All Lakeland Constituencies Need a Seat at the Table
The following remarks were delivered by LFA President Tobin F. Terry at the March 2, 2023 meeting of the Lakeland Board of Trustees. At the previous meeting, three trustees were appointed to the trustee-only committee to review diversity, equity, and inclusion/inclusivity language in Lakeland’s plans and policies. The motion to form that committee was approved in the September 1, 2022 board meeting.
Chairperson Rispoli, Board of Trustees, President Beverage. I am Tobin Terry, president of the Lakeland Faculty Association.
As you probably guessed, I am here to advocate for the inclusion of college students, staff, and faculty on the committee charged with reviewing the words equity, diversity, and inclusion in college documents. As a member of this community, I believe that we have valuable insight to help in shaping the policies that affect us directly.
Many of you likely recall that inclusion, equity, and diversity are, by those terms, crucial to our accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission, our institutional accrediting body.
Beyond that, a core component of the Higher Learning Commission’s Criterion 5A for accreditation requires that, quote, “Shared governance at the institution engages its internal constituencies—including its governing board, administration, faculty, staff and students—through planning, policies and procedures.”
Also, “The institution’s administration ensures that faculty and, when appropriate, staff and students are involved in setting academic requirements, policy and processes through effective collaborative structures.”
For our accreditation, and perhaps more important, for our community, we must work together.
To ensure that the committee’s recommendations are truly reflective of the entire Lakeland community’s needs and values, it is important that the committee includes a broad range of voices, including those of students, staff, administration, and faculty.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Listen to the People who Know What Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Really Mean
The following remarks were offered by LFA President Tobin F. Terry at the February 2, 2023 meeting of the Lakeland Community College Board of Trustees.
Dr. Beverage, Chairperson Rispoli, and Lakeland Board of Trustees, thank you for the opportunity to speak. I am Tobin Terry, Professor of English and President of the Lakeland Faculty Association.
I’ll start by welcoming Mr. Cornachio and Mr. Rupert to the board and welcome back Ms. Vitaz and Dr. Beverage. I look forward to working with you all.
I also acknowledge the basketball teams, and personally thank them for embodying Lakeland’s winning spirit. Watching them with my children has been meaningful and inspiring.
I’ve addressed the board many times over the last several months regarding equity, inclusion, and diversity and the meaning of those words and their impact on our students.
Mr. Hebebrand visited our classes last semester and testified to the level of true education that is provided here at Lakeland. With help from the President’s office, you have now been provided a list of classes from all over the college that faculty are formally and personally inviting you, our trustees, to attend.
Please come see for yourself the true education that has been made possible for our students in an inclusive, diverse, and equitable environment.
Finally, I continue to urge the board, as Trustee Frager did before his departure, to change the structure of the special committee to allow for representatives from Lakeland’s students, staff, and faculty.
Individual trustees, in board meetings and in the press, have stated that the special committee was formed because the board wants to understand what inclusion, equity, and diversity mean at Lakeland. This is an admirable goal, and it is one that cannot be accomplished unless the people who have that information and who are most affected by the board’s decisions are part of the conversation.
Thank you for your time, attention, and leadership.
Lakeland Faculty Love What We Do, and We’re Damn Good at It
LFA President Tobin F. Terry’s remarks at the November 3, 2022 Lakeland Board of Trustees Meeting, delivered with the hope of helping the trustees understand what it means to be an educator at Lakeland.
Dr. Beverage, Chairperson Vitaz, and Board of Trustees,
I’m Tobin Terry, President of the LFA.
We have 124 full-time faculty who come from some of the top programs in the country and/or have invaluable real-world experience in applied fields.
These faculty specialize in their academic areas, but are also expert teachers. They understand our students and strive to inspire them to realize their full potential.
Our faculty know that teaching is more than disseminating information to a group of students.
Teaching is holding office hours to meet one-on-one with students who need additional help, who want to get caught up after an absence, or who crave additional knowledge beyond the course content.
Teaching is creating a classroom environment where students feel seen, valued, and safe–an environment where they can ask questions without fear of judgment and build connections with fellow students that will benefit them beyond the classroom.
Teaching is providing meaningful feedback to students, communicating in written and oral form what the students’ strengths are and where there are opportunities for improvement.
