By Otto Pippenger
City College’s Board of Trustees voted 6-1 on June 22 to sign a contract with Mark Rocha, making him the new Chancellor. In the public comment prior to the vote, a large contingent of instructors and students voiced their strenuous objections to the Trustees’ decision, waving red paper flags to symbolize perceived “red flags” in Rocha’s professional history.
Rocha, whose master’s degree is in English, was selected from 35 candidates based largely on his long experience as a top administrator in California community colleges, beginning as college president of Santiago Canyon College in 2000 and later serving as president of Pasadena City College from 2010 to 2014.
Many of the objections raised against Rocha stemmed from a vote of no confidence he received at Pasadena City College after approving an academic calendar without a winter session. He also received complaints about his management style, his treatment of women and his annual salary of $310,500.
Several commenters read from a letter by City College instructor Karen Saginor, in which she claimed there were “numerous red flags about Mark (Rocha)” including “resistance to the Board of Trustees, noncompliance with ethics, issues with employee evaluations and a lack of transparency with regard to student government” resulting in “four years of (Rocha’s) leadership which left Pasadena City College on academic probation.”
After announcing his retirement from Pasadena City College in 2014, Rocha was a finalist for the presidency of Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn and later for chancellorship of the North Orange County Community College District, but was not selected for either position.
Rocha received $400,000 in a settlement with Pasadena City College before being ordered to return it by the Los Angeles Superior Court after a lawsuit by the nonprofit Californians Aware.
City College instructor and American Federation of Teachers Local 2121 Treasurer Alan D’Souza served on the hiring committee for the same chancellorship and spoke in reference to online complaints from former subordinates of Rocha’s at Pasadena City College.
“We evaluated candidates based on the materials presented to us. It is unsettling to hear unsolicited information telling us not to hire him—we see evidence that is very unsettling,” D’Souza said.
Prior to the vote, Board of Trustees president Thea Selby responded to criticisms, saying “He (Rocha) made difficult decisions including the decision on the winter session leading to the vote of no confidence. He has said if he could go back and change his decision he would. We have outside information including his internet reputation and financial information, and we did look at this type of information. The biggest confidence we have is that we are super committed to making sure he engages with all CCSF constituent groups…Should he turn out to be very problematic, some of us have already stated what we would do.”
Trustee Alex Randolph also addressed Rocha’s critics, saying “I think he is ready to change. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll have to hold him accountable.”
Trustee Rafael Mandelman also served on the hiring committee and agreed Rocha was best qualified in terms of resume and skills. However, he placed the lone vote against hiring Rocha based on Rocha’s legal history.
“I have believed that this is a risky choice. There is a history that is googleable that justifies the red flags people are holding,” Mandelman said.
Dr. Rocha becomes chancellor on July 1, taking over from interim chancellor Susan Lamb. He will be the first permanent chancellor of City College since Art Tyler resigned in January 2016.