Robertson gets tough questions at forums

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By Matthew D. Gilford & Daniel Segraves

Piedad Robertson, one of three candidates for the position of RCC chancellor. (Justin Henderson)

By Matthew D. Gilford & Daniel Segraves

Piedad Robertson, who described herself at the two March 5 town-hall style forums as “tireless,” is a finalist for RCCD chancellor. She said that RCC is on the verge of becoming something “very big and exciting.”

She stood at the front of the Digital Library Auditorium and spoke loudly, without the aides of the stage or a microphone. When asked questions, she would make direct eye contact, and she would sometimes refer to documents which she kept stored in a small satchel.

In her opening remarks during the first forum she said RCC is the “envy of many other colleges” when it comes to the college’s budget, especially money from grants and contracts.

Robertson spent much of her time answering questions from the audience, which was composed of roughly 40 persons at each forum, composed of mostly faculty, staff and administrators.

She also explained why she has spent most of her professional life working at community colleges.

“I am in community colleges, because I believe in community colleges,” she said.

RCCD is currently in the process of ramping up for the accreditation process, which was the topic of one faculty member’s question and Robertson’s own list of important things the chancellor would deal with first.

“Accreditation is a complex problem,” Robertson said. “It is breathing down our necks.”

Robertson is no stranger to RCC; while working as the Special Assistant to the Secretary of Education she worked closely with current chancellor Salvatore Rotella to acquire equalization funds for the college.

“You got equalization funds because of me,” she said.

She spoke briefly of an “administrative rule” that once prevented state funds from furnishing new college buildings, unless the building had been constructed with state funds.

“One of the things that I was able to do was I was able to change that administrative rule,” adding that “all state colleges can now get funded for facilities that the state has not done.”

Robertson addressed some of the criticisms that she has received in regards to her employment history, including allegations of financial mismanagement at both the Education Commission of the State and Santa Monica College.

Robertson stated that the reason for her departure from the Commission was her family, rather than the controversy surrounding the resignations of two long-term employees. Her focus was mostly on the positive aspects of her long career in education, only rarely mentioning her shortcomings.

When asked about the 6,000-student drop in enrollment at Santa Monica, she mentioned one vocational program which was not eliminated, and two programs that were comprised of 33 students. She offered no explanation for the additional 5,900 students.

When asked, Robertson avoided talking specifics of her poor relationship with faculty at Santa Monica College, which resulted in a vote of no confidence, at both forums and then went on to say that she has also had some very good experiences with faculty.

“I married a faculty member,” Robertson said in defense of her reportedly poor relations with faculty members. She continued by saying that both administration and faculty have a role to play, concluding the topic by asking the question, “how can we do it better?”

On March 12, the Academic Senate took a vote on the chancellor candidates to forward to the Board of Trustees before a decision is made.

Kathy Brooks, the senate vice president, described feelings on the candidates themselves as “mixed,” though there was overwhelming opposition to candidate Piedad Robertson.

“We weren’t really sure how she was chosen in the first place,” Brooks said. “There were about two thirds of the votes for (Stan) Arterberry, one third for (Noelia) Vela, and no votes for Robertson. It would be very upsetting for us if she was chosen.”

Academic Senate President Richard Mahon echoed Brooks’ concerns over Robertson, citing her professional history as her primary downfall.

“In a general sense, Robertson’s track record and history showed that she was not ready (for RCC),” Mahon said. “She has no experience in a multi-college district like ours. She was also the only candidate that really attempted to dodge questions concerning her no confidence vote.”

For Viewpoints original story on Robertson:

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