Teaching is creating meaningful lesson plans and assignments in response to the specific needs of the students in the room, needs that can only be determined if the instructor has the opportunity and the drive to get to know their students as humans instead of rows in a gradebook.
Lakeland’s faculty members have this opportunity and this drive to educate the whole student, identifying individual needs and working to meet them in the classroom, during office hours, or through referrals to campus resources.
Our combination of education, experience, and dedication, in collaboration with dedicated staff and college leadership, are why Lakeland has such a positive reputation not just in our own community but nationwide.
In the interest of demonstrating our value as potential participants in your discussion of equity, inclusion, and diversity, and other consequential decisions, and with the goal of helping you understand the tremendous work being done in Lakeland classrooms, including why small class sizes and personal connections are vital to student success, members of the Lakeland faculty are inviting you to join us in our classrooms. I will be in touch soon with names, dates, and times of classes that faculty are personally inviting you to attend. I urge you to accept.
We love what we do, and we’re damn good at it. We look forward to sharing that with you.
Let Us Show You What Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Mean at Lakeland
LFA President Tobin F. Terry’s remarks at October 3, 2022 Lakeland Board of Trustees Meeting regarding recent board conversations and votes relating to the terms “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion.”
Chairperson Vitaz, Board of Trustees, and President Beverage,
I’m Tobin Terry, President of the Lakeland Faculty Association.
I thank trustee Kessler for her comments at the end of last week’s meeting clarifying her position regarding the special committee to review equity, inclusion, and diversity language. I think many members of the campus and larger community were encouraged by her reassurance that she did not see the special committee’s charge “to review” the language as something that would result in removing, replacing, or diminishing the terms.
I also thank Chairperson Vitaz for her comments in a recent article published by InsideHigherEd.com. Chairperson Vitaz said that the committee was formed because quote “the board would like to better understand what diversity, equity and inclusion means at the college.”
I truly believe, as I said in my comments at the last meeting, that in your hearts, you support the values that these words represent. I also believe that you now understand the practical importance of these words.
Reflecting on Mrs. Kessler and Chairperson Vitaz’s statements, I believe that the board is interested in better understanding how Lakeland employees implement these values and how Lakeland students benefit from them.
Let us show you.
I hope that the board will consider including the voices of other stakeholders–including students, staff, and faculty–to the committee, as was suggested by Mr. Frager at the last meeting.
I also urge the board to formally state that the charge of the committee is not to remove the terms altogether. This specification is important because of the origins of the committee, which grew out of an initial motion to remove “equity” and “inclusion” from the strategic plan. Please make official Chairperson Vitaz’s statement that the goal of the committee is to better understand what the words mean for Lakeland and our students.
Thank you for your time, and I look forward to the opportunity to work alongside you impacting lives through learning.
Keep Political Games out of Lakeland
LFA President Tobin F. Terry’s remarks delivered at the September 29, 2022 Lakeland Board of Trustees meeting regarding the approved motion from the September 1, 2022 meeting to form a trustee-only committee to review the words “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion” as they appear in Lakeland policies and documents.
Dr. Beverage, Chairperson Vitaz, and Board of Trustees:
Hello, again. My name is Tobin Terry, President of the Lakeland Faculty Association, Professor of English, Lake County father of three.
When I addressed you during the September 1 Board meeting, I urged you to reject a motion to omit the words equity, inclusion, and inclusivity from the College’s Strategic Plan.
In that meeting, I heard that many of you support the principles of equity, inclusion, and diversity but that you have reservations about the words themselves because of their status as political lightning rods.
Let us remember, as Trustee Frager reminded us, that these words have actual, technical, dictionary definitions. They are not legalese whose meaning is open to interpretation.
I explained in my previous remarks that Lakeland’s institutional accreditor, The Higher Learning Commission, mandates a commitment to equity, inclusion, and diversity, as do accreditors for our individual academic programs of study.
These are the industry-standard terms for an educational institution’s commitment to meeting the needs of all students, and there are no synonyms.
Efforts to distance Lakeland from these terms jeopardize our accreditation. Without accreditation, a Lakeland degree has no value—our graduates won’t get jobs; our enrollments will evaporate.
There are those who seek to vilify words and values that have long been a part of Lakeland’s legacy and that embody the best of who we are and what we have to offer. These people wish to use the College and our most vulnerable students to start a culture war, but Lakeland and our students are not pawns to be sacrificed in someone else’s game of political chess.
