Relentless with their brash yet divisive decision-making, the Board of Trustees went ahead and voted in Dr. Rajen Vurdien as president of the college, a move that has sparked outcry from faculty, including a vote of No Confidence from the Academic Senate.
The Board’s response, in a nutshell, was that the board always has the final say and the community should respect its decisions. While the new president hasn’t directly made any negative impact on PCC, other than the fact that he won over the college favorite Dr. Robert Miller, perhaps the new Superior Court ruling can shed some light and act as a precursor for what can follow if the board doesn’t listen to its constituents.
It really does beg the question: Why should the shared governance bodies on campus respect the authority of the administration and the Board of Trustees when the judicial process has ruled that it is the higher-ups who violated the law when it paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to former president Mark Rocha
On Wednesday morning, the Superior Court ruled that the Board had violated the Brown Act when the trustees had gathered during a closed session meeting last year to discuss Rocha’s retirement and severance compensation, which includes a paycheck approaching $400,000.
The faculty was confused as to where that money would be coming from, but the board fell mum on direct answers. On one hand, the board assured the college that the payoff wouldn’t affect classes while one trustee said he was out of town when the severance package was approved.
Months later, at the dawn of a new president selection with little to no consultation from members of the college, the Academic Senate said it had no confidence in the board after their decision to elect Dr. Vurdien among other issues, including the removal of winter intersession, oversight of hiring and firing practices, and the removal of voter-approved plans for ceramics, printmaking, and sculpture facilities for the Center of the Arts Building.
Moving forward has been put on pause. PCC must now hit rewind.
There’s a recurring theme that’s taking place with Pasadena City College, and it’s the theme of “No Confidence.” It was once just the student newspaper that watched over conflict in the campus world, but it has now spread to larger organizations like the Los Angeles Times or state watchdogs like Californians Aware, who filed the petition against the Pasadena Area Community College District when the Rocha severance issue arose.
Is this the legacy that the board wants for Pasadena City College—a history of polarizing decisions and controversy? We hope not.
While it’s known that the Board has the final say, it should also try to regain the trust of the governing bodies and the campus at large. The Board of Trustees shouldn’t be surprised that their decision was met with backlash. In order to move forward, the trustees should simply start listening.