite his views, he was an excellent professor. He never tried to "brainwash" his students into adopting his ideals, but instead offered an alternative to our lacking public school knowledge of the systems of government available in the world. He also encouraged vigorous discussion in his classroom where many of his students disagreed with him. He never stopped someone from speaking their mind regarding all forms of government. That's what makes him a great teacher.

There is nothing wrong with being different, there is something wrong with punishing people for being different. I have always encouraged my children and my students to think for themselves, not to let anyone else influence or change their ideas or convictions. It is the principle of our country and should be embraced and not used as a weapon to silence us.

What is wrong with COM is this board believes only ONE view of the world is valid. That violates the definition of education!

Kevin Lang

The days when an organization can operate with the belief that good management and good ideas only come from the top are long gone. The challenge is to ensure that we have a process in place where those at the lower levels of the organization can provide their inputs. There's no guarantee that any one person's ideas or suggestions will be implemented, but hearing from the various stakeholders is frequently the best way to come up with good solutions to problems--or to conclude that the problem isn't even a problem at all.

Of course, ultimately, with COM there is a chain of accountability, and for the voters, it's the trustees. It would not be impossible, impractical, or unworkable, if the parties involved were to develop their accountability matrices and the feedback loops, and the rest of the organizational processes.

Of course, by far, the biggest reason that any governance model at COM is failing and probably will fail is that the culture of the college is animosity and lack of trust. Regardless of who you identify as the governance stakeholders, until the culture changes, the problems will not be resolved.

George Croix

Try to imagine the outcome if we let people run the whole country who were believers in democratic socialism over capitalism.
There would be massive long term unemployement, an explosion of debt, favoritism to all faithfully following the ideology of preference, and rules and regulations created en masse to try to direct every human activity. There would be routine propaganda lectures on what's good for everybody, except the leaders of this new paradise, and a strong effort to emulate other countries by doing the same things they have done, only expecting success here. There would be...
Never mind.

George Croix

I missed your post, kevjlang, and it was a good one, so here we go.
Actually, at least based on where I worked for years, most good ideas for running the place DO come from the bottom up, not the top down. At the top it's largely all about what SHOULD happen, and at the work level it's all about what COULD happen. What will or does happen is dependent on a mix of the two.
Personally, I was almost always better off with feedback and idea sharing from my crew than I was with it, as a rule, from my boss. When your folks stop talking to you, you're screwed if you're the supervisor.
But, a great big BUT, not all upward feedback is contructive. Some people have a tendancy to let their own egos or agendas get in the way of good sense.
And, ultimately, there has to be a final say. Total rule by committee get's you, at best, mediocre results, because the goal of as good as posssible is marginalized by the obligatory compromising on decisions and goals.
In short, nothing is better than the sum of it's ingredients. Take good input from people with good ideas and with good intentions, and you'll get good results IF the person finally charged with implementing it all is a good supervisor.
The idea should be to let the front line folks being encouraged and enabled to provide input and perform their task with full support for both. Which usually means,when done right, to get out of your folks way and let them do their jobs.
All this effort is very often is spoiled by one or two line people, or top managers, who just have to be the center of attention, at whatever the cost to everybody else.
Anyway, I do have a question that perhaps someone posting can help me with.
How does it indicate good decision making and the best interests of the college, and ultimately the people paying for that college, to go demonstrate against this country with people who are not even in this country legally, whomever may do so?
Right now, absent credible reason to think otherwise, that alone is a deal breaker for any credible, read positive, shared governance that would include anybody who acted in such a manner.

Kevin Lang

gecroix, overall, I lump Professor Smith's participation in such ventures to be more or less on par with people having toastmaster meetings, participating in knitting circles, being members of Elks or Masons lodges, an other such activities. I think the act of civil demonstration is a part of the government process in this and other cultures, and, whether we agree or disagree with the subject of the gathering, it's still free assembly and the right of the people to peacefully protest the activities of this or any other government on our soil.

You are right that ideas, wherever they originate, need to be reviewed and fully vetted before implementation. People need to know that their ideas will be reviewed in good faith, and that even great ideas are not guaranteed to be implemented. There needs to be an overall mission for the organization, and the focus should be on adhering to that mission until such time as it's obvious that the mission needs to change.

If we were talking about McDonald's, one could argue that the people at the bottom may not know enough about the job to be able to offer much constructive to the operation, but with COM, if you can't assume that the different parties within school have something valuable to add, then you must wonder why they're there. The Administrators may not know everything about teaching, but they should know something about it--hopefully they experienced it from one perspective or another over the years. Likewise, teachers may not know everything about administration, but they probably have some experience with it in one way or another.

