“When I started my very first meeting at Coastal Bend College and I looked out at a crowd of people, it was like looking at a defendant’s family that I had just sentenced to prison for life,” said Warner, former district attorney. “I was so stunned.
“I had no idea I was walking into a very angry group of people.
“I understand the anger.
“I understand their concerns and needs, and I think they need to be addressed.
“On the other hand, we have to have a solvent college.”
Warner is facing Tiele Dockens, a graduating CBC student, in the race for Place 5 trustee.
These two, along with the other candidates for the CBC board, were given a chance Monday to speak to voters during a Republican Club meeting. Each was given five minutes to talk on the issues. The audience of about 45 people, most not club members, was allowed to ask only one question.
Part of that anger discussed by Warner has been due to the number of people laid off over the past couple of years—all part of an effort to help reduce college expenses.
“Poor money management is often the downfall for most businesses and institutions in today’s economy,” Dockens said. “I plan on taking a great deal of time utilizing my accounting degree to carefully look over every aspect of the financial plans before they are set into place.”
Warner said that the decisions recently have not come easily but that they were necessary.
“When (Dr. Beatriz) Espinoza was hired, she was tasked with getting our (college campuses) back on track financially.
“I don’t know how many students per faculty in high school there are, but at Coastal Bend College it was 16 to 1.
“That is like a private school education.
“That is something that Coastal Bend can’t afford to float.”
Warner added that they put into place retirement incentives for the faculty.
“As people retire, those positions are not being filled,” Warner said.
In response to a question from the audience, Warner elaborated, “Letting people go is never fun and easy.
“Some people are choosing to retire for financial reasons. I don’t want to get into great detail, if they are retiring now they get to take sick pay with them, and if they retire at a later date, they may not be able to take that sick pay.
“The ones that want to come back and teach, I have not heard of any being told, ‘No, you can’t come back.’”
Dockens, in her response to the same question, said that she has known many of the instructors who have left.
“I would not be the student I am standing here today without many of the faculty (members) that have already left and the ones that are still here,” Dockens said. “They are a vital role to your college life and education because most of my professors are the reason I wanted to go to class every day.
“I have never heard a bad word about any of the faculty.
“I do think student success is important. Faculty is just as important.”
This student success is a key issue for both candidates.
“To be a successful advocate for higher education one must exhibit a strong and balanced understanding of the current education challenges and opportunities that exist within the college itself,” Dockens said.
“And who knows more about educational opportunities and challenges better than that of an almost graduated CBC student—especially a student who has spent the last three years involved in almost every aspect of this college.”
Warner said that she is concerned that so many students are being drawn into the disagreements between faculty and administration.
“I don’t think it is right, and I think it is really wrong that it has happened over and over again when we have students drawn into a faculty problem with their contract, and they are coming to the board. They should be studying and having their own lives. Leave them out of it.”
Warner did highlight the efforts of the many hard-working faculty members at the college.
“Don’t ever let anybody tell you this is not a hard-working faculty,” Warner said.
“You are listening to people that are upset that they have lost jobs.
“And I get it.
“It is a reality that we have to get floating financially.”
Dockens said that she is concerned with the lack of communication within the college, specifically between the faculty and the administration.
“The teachers and faculty need to be able to communicate with administrators openly and freely without reprimand,” Dockens said. “Students should also have a voice if they have concerns.”
She also highlighted the mission statement of the college.
“So if we are a ‘student-centered institution,’ then why wouldn’t we want to have that student voice represented on our board?” Dockens said.
While many of the comments were about issues with the college, Warner mentioned one recent change seen as a positive for the students.
“We are having the faculty advise the students personally,” Warner said. “How awesome is it to know a doctor who can write you a letter when you are applying for grad school?”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.