By Jennifer Yin
Chancellor Mark Rocha has received ample criticism from students, faculty, and labor organizations since his hiring in 2017.
As reported in several Guardsman issues from this semester, the college’s administration has reduced the number of educational counselors, full-time faculty, course listings, and library hours since Rocha’s establishment as chancellor.
Critics of Rocha include a newly formed coalition of students, faculty, and community members known as the Higher Education Action Team (HEAT).
HEAT member, Julieta Kusnir, stated the main focus of the organization is to seek the restoration of classes, encourage growth in student access to services, and the implement longer library hours.
“We are doing all we can to engage everyone possible. It is important to recognize the final decision making is with the administration. They decide what is valued at the school, and HEAT wants to make sure students success is valued,” Kusnir said.
The organization also demands the college have a printed class schedule for Spring 2020 no later than Nov. 15, that class cancellations are only permitted after the second week of term, and that administrators allow departments themselves to decide which classes to add and remove without interference.
HEAT will call on the college’s community to organize a vote of no-confidence towards Chancellor Rocha if he fails to comply with their demands. A vote of no-confidence is a statement, or vote to whether a person in a position of power is no longer deemed fit to hold their position.
However, a vote of no-confidence for Chancellor Rocha at City College would not be the first Rocha has received.
The chancellor’s prior position as president of Pasadena City College ended with two votes of no-confidence. According to the Los Angeles Times, as the former president, Rocha received criticism from Pasadena’s faculty and student body for approving the cancellation of the college’s winter session.
On Aug. 29, 2012, Pasadena’s Board of Trustees cancelled the college’s winter intersession without the approval of any shared governance body, including the calendar committee, the college council, and the academic senate.
According to a Coalition of Students and Faculty for Student Achievement (CSFSA) at Pasadena City College, the cancellation of Pasadena’s winter session was supposedly to save the college an estimated $1 million in savings. However, documents later released by the Pasadena City College CSFSA, revealed the college saved only $589,000 from cancelling its winter session.
On Feb. 21, 2012, students at Pasadena City College staged a 300 person walkout, in response to the cancellation of more than 50 classes and the firing of 45 professors. These cuts occurred one week prior to the start of the college’s Spring Semester.
The following day, Pasadena students disrupted a Board of Trustees meeting.
“For years we followed the process, we wrote to you, we attended your meetings, we tried to tell you, you said that would work, and it did not. You cut our classes, our education, and our future,” Pasadena protesters shouted.
Rocha ended his four-year term at Pasadena City College in August of 2014.
The college nullified a nearly $400,000 severance deal with their former president, after the Board of Trustees violated the Ralph M. Brown Act by not discussing Rocha’s retirement and severance package in an open meeting.
The Ralph M. Brown Act guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies. The Los Angeles Times noted how it is unclear if Rocha was required to return the $400 thousand dollars.
Pasadena City College’s current president, Erika Endrijonas, was unable to speak on behalf of Chancellor Rocha’s tenure and accomplishments when contacted.
Similarly to Pasadena City College, City College of San Francisco, under Rocha, experienced a reduction in course and class offerings as well and a reduction in faculty.
Additionally, both college’s administrations suggested salary increases for administrators and an expansion of class sizes to meet the college’s budget.
During an interview with the Guardsman, Chancellor Mark Rocha had the opportunity to explain the actions he took as president of Pasadena City College.
“I am proud of my record at Pasadena. I’ll stand on my record. Here and everywhere else. The fact of the matter is at Pasadena, we increased enrollment rate, graduation rate, and Pasadena is one of the most successful colleges for graduation and transfer. The work we did together such as, the information technology system we put in. We would be so happy here, if we had Pasadena’s IT system. Additionally, a vote of no confidence is an expression of people’s opinion,” said Chancellor Rocha.
When questioned as to whether or not there has been a change in management style from his time at Pasadena to his time at City College, he responded no.
The chancellor’s vision for a more sustainable future for City College includes an administrative salary increase for the recruitment and retention of the best faculty possible. Critics of the proposed salary increase emphasized the timing of the raises, due to the college’s recent budget cuts given to most departments.
“I know there is never a right time to raise administrative salaries, but I do think this is an important time to do so because we have a lot of administrative vacancies. Our experience has been that it’s really hard to recruit top people, especially in information technology and in areas like that,” said Rocha.
The Board of Trustees has since approved the administrative salary increase as of Sept. 26, 2019, with a vote of 5-1.
Trustee Ivy Lee was the only trustee to vote against the salary increase.
“I just want to be clear I did not support the salary increase because my suggestion is, I want an independent analysis first. I do not think the timing is right for us to vote, but the Board of Trustees has voted,” Lee said.
The role of a budget analysis is to produce an independent analysis of the college’s overall budget, and analyze items such as expenditures and salary schedules.
Lee believes “it is important to have the controller (analyst) and the budget analysis. The results of the analysis show that the 10% raise is justified, then that makes it retroactive. What that means no one is going to lose out. We are not taking money away from anyone. Everyone will be able to see how we have arrived to this proposal, and at these numbers.”
Lee’s request for an independent analysis has been approved by the Board of Trustees.
As for the rest of the concerns of the student body, Rocha suggested to follow the college’s democratic process and to attend and express views at regular Board of Trustee meetings. In addition Rocha suggested how HEAT, members or any other individuals can consult with the college’s participatory governance counsel or the Board of Trustees regarding change.