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Chaparral 2019-2020: 28.2 Faculty United

Why so Serious?

by Roger Bowerman
President, Glendale College Guild

The theme for this month is “fear,” or “scary.” That makes sense considering Halloween is upon us. I would love to say the leaves are turning and the weather is getting cooler, but as I am writing these words we are expecting 95 degrees and Santa Ana winds. Such is autumn in Southern California. Still, I have to confess that Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday. The opportunity to mask, to embrace a persona that is an aspect of our existence but not accepted in society on any other day. I can’t wait to don a costume on the 31st.

That being said, there seems to be a palpable tension everywhere I go on campus. Faculty I speak with all seem to share a sense of unease, a feeling that something is about to happen.

There are plenty of external reasons for this. There is a political divide in this country that has not existed since the late 19th century, our foreign relations and foreign policy are careening from event to event with seemingly little direction, homelessness is increasing in our communities, food scarcity is reaching epidemic proportions, the fire season seems to expand into virtually a year-long event, and it is clear that we are currently witnessing the environmental impact of over 100 years of industrial economic growth. Everywhere we turn, virtually every news source highlights these issues, and the sense of a world out of control is palpable.

Yet those external forces are not, I fear, the principal cause of our general unease. The realities of the California Community College system and their impact on the District’s decision making is an entirely different level of scary. We know there is a new “Student-Centered” funding formula that is hanging over us – like a sword of Damascus – threatening to pare our fiscal plans three years from now. This fiscal fear was exacerbated upon the news that the District is currently implementing a plan to retire $10,000,000 of debt accumulated over many years when GCC allowed students to take classes without requiring they pay all their fees. There is also the continual drive for Guided Pathways. While we all agree we should create clearer processes to help students achieve their goals, there is anxiety that accompanies changes like this.

In the face of all this uncertainty, I would call upon all of us to heed the words of Franklin Roosevelt at his first inaugural address. Facing the worst Economic Depression in US history, he recognized that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.” It does no good to hold onto what is scary all around us. Instead, let us identify what we have that makes these external fears less overwhelming.

We must remember that we are a family of educators.

We do not need to huddle, alone, fearing the world around us. Instead, let us find ways to come together and celebrate, to share our lives – joys, aspirations, successes, triumphs – and thus shine a light of hope that can illuminate the darkest shadows of fear. We, the members of the Glendale College Guild, have a strength that is constantly illustrated by our willingness to identify and commit to the good things that unions can do. This last Tuesday, October 22, faculty came to help with the food truck that was driven onto the center of campus. It was only a few hours of time, but this event – as part of Campus Equity Week – was symbolic of our unity and humanity.

This simple example illustrates just how cathartic it is to belong. And it is our sense of belonging that makes your Guild so powerful and potentially healing. We do not have to fight against the world as individuals. As we move through the next few months, remember just how important your Guild is to you, how it helps keep your hope up in these troubled times. And let’s plan to be particularly active this coming Winter break when your Guild works to elect two pro-union candidates to the Board of Trustees. Let’s come together to shape the future of our college, and therefore take control of our own destiny.

It is time to stop being afraid.


Roger Bowerman
President, Glendale College Guild

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