CATALYST V21N4 - The National Council on Community Services: ' provide a unified voice....'

Volume XXI, Number 4
Fall 1991

The National Council on Community Services: " provide a unified voice...."

George Traicoff

Originally published 1971, I(1).

From all outward appearances, it was a rather typical educators' luncheon-business- organizational meeting...

  • completion of the agenda of treasurer's report, secretary's report, old business, new business, presentation of the nominating committee's slate, nominations from the floor...
  • thanks to the interim executive committee for steering and developing the organization...
  • applause for the national advocate for his vision and support...
  • a challenge to go forth and make an impact...
  • the warm glow of camaraderie and a job well done...
  • adjournment....
  • after-meeting exchanges of pleasantries and promises...

Because this scene is repeated thousands of times annually, by hundreds of groups, in dozens of cities, it was impossible for the casual observer to realize that he was actually viewing a quiet revolution. The occasion was the establishment of an organization with the potential of significantly affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of persons. He could not have known that this organization would, at last, give a unified voice to a group of educators who have the awesome responsibility of makinga reality of the most imperative challenge facing education on the nation's campuses today -- relevancy. But, it was happening. The convention was the Galaxy Conference. The city was Washington, DC. The date was December 10, 1969. The organization is the National Council on Community Services for Community and Junior Colleges. Community services had existed under some name and in some manner on community and junior college campuses for several decades. However, the functions and responsibilities undertaken as community services were as varied as the colleges themselves. The existence, scope, and quality of the programs depended to a great extent on the vision and commitment of the president of the college. The presence of national general purposes of a unique identity for the form and function of community services was almost nonexistent. Not until the second half of the past decade, when new two-year colleges were opening at the rate of one per week with their attendant impact on the established concepts of higher education, did this feeling of need for an identity and purpose begin to stir and emerge among the community services directors. One of the first significant materializations of this feeling was evident at the 1967 national conference of the Adult Education Association of the USA in Philadelphia."Since there were no national organizations specifically for two-year college community services directors, many of them affiliated with associations having goals similar to their own. Such organizations included the Adult Education Association (AEA), the National Association for Public School Adult Educators (NAPSAE), the National University Extension Association (NUEA), the Association of University Evening Colleges (AUEC), and many others. Although discussions had been held on a number of occasions with such organizations, it was not until the conference in Philadelphia that a national association concerned with continuing adult education established a community college section.

With the financial and moral support of the AEA, the community college contingent held its first national annual conference in May, 1968, in Southfield, Michigan, under the chairmanship of Walter Fightmaster, executive director of community services at Oakland Community College. While attending this conference, over one hundred participants from at least eighteen states and three provinces in Canada were issued a direct challenge by Dr. William Shannon, associate executive director of the American Association of Junior Colleges, to "...examine where we (community services) are going, what the purposes of our going down that route are, and whether there are better alternative routes."

The examination of these alternative routes began in November of that year with the introduction of a dynamic new force in the field of two-year college community services. At that time, the American Association of Junior Colleges established the Community Services Project, supported by W.K. Kellogg Foundation and under the capable direction of Dr. J. Kenneth Cummiskey. First at the Seattle Conference of the National Association of Public School Adult Educators, and then at the AEA conference in Des Moines, Dr. Cummiskey presented suggestions and sought the advice of community services and association personnel relative to organizational directions for the field. These preliminary investigations resulted in a motion being passed at the Des Moines conference, urging Dr. Cummiskey to establish a planning committee to further explore the many alternatives and to make specific recommendations regarding future organizational possibilities.

The planning committee consisted of 20 directors of community services, and five representatives from universities, state department of education, and the United States Office of Education. Their first meeting was held on March 4, 1969, at the annual AAJC convention in Atlanta. During the day-long session, papers were presented and discussions held centering around the advantages and disadvantages of affiliation with a single association, shared affiliation with several associations, "going it alone," and a host of other possible alternatives. Based on these discussions, the group issued the following recommendations:

  1. A commission on Community Services should be established by the American Association of Junior colleges.
  2. A working committee should be appointed by Dr. Cummiskey to study the alternatives of community services organization and to plan and recommend an organizational structure for two- year college community services personnel.
  3. National conference activities of the AAJC Community ServicesProject should be held in conjunction with the AAJC convention in future years.