Hopefully, all the players at COM can get off their high horses at some point and figure out what they really need to do. Otherwise, at some point, the voters will, and it might not align with their career goals, unless their goals include working somewhere in the Nebraska Panhandle.

George Croix

"...I lump Professor Smith's participation in such ventures to be more or less on par with people having toastmaster meetings, participating in knitting circles, being members of Elks or Masons lodges, an other such activities."
Really, Do the taxpayers fund the participant's transportation to those private events?
I don't think the Elks or Masons accept membership from illegal aliens, either, but could be wrong.
Let's not muddy the waters by changing the subject to whether or not the COM anti-American demonstrator enablers have a right to dissent.
Of course they can dissent. That's America.
On their own dime, not mine or the other long-suffering taxpayers if this district.
The only difference between what they did and with having a house built using taxpayer funds is the degree of misuse. The same goes for whoever said it was OK to take the COM vehicles to the protest, or start framing the hypothetical house.
Poor judgement in actions.
Even worse in company kept doing such.
What's next, a demonstration for the right of burglars to burgle?
COM has enough problems without sharing governance with anyone so devoid of a sense of what's right.

Kevin Lang

I don't know if there are facts in evidence that the protest was funded by the college.

Gary Scoggin

Two facts stand out: 1) The costs at COM are about twice what they should be. 2) it has a reputation of providing a mediocre academic education, at best.

I don't give a rat's rear end if David Smith or John Birch is on the faculty so long as they can teach.

I want a trustee that cares about those two issues and everything else takes a back seat. It's great if the employees and faculty are happy but I only care if their happiness is in the service of a good education at reasonable costs.

George Croix

No. Not fund the protest.
The vehicles taken TO the protest were COM vehicles, as reported in the paper at the time. It may just be me, but that's a wrong use of taxpayer funds. Whoever authorized it should have been, or still should be, fired. And the illegals should have been tended to, too, properly. Peanuts? A piddling little nothing?
That's like being a little bit pregnant.
William Ayers became a teacher at the U of Chicago. Anarchists other 'ists are pretty much six of one, etc.
Granted, there have been no bombings in the area around here.

Kevin Lang

What if it had been a trip to the zoo? How about if it was a protest against Obama's budget, or perhaps against treating the 9/11 conspirators as criminals instead of as enemy combatants?

Personally, before I can levy some kind of indictment on this, I'd need to know a bit more about the whole affair. What did the administration know? What are/were the policies? Were non-students taken on a student trip? How, exactly, was the use of the vehicles paid for? Who participated, and who watched? Did anyone feel that participation was required? Personally, I think that if there was any participation in the rally beyond mere spectating, there is a potential issue.

Kevin Lang

Jack Cross,

As long as the administration and the Board of Trustees thinks that the only problems at COM are COM-Unity and "Marxist Professors", they will never get a handle on the budget issues.

The "shared governance" failures you allude to are ones that chose to never recognize and understand what "shared governance" really is. As long as they choose to operate it as if it's the inmates running the asylum, or the fox guarding the henhouse, nothing will ever be solved. Shared governance has never been defined as giving the workers everything they ask for.

If the mission is to trash everything that's broken at COM, then the best solution is probably the one that Robert Buckner presented.

People act as though a stance of "profits are bad" and "capitalism is bad" are somehow detrimental to the mission of a public college. However, when you get right down to it, a public college does not turn a profit, and it's also not an example of what capitalism is. One thing that capitalists, socialists, marxists, etc. all have in common is that they all have work they are expected to do, and all have costs they much budget.

There may very well be differences between the different groups on campus that could be the source of significant rifts. However, because there's so much focus on the differences, people are missing the fact that most of the differences are insignificant, or easily managed. However, the dialogue around COM for the past 10 years or so is that everything is a major clashing point.

COM is an institution for higher learning. Everyone involved in it should be learning quite a few things. Unfortunately, it seems that only the students understand that and are actively involved in it.

George Croix

One mark of good governance is making a decision in a timely manner without trying to stall long enough to come up with any possible reason to not make a decision.
If the zoo was protesting against this country, and COM allowed some of it's staff to take taxpayer funded college vehicles and some people who aren't even supposed to be in this country and go make that protest, then yes, that trip to the zoo would be just as bad.
JHC. One of the biggest problems in this country is not lack of tolerance, it's tolerance of anything, just for the sake of not having anyone call you intolerant.
Can't fix that.

Kevin Lang

If Professor Smith broke policies or ethical guidelines or legally misused taxpayer resources, the administration and the board showed poor governance by not taking action. They have no ethical or legal bounds for sanctioning him because of his political beliefs nor for him being a key voice within the union.

