Chancellor debate heats up

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By Daniel Segraves

By Daniel Segraves

After months of searching, final deliberations began March 19 to determine the new Riverside Community College District chancellor. After a night of intense discussion by the Board of Trustees, the conclusion everyone was awaiting was to be announced March 20 at the open meeting of the Board. That conclusion was that there was no conclusion as of yet.

“We discussed the issue from 7 to 11:15 p.m. last night,” Board President Mary Figueroa said to the crowded Board room March 20.

She said that they had not yet reached a decision, and scheduled another closed-session meeting for later in the week.

Figueroa thanked the faculty and other contributors for the “mounds of information” they had volunteered.

Among the documents submitted to the Board was a review of each candidate submitted by Academic Senate President Richard Mahon to the Board.

The goal of the document was to “help faculty and other parties evaluate and recommend the individual best suited to lead (RCC)…”

The Senate’s documents gave a brief two-page description of what they have found of the candidate’s reputations as well as the final opinions on their merit as chancellor.

Among these observations was a review of Robertson’s history, including her votes of no confidence at Santa Monica College and the fact that she has “no other experience with a California community college.”

Robertson’s review praised her for being known as “talented, smart and charming,” but stressed the overwhelming opposition she has faced by her own faculty and staff.

Mahon reported that Robertson was the “most controversial of the finalists” and that RCC was warned by other peers in the area about the negative effects she would have on the college.

While the review of Noelia Vela stated that no information could be located on her vote of no confidence at Evergreen Valley College, she has addressed the issue since then, stating that board members at the college asked her to hire a candidate for a position that had already been denied.

After she refused hiring the candidate, the members rallied support to get a vote of no confidence containing untrue points in the details of the vote.

The Academic Senate’s overwhelming support went to Stan Arterberry. Mahon noted his history at RCC, as well as his unique experience at a multi-college district much like RCCD.

“(Arterberry) seems to be the only finalist with current experience in a multi-college program,” Mahon wrote.

Arterberry has also been accused of being more of a politician than a chancellor. As Mahon’s review stated, Arterberry is known for his “effective advocacy in Sacramento” and is known to be a “good schmoozer.”

Despite his political air, Arterberry is mostly remembered for his contributions to students and faculty alike.

Mahon praised Arterberry for keeping students involved in governance conversations and supporting administrators and faculty serving on accreditation committees, a large plus for a district facing accreditation this year.

As with the other candidates, Arterberry has suffered a vote of no confidence. Unlike the other candidates, there is a widely-held belief that the vote was not entirely his fault.

“Several faculty members agree that Chancellor Arterberry had the misfortune to arrive when trustees… (exercised) invasive and micromanaging ‘leadership’ for the district,” Mahon wrote.

Unlike other candidates, Arterberry was noted to have learned a lot from his mistakes.

“His governance style is informal and he maintains first-name relations (with) faculty and staff in his district,” Mahon wrote. “Some faculty believe that he has learned a great deal from his early conflicts with faculty (and others note that a difficult board member has since gone off the board.”

Kathy Brooks, Academic Senate vice president, agreed with Mahon’s declaration, saying that she believed Arterberry was their choice due to his chancellorship experience and pro-student and faculty attitude.

In it’s conclusion, the Academic Senate supported Arterberry as it’s choice for chancellor, yet did not agree with the style of the search itself, citing a majority belief that the faculty was not allowed to play as large a role as it deserved.

Mahon believed that sending a message to the Board that they did not support any candidates would allow the Board more power to choose any candidate they wish, and therefore backed Arterberry.

Coming from the same point of view, but with a different outlook on the goal of the chancellor search, are a group of faculty members who submitted a letter to the Board signifying their desire to broaden, and perhaps restart the chancellor search.

Fabian Biancardi, an instructor at Moreno Valley and contributor to the letter, disagreed with Mahon’s stance, referring to the Academic Senate president’s decision as “politicking.”

“We have paid a massive amount of money to a headhunter firm on this search,” Biancardi said. “We are absolutely not getting what we pay for.”

Biancardi explained that the letter to the Board that was drafted by him and 12 other faculty members in the district was created to address the “inadequacy of the process.”

Unlike Mahon, Biancardi and the other members stood firm that they did not want any of the candidates and that a new process was necessary.

“We must have a chancellor in place in time for accreditation this fall,” Biancardi said. Due to this fact, a rough estimate of a summer deadline (May or June) is believed to be crucial for accreditation to run smoothly.

When asked if the deadline could still be met if the search was broadened or restarted, Biancardi remained adamant.

“If the search is organized properly, it can still be done in time,” Biancardi said.

Another closed-session meeting has been scheduled for March 23 at 5 p.m. to continue discussion on the chancellor candidates.

Additional reporting by Matthew D. Gilford, Timothy Guy, Kevin Hudec and Aletheia Meloncon.

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