President Nish, former board colleagues say they will miss his insight and ideas
Reaction to Southwestern College Governing Board Member William Stewart’s surprise resignation this evening has sent a shockwave through the campus community. Board members, administrators, faculty and classified employees expressed disbelief, disappointment, confusion and anger at the sudden and unexpected decision by the board’s newest member.
At 2:55 p.m. Stewart informed The Sun that he would resign Friday evening after it posted a story about his reasons for leaving. The Sun posted the announcement at 7:03 p.m. Stewart officially resigned one hour later.
SWC President Dr. Melinda Nish said she disagreed with Stewart’s comments regarding lack of shared governance at SWC. She said governance policy is in compliance with state law. Nish also said the SWC Shared Consultation Council has been very valuable to the college and its voice has been embraced by both the administration and the governing board.
“I was very excited to have Bill on board because I thought he brought with him a perspective that added to the board,” said Nish. “I will respect his decision and I received his resignation at 8:03 this evening.”
Governing Board President Humberto Peraza said he is disappointed that Stewart chose to resign. He said this college and board have committed itself to make changes after a decade of corruption.
“This is a tough job,” said Peraza. “As a board you have disagreements, but do your best to work together to make significant changes to correct a corrupted system. And as a board, we have successfully accomplished needed changes.”
Peraza said it is like being a football coach, when you lose a player you find a player that will want to work with the team to make needed changes.
“Southwestern College has been through tougher times than this,” he said. “We will get through this and we will find someone to fill the board seat and continue our work and commitment that I have seen the board work so hard on since becoming a board member.”
Board member Norma Hernandez said she is surprised and saddened by the news of Stewart’s resignation.
“It was in December that I had the privilege of swearing Stewart in and I believe he brought good perspective and very valuable ideas to the board,” she said. “The role of the board has a lot of challenges and complexities, and we are not always going to agree and we don’t not always think the same. It behooves us to work together.”
Hernandez said the board has taken its oversight role very seriously and will continue. She also said the college is still in the process of getting its information and financial reporting systems in place, and patience is required.
Governing Board Member Tim Nader said he tends to have the same views as Stewart when it comes to the role of the board, as well as appropriate interactions between the board and the rest of the campus community.
“I think as to the financial issues I was listening with an open mind to different points of view and I really had not made up my mind yet on some of the issues that he’s talking about,” he said. “I very much regret Bill’s his decision to resign. Like I said, because I think he had extremely valuable insights on financial issues and that he was hoping to contribute those insights to improve our deliberations, our decision making and, frankly, I was hoping he would contribute those insights.”
Nader said he is sympathetic to Stewart’s position and hopes he will continue contributing to the board.
Faculty union president Eric Maag said he agreed with Stewart’s comments on the lack of transparency and shared governance.
“It’s devastating,” he said. “It means we have not moved forward with shared governance. We have to find a way to provide transparency through all facets of the college so that we can finally move forward from the problems we faced in the past and the problems that we continue to face.”
Maag said SWC needs a governing board that is well informed to provide leadership to the college. He said the Southwestern College Education Association (SCEA) union also lacks clear information that it needs to bargain in fair practice.
Professor Robert Unger, SCEA grievance chair, said he had great hopes that Stewart would help the board find budget solutions and clear all of the confusion of the past.
“I hope that Bill’s choice to resign would be a wake up call for SWC and for the South Bay that the corruption and mismanagement of SWC budget and the administrative structure is far more fractured than we had previously led to believe,” he said.
Classified union negotiator Silvia Lugo said she is upset about Stewart’s decision to leave the board.
“I don’t know what info he has or doesn’t have,” she said. “I’m saddened and disappointed that he feels that way. We have a new executive team in place and a much stronger board in place, a more capable board that I felt confident with them governing as well as the executive team. I know I don’t always agree with their way of conducting business, but I have to trust to a certain degree that they’re working in the best interest of the college. “
SWC Articulation Officer Veronica Burton said it is disenfranchising to lose Stewart from the board three months into a four-year term.
“After the 2010 and 2012 elections we finally saw a positive change,” she said. “It’s not there now. It is not in our administration and it is not in our board. This is damaging to the college, but I believe what he said is true.”
Contributions by Ana Bahena, Albert Fulcher, Nickolas Furr, Rick Flores, Lina Chankar, Kasey Thomas and David McVicker.