Fall 2021 Meeting Summary

Laverne Hays - Blackhawk Technical College

Laverne Hays


After a welcome by WCTC President Dr. Richard Barnhouse, we had the opportunity to hear from Bryan Alexander – a Futurist for higher education, who discussed academia of the future. Among his talking points of interest were population trends, the effects of income and wealth inequality, and how climate change could affect the world around us. He noted a sense of social justice and equity as today’s youth tell us, ‘you’ll die of old age -we’ll die of climate change!

The seminar agenda consisted of three tracts [ Campus Safety, Administration, and Governance ], each consisting of four break-out sessions. I chose the Administration track, which began with attorney Jon Anderson discussing Hot Legal Topics in the WTCS. He discussed closed sessions and duties of district boards, often referring to State statutes while reminding us to ‘stay out of the weeds’ and not investigate on your own. Avoid ‘walking quorums’ when talking with fellow Trustees. Be timely when addressing open records requests and do not question them. However, if no records exist, there is no need to create them!

Other topics for the day included:

  • Regulating off-campus speech.
  • Addressing transgender students.
  • Title IX updates.
  • Needs for Bias Response Teams.

Covid related mandates and remote technology concerns were also discussed. I ended the afternoon switching tracks to join a panel of Chief Diversity Officers from WCTC, NWTC, MATC, Fox Valley, and Gateway as they discussed DEI at their campuses. The panel was moderated by Colleen Larsen, Education Director-Student Success with our WTCS. Forget my notes – just let me say that I was impressed, and we are blessed to have individuals like these working with us to bring communities together and promote our technical college system! As Lucia Nunez stated, “building DEI is personal and is a full-time job”.

On Friday morning Jon Anderson again joined us for an informal review of Thursday’s sessions, clarifying issues and answering questions by attendees. He explained that an item could be tabled in a closed session.

Lenard Simpson – Education Director for Justice involved Populations – joined us to discuss 2nd chance Pell Grants, Integrated Education and Training (IET), and Community-Based Organizations. IET is ongoing in twenty-five correctional institutions and thirty-eight county jails in Wisconsin, and funding is available through the WTCS. Referring to our 60-Forward goal, he emphasized that companies are becoming desperate for employees, and if we don’t supply them, they will leave.

The Board of Directors heard reports from President Betty Bruski-Mallek, Assistant Director Steve Tenpas, and Executive Director Layla Merrifield. Steve noted the difficulty in scheduling quarterly meetings - a block of 40-50 rooms with meals and rooms – and then renegotiating because of covid restrictions. He also noted a wide range in satisfaction of the meals and lodging among the Trustees in attendance. There is some concern about the ROI to our District Boards.

The By-Laws committee met to review the Association’s Mission and Vision statements and submitted revisions to both to be voted on by the entire membership.

View all past summaries by Laverne Hays