Out with the old and in with the new. Lynn Gillette has left his post and the highest leadership position of SNC and the six-figure salary that accompanies it is currently vacant.
This transition is occuring at a period of great growth for SNC, and the previous leadership advocated for great expansion to our college. But is that what we really want? Do you want to see this beautiful campus slowly crowd with more students as the master plan is completed?
The presidency has historically been filled by people of very dynamic views. Sustainably minded men like Ben Solomon once led this small liberal arts school in a relatively humble manner, while our last president viewed sustainability with a strictly economic mindset. Odds are that the the SNC Board of Trustees will lean toward the latter end of the spectrum in its current search. Growth is good, apparently.
The board should pay special attention to the backbone of this institution in their search for a new president. This backbone is made of of the students and faculty who give SNC its soul and personality.
We need a president who can keep SNC out of the red and at the same time maintain the simple qualities that make this college so unique: Its small size, beautiful campus location, enthusiastic teaching staff, and mindfully progressive attitude.
We need a president who can raise funds without constructing a house on campus, and knows how to use those funds to benefit the students first.
We need a president who can spearhead more equitable wages for our professors, who are currently overworked and under paid.
We need a president who embodies all four core themes of SNC equally and values every department and opportunity this school has to offer.
In America just as many of our holidays are centered on the memorialization of dead men as are centered on the celebration of present life. A small percentage of us enjoy the ability to take these days off to ruminate on the irony of Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledged in a federal holiday only a few months away from Christopher Columbus, who is somehow still held in just as great of esteem by most first grade classes.
But this year as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, presented with an array of MLK quotes and photos, I got a queasy feeling in my stomach. The same individuals who, only months earlier, railed against the population of Ferguson, Mo for “overreacting” to one of their young adults being executed in the street without due process or a trial, were publicly displaying the more politically correct, pacifistic words of an activist who only fifty years earlier, in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” reprimanded the line of thought that led people to “prefer a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
Many white Americans believe that racism is a phenomenon relegated to the history books. Their frame of reference being as limited as it is, it is not hard to understand why, but as I found myself lying still on the linoleum floor of the University of Nevada Reno’s Knowledge Center this past December, in a “die-in” protesting the non-indictments and deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, with a student attempting to spit on the protestors from the balcony above, I realized what the racial justice movement is to most white Americans; unimportant. A joke.
According to the Center for Global Policy in their 2014 report ‘Beyond Broke,’ the racial wealth gap is staggering. An African-American family will, on average, only make seven cents to every dollar a white family makes. One in three African-American men will go to jail at some point in their life, a rate that is over five times that of white incarceration. Ferguson, Missouri, in the news recently because of the shooting of Michael Brown, is a predominantly black town with a population of 21,135. In 2013 32,975 arrest warrants were served in Ferguson for nonviolent offenses, generating $2.5 million dollars in legal revenue for the city.
Statistics like these exist outside of the frame of reference for most white Americans. Even acknowledging their truth can be a stretch of the imagination to some.
They seem like a reality that is far off, distant, happening somewhere else. Something that couldn’t possibly be true, or traceable to a pervasive dynamic of political and societal racism that we have a hand in perpetuating.
On Martin Luther King Day I did not see my friends and family members talking about or even acknowledging these well-researched statistics.
I found them regurgitating quotes from King such as “I have decided to stick to love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” and “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” without possessing the background knowledge required to understand the context and significance of these quotes in their relation to the fight for social justice that King championed.
It is for this reason that I do not believe Martin Luther King and his teachings should be limited to a day of instruction in our public and private schools, or used as a reason to post another quote on Facebook.
This day is a marker, and a challenge, for white America to educate itself on the ramifications of the actions of our ancestors.
To teach African-American studies in our schools. To address the overwhelming racial wealth gap. This is why Ferguson’s fight is our fight. Whether we like it or not, we perpetuate the legacy of those who came before us. It is up to us to lift our blinders and set about the hard work of building a more just society.
|Wages are the most obvious tool an institution possesses to control its staff. At a non-tenure college like Sierra Nevada College, faculty have precious little leverage to influence their pay scale, and fear becomes a dominant player. I remember how nerve racking it is to ask my boss for a raise; I’ve almost been fired twice having that discussion. This leaves most professors at the mercy of the market and however the Board of Trustees decides is the best way to manage a budget that is still very tight.|
I can understand withholding subjective raises in times of economic crisis, (although the college is back on track financially, as those responsible are always proud to claim). Cost of living adjustments (COLA) on the other hand are a different story. The faculty handbook itself contains a pay scale that is described to include “annual cost of living adjustments”, yet the faculty received their first COLA raise in five years on Nov. 1. This means that for the last 5 years the college faculty have been technically received pay decreases each year compared to the rise in national inflation and cost of living. Even with the raise, salaries overall are 7 percent behind what they should be if they matched the 11 percent rise in inflation since 2009.
