Letter to Mark E. Ojakian

Mark E. Ojakian, President
Connecticut State Colleges and Universities
61 Woodland Street
Hartford, CT 06105
April 11, 2017

Dear President Ojakian,

News reports regarding the Board’s plan to centrally consolidate the administrative and operational structures of the system’s state colleges, including the community colleges, raise troublesome questions:

  1. Those persons who spoke or wanted to speak had less than two days to study and prepare from the plans release. Why so short a time?
  2. Centralizing and consolidating moves very often project savings more optimistic than the ensuing reality that flows form expanding an existing bureaucracy from the top and ignoring the costs – both tangible and intangible that flow from local control, accessibility, greater personal feedback and accountability. Why did you just put forth the alleged savings and not the costs?
  3. Consolidation is another word for concentrated power and further delays in decisions over local people and their local institutions. Concentrated power invites abuse of power and shreds local innovations and morale. What make you think that taking power away from communities, especially those with traditions of town meetings and referenda will bring the best out of people who learn in and run these community colleges?

F. Philip Prelli, a former state agricultural commissioner and board member at the Northwestern Connecticut Community College Foundation, opposed this consolidation, noting the benefits lost from consolidating power far removed if not absentee from local conditions. He said, “Let us not take the ‘community’ out of community college.”

On that last observation, you may wish to read the just published Democratizing America: Shaf Nader and the Founding of an Impossible College, recounting my brother’s lead role in founding the Northwestern Connecticut Community College in Winsted (recently rated first among such colleges in Connecticut and 86th in the nation of over 1200 community colleges). Pertinent in the book is his thoughts on the community nature of community colleges. Had there been consolidation then, he could not have been successful, for Winsted would have been considered too small a town for such an institution which now sports several new and renovated buildings in addition to Founders’ Hall.

I look forward to your response and hope it pays attention to fairer procedures, openness and affirmative efforts to invite commentary from all constituencies, including students and faculty affording them full disclosure of your work product for education.

Top down conclusions leading to top down dictates are not conductive to the purposes of any educational body in a purported democratic society.

Thank you.

Sincerely yours,
Ralph Nader

PO Box 19367
Washington, DC 20036
[email protected]

Now that you have done the deal to ‘strip mine’ the Connecticut community colleges, will you respond to my April 11, 2017 letter seeking information about the asserted savings and the real costs of this scheme?