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home : insight & opinion : guest columns
September 17, 2019

8/28/2019 2:13:00 PM
Is IECC vote a cause for caution?
For the Daily News

The very first time I went skiing was in the rocky mountains of Colorado. I was on a trip with some friends, taking them to San Francisco, and we saw people on the slopes from the interstate and thought we'd give it a try. It was one of those impulsive things you do when you're young and have the time. I thought the cost would save me, but it was late in the day and the equipment guy gave us a break and for $15 each we got skis, boots, poles and a lift ticket that was good for an hour. What could go wrong?

I asked him if there was anything we should know before heading up the mountain and he showed us the snowplow thing you do - you put the tips of your skis together and push them wide apart at the back, adding that shifting your weight from one side to the other would let you steer left and right. Well, that was true as it turned out, but there was a bit more to it.

There was a long line to get on the lifts and it took us a bit to make our way out to get in it. We only had an hour, so we picked the shortest line - the double black diamond line. If you are as dumb about this as I was when it happened, then you probably didn't just feel your pulse rate go up or hear your breath suddenly suck in involuntarily. I'll explain.

We managed to get lined up to be struck in the back of the legs by the park bench hanging from the overhead cable and be terrified by the height and lack of anything to hold on to on the ride to the top. We planned strategy, watching others for clues about how it was done and so forth. Below us there were all sorts of people skiing and it looked effortless enough. There were even little kids here and there some with parents, some without, doing all sorts of maneuvers. We agreed to go down together and share what we learned in real time, starting with the flat area where we were sure this would begin.

It wasn't there. Double diamond means "damn near vertical and dangerous," and we came out of the lift and into trouble all at once. Had there been some warning, if the proponent of the idea had been totally forthcoming about the possible outcomes, I might have been cautious and declined. Now instead I was inclined about 40 degrees and picking up speed.

The poles went first - you can't slow yourself down with them if you don't know what you're doing. The snowplow bit doesn't work if you are going too fast, and we were. The best we could do was shift enough to steer ourselves and stay between the boulders that stuck up out of the snow and miss the trees that were everywhere. It was sheer luck and a bit of grace that let us survive, and while we did return the gear unbroken, I'd have to say I wouldn't believe that guy again if he said there was nothing to worry about. If I'd only known...

I say this because there was a vote taken at the IECC board meeting last week that was presented as a matter of form over substance. It was a convenience, nothing more, and one that was put upon us by the powers that be who informed our chief financial officer that we either had to just use one ID number for the unified colleges and be called IECC or we had to be four autonomous colleges, separately certified to have different ID numbers as we had been doing. It was a change, but it sounded like form over substance and inconsequential. It had better be.

The danger here in what was voted on is that it could be interpreted as the end of Lincoln Trail College as an identified entity by the State of Illinois. Instead it is now a campus name of a multi-campus entity known only as Illinois Eastern Community Colleges. In one sense, it is a distinction without a difference; in another, it may have consequences down the road that were not made clear enough at the beginning.

Actually, IECC added Lincoln Trail College to its small flock some time ago, and there was a binding agreement about what it meant and what it didn't mean. I haven't read it, so I can't say one way or the other if any violence has been done to its terms. I am familiar with its spirit, however, and given what was said at the public forum prior to the vote on this proposal, all is well and things will go on as before.

There is heightened jeopardy now, however, no doubt about it, as a change has been made that may bring a negative consequence. It may not, which is more likely, but as a cautious type and a survivor of an unintended double diamond descent/first-time skier mistake, I feel like sounding a warning (I should have mentioned that I did a lot of yelling and screaming coming down the mountain in anticipation of certain death and dismemberment, but you probably heard me).

We expect things to go on as they have been.

Nothing is to happen that will diminish Lincoln Trail College in prestige, community service, course offerings to our young people, or the quality of our programs. This was only what it was purported to be; a change in ID number, nothing more. That was what it was said to be before the vote was taken, so that is all it should ever get to be.

I feel strongly that people deserve to know how I see this. By that I mean the people who weren't there, and the people who were.

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