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Looks like a last ditch attempt to keep the Community College of D.C.’s first CEO Jonathan Gueverra from leaving out of frustration with the school’s continued underfunding and slow progress towards independence from the University of the District of Columbia didn’t work: According to Mayor Vince Gray‘s spokesman Pedro Ribeiro, he’s gone for good. “We’re disappointed and it’s a loss for the District,” Ribeiro says.
It’s a loss for a couple reasons: One, because Gueverra was generally well-respected, and had started to build a reputation for the school that will be somewhat diminished when he departs. And two, because it’s going to be awfully difficult to attract high quality candidates to replace someone who left because of a lack of support. (In the mean time, UDC has yet to name an interim president for after Gueverra leaves in July).
Gueverra wasn’t the only one upset with the state of affairs at the community college. The school’s student government—-elected by only 332 people out of the school’s 2,500-plus population, mind you—-fired off a letter to Councilmember Michael Brown outlining their beefs. Among them: “Pathetic” teaching, “substandard” facilities and equipment, their inability to take classes at the flagship Van Ness campus, and the school’s failure to pay for student government officials’ tuition. They had wanted to mount a protest outside the Wilson Building yesterday, but school’s out for the year, so they decided to postpone it.
UDC spokesman Alan Etter brushed off complaints about quality of instruction. “In every college, community or otherwise, students complain about their professors,” he wrote in an email. “Every single one. They all have the opportunity to give feedback at the end of the semester, which is considered in the professor’s review.”
To get more of an overview of the state of affairs, I talked to Jesse Rauch, who served as one of seven “student success specialists” in the Office of Student Achievement from July 2010 until last month. He affirmed the students’ frustrations. “One thing I was always struck by is the staff at the Community College was gung ho about making things right for students,” he says. “I think the problem was more that UDC never retooled their policies to make them student friendly or even student centered.”
For example: Students often have to trek up to the Van Ness campus for some administrative tasks, even though they’re not allowed to take classes there—-sometimes classes they needed to complete an academic degree—-without an onerous approval process. Critical academic program updates get snarled in UDC’s Faculty Senate, since the community college doesn’t have its own. Teachers aren’t equipped to deal with the kind of special needs that community college students come in with.
Could things have gotten better, faster? “I think if Dr. Gueverra had been given the autonomy he needed, it would be a different place,” Rauch says.
Too late for Gueverra. But perhaps his departure will put his successor in a better position to succeed.