The Academic Senate has delivered a letter to the Board of Trustees (BOT) demanding that they declare a failed search for the superintendent-president position after concerns were expressed about the selection process and the individual finalist candidate’s fitness for the role.
Concerns expressed in the letter include presenting the campus with only one finalist, using an inexperienced search firm to find candidates and a lack of transparency in the hiring process.
Academic Senate President Valerie Foster sent out a press release before last night’s meeting, welcoming students, faculty and community members to come to the meeting and make public comments about their concerns.
More than ten speakers, including a member of the Association of Latino Employees, expressed similar concerns regarding candidate Cliff Davis ranging from his experience, ability to promote equity on campus and that the search has not given the community an actual choice due to there only being a single finalist for the position.
“I would welcome any candidate regardless of race and I wanna make this clear, this is not about this candidate’s race, this is about visibility to lead this campus to understand this campus,” said academic senator Lynora Rogacs. “His campus is 84 percent white students, zero percent statistically Latino students, we are embarking on dangerous territory here.”
The letter also cited statistics from the campus which Davis is the current president of, the Ozarks Technical College Table Rock campus. The campus will offer only 18 degree/certificate programs by Fall 2019 compared with the 173 offered by PCC.
The campus offers only 82 sections in their current spring schedule, while PCC’s math department alone offers 221 sections. The Table Rock campus is composed of only one building the size of PCC’s C building and Davis oversees only one dean, “an experience which does not prepare him to lead PCC’s five vice-presidents, eight executive directors, fourteen deans and three associate deans,” the letter stated.
Retention rates for the Table Rock campus for full-time students is 58 percent compared to PCC’s 78 percent retention rate.
“My concern is not only his ability to adequately govern a campus of this magnitude, but of this we have made great strides, why are we bringing in a candidate whose system underperforms compared to PCC? We should be looking for someone who can help us achieve better, bigger, growth not someone who by federal measures is not performing as well as we currently are?” asked Rogacs.
Senator Linda Hintzman stated that Davis’ entire school district in Missouri was smaller than PCC and that the entire campus that he presides over is smaller than PCC’s math department.
“The web page for his campus does not look like this room, it looks … white. And I really don’t have any confidence that he can really represent us, lead us and take us to the places we need to go,” Hintzman said.
Many other senators echoed similar concerns and board member Shelagh Rose put forth the idea to ask the BOT to declare a failed search, and undertake a different selection process.
Dr. Christopher West spoke during public comment and was visibly emotional when he spoke about his expectations for the BOT.
“All we’re asking is for the BOT to do what its supposed to do, reflect the internal processes of the campus,” West said. “I love PCC. I love this campus. I love the students, this is our tribe, this is our community. And somewhere along the way we’ve got folks on the BOT that don’t understand that.”
Assistant Superintendent-Senior Vice President of Off-Site Campuses Dr. Robert Bell and Vice President of Student Services Dr. Cynthia Olivo applied for the superintendent-president position and were not chosen as finalists, frustrating and confusing many in the campus community.
“We’re on the cusp of greatness, we’re on the cusp of making something different, to do that we need to have great leadership. I don’t know Dr. Davis, I’ve never met Dr Davis and I don’t want to disparage Dr. Davis because he’s not part of the conversation. Here’s what I do know, the two people who have led the effort Dr. Robert Bell and Dr. Cynthia Olivo did not become finalists which means you better be twice as tight as they are,” said West.
West further stated that if Bell and Olivo were not the candidates that the BOT wanted, he demanded that the BOT choose three other exceptional candidates to put forward.
Senator Tim Melnarik stated that he’d been on faculty hiring committees where they were told “point blank” that they could not forward just one candidates name for a position. Adjunct professor Beville Constantine stated that in addition to demanding the board declare a failed search and a no confidence vote that he would also support a walkout of classes.
When asked about the time frame for actions taken by the board, Foster stated that a letter to the board was the best action because May 7 is when candidate Davis is scheduled to come onto campus for open forums.
“The best course is to communicate with [board president Anthony Fellow] and have a conversation about whether they should tell the candidate not to come and that it’s a failed search, that would be our hope,” Foster said.
“We would hope they would change the board policy to include more voices so this doesn’t happen again.”
The letter closed out by stating that should the board not listen to the stated requests, the faculty would be forced to take action including a vote of no confidence and a potential walk out.
The Courier reached out to BOT President Anthony Fellow and board members Jim Osterling, Ross Selvidge and Linda Wah for comment, but has not received a response.
See the Academic Senate letter to the board by clicking here –> Academic Senate Letter