Trustee apologizes for ‘culture of mistrust’

By Don Clyde
The Guardsman


A resolution to set budget priorities presented at the City College Board of Trustees meeting on March 25 led to an admission by one trustee of a “culture of mistrust” between the board and the faculty, staff and students.

The comment came after a lengthy discussion about the resolution in which several board members said they had not seen the budget priority list and faculty and staff members said there were glaring omissions. Faculty and staff members said they were shut out of the budget decision-making process.

“I want to apologize to everyone at this college and to the chancellor to the extent that I have contributed in some ways to this very clear culture of mistrust between the board and everyone else here,” Trustee Steve Ngo said. “There is clearly something wrong in the way that we are interacting with each other.”

Meeting attendees applauded the admission that there appeared to be a disconnect between the board and various constituent groups on campus.

“Given that we have that shared interest, and we all acknowledge that shared interest, let’s communicate to each other in a way that acknowledges that we have those concerns and that deep devotion and care for the same people at this college,” Ngo said.

The resolution, written by Trustees Chris Jackson and Steve Ngo, determines that the budget for fiscal year 2010-2011 should incorporate priorities like maintaining fiscal solvency, retaining full-time faculty and resuming summer school in 2011 at about 40 percent of the 2009 level.

Ed Murray, vice president of American Federation of Teachers, Local 2121 said AFT hadn’t seen a draft of the priorities and requested retention of part-time faculty be added to the resolution.
Classified Senate President Attila Gabor said the trustees needed to add retention of full- and part-time classified staff.

“You all lock us out, we’re gonna vote you all out,” said Doretha Evans, a Service Employees International Union, Local 1021 member and community organizer.

Trustees Natalie Berg and Lawrence Wong said they opposed the resolution because they had not even seen it before the board meeting.

“The process in the past has been far more full of sunshine,” Berg said.

However, after it became known during the board meeting that Chancellor Don Griffin sat in on a March 9 Budget and Planning Committee meeting to set the budget priorities, the faculty, staff and opposed board members began to express approval of the priorities. Griffin said most of them were necessary.

Griffin ran down the list of priorities and explained their importance.

“We must have a summer. It’s not even an option about having a summer,” Griffin said about summer school 2011. “Without the summer we cannot generate enough enrollment in fall and spring to maintain the solvency of the college.”

Trustee Anita Grier said the chancellor’s comments gave life to the priorities and Wong said he was more accepting of the budget priority list

“The minute that the chancellor said openly that he had a role in this, drafting of this document, people changed their minds,” Ngo said. “That’s important, because you clearly trust him.  So do I. Let’s trust him to do his job.”

Meeting attendees burst into applause.

After many amendments to the budget priorities resolution, including the retention of full- and part-time faculty and classified staff, a restoration of 2011 summer classes to the highest extent possible and the restoration of as many regular semester cut classes as possible, the resolution passed a board vote with only Trustee Milton Marks III objecting.

Marks said during the meeting the whole process had been sloppy.

The next Board of Trustees meeting will be held on April 29 at 33 Gough St. in San Francisco.

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