Students suffer as leaders fight

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The Issue: 

William Stewart’s resignation underscores lingering problems with veracity and trust.

Our Position: 

All factions of the college need to stop fighting and work together.

 

William Stewart’s stunning Friday evening resignation from the governing board was a profound disappointment to the editorial board of this newspaper which voted unanimously last fall to endorse the cheerful and brainy philosophy professor. We would have preferred that he had stayed and fought for students against an administration that has eviscerated academic programs rather than make his dramatic act of principle. We were thrilled to have a professor on the board and very sorry to see him go.

Having said that, it is time to examine his stated reasons for leaving. In his resignation letter Stewart made many very valid points that reflect what a lot of people on and off this campus have been saying for months. SWC seems to be out of the corruption frying pan and into the incompetence (or inexperience) fire.

Stewart expressed extreme disappointment in the administration for what he called its inability to provide full and accurate budget forecasts. He is not alone. Faculty union leaders have been saying the same thing for months. There are two possible explanations: intentional deception or inexperience. We are going to give our green administration the benefit of the doubt for the time being and go with the latter. It is not a valid excuse, but it beats the alternative. Dr. Melinda Nish gambled her presidency on a universally-criticized $100,000 gambit to boost vice president salaries by nearly $25,000 so she could attract “quality candidates.”

So far we are forced to wonder if the taxpayers are getting their money’s worth. We will not, at this time, question anyone’s motives. It is beyond debate, however, that the fearless five at the top of the pyramid have committed a series of very serious blunders, including the VP raises, the toxic threat of layoffs, calculation errors, misleading emails and picking unnecessary fights.

The current governing board has worked tirelessly to clean up the filth that the Chopra regime left in its wake and cast aside the perception that there is corruption afoot. Tim Nader, Norma Hernandez and Humberto Peraza deserve our appreciation for cleaning out the barn.  The current board has done an admirable job picking up the pieces and restoring a college in shambles. It should, however, be a little more realistic about their administrators and dial back the lavish praise that is not yet deserved. The board needs to stop coddling administrators and hold them accountable for the mistrust and anger they have caused on campus.

There is an aura of mistrust between the administration, faculty and staff reminiscent of the Chopra years that needs to be addressed. This mistrust can be eliminated only by teams willing to work honestly with one another, not against each other, to solve the college’s sizable problems. John Fitzgerald Kennedy once said, “To state the facts frankly is not to despair the future nor indict the past. The prudent heir takes careful inventory of his legacies, and gives a faithful accounting to those whom he owes an obligation of trust.”

The administration owes this college that obligation. We need clear, complete and unbiased data from the leaders of this campus without cherry picking. Then, and only then, can we engage in a meaningful discussion.

Freedom of information and transparency remains a struggle on this campus and the campus newspaper has endured its share of high-handedness by some (not all) administrators. That makes it easy to believe that Stewart and faculty negotiators have experienced the same thing.

Dr. Nish is in the 15th month of her 24-month contract. She still needs and deserves the opportunity to show us she is up to this job, at least until December. Faculty need to shred the no-confidence petitions and give the lady a chance.

A few well-intended suggestions to our president from your loyal students:

Be humble. You are new to the job and our community, and you do not know everything. No one expects you to. Stop acting like you do.

Listen. Really listen. We liked the Dr. Nish Listening Tour last year. That was a great idea. Time for another.

Remember your reason for being here. You are here to serve students, not to put notches on the handle of your gun. Stop looking at everything as winning and losing. Let’s all win.

Faculty and employees, take a deep breath and get back to the table. Our accreditation body is watching and so is the community. As Mr. Peraza said, play nice. The board has offered an olive branch, take it graciously and work together to drain this swamp. Together we can do this!

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