Nursing students make show of force at MCTC presidents’ forum

Christopher David

Nursing students unhappy about the dismissal of a popular professor voiced their displeasure at an open forum on April 11 with MCTC President Sharon Pierce.

Due to employee privacy laws, Pierce was unable to provide clarity about the reasons Christine Kleckner will not return next semester. Nevertheless, students looking for answers about her abrupt departure two days before the forum pressed school officials about staff turnover and other issues.

“I can’t speak about an individual personnel decision,” Pierce said. “The fact that you’re a good nurse doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a good faculty member, and so you need a balance of skills.”

Pierce stressed that the overall fit with the team is very important.

“Student evaluations are taken into consideration in terms of faculty development, but they are not used for faculty performance appraisals,” Pierce said.

Concern among nursing students about high staff turnover led MCTC Vice President and Chief Academic Officer Gail O’Kane to explain.

“When we hire faculty in other fields like English or philosophy, we can pretty much assume they’re going to [teach] their whole career,” O’Kane said. “That isn’t necessarily true in nursing because we are really competing with a very high wage option for nurses.”

She said that nurses could simply work as nurses instead of working for the college. That’s a challenge for some of the career programs, O’Kane notes, because while “for many of our disciplinary areas, the primary role that the faculty are training for is to be faculty, that’s not the case” with nursing and some other vocational areas.

Wages and lifestyle options can be more attractive in the private sector. Keeping IT faculty is difficult as well, O’Kane notes, because both businesses and other colleges try to hire staff away.

Changing demographics are providing challenges and opportunities at MCTC, as the student body is trending younger than it has in the past, as more students are attending right after high school.

“We’re looking at how courses are structured,” Pierce said, in addition to when they’re scheduled, in order to optimize the ability to students to progress through the college.

There is also work being done to analyze how successful academic progress is being measured, as well as streamlining requirements to ensure that students only take classes that move them towards a degree. Other initiatives include exploratory majors.

Onsite daycare is simply not financially feasible for MCTC to offer, but there are resources that the college can connect students with to help pay for child care. Grants give MCTC access to vouchers but not money to actually run such a facility. The Student Parent Center in the T Building does offer students the opportunity to study and do activities with their children, but it requires student parents to be present at all times.

International students’ struggles led to a discussion of financial aid rules, which generally exclude international students because federal regulations have the expectation that students receiving student visas are able to pay the cost of their college. MCTC is actually fairly unique in that it doesn’t have higher tuition rates for international students.