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Written by Rhonnie Crutcher
As I stroll around Front Range Community College (FRCC) in Westminster, the signs are everywhere. I walk into the main entrance and a boarded up cafeteria greets me. It’s been that way for two years.
I navigate forward, down the hall. There’s an empty Multicultural center, a game room, a campus police office and at the end of the hall, right across from the campus store, is the Coffee Den. It’s had a broken espresso machine for at least a year, loads of junk food options, nothing health conscious, which doesn’t serve me, so I keep going.
These are the signs of mismanagement and an unresponsive Administration.
As I continue down through the hallways, a very sterile environment is revealed, prison-like cement walls, no visible culture or art or student work to mark the different departments. There’s the occasional high school bulletin board, full of expired job listings and information of the past. How is this representative of Diversity and Multiculturalism? There’s a new “Multicultural Center”, but where’s the multiculturalism in the campus as a whole? There’s no Art or any kind of representation of various cultures or even of student works in the various departments.
I then walk past the “Out of Order” sign on the elevator, that has been there for more than a year. I know this because I was told back then, with my badly sprained ankle, that the elevators were broken. I had to drop most of my classes because of this. That was painful literally and figuratively. I wonder how those with disabilities feel? Update: The elevator is FINALLY fixed, as I passed by, some gleeful Students used the elevator! One problem resolved at least. Read further.
I arrive at my destination, my class, only to be greeted by a frustrated teacher, who bemoans a very slow D2L computer system, the day’s material is on the big screen, still loading. “Did you all get my email?,” the teacher said, the system isn’t working again.” It’s been this way for more than a year now.
Community College highlighted nationally.
President Biden said the excellence of American higher education is one reason he is “an optimist” about America, when he and his wife, Jill, a Community College professor, fought to make 2 years of Community College free. Of course the minority blocked that. Biden highlighted the dire need of an affordable higher education, as 4 year University tuition is unaffordable for most.
FRCC claims this “excellence” on their website, to get students in the door, but why isn’t FRCC living up to it’s creed?
I thought I’d try and get to the bottom of this. I wrote to the two main people in charge at FRCC Westminster campus, Vice President Dr. Tricia Johnson, who’s the head of the FRCC Westminster campus and the shiny new President of all 3 of the FRCC’s campuses, Dr. Colleen Simpson.
Where’s the BEEF?
I was trying to think of how to sum up my frustration in an email, really try and break through, to find out how important issues can be heard and addressed, because I’ve heard these same complaints from other Students and Faculty, so yeah, I resorted to a 1980’s TV ad about tiny hamburgers — all bun, no meat.
Here’s what I wrote on January 18, 2023:
Hi Tricia, Colleen,
My name is Rhonnie Crutcher and I’ve been a Horticulture and Landscape Design student at FRCC Westminster for 3 years.
My question to both of you and your administrative colleagues is this:
If your stated goals are to “enrich lives through learning” and to provide “inclusive excellence” and “diversity”, then why are the FRCC’s campuses so sterile and why don’t we have more services? Where’s the “enrichment” and “excellence” on FRCC’s campuses? Where’s the BEEF?
I’ve seen some enrichment and excellence and diversity in some of the faculty, but I haven’t seen it from FRCC’s administrators. The Westminster campus is lackluster, a particularly sterile, prison-like environment, not a vibrant and diverse entity of excellence. It really lacks soul. It lacks services. It lacks culture. It has the feel of a failing 70s high school. It’s sad! Students here and communities here deserve BETTER!
As a student who has paid a lot of tuition to FRCC and has been a CU Boulder student, I’m VERY disappointed in the surroundings, both with the lack of Art, which is the key in promoting diversity, but also the lackluster state of the campus grounds, as far as Landscape Design, my field. There are A LOT of student artists and Landscape Design students who would like to have a say in the way their campus looks and feels, while learning their trades. Why not take advantage of all of the talented faculty and students to create a more artistic and inclusive and diverse campus through Art and Design? Why not have a person head this up? I would be interested. These ideas would cost little money and create the campuses that are stated in the lofty words on the FRCC website.
