Each year our school hosts by far my favorite event of the year—graduation. Every third or fourth Friday in May we celebrate the day with a breakfast in the morning and a wonderfully, positive, high-charged ceremony in the evening.
Not so much this year. Just wasn’t really feeling it.
Normally we faculty members have to scheme ways to beat the heat and the blinding, terrible glare of the late afternoon sun—so much so that the faculty purchased matching yellow and green sunglasses to sport during the outdoor celebration.
Did not need them this year.
Rather, the entire day was cold, rainy and downright gloomy; in retrospect it was actually the perfect weather conditions for a rather down and downright gloomy school year.
It was just one of those kind of years.
For me personally, the academic year began with teaching for a semester in London. Yes, the experience was overall very much worthwhile, highlighted by the fact my daughter and her man Nathan reside there and I could spend copious amounts of time with them, yet it was quite taxing as well and I am quite confident when I say I will never do it again. The students were entirely disinterested in studying (as I would be); the program was not particularly well-run, and my experience ended with a trip to the emergency room (you can read more about that here).
Needless to say, when I arrived back in California in early December and drove my convertible home from LAX on a bright, cheery, eighty degree Saturday, even the traffic on the 405 was a welcome sight…ANYTHING but the cloudy, dark and rainy London days, crowded tube rides and masses of humanity—everywhere at all times. Some people just love that stuff…just not my cup of British tea.
It was when I arrived back to teaching in the Spring was that the parade of gloom hit the campus. The semester essentially began with a report by the state accreditation commission placing our campus—and the entire district—on “warning.” Having written a large portion of the accreditation report the year prior, I, particularly, was pretty bummed out. The infractions that placed our campus on warning were relatively minor and, for the most part, very easy fixes. The general consensus remains that we were placed on warning due to some very problematic issues with the District Office…all issues that have, essentially, nothing to do with our campus. But, hey, it takes a village, right?
What was particularly demoralizing about this was that previously there was a sense of positive, growing optimism on campus. The school was, and is, growing in terms of both students and buildings. We were one of the few colleges in the state selected to offer Bachelor’s degree’s in certain fields. Prior to this “warning,” overall feelings of camaraderie and community were at all time highs.
As a result of this status, the school held a number of additional meetings (meetings I personally was a part of) to determine if we should give our current District Chancellor a vote of no confidence. A number of negative, contentious and overall yucky meetings later, we did.
Then the real tragedies struck. A very popular and well-liked student on campus, Adam, who had just been accepted into UC Berkeley, died in a tragic car accident. Just a couple of days later, a beautiful and intelligent young student, Amanda, was found dead.
The entire campus has been grieving these losses for weeks.
So, the campus community sat in the cold and rain on this Friday evening in May fairly exasperated. Tired. Happy it’s over and certainly ready to move on.
Yet something hit me as I sat in the gloom and the cold rain hit my face. Something that just snuck up on me as if out of nowhere. I just looked around and there it was.
I really love these people.
These people -staff. faculty, students- are my family. I really care about them. Perhaps by collectively mourning together and dealing with negative circumstances, we reached a new level of care and concern for each other that, perhaps, we could not experience in any other way.
I realized Crafton Hills College is not just a job, a paycheck and a place to do what I love. It is home to my family, my friends and the people on this planet I care deeply about.
I am quite certain that we, together, will rise like the Phoenix out of the ashes and become bigger, stronger and tighter than ever.
We carried on with our traditional end of the year faculty and staff party after the graduation. Our President, Dr. Cheryl Marshall, was particularly festive and far more gregarious than usual. It was little wonder why. It was very easy to see the pain and burden she has been carrying these past few months…you can read it on her face as easy as a pop up children’s book.
It was just one of those kinds of years.
Her festive and gregarious spirit screamed one thing: It is over—and it is time to move on.
Yet, now we move on stronger in spirit and community. We cry together, we mourn together, we party together, we dance together and we work together.
And it’s over. It’s goddam fucking over.
Now it is time to rest and get ready to rise out of these dirty ashes.
The Phoenix rising from the ashes may not be the best metaphor. ‘Rising out of the mud-puddle’ more like. It was a tough last semester. Losing two wonderful students with so much potential was hard on all of us. Knowing how involved you were in writing the accreditation report, I can see what a bummer it would be to learn of our probation status. Even though you reported ‘just the facts,’ and the problems were systemic, it can must have been discouraging to you personally. (Glad you didn’t choose me to work on it with you.) But now it’s SEP and you can concentrate on being the excellent teacher you’ve always been. Today I’m feeling the effects of standing/sitting in the rain for four hours Friday afternoon. I’m tired, congested and relieved it is over. Now I can focus on continuing my education journey at CSUSB this fall. I am grateful to Crafton Hills College’s faculty, staff and students. Every class I took opened my eyes to the world around and within me. I have leaned a lot, grown a lot and reached beyond what I thought I was capable of. Would I have preferred a bright, sunny graduation? Sure. But even in the rain I felt excited and proud to be a Crafton Hills Alumni … and I have the license plate frame to prove it!
Thank you Sandra. I realize my writing had nothing to do with the warning, I guess I just felt an integral part of the entire process. You are an inspiration Sandra…thank you for the positive energy you bring to the campus that now will extend over to the University. It was great to give you formal recognition at our graduation…well deserved.
Yes to all of this!!! People rarely understand when I say that Crafton is my home, but this post so exemplifies every sentiment I hold toward CHC. A year of hurdles for sure, but those hurdles build character and surely Crafton will be bigger, better, and stronger than ever before.
I suppose it was one strange and different year for a lot of us. Speaking of which, I MUST hear your story soon…so intriguing to me.
Yeah it for sure was a gloomy year. Being one of the students extremely interested in the bachelor program, I was pissed when Crafton got the warning. I suppose going by your metaphor with the Phoenix that i myself am trying to rise out of the ashes. Trying to find other opportunities to the next step in my life.
“I really love these people”….. This blog posting actually got me a bit emotional. When people decided to go public and slam Crafton Hills College all over social media, it upset me. A lot of these people never even attended this school yet they felt the need to say things like “Crafton is losing their accreditation” and “Anyone who took classes at Crafton will have to retake them again at an accredited college to maintain their degrees.” Lies. Ridiculousness! I was exhausted commenting on all of these false posts. I actually attended meetings to try to get ILCS and CHC to open a high school/college on campus and heard about the idea of turning Crafton into a bachelor program school. The accreditation subject came up shortly after and I know a lot of effort went into that, taking away from the possible growth of the campus. This is a new year, a new beginning and the negative social media posts are gone. Although time will not bring back the students we lost, it allows us to continue moving forward.
Becky..thank you for the sentiments concerning CHC..it is a GREAT school. Oh, and you are a GREAT writer! Seriously, you articulate your thoughts with great eloquence and clarity.