CATALYST V21N3 - Will Success Destroy Community Services and Continuing Education or What Do You Do With the Revolutionaries After You've Won the Revolution

Volume XXI, Number 3
Summer 1991

Editor's Page

Darrel A. Clowes

James F. Gollattscheck
Executive Vice President
American Association of Community and Junior Colleges

Adapted from the address to the Annual Conference from Continuing Education Practitioners from Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, May 14, 1988, Ocean City, Maryland.Originally published 1988, XVIII(3).

Anyone who knows anything about my background--things I tried to do as a college president or the things I have written and talked about--knows that community services and continuing education have long been favorite topics of mine. For almost five years I have been with AACJC in Washington, which has been described as 62 square miles completely surrounded by reality. I am always happy to get out of Washington and meet with those of you who work and function in the real world.

I am also happy to meet with a group labeled "practitioners." Having spent much of my life as a college president, I know very well who does the work! At a time when so many recommendations are being made about the future of community colleges, I also know very well who must implement those recommendations if they are to be implemented.

That leads me to the subject of my remarks to you. Where do you--the practitioner of community services and continuing education--fit into the future of community, technical, and junior colleges? I chose the title of my comments, "Will Success Destroy Community Services and Continuing Education," very carefully and not at all in jest. After being in the backwaters of community college education for so many years, you who work in community services and continuing education are now about to find yourself nearing the crest of a wave. I don't know how much any of you know about waves, but I have a son who for a number of years lived for surfing. Any surfer knows that when you are on the crest of a wave, one of three things will happen. You will either ride the crest, be swamped by it, or miss it and slide quickly back into the back waters.

Let me spend a few minutes talking about the wave I think you are riding. For many years, people who wrote and talked about community services and continuing education had a vision of a community college of the future:

  • A college where the entire college would recognize the necessity and importance of lifelong learning;
  • A college where the entire college would see the need to take the college into the community;
  • A college where the entire college would value the nontraditional learner equally with the bright, young high school graduate;
  • A college where the entire college would acknowledge that part-time students are not a minority to be tolerated, but the large majority of our students, both now and in the future;
  • A college where the entire college would give as much validity to noncredit courses as those for which credit is given; and finally
  • A college where the entirecollege would understand that meeting the needs of the communityis as important as meeting the needs of the campus.

In 1969, Gundar Myran wrote the landmark book, Community Services in the Community College , and Erv Harlacher published The Community Dimension of the Community College . In both books, these forward-thinking leaders issued a call for colleges to respond to the needs of their communities. Myran wrote that "it is possible that the community college will no longer play an exclusive role in the community, but rather will be ... the agency which weaves the fabric of education together wherever it takes place in whatever form" (p.15).

Although he later wrote strongly against a community mission for community colleges, Art Cohen provided inspiration to many of us in 1969 when he wrote a futuristic book entitled Dateline 79: Heretical Concepts for the Community College . In that book he gave an almost mystical description of a community college where "to a considerable degree the college has blended into the city; the community flows through it--physically and spiritually' (p.11).

In 1974 Ed Gleazer, then president of AACJC, began a series of articles that launched AACJC's emphasis on community-based education. In Gleazer's first article, entitled After the Boom...What Now for the Community Colleges? , he pointed out the need for colleges to begin to concern themselves with the needs of students throughout the community. Later that year Valencia Community College sponsored one of the first national conferences on community-based education. The title of the conference was "Beyond the Open Door-The Open College," and the list of speakers and attendees now reads like a who's who of leaders in the community-based movement.

Also in 1974, Alan Pifer, then president of the Carnegie Corporation, delivered the keynote address at the AACJC convention and made the statement that became a rallying cry for many of us. He said, "Community colleges should start thinking about themselves from now on only secondarily as a sector of higher education and regard as their primary role community leadership."

