A loss of excellence?

Roger Robin Ekins, Ph.D. is the Chair of the Butte College Honors Program
An especially pernicious proposal is making its way through the budget-cutting process at Butte College. Space does not permit a full explanation for the real motives behind this idea, but they include ignorance, envy, personal pettiness and old vendettas. I am writing to expose this measure, not so much because I will be affected, but because of the negative impact it will most assuredly have on students.

Simply stated, the proposal is to reduce the compensation for the chair of the Honors Program and faculty adviser for the honors society, Phi Theta Kappa. Currently there is sufficient compensation to barely cover the average of 20 hours per week needed to do these jobs well. This proposal would reduce that amount to only 4 hours per week.

My objections have nothing to do with money. But money buys time. If the person holding that position (currently myself, but I have already submitted my resignation should this proposal be implemented) does not have sufficient time to do the job well, students will suffer.

Allow me to cite three examples of the difference the Honors Program and Phi Theta Kappa—which provides over $35,000,000 in transfer scholarships—has made in the lives of some of our students:

Jorge came to Butte with minimal English skills. He worked his way into the Honors Program and got accepted to Texas A & M as a pre-med student. Phi Theta Kappa made this all possible through a renewable scholarship of $10,000 per year.

Samantha made it from Butte to Stanford and then on to the Northwest School of Law. She’s now a Chicago attorney and received one of last year’s Alumni of the Year Awards. She insists that none of this would have been possible without the Honors Program.

And then there is Jennifer. She recently graduated from Butte College as one of its Honors Scholars of the Year, and thanks to her affiliation with Phi Theta Kappa was also named a member of the All-California Academic First Team. A single mother of two, she is currently studying at Chico State. She is also a recovering addict and alcoholic and credits these programs with literally having saved her life.

I am not irreplaceable. No one is. But if the Butte College Board of Trustees ultimately accepts this proposal, it is highly likely that Phi Theta Kappa will be jettisoned almost immediately. Moreover, the Honors Program, which has already been cut more than any other program on campus, will whither away to insignificance. Is this what we call a commitment to academic excellence?