This is not a new issue. One SNC professor said that the current situation is profoundly better than it was 10 years ago; to the point of ‘parody’. This same professor currently makes the lowest possible salary for his or her rank.
The administration has not been profiting from budget restraints either. According to the SNC’s public IRS 990 forms the SNC president’s annual salary 5 years ago was over $300,000 above what President Lynn Gillette makes now, and Provost Shannon Beets makes roughly $70,000 less than Gillette did five years ago when he was provost. Beets said the the current gap in spending between administration and faculty is less than .1 percent of the budget.
The final decision comes down to the Board of Trustees. This year the faculty asked for a 10 percent COLA raise, and the executive team managed to pull a 4 percent raise out of the board. Hopefully Beets and the rest of the team can manage to get a commitment from the board to invest in further raises.
The lack of transparency regarding salaries is not helping the case either. Whereas all public institutions publish individual faculty salaries, SNC does not have to divulge salaries. Therefore any disparity between men and women, or school departments is incredibly difficult to identify. According to Beets, there is a inequity between male and female wages as the college, but it is small, and shrinking. As for difference between the departments, Beets said there is none but without public records as proof it is hard to say for sure.
Our teachers deserve wages that allow them to live comfortably in the place they teach. They should not have to work other jobs and make ridiculous commutes to simply scrape by; sacrificing their own financial well being for our education. If Tahoe was not such an incredible place to work I wonder how many professors would still teach here for these salaries? It is a fortunate thing that many of the professors here teach for passion and not for paychecks.
“Set some priorities and appreciate what we’ve got here…”
While most colleges in the US are located in urban areas, SNC’s a little different. We have more trees on campus than concrete. It’s sunny most days. Ski resorts are a short distance away and the lake is just a five minute walk from campus.
As far as academics go, most classes have less than 20 students. Teachers become your mentors. Everybody knows each other on a first name basis.
So what’s Freshmanitis? I’m sure you’ve heard of Senioritis — a time after you were accepted to college and the pressure to do “awesome” was gone. A time it seemed alright to stop caring about school and half ass your classes.
Freshmanitis is pretty much the same thing. It’s a phase a lot of us go through when we first get to Tahoe. The beach becomes our library and being outside becomes more important than going to class. We complain about small class sizes because it means we aren’t invisible like we would be at a bigger school.
The point is, it’s easy to overlook the benefits of attending a small college. It’s done too many times. But having teachers and advisors who want to be involved with your life outside of school is rare. Having a campus where you know the majority of your colleagues on a personal level is something to appreciate. So, don’t get caught up in Freshmanitis. Go to class, set some priorities. Most importantly, appreciate what we’ve got here cause we’ve got it pretty damn good.
Spring formal tickets are now on sale at the front desk in Patterson. The fee is a refundable deposit of $10, but if you want to bring a guest the cost of their ticket is $20. Spring formal is Saturday, May 10, but we only have a limited number of tickets so make sure you pick yours up today.
“Rather than love, than money, than fame, give me truth.” Henry Thoreau said that.
But where do we find the truth nowadays?
The Devil Makes Three has been playing rowdy American music to eager crowds for over a decade. The three piece string band tours hard and fast, with their most recent campaign passing through South Lake Tahoe on Feb. 8. After hundreds of high energy, sold out concerts and exponentially increasing popularity, one might worry the DM3 is getting close to jumping the shark. Did Devil Makes Three jump the shark? No way.
The drones. Like clockwork, every minute on the minute, the glance, not at the horizon or the sky or even the pavement moving underneath hundred dollar sneakers, but at the phone. The constant buzz under the left or right butt cheek. The dadadaling echoes in classrooms. Is the ability to garner information at the speed of light a blessing or a curse?