In 1976, I got into the act and coauthored with Erv Harlacher, Eleanor Roberts, and Ben Wygal a book entitled College Leadership for Community Renewal . In that book we tried to describe a college of the future, a community renewal college, in this way:

A college for community renewal...must be linked to the community in such a manner that it determines its direction and develops its goals through college-community interaction, uses the total community as a learning laboratory and resource, serves as a catalyst to create in the community a desire for renewal, provides a vehicle through which the community educates itself.... A college for community renewal must no longer be just an agency to provide services to the community; it must be a vital participant in the total renewal process of the community. Such a college will be committed not just to degrees and credentials, not just to job training, and not just to service for the community. It will, rather, be committed to the continual improvement of all aspects of community life and dedicated to the continual growth and development of its citizens and its social institutions. It will assume responsibility for helping create the revolution in educational expectations as well as ensuring the success of this cause. (pp. 6-7)

If that doesn't sound familiar, don't worry. The book did not get that much attention. Another book that got less attention than it deserved is Ed Gleazer's last book (1980), The Community College: Values, Vision, and Vitality . In that book, Dr. Gleazer described what he felt should be the new mission of community colleges: "to encourage and facilitate lifelong learning, with community as process and product" (p. 16). Say that phrase slowly and think about it carefully. The meaning is not easy to grasp, but it is more significant today than when the book was written.

I have not intended to give you a history of the community service aspect of the community college, but rather have tried to make the point that for many years a number of people in our field have wished for a community college in which community services and continuing education were not a sideline, but the organizing concept of the entire college. You may have heard the old caution, "Be careful what you wish for because it may come true." I submit that these wishes are about to come true. That's the good news. The bad news is that it might just pass you by.

I gave my remarks here today a subtitle, "What Do You Do With the Revolutionaries After You've Won the Revolution?" Revolutionaries are necessary to many causes, particularly those involving change. Their job is to fight the battles and draw the fire. But when the revolution has been won and peace declared, the revolutionaries frequently find themselves with nothing to do. Their services as revolutionaries are no longer needed and their battle stance may look embarrassingly silly. You practitioners in community services and continuing education have been revolutionaries. You've had to fight for every inch of ground you've gained, and you've won important battles. Now you may find that you've won the revolution! I submit that community colleges are about to become colleges of community service and continuing education. The turf that has been yours because you had to fight for it is about to be absorbed into the mainstream of college life. The quest is: When that happens, where will you be? Are you prepared to be other than revolutionaries?

Why do I think your wave is about to crest and your battle be over? Let me quote from a draft of a policy statement of The National Council on Community Services and Continuing Education.

A 1987 national survey of presidents and community services and continuing education administrators in 272 community colleges in 44 states indicated that the status of the function, in terms of prominence and impact, had increased in 69% of the institutions in the last five years. The status of the function had been maintained in another 21% of the responding colleges.

In addition to information age demands, other factors cited as responsible for enhancing community services and continuing education included: (1) positive public attitude toward lifelong learning, (2) increased public recognition of the importance of services provided by this function, (3) existence of solid relationships with business and industry, (4) program integrity and excellence, (5) ability to provide quality opportunities at low cost, and (6) support from top level administration.

I can imagine some of you thinking, So what! What's a little increase in status when you were at the bottom of the heap? Let me build my case a little more. The AACJC Public Policy Agenda is developed each year by the AACJC Board of Directors in a planning charette. In the 1988 AACJC Public Policy Agenda there are eight items. Four of them are directly related to community services and continuing education. Goals and objectives that you once had to fight for are now dispersed throughout the national agenda. The 1989 Public Policy agenda will be based on the report of the Commission on the Future of Community Colleges, and I and willing to bet that community functions and relationships will be reflected in almost every item.

That brings me to the most important reason I think your wave is about to crest. Most of you probably know that for the past 18 months a group of distinguished educators and governmental leaders, the Commission on the Future of Community Colleges, has been studying the status and future of community, technical, and junior colleges. The Commission's report was released at the AACJC Convention in April. Some of you may have received copies. If not, a copy has been mailed to your president.

The startling fact is this: Nineteen leaders (not one of them a community services/continuing education administrator) deliberated for a year and a half on the missions of our colleges for the future and titled their report Building Communities: A Vision for a New Century. Following are two statements contained in this report.

Today, in local communities and across the nation, we are threatened by excessive fragmentation and division. Cultural separations and racial tensions are increasing. Families are unstable and many neighborhoods, small and large, have lost their center....As never before, the nation needs institutions that recognize not only the dignity of the individual but also the interests of community.

Community colleges, through the building of educational and civic relationships, can help both their neighborhoods and the nation become self-renewing.

We propose, therefore, that the theme "Building Communities" become the new rallying point for community colleges in America. We define the term "community" not only as a region to be served, but also as a climate to be created.