This would not only bring the fun to education to current students who want to excel in their fields, but would also be a great asset to FRCC in attracting new students, while creating a much more diverse and inclusive campus. The weird part of the website, Continuing Education section is a joke, right? It’s a long list of classes, but that’s it. How is this serving the surrounding communities? Why can’t potential students of all ages be served? Why can’t I audit a class? I feel like these issues are a lack of vision and common sense. It would be a win win if these issues could be addressed.
I also am very unhappy that there are basically NO food services on the Westminster campus. I’m aware that the cafeteria is being remodeled, but I’ve been paying tuition and fees here for 3 years now and I’ve not had access to any food! I’ve heard many students voice these same concerns. Why isn’t the FRCC administration getting this done for students? The coffee house is pathetic, has a broken espresso machine and only has junk food! Why is this coffee house allowed to be at FRCC if it’s NOT meeting student and faculty needs? CU Boulder has multiple vendor coffee houses on campus that actually have working espresso machines and provide much more choices, cater to students. Why does FRCC have 1 very sucky coffee house that meets no one’s needs? This is an administrative failure! I think this coffee house needs to be replaced with a better coffee drink vendor. I think you 2 ought to tour CU Boulder campus. I know that CU Boulder has more students and higher tuitions than FRCC, but why can’t FRCC provide A cafeteria and A better coffeehouse?
I mean, why is it taking SO MANY years to get a functioning cafeteria? This is another administrative failure. What are all the fees I’m paying providing me if there are very little services?
I badly sprained my ankle last year and the elevators were NOT functioning. This is an Americans with Disabilities violation. Has that been taken care of? No. There should be more access for students with disabilities or students or faculty with sprained ankles, temporarily disabled. This administrative failure is not meeting the needs of the lofty words of “diversity”. I’d like to see better. I think you both ought to learn from me, a student who, despite its flaws, loves FRCC, despite its failures, because I see the potential of a new FRCC president and an EFFECTIVE VP and staff. These things CAN be fixed if you all WORK to fix them! I believe.
To reiterate: Along with all of the issues in not having enough faculty in the Horticulture department for the 3 years I’ve been here, there’s NO SERVICES, NOT ENOUGH FACULTY and NO ART, ADA Violations. There’s certainly NOT a living reflection of Horticulture on this campus! I know, because I’ve walked this whole campus and even in the areas with plants, they are poorly maintained, dead or full of weeds or not a basic understanding of maintenance. What have I gotten for all the money I’ve spent? I would NOT recommend FRCC, which, I would add has been around for 50 years, enough time to get this right for this region and the surrounding communities. It isn’t even CLOSE to getting this right. But, I believe it can be fixed. That’s why I’m writing you.
I mean, students who come here everyday are reminded that they are getting a second rate education, especially when we are provided little services, not enough or poorly qualified faculty and on top of that, this sterile and out-dated environment, prison-like, that doesn’t reflect and embrace the cultures of their degrees or student diversity, just nice words in the stated goals, not actions by the administrators. How about not cheaping out with the ineffective online culture, which is what we’re getting: Online Student Union? How about a REAL student union, you know, gathering places with food and other services like on other campuses? How about legal help and other services for students? Nonexistent at FRCC.
President Biden and his wife Jill Biden, a community college teacher, are huge advocates for Community College. Then why isn’t FRCC living up to this hype? I believe that Community Colleges are vital parts of these communities! They’re needed, wanted and funded. So why aren’t they living up to their stated goals? Maybe that’s my ultimate question as a paying student. FRCC doesn’t need a CU Boulder budget to accomplish these goals. It needs administration and faculty that care about current and future students, you know the ones like me that are funding this institution.
I understand that my critique here is a bit harsh, but I feel that it is important these criticisms be said, because I see and hear these same complaints from other students. Most of us don’t have time to write these criticisms in a letter like this.
I’d like to hear back from both of you on these issues and what you can do. I, as an FRCC student and a Westminster resident would like to see change and a better vision for FRCC Westminster. It’s more of an island here in Westminster, not an inclusive, vibrant entity.
