A lack of leadership
Teacher survey respondents slam PCC president and trustees
By André Coleman 05/08/2014
Pasadena City College officials are hoping that when Oscar-winning screenwriter, gay rights activist and PCC alumnus Dustin Lance Black finishes addressing students at Friday’s planned graduation ceremony the latest in a stream of recent embarrassments will be put behind them.
The trouble is, if the results of a recent survey are any indication, the people responsible for creating problems and portraying the college in the worst possible light — President Dr. Mark Rocha and the PCC Board of Trustees — will still be running the campus long after Black leaves town.
“Faculty relations and shared governance have become a joke,” one faculty member wrote in a recent anonymous survey taken of faculty members. “Morale is at a 25-year low and yet it feels like the president and board are turning a blind eye and blaming the faculty for being whiners. I am a good, loyal, valued faculty member who has never voiced any complaints until this regime.”
That staff member met with Rocha several times, according to the survey comments, and left those meetings without hope of improvement. “I have come to the rather frustrating and hopeless conclusion that positive change is not possible while Dr. Rocha and [Vice President] Dr. [Robert] Bell are in their positions. Dr. Rocha is a bully and Dr. Bell is incompetent. Please, somebody hear our comments and help.”
Conducted by the Academic Senate Ad Hoc Committee, a portion of the 32-question survey concludes that “President Rocha is severely lacking in his performance in all areas of his evaluation.”
Rocha did not return several calls for comment on this story.
This is Rocha’s only evaluation, albeit highly informal, since coming to the campus in 2010. At that time, trustees voted to change the board’s policy of holding campus-wide evaluations of the president from even-numbered years to every four years. The change also disallows anonymous comments.
“Perhaps we shouldn’t have changed policy to change the campus-wide evaluation from every year to every four years,” said Student Trustee Simon Fraser. “If we had evaluated him then an outside student organization would not have had to do it.”
PCC Associated Student Body (ASB) President Jordyn Orozco told the Pasadena Weekly that although he has had good interactions with Rocha and the faculty, it seems like both sides are more interested in arguing than listening to anyone.
“Nobody is looking for the root of the problem, and because Rocha is the face of the college, he receives the brunt of the criticism for the problems,” Orozco said.
In the last three years, college officials have been forced to explain how a professor could teach a class on Internet pornography, bring porn stars on campus to speak to students and even admit to having sex on campus with one of his students without facing some questioning and possible discipline.
In another incident, the administration suspended a journalism professor advising college newspaper reporters, who wrote several stories critical of Rocha and the cancellation of the schools winter intersession. The suspension was brought on by a claim of sexual harassment filed by a male journalism student following widespread protests against the decision to cut the winter classes. The trustees denied the student’s claims, and Rocha denied the decision to put the teacher on leave was retaliatory, but the teacher has yet to be reinstated.
In the latest scandal, Rocha engineered a move to withdraw an invitation to Black to speak at the school’s commencement ceremony Friday due to a sex tape scandal which made national headlines. According to Black, the tape was later sold without his permission, and he was awarded $100,000 in the case. The college claimed that the Oscar-winning screenwriter was never officially invited to speak at the campus and was merely on a list along with seven other possible speakers.
After dumping Black, who was initially asked to speak by Fraser, Rocha asked Pasadena Public Health Director Eric Walsh to lead the commencement proceedings. But that also resulted in a black eye for the college after it was discovered that Walsh has made controversial comments regarding Catholicism, homosexuals, evolution and a host of other issues during sermons he delivered as a Seventh-day Adventist preacher.
Last Wednesday, the board voted to formally re-invite Black to give the commencement speech, and last Saturday it was reported Black would take part in the ceremonies.
The survey was answered by 158 people, or about 45 percent of the staff. The survey’s six subject areas were: Student Learning and Services; Faculty, Staff and Administrative Relations; Public and Community Relations; Governance and Institutional Leadership; Budgetary and Fiscal Management; and Board of Trustees Relations.
In each category, more than 50 percent of the respondents rated Rocha as very low. Ninety-five percent of the respondents rated him poorly in fostering an environment conducive to harmonious employee relations. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said Rocha did not promote academic and instructional excellence.
The survey also included three open-ended questions to allow respondents to answer questions about Rocha’s performance in their own words. The questions were “What is working?” “What is not working?” “What are suggestions for positive change?”
Most respondents felt “nothing” was working. Of the remaining two questions the most common response was the president’s leadership was not working and that removing Rocha would result in positive change.
Rocha also received low marks across the board on leadership, faculty relations and budgetary and fiscal management.
Last year, Rocha received votes of no-confidence from the school’s faculty ad hoc committee and the Associated Student Body, ASB, after canceling the school’s winter intersession classes without first properly negotiating with faulty over the academic calendar. At the time, Fraser was president of the ASB, which was against the class cuts and the way they were implemented. A court later ruled that the college had acted inappropriately and must reinstate the winter intersession and dole out back pay to instructors who usually teach during those courses.
According to Trustee Bill Thomson, there have been no discussions among board members to replace Rocha.
“There has been no directive from the board for anything like that,” Thomson told the Weekly.
“As far as we are concerned, he is there and will be until he decides to move on.”
“Hopefully it [puts] the mess behind us,” said Trustee Ross Selvidge. “It has not been handled the way that it should have been.”
Selvidge told the Weekly he was happy that the board passed his motion to invite Black to speak at the ceremony.
“This whole sorry and embarrassing ordeal could have easily been avoided,” Selvidge told the Weekly. “And the issue could have been dealt with openly in public if PCC students hadn’t been prevented from having a meaningful voice at the April 2 board meeting because information given earlier to other board members was withheld from [Fraser]. I am glad the students and everyone else can look forward to a great commencement ceremony on Friday.”