Faculty Takes Board of Regents to Task Over College Consolidation Plan

The Connecticut Board of Regents was taken to task Thursday by members of its own faculty and former board members. At issue was a controversial plan to consolidate the community college system. 

One professor gave Mark Ojakian, the president of the Connecticut State Universities and College System, an “F.” and another told him not to bother coming to graduation.

Ojakian unveiled options to consolidate Connecticut’s community colleges after his first plan failed to receive the support of a regional accreditation group. 

The “Students First” plan was billed as a cost-savings measure. The idea would have kept all locations open and allowed students to enroll in classes on multiple campuses and combine credits towards one degree. It would have also combined back offices to save on administrative costs. 

However, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges called the plan “unrealistic.” 

A faculty group made up of university professors spoke out, saying a year after the plan was first unveiled they’re still waiting to be included in the process. 

“They might say that they’ve done that but they haven’t really. They’ve kind of gone through the motions and they are not going to get anything done until they have buy-in from the faculty,” the group’s president, Elena Tapia, said. 

Ojakian pointed out that many of those speaking out against the plan serve the universities and not the community colleges. Tapia said she and her colleagues believe any changes at one level will impact the entire system. 

“We have worked everybody on the community college campuses, whether they agree or not, to get to a point of having a more complete discussion, of having a path, because doing nothing is not an option,” said Ojakian. 

A group representing the community college students threw their support toward Ojakian and the Student First Plan during the Thursday meeting. 

Despite some calling it a failure, Ojakian said he will continue to move forward with Student First. He said he doesn’t believe the details in the plan were rejected but rather the timeline and path to implement the changes need work. 

He admitted the path forward might take longer than expected. 

He said he plans to meet with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges again and present the board with a more detailed proposal in June. He said that he expects work over the next year on ways to implement it and that students will not see any changes this fall.

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