This is how Seattle Central College (SCC) looked back in the pre-2000 era. A cafeteria brimming with student interaction. Potted plants accenting the wooden table, lamp posts that illuminated the Atrium, and an actual operating cafeteria.
This is how the Atrium looks like now. Long gray tables, emptiness, and the cafeteria still closed since the COVID lockdown.
But SCC’s new interim president, Bradley Lane, has plans to bring life back into the school’s ecosystem. Starting out as an English instructor at North Seattle College before becoming the Vice President of Instruction and Planning in SCC, Lane is no foreigner to SCC’s culture. When the opportunity to become SCC’s president opened up, he quickly grabbed it, “I was excited and thrilled to get to come back into the place that I know and loved.”
After being away from SCC, Lane spent his first summer quarter speaking and listening to the community and faculty. He and his team identified three main goals: one of them, and on the top of the list, is addressing the staffing issue, “We are going to hire about 100 positions. I think we’re about halfway there.”
Second on that list is the budget. Lane’s goal is to ”stabilize and make sure to have real transparency.” This is after the controversy that surrounded the conversation about the budgeting issues that SCC faced last school year. “One of the things that I’ve really worked hard on is to understand the budget,” Lane explains, “My impression about the budget is that we are in a stronger position this year than the college was last year.” This confidence roots from the increased enrollment this year. Despite being cautious, the interim president remains positive about the budgeting situation, “It doesn’t mean that we have unlimited resources to spend, but we can concentrate on replacing vacancies that exist.”
When asked about the threat of protest by the SCC faculty due to salary disputes, Lane says that negotiation is already happening between the state and the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC), “The most common way that we get almost all of our money is from the state. The state board for community colleges has put in a request this year for the next budget to really substantially raise faculty and staff salaries.” The interim president also emphasizes that the SBCTC will try to educate the state legislature to make them understand how imperative a competitive salary is to college educators.
The Office of the President’s third goal is about rebuilding the community, and for Lane, that means “activating the college in person again and making people want to come back. And also re-establishing a lot of the partnerships that we have with the community, organizations, and outside groups.“
During a quick chat with Lane at the 2022 holiday party organized by the Office of the President, he mentioned that one of his missions as interim president is to bring life back into the school. “One of the things that I really felt lost during the pandemic was to get to be in the same place as other people,” says Lane. However, he did acknowledge the perks of being able to work remotely, but ultimately he believed in the importance of face-to-face interactions, “I do think there is space for coming to campus as a part of your educational journey or your work journey.”
A part of this re-establishing of the community is to bring more courses available to students. “We are continuing to increase, really thoughtfully, the amount of courses that are back on campus or to have as an on campus component… My conversations with students said that they really value that and that they really missed some of that.”
Lastly, Lane addressed the still-closed cafeteria at the Atrium: “In the past, having the cafeteria operate the way that it did – it sort of lost money. We don’t want to be in the position to start something that loses money.” North Seattle College has started a “a mini-mart on campus,” Lane said that the school is going to assess how that turns out and may implement something similar at SCC if it’s a success.
During my interview, there was just an embodied confidence radiating from the interim president. When asked about this confidence, Lane said, “Central is such a special place; the people that work here are amazing. The students who are here are amazing. If I can help people to understand that the college is really gonna have a bright future, and it’s going to be as rich as our history and legacy is, it’s just gonna keep going forward.”
“I’m not worried about what’s gonna happen to the college, I’m just looking forward to the future.”
The school may not be in its glory days right now. And who knows, it may never be the same, especially after how the pandemic has reshaped how academic structure works. But as a student of SCC, it is comforting to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, not only for me, but also for the institution. Perhaps we can learn something from our interim president’s positive outlook.
Juan Miguel Jocom, or Juanita Banana as his friends call him, is an Editorial Board member at the Seattle Collegian, where he focuses on writing about the experience of immigrant students at Seattle Central College. A documentarian, he hopes to create videos that will showcase the chaos and glory of humans.
As a Seattle local, he’s an aspiring granola boy, who enjoys rock climbing and jumping off cliffs. His recent documentary, Welcome to the Neighborhood, was an official selected entry for the 2021 SCOOP film fest.