We are here to show our support of continued commitment to equity, inclusion, and diversity, not to promote partisan politics. You know who we are. You’ve visited our classrooms and offices; you’ve commended our dedication to student success. Our only agenda is ensuring the success and well-being of our students and protecting Lakeland’s ability to continue serving the community.
In the last meeting, this Board voted to form a committee to review these terms in Lakeland’s policies, but I urge you and everyone here to consider what work such a committee could possibly do. Our accreditors require us to use these exact words, and they already have definitions. There is nothing to discuss.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are Lakeland’s Legacy
LFA President Tobin F. Terry’s remarks regarding the motion to remove the words equity and inclusion/inclusivity from the Lakeland Community College Strategic Plan at the September 1, 2022 Lakeland Board of Trustees Meeting
Dr. Beverage, Chairperson Pro Tem Frager, and Board of Trustees:
Thank you for the opportunity to address you today regarding item 8A of the agenda. My name is Tobin Terry. I am a resident of the Headlands community here in Lake County. I have three children, all of whom I hope will one day be Lakers. I am also a faculty member at Lakeland. I teach English, and I serve as co-chair for that department. I am also the president of the Lakeland Faculty Association. I have prepared my message beforehand out of respect for your time.
For more than 50 years, Lakeland has served the people of Lake County and the surrounding areas as an open-access educational institution dedicated to improving the lives of its students and the wider community. There is a legacy at Lakeland that defines equity as the practice of accounting for the differences in each individual’s starting point when pursuing a lifelong goal, and working to remove barriers to equal opportunity. A legacy that defines inclusion as the practice of including and integrating all people and groups, especially those who are disadvantaged, have suffered discrimination, or are living with disabilities. This is a legacy that you helped to create, and one that we nurture together.
Employees in every area of the college applied for and accepted their positions with an understanding of the unique challenges that community college students face and with a commitment to support and empower all Lakeland students on their paths toward success.
I am deeply troubled by the discussion surrounding the terms equity and inclusion during the May 5 Lakeland Board of Trustees meeting, including the tabled motion to remove or replace these terms from the College’s strategic plan.
In the Board of Trustees meeting on April 7, the Board commended the faculty, staff, and administrators who came together to hold an early graduation celebration for a terminally ill American Sign Language student. This ceremony was an act of equity: a recognition of the unique needs of an individual and an accommodation offered in response to those needs.
I am sure you remember when, at the May 5 meeting, a Phi Theta Kappa officer who earned national recognition for her service project, began to cry when talking about her time at Lakeland and with PTK coming to an end. She was empowered to speak, to pursue innovative ideas, and to represent our institution and community as a result of our PTK chapter’s dedication to equity, diversity, and inclusion.
We owe these principles to first-generation college students, who account for 45% of community college students but 75% of college dropouts; We owe it to our students who speak English as a second language, including those recruited by our athletics program; We owe it to low-income students who depend on scholarships and Lakeland-provided services such as the Cares Cupboard and the Emergency Grant Fund.
There’s a difference between simply not discriminating against historically disadvantaged groups of people and actively working to empower those people to succeed against obstacles beyond their control. The most powerful and nonpartisan educational entities in the state and the nation demand the latter of us:
The Ohio Association of Community Colleges (OACC) has affirmed the importance of equity-minded teaching practices and its commitment to helping colleges improve minority student outcomes.
Accreditation Criteria 1c of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), Lakeland’s accrediting body, states, “The institution’s processes and activities demonstrate inclusive and equitable treatment of diverse populations.”
The Ohio Transfer Module, which guarantees that our credits transfer to other Ohio institutions of higher education, requires special attention to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The Ohio Department of Education’s (ODE) Strategic Plan includes Equity as the first of its three core principles, stating, “Ohio’s greatest education challenge remains equity in education achievement.”
The United States Department of Education published a 95-page report offering data highlights and “promising practices” for Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education.
The words equity, diversity, and inclusion are not inherently political. With the collaboration of this administration, our faculty, our staff, and you, the Board of Trustees, Lakeland stands above nearly all two-year colleges in the nation for student success, and is a shining example of the definition of these terms, as it has for been over half a century, while supporting the humane and ethical core values that they represent.
