6/17 3:05 p.m. PDT
6/20 12:00p.m. PDT
An earlier version of this story stated Nish was a finalist for the President’s job at Portland Community College. The Sun has confirmed with the Oregon college that Nish is no longer a candidate for that job.
Southwestern Community College District Superintendent/ President Dr. Melinda Nish is resigning her position as of June 30, 2016.
A joint statement sent on behalf of Nish and the SWC Governing Board announced early Friday afternoon that Nish and the board had “mutually agreed” that the president would leave her position after four and a half years at the helm of the college. Nish is “taking time to pursue a sabbatical for personal and other professional development opportunities,” according to the statement.
The announcement comes following a turbulent year for Nish. In the fall college police came under scrutiny for releasing a student after a battery incident that police said did not fit legal parameters of sexual assault. The student was arrested days later at San Diego State for sexually assaulting women there.
In February the college was charged with 15 sanctions by accreditors and placed on warning. A report from the Accreditation Commission of Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) found deficiencies during a fall 2015 site visit and gave SWC 18 months to make changes.
Nish was also criticized for her handling of racial tensions stemming from the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee and allegations against EDI Director Dr. Guadalupe Corona. SWC hired an outside consulting firm to mediate the issue and address underlying racial tension among employees of the college. No report has been released.
Nish was recently a finalist for executive administrator positions at two other California community college districts. In February she was a finalist for chancellor of the North Orange County Community College District. After being passed over for that position she was again a finalist for superintendent of Santa Barbara City College. That job eventually went to San Diego City College President Dr. Anthony Beebe. Nish was also a finalist for the presidency of Portland Community College in Portland, Oregon. Although she is still listed as a finalist on their website, The Sun has confirmed she is no longer in the running.
Nish has been a stabilizing force at SWC and served longer than any president since 1998. She was hired in January 2012, one year after the resignation of former superintendent Raj Chopra. Chopra resigned after his role in the South Bay corruption case was exposed by The Sun. A pay-to-play scandal cost taxpayers millions in wasted Prop R funds, stalled building projects and resulted in 165 felony indictments. Making note of these issues, the joint statement credits Nish for leading “a collaborative effort to resolve procurement issues surrounding the Proposition R bond measure” and developing the college’s corner lot.
The joint statement highlights many of Nish’s accomplishments and is published in full here:
Superintendent/President Dr. Melinda Nish has mutually agreed with the Southwestern Community College District Governing Board to leave her position with the College District effective June 30, 2016. After four and a half years of intensive work to advance the mission of Southwestern College, Dr. Nish is taking time to pursue a sabbatical for personal and other professional development opportunities.
During Dr. Nish’s tenure, the number of Southwestern College graduates transferring to the California State University system has increased significantly each of the last two years. This student success was the result of concerted efforts by District counselors, faculty and staff, and this year the Campaign for College Opportunity named Southwestern College one of the top 10 High Performing Colleges in the state.
Dr. Nish’s ability to forge alliances with university partners on both sides of the border has resulted in agreements with three Mexican universities—UTT, UABC and CETYS—to develop bilingual, binational, dual degrees. In San Diego, Dr. Nish’s partnership with UC San Diego Chancellor Dr. Pradeep Khosla resulted in 50 Southwestern College students receiving free tuition at UC San Diego upon transfer. Dr. Nish has also served as a resource for the City of Chula Vista on their University Park & Innovation District.
Working with the Governing Board, Dr. Nish has strengthened the relationship with the Sweetwater Union High School District, facilitating a successful transition between high school and college for students. Together with her partnerships with universities, the higher education opportunities have greatly expanded for South County students during her tenure at Southwestern College.
During her tenure, Dr. Nish has hired 72 full-time, tenure-track faculty, which represents 30 percent of the College’s full-time faculty, which is one of the most important factors in providing educational excellence to students.
Dr. Nish led a collaborative effort to resolve procurement issues surrounding the Proposition R bond measure and re-energize the construction program resulting in the development of the College’s corner lot—which had been vacant for more than 50 years.
The Governing Board thanks Dr. Nish for her tireless work, and wishes her success in the fulfillment of all of her pursuits.
This change provides the College with the opportunity to find its next leader to build on the hard work of our students, employees, partners and leadership over the last four years. The Board will immediately select an interim Superintendent/President, a process that will include input and participation from constituency leadership. At the same time, the Board will begin the search for a new permanent Superintendent/President through a transparent and shared process. More details regarding these plans will be shared and discussed in the coming days and weeks.