But the goal is not just outreach . Perhaps more that any other institution, the community college also can inspire partnerships based upon shared values and common goals. (Commission, 1988, pp. 6-7)

I will not go into the many recommendations contained in the report that call upon our colleges to develop new and innovative community relationships. Given the prefatory statements I have just read, you can imagine that such recommendations are spread throughout much of the report. I urge each of you to get a copy and study it carefully for I believe that your future is contained between its covers. THIS IS THE WAVE YOU MUST CATCH!

So what is the problem? Why isn't the news all good? You must decide where you are going to be in this new race for communities. What happens to the community services/continuing education program when such functions become integrated throughout the college. Lest you think I am building straw men, let me quote again from the draft of the policy statement of the National Council. (Keep in mind that this was written before the release of the report of the Futures Commission.)

In an effort to determine the role of the community services and continuing education function in the future, three possible scenarios have been outlined. (1) Community services and continuing education will remain much as it is today except it will have to operate as a self-supporting business enterprise. (2) It will disappear given jurisdictional disputes and fierce competition within the continuing education arena. (3) It will be absorbed as the traditional community college is forced to adopt the approaches and delivery modes characteristics of community services and continuing education in order not to decline and perish in the face of fierce competition for students. (The paper goes on to refer to the 1988 AACJC Public Policy Agenda as proof.)

The paper offers a fourth scenario that urges "the continuation of community services and continuing education as a separate and distinct institutional function." This is where I think you will catch or fall off the wave. I agree with the National Council's position paper. It is important that those areas of our colleges that have had responsibility for community services and continuing education maintain visibility and viability in the future. I can agree that you need to maintain a "separate and distinct function." But at this point I see two additional scenarios. One, you attempt to maintain your identity and your separate and distinct function by digging in your heels defending your turf. Or, you do it through leadership. In the first case, you narrow your function. In the second, you broaden it.

I don't have a very good crystal ball, but I think I know what will happen if you opt to dig in and defend your turf. You may retain some programs, but your role will be diminished. Others in college will be on the growing edge of the movement, moving out into new program areas while you hold onto what you can. Let me give one good example. Within the past four years the biggest new thrust in community college education has been partnerships with business and industry. In many community colleges, these new programs were not considered a part of community services and continuing education.

In fact, a colleague once asked me why AACJC had abandoned community-based education in favor of partnerships with business and industry. Many of your co-workers did not see the new field as a part of their operation. Why? I'm not certain, but I believe it is because some have been so focused on a narrow definition of community services and continuing education that they have not been able to see that the forest is growing. Others have been so busy operating programs that they have not taken time to look at what is happening outside the confines of those programs.

I also think I know what can happen if you opt to become leaders in this new movement. Very will be greatly needed. You have the expertise of community need, in nontraditional delivery of education, and you have connected with the community. These skills and experiences will give you a leg up, but in one very important area I'm not sure there are any experts and the field is wide open for leadership.

Here I am referring to the real thrust of the Futures Commission report. In 1976 my coauthors and I wrote about community renewal. In 1980 Ed Gleazer wrote about community "as process and product." Now the Futures Commission has written about "community not only as a region to be served, but also as a climate to be created."

This time I predict that community, technical, and junior colleges are ready for such a concept, but someone is going to have to explain it, define it, develop examples, and show others how to make it work. Will that be community services and continuing education practitioners or someone else?


Cohen, A. M. (1969). Dateline '79: Heretical concepts for the community college . Beverly Hills, CA: Glencoe Press.

Commission on the Future of Community Colleges. (1988). Building communities: A vision for a new century. Washington, DC: American Association of Community and Junior

Colleges. Gleazer, E. J., Jr. (1974). After the boom... what now for the community colleges? Community and Junior College Journal, 44 (4), 6-11.

Gleazer, E. J., Jr. (1980). The community college: Values, vision, and vitality .Washington, DC: American Association of Community and Junior Colleges.

Gollattscheck, J. F., Harlacher, E. L., Roberts,E., & Wygal, B. R. (1976). College leadership for community renewal. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Harlacher, E.L. (1969). The community dimension of the community college. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Myran, G.A. (1969). Community services in the community college. Washington, DC: American Association of Community and Junior Colleges.

Copyright 1992 by the National Council on Community Services & Continuing Education. Permission is given to copy any article provided credit is given and the copies are not intended for sale&alt;

by Sarah Ryan