At 5:52 p.m. on May 14, literally eight minutes before Viewpoints normally goes to print, we received a breaking news e-mail from Board of Trustees President Mary Figueroa, sent to all Riverside Community College District staff and employees.
The content of the e-mail explained that the Board of Trustees could not come to unanimous decision on a suitable chancellor.
However, it also outlined personal reasons each candidate had in their decision to withdraw from any further consideration.
These decisions are coming a little late in the game.
According to the e-mail, candidate Raul Rodriguez attributed his withdrawal to a desire “to remain closer to his family.” Justesen’s motives for withdrawal “arose regarding his present duties and the time a well-executed cross-country transition would entail.”
We thought that each candidate would have taken such things into account when considering the job in the first place.
Immediately after the forums, our editorial board sat down and planned out an editorial about how neither candidate really presented a good fit for RCCD.
Because we stand behind these sentiments so fervently, we have decided to run our editorial in its entirety. It is only a matter of coincidence that our desire for a whole new draw of candidates is now imminent.
What can we say? When we’re right, we’re right.
It’s round two of the RCCD chancellor search, and the finalists are, drum roll please, Raul Rodríguez and Troy R. Justesen. Both have impressive resumés.
The individual forums were where students and faculty really got a glimspe of the person behind the impressive resumé.
The first forum was for Raul Rodriguez. It was held on April 30 in the Digital Library.
Besides the cloud of confusion and concern over the grand jury investigation that he is involved in, but legally couldn’t tell us too much about, and a few negative e-mails about him that were sent to members of our faculty, he seemed like a good candidate.
Rodríguez has lots of experience and is currently CEO of the San Joaquin Delta Community College District. Most of the questions directed towards him were answered completely, with little stories and examples of when he’d encountered similar problems in past years.
Unlike Justesen, he didn’t have a big, sparkling personality, but he seemed approachable, like we could just walk up and ask him questions and he wouldn’t look down his nose at us. He wasn’t rude, and didn’t appear to offend anyone.
He’s not squeaky clean, but he does appear to have some integrity, believes in diversity, and would be willing to work together with the faculty members of RCCD as a team.
He even gave some great inspirational quotes and seemed to be familiar with the programs at RCCD, and it looked like he had done a little research into the job he was applying for.
But what about that grand jury investigation?
Justesen’s forum was held on May 6 in the Digital Library. Some background information about his life and experience was given, and then it was time for the question and answer portion.
We were feeling optimistic about it at first, until he opened his mouth.
After telling the audience about his great respect for community colleges, and how he had been a first generation college student that attended community college, he said, “I may not be able to answer a significant number of the questions you’re going to ask me.” It all went downhill from there.
He was very rude to just about everyone he addressed except for Tim Brown, the moderator of the forum. When asked a question by a student or faculty member, he’d first ask, “Who are you?” Sometimes, he’d even fire back questions in an argumentative way.
When he finally got around to answering the questions, he’d beat around the bush, and never really answered most of them. Most of his answers included the phrase: “Well yes, if they work to improve student outcomes.” He said “student outcomes” a lot.
But not all of his answers were horrible; he did have some good ones. When asked how he felt about diversity, he said it was very important to him because he is “the product of the Civil Rights movement…I obviously have a disability, and now it’s required that buildings and facilities are accessible to people in wheelchairs.”
When asked why he wanted this particular job, he said, “My position is so high up, that I don’t feel connected with the people I am helping…I have to be able to see the change in someone’s life, and I can’t see it in DC.”
He seemed sincere, but his attitude didn’t match up with what he was saying. He was very humorous, which was refreshing.
He told a lot of jokes and the audience even burst out laughing a couple times. But the laughter was more like that uncomfortable laughter when people have just been insulted, and don’t quite know what to say. And later on, they stop and think, “wait a minute, he just insulted me.”
Bottom line, Justesen was very rude and condescending, he knew very little about the job he was applying for, was only concerned with student outcomes, and thinks the No Child Left Behind Act was a success.
With all of these negatives, we wondered how he made it as a finalist among a pool of 17 potiential candidates.
Well, colleges always need more money, and the Board of Trustees probably thought he would be a valuable asset with potiential fundraising capabilities because of all of his connections.
But which is more important, good leadership or potential funds for RCCD?
This is the second time around for the chancellor search, and neither one of the finalists is the perfect fit for the job. The school deserves a chancellor that if fully qualified for the job and a good match with the Riverside Community College District, because we aren’t desperate. Or are we?