By Ronald Trowbridge (pictured)
My swan song as a trustee at Lone Star College
I will very soon serve my final day as a trustee at Lone Star College, and I want to leave my final thoughts. Having been a teaching adjunct at the college for six years and a trustee for six, I know how the place runs.
It is a beautiful place. It is a beautiful place in its mission of helping low-income and minority students get an education and a good job. It gives them a way out and up. It is a beautiful place in the exemplary way it is run, from top to bottom—though, really, there is no bottom, or rather the bottom is the top: Students are first.
This efficiency owes to the chancellor. It owes to the administrative leadership. It owes to presidents who run the colleges. It owes to faculty and staff. And it owes to students who are eager to learn. It is one big, happy family. To be sure, human nature is not perfect and there will always be rough edges. That’s why the Constitution says it works toward “a more perfect union,” as a perfect one can never be achieved as long as people are human.
I leave, too, with thoughts about the Board of Trustees. Their chief goal, in my judgment, is to confirm—and that is precisely the word I want: to confirm, not to create. Too many legislators and trustees these days believe that it is their function to change things, to pass new laws, to create new policies. Many legislators and trustees believe that they are not doing their job if they don’t initiate new laws or new policies. They want to run things. They want to micromanage. And it is here that partisan politics can enter the scene.
I wish every legislator and trustee could read the brilliant passage by C. S. Lewis on the mindset of creating new laws and policies:
“On the modern theory of sovereignty . . . total freedom to make what law it pleases, superiority to law because it is the source of law, is the characteristic of every state; of democratic states no less than of monarchical. That doctrine has proved so popular that it now seems to many a mere tautology. We conceive with difficulty that it was ever new because we imagine with difficulty how political life can ever have gone on without it. We take it for granted that the highest power in the State, whether that is a despot or democratically elected assembly, will be wholly free to legislate and incessantly engage in legislation.”
During my six years on the Board, we changed a few things and wrote a few new policies, but by an overwhelming margin, our job was “to confirm.” The place was run that well by the full team. In that sense, I will miss the place, but I will really not be missed. It’s been a happy ride.
I conclude with a beautiful experience: When I addressed the graduating class at Lone Star College-North Harris, I asked: “How many of you in your extended family are the first to go to college and to graduate?” About 40 percent of the audience raised their hands. That says it all.
Trustee, Lone Star College System