After miscommunication issues arose about who has the final decision regarding who the commencement speaker will be, the Board of Trustees decided to take a closer look at its policy Wednesday night.

“It needs to be an orderly process,” Trustee Jeanette Mann said. “And it really isn’t. As it is, this policy really isn’t a policy.”

Superintendent Mark Rocha agreed, saying that the current policy wasn’t working and that there is no official decision maker.

“What’s absent in the current policy is that there is no final decision maker,” Rocha said. “The Board needs to have a decision maker about who commencement speaker should be and then instruct me on what to do.”

The miscommunication came when Student Trustee Simon Fraser formally invited Oscar winning screenwriter and PCC alumnus Dustin Lance Black (who was on a Board approved shortlist) on March 11, saying that Heba Griffiths, interim associate dean of student life, asked him to send the invite using a template she provided.

However, the college decided against selecting Black because they feared sexually explicit photos of Black that surfaced on the internet in 2006 would tarnish the school’s reputation, according to administration officials.

The administration decided to go forward and invite a safer choice.

Fraser said that he felt that there was an overreach in the process in how the commencement speaker was chosen this year. He said that the Board should have a limited role in the process.

Associated Students President Jordyn Orozco, who also attended the meeting, said that student opinions should be better recognized.

“[The Board] isn’t commencing, the students are,” Orozco said. “I just want [them] to keep this in mind when they are developing the policy.”

Trustee Bill Thomson said that he and Rocha would work together on revising the policy so that there wouldn’t be any future issues on this matter. He said that the policy would be brought back up in June or July.

“Recent problems that arose in the process of choosing this commencement speaker brought these policy issues to light,” Thomson said. “This should have been addressed earlier than this.”

4 Replies to “Board addresses problematic commencement policy”

  1. As a 2014 graduating student, I am very disappointed in the choice to remove Mr. Black as the commencement speaker. Mr. Black would have been a relevant and inspirational speaker that I would have been proud to sit and listen to. I am very much considering not attending my own graduation ceremony due to the distasteful choices of the PCC administration.

  2. To clarify, I did not originate the invitation. I simply acted as the messenger/middle man to transmit the invitation from the office of student affairs to Black’s office. I did not take part in the decisions except for strongly advocating for Mr. Black and remain deeply disappointed in the decision, but this article implies that I extended the invitation independently or without direct authorization to proceed. This implication is erroneous.

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