Buysse named new chancellor

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By Daniel Segraves

Newly appointed interim Chancellor Jim Buysse. (Christopher Ullyott)

By Daniel Segraves

The chancellor search came to an end March 29, and started all over again. The Board of Trustees met to discuss its options and to come to a definite conclusion. Members of the staff and faculty were present to offer a few final words before the choice was made.

Faculty member Dwight Lomayesva spoke of the need to finish the search for everyone’s sake.

“I ask that the Board comes to a decision… and stops wasting time and money,” he said.

Instructor Ward Schinke, who also co-wrote a letter to the Board advocating a new search, restated the writers’ concern toward the finalists as well as the “lack of faculty input.”

After meeting in closed session until 10 p.m., Board President Mary Figueroa gave a statement announcing that the chancellor search would be restarted.

“Following careful consideration, the Board has decided to conduct a new search for a chancellor after accreditation visits of the three campuses,” Figueroa announced. “We believe that this decision is in the best interest of students and the community.”

The delay in a new search raises concerns that Chancellor Salvatore Rotella may retire before a new candidate is found.

In a brief telephone interview, Rotella said that he may be off campus as soon as June. This led the Board to take another vote on someone to fill the chancellor position.

After a 4-1 vote, the Board appointed a new interim chancellor.

“The Board of Trustees announces the appointment of Dr. Jim Buysse… as interim chancellor of the (RCC) District,” Figueroa said.

Figueroa said that Buysse, vice chancellor of Administration and Finance, will serve as interim chancellor from “no later than Sept. 1” and continue no longer than a year.

Fabian Biancardi, assistant professor of Political Science, Humanities and Social Sciences, noted that the process was a long one, but an overall good decision.

“It took the Brits three days to react when Argentina invaded the Falklands, but it’s going to take about a year to have a new chancellor,” Biancardi said.

Community leaders such as Irma Flores agreed with the Board’s decision to begin a new search.

“If you don’t have the right person, then you don’t pick someone just to pick someone,” she said.

Unlike the controversy which arose during the chancellor search itself, there is a small growing level of support behind Buysse. Rotella, who has worked closely with Buysse, commended the vice chancellor for his work.

“(Buysse) is a very competent administrator and leader,” he said.

Gustavo Segura, president of classified employees, agreed with the Board’s decision, as well as its choice in Buysse.

“There was a mutual agreement for a more extensive search,” Segura said. “Rotella gives us a high set point… (but) Buysse is a great pick for all of us. Personally, he’s a great man to work with.”

Biancardi spoke highly of Buysse, crediting his experience in the district.

“Buysse knows the ins and outs of the job,” he said. “It’s a good decision, and a good idea to listen to stakeholder ideas (such as the faculty and staff).”

Buysse feels that he is more than prepared for the task, despite only being informed by phone during the board meeting March 29.

“I have a grandson in the sixth grade,” Buysse said. “His class was on a field trip at Sea World when I received a phone call from (Figueroa). It was an interesting situation; the call was dropped a couple of times in the span of half an hour. I stopped walking, and some of the other people came back for me. They probably thought the old man had keeled over.”

Now that Buysse has assumed the role of interim chancellor, he is looking ahead to the “daunting task” of accreditation.

“We don’t just have a magic wand,” he said. “I woke up the first night and thought, ‘Oh, God, what have I done?’… But it’s an important task; we’ll be turning a three-campus college into a three-college district.”

When faced with the idea that an interim president and interim chancellor may seem ineffective at such a crucial time, Buysse made it clear that he was prepared to prove himself to the district.

“At Riverside, Linda Lacy’s not just sitting back,” he said. “There are things that we have to accomplish. I don’t want to just be a caretaker. My goal is to exceed expectations if I can… and move with integrity and respect for everyone… and a good sense of humor so we have fun while we get it done.”

Buysse had also come to realize that the driving force of the district is the students through a meeting with a doctor.

“I had to coach soccer for my grandson at night,” Buysse said. “I developed a bad cold and went to see a doctor. He asked where I worked, and I told him I worked at RCC. He looked up from his reading glasses and asked, ‘Missionary work, isn’t it?’ It changed my outlook on why I do my job.”

When asked if he would consider running for a permanent job as chancellor, Buysse was not prepared to give it thought.

“It’s going to be an interesting year,” he said. “Ask me in a year.”

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