Within two weeks of this mandate, Dr. Cummiskey appointed six people to serve on the working committee. These included Patrick Distasio, Miami-Dade Junior College; Walter Fightmaster, Oakland Community College; William Keim, Cerritos College; Victor Lauter, New York City Community College; Nathan Shaw, Montgomery College; and George Traicoff, Cuyahoga Community college, as chairman. The Committee met on April 9, 1969, in Washington, DC, and spent the entire day in deliberations. They then reported to Dr. Cummiskey, in part, as follows.

During the investigations prior to the meeting and the deliberations conducted that day, the committee explored many avenues and possible alternatives which could have been recommended. The primary concern of the committee was to establish an organizational pattern which would have the greatest potential of being of greatest assistance to community college community services personnel. The committee decided, as a result of its deliberations, to petition the American Association of Junior Colleges through the Community Services Project, to establish a Council on Community Services....

The route we have taken appears to us to be the most reasonable and logical for many reasons. It will, for the first time, establish an organization whose sole purpose is exclusively to serve and advance the goals of community and junior college community services....It will accomplish this without diminishing the effects and contribution of existing associations. it will, in fact, act as a facilitation force for pulling together the diverse concerns and interests of existing organizations and can act as a focal point for bringing to bear the action necessary to implement viable programs.

Each committee member was then assigned a specific responsibility that would bring about the establishment of a new organization, such as preparing a constitution, developing liaison with other associations, coordinating membership or planning programs. An insert was prepared for the FORUM (a publication of the Community Service Project) to inform individuals concerned with community services in the two-year college of the formation of the Council, and requesting them to express their thoughts on and interest in such an organization. A similar information sheet and return form was mailed out by the temporary membership chairman to individuals listed in the AAJC Community Service Directory of Leadership in Junior and Community Colleges. A report was made to the general session of the Community Services Section at the Winston- Salem AEA meeting, and participants were invited to express their reactions to the formation of the Council.

The response from all quarters strongly reinforced the working committee's interpretation of the desires of community service directors. Over 200 respondents were then invited to attend a meeting in Washington, DC, to modify, evaluate, and approve the constitution for the Council, which had been prepared by members of the working committee. Forty participants from 16 states attended, and by day's end, a constitution was approved, interim officers and executive committee were elected, and plans for membership were developed.

The August, 1969, issue of the FORUM informed community services personnel of the results of the meeting, and the temporary membership chairman mailed out membership forms and a copy of the constitution to all those who had expressed an initial interest in the Council. The Executive Committee then met in Washington in October to make plans for the Galaxy Conference. By the time this first luncheon-business-organizational meeting was held, over 240 individuals had returned the membership form and paid the $15 membership fee.

The National Council on Community Service for Community and Junior Colleges was indeed a reality. The objectives of the Council are simply stated in the preamble to the constitution:

We, the members of the National Council on Community Services for Community and Junior Colleges, in cooperation with the American Association of Junior Colleges, in order to provide a unified voice to encourage community involvement as a total college effort, to foster a coordinated attack on pressing community problems by all elements of the community, to stimulate discussion and interchange among community services practitioners, and to work closely with existing organizations committed to community education and services, do hereby establish this constitution.

To implement these objectives, action committees on legislation, research, and professional development, program planning, publication and public relations, nominations, membership, and accreditation were established. The executive committee is composed of a president, first vice-president, secretary, treasurer, and a representative from each of the accreditation regions. It is the officers in these positions who will guide the organization that will, for the first time, give a unified voice to the men and women in community and junior colleges who are dedicating themselves to making the word community more that just a part of a college's name.

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