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By Paul Bradley  /  
2008 November 17 - 12:00 am

Times-Chronicle Higher Education Cabinet To Add CCs After Protests

A “higher education cabinet” formed by The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education will be reconstituted after an outcry from community college leaders that they had been excluded from the original 76-member panel.

“We are in the process of rethinking this group, including adding two-year colleges” after hearing from angry community college leaders who strongly objected to the makeup of the group, said Chronicle Editor Jeff Zelingo.

George Boggs, president of the American Association of Community Colleges, protested that his group was the only major higher education umbrella organization without representation on the cabinet.

When he complained to Zelingo, Boggs said, he was told that some four-year college presidents would be reluctant to share a room with community college presidents — an observation Boggs found “insulting.”

“I think that we all know that elitism exists, but that does not mean that we have to cater to it,” Boggs said. “I am pleased that the Times and the Chronicle are rethinking this, but it really is too bad that we got to this point.”

The cabinet’s goal is to “identify trends and direct discussions about the most pressing issues facing higher education today,” according to a press release announcing its formation. The group convened its first meeting in September at The New York Times Building in Manhattan.

“The New York Times is committed to fostering discussion about the changing landscape of higher education,” Felice Nudelman, the Times’ executive director of education, said in the press release.

But community college leaders said determining the true needs of higher education is impossible if two-year colleges are not included.

Eduardo J. Padron, president of Miami Dade College, noted in an e-mail to Zelingo and Times Editor Bill Keller that the nation’s 1,100 community colleges enroll 6.5 million students, about half of the country’s total undergraduate enrollment.

“To exclude community colleges from your discussion of the future of higher education is not only a gross oversight, but also terribly misguided,” he wrote.

Padron added:  “You might want to also poll the workforce leaders in communities across the nation. Ask them which institutions in their communities are the first and the fastest in responding to the dynamic nature of a region’s economy. They will tell you, unequivocally, that community colleges are central to fulfilling the workforce demands of emerging industries with short-term training, associate and bachelor’s degrees completers.”

In an e-mail to Community College Week, Zelingo said the cabinet never was meant to be all-inclusive.

“The gathering we had.... excluded a lot of people in an effort to keep it a reasonable size,” he wrote. “We didn’t invite a vast majority of four-year colleges, including representatives from some of the biggest public systems in the country, such as SUNY and Cal State. We didn’t invite the for-profit sector. Like community colleges, those institutions and sectors are important to higher education. So this was never an effort to include everyone.”

Community colleges, though, were not the only group protesting the panel’s makeup.

Antonio Flores, president of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, said his group deserved to be represented in discussions.

“A higher education advisory group that excludes the voice of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing ethnic population, Hispanics, and the colleges and universities they largely attend, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, would perpetuate the history of neglect of Hispanic education issues,” he wrote to Zelingo and Keller.

 “Your advisory committee would be incomplete without bona fide Hispanic voices,” he argued.

Both the Times and the Chronicle are widely read by college officials.

The New York Times Company is a leading media company with 2007 revenues of $3.2 billion.

It includes The New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, The Boston Globe, 16 other daily newspapers and more than 50 Web site.

The Chronicle of Higher Education is a major source for news, information and jobs for college and university faculty members and administrators. Based in Washington, D.C., the Chronicle has more than 60 writers and editors, as well as 15 foreign correspondents.

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