I’ll be sharing this letter with President Biden, along with my state and federal representatives, from which FRCC receives funding as well.
Here’s the response I got back on January 19th, 2023 from VP Johnson:
I appreciate you reaching out with your thoughts and concerns. First of all, I am sorry to hear of your injury, and I hope you have fully recovered. We have been regularly repairing our elevators as issues arise. Further, we have requested funds from the state to renovate our elevators, and I will add your experience to our request as justification for the extent of our challenges with the elevators.
I understand your concern about the physical environment on the campus. In May, I began working with a group of students, faculty, instructors, and staff to address this issue. In September we hosted five focus groups and conducted a survey to gather input from students, employees, and community members on what they wanted/needed to see on our campus. The feedback from this was used to develop a proposal for improvements to the campus, which is in the process of being funded right now. I appreciate your idea about collaborating with students in the Horticulture and Landscape Technologies program, and I will include that in the plan. As soon as the funding is secured, we will move into phase 2 of this work, and I would invite you to join us as a member of this team. We also opened our Multicultural Center in Fall 2022 and are in the early phases of commissioning a mural for that space, including an open call for entry in partnership with the art program faculty and students at the Westminster Campus.
I also understand your frustration with regard to food service. As you mention, you have been a student here for three years, most of which was during the most challenging time associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to public health concerns, we were in a masked environment and needed to dissuade folks from congregating in dining areas. Further, staffing challenges substantially impacted us in terms of opening our Coffee Den, which delayed our ability to open that with grab and go food options until Fall 2021. We are working very hard to open the Wolf Café, and your concerns are noted. In terms of timing for that project, there have been some complexities with the renovation of the Wolf Café. Throughout the fall semester, the contractor’s progress and construction schedule was impacted as we needed to reduce construction noise for college events in the construction zone. Also, this project’s completion is tied to completing another state-funded mechanical project, whose schedule is impacted on getting a piece of mechanical equipment. Supply chain issues have delayed receiving the mechanical equipment.
Again, I thank you for sharing your perspective. The issues you raise are of significant importance to me, as the Campus Vice President, and are also priorities for our college.
With respect, Dr. Tricia L. Johnson
Here’s what I got back from President Colleen Simpson on January 19, 2023:
Thank you Tricia for the follow up. You have addressed the concerns and shared our future opportunities to create a stronger sense of belonging on campus for students and all. I will not reiterate but pledge my full support.
Ms. Crutcher, thank you for sharing your perspective and I look forward to building a more inclusive and student friendly campus in the months to come
With Gratitude, Dr. Colleen Simpson
I pondered on these two, very polite, but vague responses. While I appreciated the short response time, I couldn’t help but feel unsatisfied with the VP’s muddy answers. I thought I brought up some rather big issues that required more. I mean, Where’s the BEEF?
I wanted more specifics, so I wrote this response to both on January 23, 2023:
Hello Tricia, Colleen,
Thank You for your response.
I’m not clear on your answers. It brings up further questions for me that I thought I posed in my previous email?
- What is your VISION for FRCC Westminster and other FRCC campuses, Dr. Simpson? For the Westminster campus, Ms. Johnson?
- When will the cafeteria be done? I didn’t understand your explanation. I understand the Covid struggles, but 2021 was 2 years ago now, FRCC Westminster has been fully open for 2 years now, but no Wolf Cafe. When I walk by I have not heard or seen any work being done. It is in the front of the main campus building, so I’m not understanding the noise concerns as an excuse for delays.
- I’d like you to address what you will do about the current coffee house situation. I think I tried to express that it’s not working for students and faculty in its current state, but I didn’t see your solution for that?
- Can you answer my questions about how FRCC can offer better Continuing Education options for the surrounding communities? Why can’t classes be audited? What are your plans to include the surrounding communities? I mean, a lot of people are looking to second careers, but FRCC has not expanded its offerings.
