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ECC defends cold-weather closings Jan. 6-7, is lining up politically conservative speaker

William Ayers former 1960's radical-turned-distinguished education
professor speaks last year ElgCommunity College. | Sun-Times Medifile

William Ayers, former 1960's radical-turned-distinguished education professor, speaks last year at Elgin Community College. | Sun-Times Media file

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Updated: February 25, 2014 6:23AM

ELGIN — The weather may have been well below zero and almost every school in the Chicago area was closing, but one Elgin Community College board member apparently thinks President David Sam should not have decided to close the ECC campus on Monday, Jan. 6, and again on Tuesday, Jan. 7.

Meeting this week in a work session, Sam told the board that one trustee had complained about the closing. He would not identify who that trustee was, but no members present at the meeting spoke out along those lines. The only members absent were Trustees Robert Getz, who frequently finds fault with decisions with the ECC administration, and John Duffy, who usually does not.

Getz could not be reached for comment.

“We do not take closing lightly, because it impacts so many things,” Sam said, “but this was the coldest it has been in years and the governor was urging people to stay home.”

Sam said the college leadership checked with surrounding K-12 school districts and with neighboring colleges, and learned that they had decided to close on Monday and then on Tuesday.

“If K-12 is closed and we are open, we have to remember that some parents will stay home with their children,” he said. He also noted that no classes were scheduled for that week, since winter break did not end until Jan. 13.

Trustees who spoke all supported the closing.

“I was surprised anyone would question that decision,” said Trustee Art Sauceda.

“Campus safety is our overriding concern,” Trustee Eleanor MacKinney said. “Exposure to this arctic cold was called life-threatening by the (Kane County) health department.”

Booking speaker

In other business, Sam said ECC officials are hoping to bring David Wilezol to speak on campus on April 23, as an offshoot of the Bill Ayers controversy last fall.

Ayers is a former leftist radical — and “terrorist,” according to some of his critics — who became a college professor. He spoke in October as part of ECC’s 2013-14 Humanities Center Speaker Series.

After members of the community complained about bringing Ayers to campus, board members promised also to bring a politically conservative speaker to ECC this spring.

Sam said the staff looked into getting Bill Bennett, former U.S. secretary of education and author, but discovered Bennett’s speaking fee was beyond the college’s budget. However, Wilezol, who co-authored Bennett’s book “Is College Worth It?” and is associate producer of Bennett’s radio show “Morning in America,” is available for a lower price.

Changed morale

Referring to the new teachers’ contract that was approved by the faculty association Jan. 9 and by the board last week, Sam said, “This is going to change the morale, the attitude of many people on campus.”

Negotiators for the two sides had reached a tentative agreement a week before Christmas. The old contract did not expire until Dec. 31.

Sam said that “there’s a remarkable difference between concluding this before Dec. 31 and even concluding it on Jan. 1.”

The college still needs to negotiate agreements with unions representing its support workers and engineers.

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