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2016 November 24 - 06:14 am

Highs and Lows: Election Eve and Night in Philadelphia

Conference Reinforced Value of Community Colleges

I met Lana Leonard at the League for Innovation’s STEMtech conference in Philadelphia two days before Election Day. She was part of a small group of Brookdale Community College students who were about to conduct a Roundtable Discussion on the college’s Innovation Network project to plan and implement environmentally friendly systems for their community.

The students claimed they were from diverse backgrounds and disciplines, often with conflicting viewpoints. Their stated goal was to identify problems and barriers to conservation, build consensus, utilize the expertise and creativity of various disciplines, and secure public-private partnerships to implement solutions. They were making therounds to tell conference attendees and exhibitors the stories of their successes. Confident and passionate about their project — “Greening Meets Liberal Arts: A Socratic Approach” — they were exuberant. It was infectious.

This was an inspiring encounter for me. After the group left, I said to a colleague, “This is why we do this.”

When the day-to-day pressures of publishing seem overwhelming, it is ultimately the students who remind us of why we struggle to put out that next edition. Whether online or in print, we continue to give community colleges a place to share news and learning experiences. That community colleges deliver programs like this one, with budgets a fraction of what most four-year colleges would allocate, only under scores their value.

For many of these conference attendees, the tradeoff for being away from home on the day of an historic election was the prospect of attending the rally and concert that was to take place the evening before the election. The throngs would hear from Hillary Clinton, but also from Bill Clinton, President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi, among others, would provide the entertainment. It was not so bad to be in Philadelphia after all.

But at a STEMtech early watch party, the electric atmosphere of the night before dimmed as the returns and exit polls trickled in. Outside of the hotel on Market Street, its usually crowded sidewalks were almost completely empty; the city seemed to be holding its collective breath. For Clinton supporters, as the sun rose, denial morphed into to acceptance and finally, resignation.

Later came the protests. Leonard is a journalism major. She chronicled her experience at a protest in New York. You can read about her perspective on page 4.

If President-elect Donald J. Trump and his advisors will not think better of slashing budgets and shuttering the Department of Education, our two-year institutions will have to find a way to survive a seismic shift in governing. Students such as those at Brookdale Community College and many others will need support more than ever. See what community college leaders are saying in Paul Bradley’s story “A New Era” on page 6.

However the new federal order impacts the financial underpinning of higher education, I feel confident that our two-year colleges will continue to nurture and engage their students, preparing them for both employment and higher degrees. This is what community colleges do and what and what they always have done.

See Professor Katherine Watson’s blog on “Teachable Moments” from the election at ccweek.com.

As a final note, one proofreader engaged in putting out this edition asked if I thought we were at risk of appearing too one-sided in our post-election coverage. For 28 years Community College Week has always endeavored to present higher education news in the community and technical college sector objectively and fairly.

Journalism that seeks to tell the truth is never biased. It just tells the truth.

Comment: www.ccweek.com/blog www.twitter.com/ccweek

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