Differences of opinion, beliefs and convictions are encouraged to be shared and discussed in a civil society. In higher education, these differences are allegedly encouraged in all venues, from the classroom to the governing board room. Yet conservative viewpoints are not welcomed in the Maricopa County Community Colleges and there are a series of events, including our recent election, that illustrate efforts to silence anything but a liberal perspective.
I am proud and grateful for the trust voters in District 2 placed in me to represent their views over the past six years. I worked hard to support fiscal responsibility, student success, four-year baccalaureate programs, as well as student safety. Granted, I pushed the envelope, and even though board positions are non-partisan, liberals didn’t like that. But I believe it is my responsibility to challenge the status quo when I believe it is wrong and not just be a “yes man” for the sake of getting along.
Those who have criticized me for being too tough and for speaking my mind worked hard to twist the situation to meet their agenda. They have wasted taxpayer dollars asserting all kinds of charges, but none of the allegations was found to be in violation of any policy or law.
Opposition to my conservative perspective prompted the faculty political action committee, with the underground support of administration, to recruit a liberal candidate for my post. They rallied the liberal troops and campaigned tirelessly to get me out of the way. The largest local paper in the Valley refused to run a story that included my point of view and instead crafted a hit piece against me just days before the election.
Getting me out of the way will also give the chancellor and his staff fewer eyes to scrutinize the aggressive savings plan for the district following a comprehensive effectiveness and efficiency review. The study identified up to $48 million in savings each year, but the chancellor and his team have worked hard to blow holes in the project because it killed too many sacred cows.
I have personally and publicly wished my successor much success. I want him to succeed because I continue to support the core work of the community colleges and I continue to have great respect for the office. What I hope the entire governing board and the public will have the courage to continue to do is question runaway spending, unnecessary land acquisition, the continuation of needless and unsuccessful programs, and provide real equity and fairness for all students and employees and not just for “diverse” populations at the expense of others.
— Jerry D. Walker is a Mesa resident and a former member of the Maricopa County Community Colleges Governing Board.