Professor Mike Settles details the negative changes experienced in last seven years.
By Zachary-Taylor Wright
History Professor Mike Settles called it quits Wednesday after 47 years here.
He abruptly retired four weeks into the semester because he said he is upset with the changes Chancellor Bruce Leslie has enacted.
Settles said he taught his final class Tuesday.
Settles told The Ranger in an interview Wednesday that Leslie has shifted district administrators’ focus from the quality of students’ education and experience at this college to success metrics and graduation numbers, resulting in students who are unprepared for a post-associate degree reality.
“I want my students to be successful,” Settles said. “Now, my classes are very, very challenging, and I tell my kids it’s going to be very tough for them, especially given the fact a lot of them do not have the best academic preparation. But if they can pass my class, that’s my certification they can move on from here and be successful at the next level.”
Settles graduated from this college in 1964 with an Associate of Arts. He completed a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Texas in 1966 and a Master of Arts at Trinity University in 1968. He received a teaching fellowship and earned a doctorate in history from Texas Christian University in 1972.
Settles joined the faculty here in 1970 to make a positive impact on students and provide students the same positive experience he had at this college.
“I wanted to come back here and teach at SAC because of what SAC had done for me,” Settles said. “I wanted to do that for other students who came to this place with no real experience in their families with college. I wanted to help turn them around just as this place turned me around.”
Settles said this college opened his mind to seeking knowledge and grew his curiosity.
Now, Settles said, the Alamo Colleges are graduating students who aren’t able to compete at four-year universities and in career markets.
Settles said lowering the quality of education and demanding less from students to boost graduation and success metrics are negatively impacting students’ futures.
“When they move on from here to the next level, where they’re at a school that has higher standards and they find out they can’t compete because they’re not prepared, we haven’t done them any favors whatsoever. We’ve done them a disservice. We’ve simply set them up for failure, and that’s a travesty. I don’t want anything to do with that.”
This shift in focus from quality of education to success metrics began when Chancellor Bruce Leslie was hired in 2006.
Settles said this is evidenced by the increase in budget to fund district administration and the decrease in budget to fund student activities, a nursing staff, the employee tuition assistance program and educators.
Settles said the employee tuition assistance program provided financial assistance for tuition for faculty and staff and their children.
“This place has a maddening tendency to make changes for the sake of change,” Settle said. “If a change is made and it’s beneficial, that’s great. But if it’s not beneficial, they will not go back and admit a mistake and change it back or seek a better solution because they’re so self-righteous about what they’ve done, they refuse to admit wrong.
Settles said the board of trustees is at the mercy of Leslie, when Leslie should follow their instructions.
Settles said board members used to visit this college to better understand what issues students and employees face, but the current board dictates decisions from a building across town. Board policy now requires notice to the ranking official for trustees to visit the colleges.
According to Policy B.5.2, which was last amended Oct. 27, 2015, board members “shall not conduct independent investigations, hearings, listening sessions or fact gathering directly from employees, or become involved in the day-to-day operation of the College District’s various departments or colleges. A Trustee visiting a College shall advise its President in advance of the Trustee’s arrival, and a Trustee visiting the District Support operations shall similarly advise the relevant Vice-Chancellor.”
Settles said requiring educators to submit massive amounts of paperwork prevents the highest quality of education in the classroom and detracts from the educators’ focus on the classroom.
Settles said his door was always open to anyone who wanted to watch his teaching style and adequacy. Submitting “wildly important goal” and evaluation reports to a district employee who has never stepped into the classroom, is a poor means of measuring the quality of education in a classroom, he said.
“Wildly important goals” are part of the Four Disciplines of Execution, a FranklinCovey system to measure accountability that is required of all employees in the district.
Settles said this decrease in college quality will not cease until Leslie is removed from his position, saying students and employees might need to rally loud enough that the media get involved.
Settles said he had been a member of Faculty Senate for the past three years, saying he spoke out against having Faculty Development Day during classes when it should be on a Friday to accommodate the four-day work week.
This fall for the first time, the event was moved to a Friday from a Wednesday.
Settles said he has spoken during the citizens-to-be-heard portion of three board meetings, saying he voiced his frustration with administration for falsely claiming to be focused on students and “bald-face lying” about faculty morale.
Settles said he had a survey circulated via Faculty Senate to faculty and the results showed 84 percent of faculty members were more dissatisfied with administration since Leslie’s appointment as chancellor.
A 2009 no-confidence vote showed 92 percent of faculty districtwide already had lost confidence in the chancellor’s ability. The night the board received the vote results, trustees awarded Leslie a raise.
Settles said he also spoke at citizens-to-be-heard about the lack of a nursing staff to serve students, which he said all other local universities and colleges provide.
Settles explained to his classes Feb. 6 and 7 why he was leaving, and they responded with understanding and applause he said.
Settles said he has plenty to do after he vacates his position, such as maintain his ranch and spend time with his five grandchildren.
Settles said his classes will be taken over by adjuncts.
Dr. Ellen Marshall, chair of the Mexican-American studies, early childhood studies, sociology, social work and history department, said the college and district prefer faculty avoid leaving mid-semester.
Marshall said she was sorry to see Settles go before the semester ended, considering how long he had been teaching at the college.
Marshall said Settles went through the official retirement process, allowing him to maintain his benefits after leaving.
Settles recalled a conversation he had during a Faculty Senate meeting.
“I once told Faculty Senate ‘I fear when I leave here, I’m going to be an angry man.’” Settles said. “And I am angry.”