Full interview with RCC Chancellor Salvatore Rotella

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By Daniel Segraves

By Daniel Segraves

Why have you chosen to retire now?

I chose to retire now for personal and professional reasons. Isn’t it normal to retire when one has reached 72? I guess it’s a point in life where I believe a change is necessary… and that’s what I want to do.

What was your favorite experience at RCC?

I think building up the campuses.

How were they different then?

Well, they were… I think it was a much smaller place. And two were just sites, they were not campuses. I mean, obviously Riverside was a fully blown college. But the other two were just sites.

Where would you like to see RCC going in the future?

I think… these are difficult questions…. But basically I think the most important thing is to maintain a strong academic posture and truly become three autonomous institutions that seek to fulfill their missions in a strong academic manner, as colleges and not as places where students go to take courses, but where they go to take programs… fulfill their professional and intellectual aspirations.

Is your family supporting your retirement?

I will not discuss my family. My family is my private business.

What do you think of Dr. Buysse being Interim Chancellor?

I think Dr. Buysse will be an excellent candidate and he’s been at the college pretty much as long as I have. He’s well versed in what’s going on and will make an excellent transitional candidate and from there on, it’s his own decision to seek the chancellorship on a regular basis or do whatever. But I’d say he’s one of the most qualified people in the state.

Is there anything at RCC you would’ve handled differently?

Nope. (laughs) I have no regrets. Let me put it this way; that’s the negative side. I’ve been very positive and very fulfilled in terms of my experience here and I felt that I’ve done the best that can be done under the circumstances.

What about the situation with Chip Sterns?

That’s a closed case. I closed that case. Chip Sterns and I have had a clear understanding. The case is in the mind of those who want to create unnecessary trouble. As far as I’m concerned, a mistake was made, that mistake has been rectified, I consulted with him in the process and… you should ask him. As far as I’m concerned, the wrong has been rectified. There was a wrong done. Somebody here lied. As I was made aware of it, I took care of it.

Who is it you think lied?

Who it was? I’m not going to tell you. (laughs) But I think he was the victim of someone’s foolishness and somebody’s less than candid… presentation.

How about the controversial issue with Dr. Ali Issa?

That’s bullshit. First of all, I don’t think it was…. the case with the Office of Civil Rights is closed. I’m not going to rehash the Ali Issa case because it’s not necessary to do so. Ali Issa is entitled to his rights. I may or may not agree with what he does, but like everybody else, he has rights. You can review that case… I put it forward to the Civil Rights people. I said, ‘OK, what do you want? What is your request? To fire the faculty?’ And there answer was no, but to rectify a situation. So, frankly, I think the Ali Issa case has been blown beyond proportion. My responsibility here is that we protect the rights of faculty, students… It’s not Ali Issa per se. My responsibility is to make sure whatever happens here, we protect the integrity of the institution, the rights of the students to learn and the right to faculty. I’m not telling you Ali Issa’s right, Ali Issa’s wrong. There are processes for that and we’ve gone through the processes. Frankly, three times his colleagues have said that he’s qualified, cased closed. Three times he’s put on continued evaluation and for them to come back and say to us… I don’t make a decision whether you should be a student or she should be a faculty. There are rules for that. His colleagues in every instance of continued evaluation have come back with a clean bill of health.

It’s more of a recent issue, but what about the tensions with former President Castro?

There was no tension. Why do you think there was tension?

There seemed to be no one discussing why it was and there was very little communication on the subject at the time.

I think I’ve been very upfront about the situation. You know I’m only half of the issue here. The other half is called Castro. Frankly, it was his decision to step down. Maybe he was not happy in his situation here. I was very instrumental in bringing him on board, I tried to extend myself to help him out… but that’s a two-way street. If he wanted to do things on his own, then fine. At times, you have so many things that converge that probably the best thing to say is ‘I’m quitting.’ I’ve said many times that I’m ready to help him, I was ready to help him like I would help any colleague… in retrospect, I wonder if he really wanted to be here… He found the reality of the job to be something that he had not considered when he took the job… It takes a good understanding of reality to function in a multi-college district. It’s very different from being in a single-college district. Maybe that’s something that he didn’t care for or something that disappointed him, I don’t know.

Once this area is vacant, do you know what it will be used as?

This would be the archive of the college. The library will grow. My stay here has only been temporary, it’s always been considered temporary. I like it very much because I enjoy being in the library, but I don’t belong here. The central administration has to get the hell out of here.

What about the furniture? Will it be moved… available to students?

Ask the librarian. I don’t know. You find me here today because I’m leaving. I was supposed to leave, what, six months ago? It was postponed and postponed. But I shouldn’t be here. It’s really contrary even to my own principles of multi-college administration to have my presence. But I’m lazy, I enjoy being in the library, and it’s only a matter of weeks; I want to leave from the library.

Any other comments?

It’s been very fulfilling as a career…

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