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Ending The Community College Stigma: A Response to Dr. Williams 1

Editor’s Note: This is the first of a four-part series. If you’d like to read the entire series as a single document, you can download a PDF here.

If you live in Nassau County, if you grew up and went to school here, if you’ve raised or are raising children here, or even if  your only connection is that you work at Nassau Community College, you know what Dr. Williams was talking about when he said during his first report to the Board of Trustees back in September that one of our goals as a campus needs to be “decreasing the community college stigma:”

We’ve all heard NCC referred to as “13th grade” or “Turnpike Tech,” or some other label meant to disparage as second-rate (at best) not only the students who come here to claim an education, but also the degrees they earn, and the faculty, staff, and administration who work here. Yet despite the persistence with which this stigma has been applied to NCC, Dr. Willams is, in our memory, the first of this campus’ presidents to state explicitly that fighting the stigma should be one of our institution’s goals.

Calling this goal “the national piece,” Dr. Williams connected it to what has indeed become a national effort to set the record straight on what community colleges are, what they are not, and why understanding that difference is so important. Spearheaded by Steve Robinson, President of Owens Community College (OCC) in Toledo, Ohio, this effort has its own hashtag, #EndCCStigma, its own website, and even its own podcast, on which Robinson interviews an impressive and inclusive range of people connected to community colleges, including our own Dean Melanie Hammer, who appears in Episode 2.

Robinson has also put a lot of energy into making the fight against the community college stigma central to conversations where it may previously have been overlooked. He has, for example, put out a joint statement with Dr. Christopher Parker, President & CEO of the National Junior College Athletic Association. As well, he has made a point of speaking about the issue at conferences like this one, held by The National Council for Marketing & Public Relations (an organization representing community and technical college marketing and PR professionals), and in forums like the Regional Economic Development Alliance Study Committee, a legislative committee in his state, before which he testified earlier this year. 

Robinson’s enthusiasm and commitment are infectious and even inspiring—indeed, we encourage you to check out the podcast and follow the hashtag—and we are glad to know that Dr. Williams has taken the #EndCCStigma message to heart. The national conversation about the role community colleges do, can, and should play in higher education will have an impact on everyone connected to our campus—witness our recent colloquium on dual enrollment and our ongoing discussions about Guided Pathways—and so it is important that we as a campus and we, as a full-time faculty union, have a voice in that conversation.

We’ll be using this series of four blog posts for that purpose.

(If you’d rather not wait for the entire series to post and you’d like to read the entire essay, you can download a PDF here. Please forgive any formatting irregularities.)

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