Good governance does not mean trying to turn back the clock a few years on an issue you wish you had handled differently and then taking the action you think should have been taken way back then. Instead, you look at the policies that may have led to the incorrect action, and revise the policies and guidelins so that you don't find future incidents improperly handled. And, if a re-examination finds that everything was handled appropriately in the past, and that no changes are needed in those regards, the board and administration should stand up and say so. Either way, you look at it, see if there's anything to learn from it, and then you move on. Good governance doesn't waste time rehashing the past ad infinitem.

At this point, most of the arguments sound as if they want to punish him for having a difference of opinion. We don't do that in this country.

George Croix

I guess it's too bad the entourage didn't go to a Christian church and demonstrate against Muslim jihadists.
The air would be full of dander gotten up.
You may recall in between rationalization sessions that I said whoever OK'd the use of taxpayer funded resources for the little sojourn to bad mouth the country comprised of citizens that made the money that was collected in taxes by a community college district and used in part to provide the means for employees of that institution to assist criminals in protesting against that country should have been fired, too.
In fact, they are more reprehensible than the professor and the others that went along. They simply took advantage of lousy management decisions.
Isn't that ironic? They still are.

Kevin Lang

Everyone has the right--responsibility--to badmouth the country when it's warranted. Everyone has a different opinion when it's warranted. I see nothing presented about the incident that would place it into the realm of treason. We all have a right to find it reprehensible, but that doesn't mean it crosses ethical or legal bounds. If the means of getting there, or people were paid or claiming to represent the college, there might be some issues. However, good governance does not look to see how much retroactive punishment can be made on incidents that happened long ago, and if memory serves me correct, this incident happened quite some time ago. Lessons can still be learned and taught, and procedures can be updated to ensure any failures in the future can be properly dealt with, beyond that, I'm not sure what more can be done that would satisfy you and not cost the taxpayers far more than may have already been improperly used.

George Croix

Mr. Fantastic himself never stretched that far.
Of course there should be no punishment.
The statute of limitations on being two faced is measured in seconds these days, and among liberal academia it's non-existent.

Kevin Lang

Sure, we could go all the way back to childhood and fire everyone that wet the bed. I don't see what that would serve, either.

Please explain how firing people over something that blew over years ago would be portrayed as anything other than a vendetta? COM's current governance, which isn't working, is wrought with vendetta pursuits.

Gather all the facts. Find out what, if anything, was handled improperly. Put processes in place to make sure that any mistakes like those will be properly addressed in the future. Council those that took part in the wrongdoings, and explain to them what they need to change. Make sure everyone else knows the documented processes and policies. Enforce them in the future.

George Croix

Give this a try:
Read what people actually write.
Don't add any personal interpretations, air notions, or interject preconceived conclusions.
Respond accordingly.

Kevin Lang

Did you not say that you want to see someone fired over this? Everyone that allowed a taxpayer vehicle to take a marxist professor and his illegal cohorts to a protest against our country?

Just how would you turn the way-back machine that far back and carry out these terminations without it appearing to be vendetta?

George Croix

No, I said it should have been done at the time.
We're not talking murder here. Just stupidity, and sticking the finger in in the air at local taxpayers and the United States.
And, the people who went to the protest should not have been fired. That should have been the fate of whoever authorized the use of COM vehicles to do.
The protestors should have simply been arrested for not turning in the criminals they took with them to badmouth this nation, along with the criminals themselves.
Yes, we don't do that, but if we did, there'd be fewer people doing it.
It's a simple word to understand.
But, there's no reason anyone has to to disregard past behavior when considering current events.
COM administrators have made enough bad choices withour 'sharing governance' with anyone who's also done so.

Kevin Lang

I apologize. I must have misinterpreted this quote from your posting on May 1 @ 11:29 am: "Whoever authorized it should have been, or still should be, fired."

As for people giving our country the finger, I don't much care. Our country has dealt with far worse, and we both know that most of the message is hollow. How much can it mean when this is the country they choose to call home, warts and all?

Jose' Boix

I would presume that all the "posters" are also "voters" and either have or will by May 11. The way to walk to talk in this great USA is by voting. Just my thoughts.

George Croix

"I apologize. I must have misinterpreted this quote from your posting on May 1 @ 11:29 am: "Whoever authorized it should have been, or still should be, fired."
I should have been more clear and specific by saying '...still should be if it's done again'.
Unfortunately, I am often hampered by the language barrier of speaking and key pecking native Texan in the United States.
No need for apologies. That's something only trolls need to do on a discussion forum.

George Croix

Yes. Voting done.
Basic qualification for non-hypocritical beefing about 'the system' (any system, pick one) completed yet again.

Kevin Lang

Unfortunately, I'm among the group of COM Stakeholders that has no voting rights in this election. That may dilute the value of my opinion somewhat, however, if I had the right to vote in the upcoming election, I certainly would cast a ballot.

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