The words and their meanings have not changed; they are monuments to a legacy of excellence and prosperity built on the foundation of the will of the people of Lake County.
We should be strengthening our commitment to these core values, not running from it. We should honor our legacy of upholding these principles, and we cannot be afraid or ashamed of these words and the ethical systems and behaviors that they stand for. As an open-access community college, we must commit–in industry-standard terms–to including a diverse range of perspectives and providing support based on students’ needs.
I implore you to preserve our collective legacy by preserving in the strategic plan the values that you and I and my colleagues and the people of Lake County embody.
Thank you for your time, your attention, and your leadership.
A thank you message for Lake County from LFA President Tobin F. Terry
Dear Lake County,
The Lakeland Faculty Association (LFA) offers its sincerest thanks to everyone who worked, donated, or voted on behalf of Issue 1.
Lakeland, quite literally, would not exist without Lake County voters, and it is immensely rewarding to know that the community supports the work that Lakeland employees do each and every day on behalf of students.
The individuals at Lakeland and within the larger community who were exceedingly dedicated to the levy campaign are too many to name here, but we would like to thank the Lakeland Board of Trustees, Lakeland Foundation, Citizens for Lakeland, various campaign committees, volunteer campaign leaders, and the many others who helped ensure that Lakeland’s service to the community remains at the high level that residents deserve and have come to expect.
As faculty, we recognize the faith that Lake County has placed in us and remain committed to our students and to Lakeland’s tradition of academic excellence. In fact, I’m delighted to announce that the LFA has reached endowment on a faculty-funded scholarship that will soon be awarded on a recurring basis through Lakeland’s financial aid application and selection system.
For all the former Lakeland students, family members of students, friends of Lakeland, and supporters of public education who braved the weather (or voted early) to endorse Issue 1, the LFA is truly grateful.
Tobin F. Terry, President
Lakeland Faculty Association
Dear Lakeland Community,
When our college closed its physical doors in March, LFA and adjunct faculty did not shrink from the challenges of our new reality. Instead, we rallied along with staff to remotely deliver the high-quality education that our community has come to expect.
For LFA faculty, this academic year will mark nearly 2,000 collective years of service to Lakeland alone. Our faculty include professors who studied in top programs in their fields, scholars actively pursuing their specialties, and professionals from the private sector who bring years of valuable expertise to the classroom. When skilled faculty find their way to our college, get to know the wonders of Lake County, and meet the intelligent and promising students we teach, they stay.
This is the strength of a college and community that attract and retain top talent. The college’s Chief Academic Officer has over two decades of service as faculty at Lakeland, and the president has returned and remained in his position as president to lead even now, eight years after his retirement.
Talent and our ability to keep it, are why our college ranks among the nation’s best, as reported by the News-Herald on May 6 of this year. The News-Herald reported on Jan. 15 of this year that Lakeland ranks number two “in the nation for students reaching educational goals.” These distinguished achievements are not possible without our LFA faculty members, our adjunct faculty, and Lakeland staff. They are especially not possible without the support of our community.
As an institution and as individuals, Lakeland is committed to students. We must ask ourselves, especially in this difficult time: how might we continue to demonstrate our commitment to serving the best interests of students?
I publicly thank LFA members for their unwavering dedication to our students, our college, and our community. We remain committed despite the fact that we are working under an expired contract, and we hold fast to that commitment while our Negotiations Team continues to work long hours toward a swift and fair resolution.
I also thank the Lakeland community for your support. We face these new challenges together, and together we will advance the LFA’s mission to serve our college with the devotion and high-quality education that our community deserves.
Lynne Gabriel, Ph.D.
Welcome from the LFA President
As part of our commitment to keeping the channels of communication open between LFA leadership and our members, the communications team and I are pleased to introduce you to our new LFA website.
I would like to acknowledge and thank the OEA for their help in providing us with a website and training us for its use.
I am proud to say that we are a faculty unified by our service to our community, our investment in the prosperity of Lake County and Northeast Ohio, and our passion for ensuring that students of all backgrounds have access to a high-quality college education. It is my pleasure serving our association as president, and I look forward to our continued collaboration in pursuit of our common goals.
Thank you for your work and your continued support of the LFA.
Dr. Lynne Gabriel
Professor of Psychology
Lakeland Faculty Association President