- I think the sterility and prison-like atmosphere at FRCC ought to be addressed soon! If focus groups for improved campus culture were held last September, then which of the focus group’s ideas will be implemented this year, 2023? Focus groups and phases seem like they will take a long time.
- The elevators have been out of order for more than a year that I know of, (my sprained ankle was a year ago and it was VERY painful to have to navigate stairs, so I can only imagine what a student in a wheelchair or crutches would be struggling.) probably longer. There is still an out of order sign on them as of this week. This is an ADA violation. When will the elevators be fixed?
Yes. They’re not listening. I have yet to receive a response from either Dr. Johnson or Dr. Simpson. This leaves me with valid questions regarding their leadership. How can issues at FRCC even hope to be solved if the Administration doesn’t listen or isn’t responsive?
Faculty feels dismissed as well. In a recent article in The Front Page, written by Seth Ciancio, “One College: Divided”, the article describes additional dysfunction amongst FRCC Administrators and Faculty. I was concerned after I read it.
A few quotes caught my eye in the article:
“Faculty morale is at an all-time low, they don’t feel heard and their “existing communities and culture are not being honored.”
“Beyond the concerns about the proposed structure, a number of faculty have raised concerns about the communication, or lack thereof, coming from the administration during this process.”
“They’re not listening,” a faculty member told me. “Every single time we’ve raised our concerns, they have brushed it off. It’s a travesty, is what it is.”
How can this dysfunction be addressed at FRCC?
Administrators Johnson and Simpson continue to ignore and dismiss Students and Faculty, the lifeblood of FRCC. We shouldn’t accept this current state of affairs: mismanagement, misadministration and mediocrity at FRCC. This certainly creates incredibly low morale among Faculty and Students.
Students are accountable to their teachers for their homework and grades. Teachers are accountable to Students and the Administration for their classes, see where I’m going here?…Therefore Administrators need to do their jobs by providing support to Faculty, building consensus and running the campuses more smoothly to serve us. Administrators Johnson and Simpson seem to care more about the fiction of their titles, rather than being Public Servants to FRCC Students and Faculty. Who are they accountable to when they don’t listen to or dismiss Students and Faculty? No one. This needs to change. How about a campus wide Confidence vote every year? I’d like to see institutions be more democratic than authoritarian.
I also question the basis on which FRCC Administrators are hired. Their educational resumes don’t seem to include Community College degrees. This sends the wrong message to Community College Students that their degrees are less important. The Public already thinks this. I’d like to see more emphasis on Public Service and less on Doctorates. I’d like to see people that are products of FRCC run it or those from communities. I think we’d attain better results.
FRCC lacks Vision. Students, Faculty and Communities need FRCC to thrive and function better. This requires listening and action, vision. Community Colleges can be great assets, gems to their communities and local economies, if they are responsive to those they serve.
Yes. They’re not listening. I think the FRCC community needs to decide if the Administrators are a right fit.
So where does that leave Faculty and Students at FRCC? I quote my comment to the “One College: Divided” article:
“All I can say that as a student at the FRCC Westminster campus, is that the administration has been failing for a long time and it shows! There’s no services, stretched and overworked faculty, lots of good faculty leaving and no vision or can do attitudes on the administration’s part to work with and listen to faculty or students. I, as a student, have complained to administrators and have been brushed off and dismissed. Who do they think they are? It seems like they’re more into the fiction of their prestigious titles than actually running the place, listening to students and faculty concerns and course correcting as needed. They are supposed to be public servants to the communities, the people, these campuses are supposed to serve!
I don’t like the tone of the new President Simpson in this article. Is she the right fit for this position if she can’t build faculty consensus? I’m not seeing much evidence for the efficacy of her One College plan and I think the faculty have a valid point here that’s not being heard. If Simpson’s One College plan is good, where’s the evidence for it at other community colleges in the US?
This is a HOT MESS and the students, the ones paying for this, are hurt by this unproductive bickering and discord.
Get it together, people! I’d give this failure what it deserves, an F, but I’ll give you an incomplete for now, if you all can make up the work!”
Other articles about FRCC’s Administration.