On the night of November 19, almost a hundred people sat in silence as the Yuba Community College District Board recognized a student from Woodland College, Carlos Ledesma, who represented his college’s branch of MEChA.The conference room was filled to the brim. The gathering was attended by a variety of people: the Board of Trustees, the presidents of the Senates, concerned citizens, the media, but more than any others, the faculty of YCCD. They, along with members of the classified staff, sat patiently through the meeting, all showing unity by sporting their faculty shirts and blue-and-yellow ribbons, and all looking up to the podium as Ledesma began his speech.
He spoke passionately to the Board on behalf of his club and students in general, bringing to summation things that faculty and classified staff were reluctant or even afraid to say. The topic of this meeting: YCCD’s Human Resources Director, Albert Alt. Ledesma spoke out against Alt in light of allegations of misconduct and incompetence on his part. Speaking on its behalf, he made it clear that MEChA would not stand for such behavior in the ranks of the school’s administration, even going so far as to say that if the Board would not take action in such a situation, then motions should be made to call for the resignation of Chancellor Nikki Harrington.
The closing of his speech drew applause from the faculty and their supporters, who have gone to Harrington in the past in regards to Alt, but to no avail.
The evidence of the faculty’s concerns had been brought together in a packet of information detailing both recent incidents and those from Alt’s past. This packet, known simply as “the 66-page document,” was issued by the Yuba College Faculty Association, the teacher’s union within YCCD, for review by the YCCD Board after several months of research and review.
As several news articles within the document reveal, Al Alt comes to us from a law enforcement background. Once a member of the Redding Police Department, his career came to an end in 1998 after being charged with insurance fraud and falsifying a police report. These charges were made after his girlfriend at the time told police that he had sold horse tack which he claimed had been stolen. Alt pleaded no contest to these charges, which were later dismissed. He served no jail time and was not given a criminal record, which explains why his past was never questioned during his hiring process.
During this time, his girlfriend also had a restraining order placed on Alt. Her statement to the Superior Court of California paints a disturbing picture, accusing him of constant verbal and physical abuse, as well as repeated threats to kill her, her dog, and even himself if she were to leave him. These accusations ultimately resulted in a restraining order against Alt, who denied every allegation made against him. In a recent interview, though, she seems to have let go of any hard feelings. “I hold no ill will,” she said in a recent interview. Although she sees no problems with Alt, she did seem incensed that the YCFA used public documents from her restraining order as part of its case, calling it “shameful” and “ridiculous.”
Almost ten years later, Alt found himself again in conflict with his responsibilities. As the Human Resources Director for YCCD, Alt was charged with the responsibility of verifying the validity of degrees held by administrators and faculty. He himself was the bearer of doctorate from Madison University. Or so he thought.
Alt, who already held a master’s degree from CSU Chico, obtained his PhD in 2004 from a series of online courses with Madison. A few years later, however, he began questioning the legitimacy of both the university and his degree, and eventually discovered that Madison is unaccredited, and not even recognized by the US government as a legitimate institution.
Concerns over the estimated $8,000 Alt received as a doctoral stipend over 4 years are overshadowed by the fact that the very credibility of YCCD has been put into question. Publications such as Inside Higher Ed covered the incident extensively, bringing sharp criticism from educators nationwide. “Absolutely no excuse for someone in higher education,” wrote Janet Moye Cornick, policy analyst who commented on Scott Jascick’s article about Alt on the Inside Higher Ed website. “To get a good doctorate takes time; not only should his salary be changed, he should also resign.”
Alt was found not to be at fault over this issue. He claimed that he was under the impression that Madison was getting accreditation, though the university makes no such claims. Since then, Alt has continued his work as the HR Director, less his doctoral stipend and some amount of credibility.
However, it would not be long before Alt allegedly sparked an incident that would result in the faculty calling for his resignation.
In September, Yuba College’s Dean of Language and Fine Arts, Kevin Dobbs, went to the office of Dr. Kevin Trutna to speak about a coordinator position within the English department. According to Dobbs’ statement, Alt was brought into the meeting by Trutna, with Alt seating himself with his back towards the door to Trutna’s meeting room. Alt then allegedly made rude comments about faculty and how he “hated teachers.” Dobbs claims that Alt suddenly pointed to him and and said, “If you don’t come 100 percent over to management’s side, you’re gonna burn, and it’s gonna be a slow burn.” Dobbs says that he tried to leave after Alt’s alleged threat, but Alt blocked the door. After calling for help several times, Dobbs claims that Alt finally moved and let him out of the room.
Such statements are taken with utmost seriousness by the YCFA. Dobbs’ statement has made the faculty increasingly wary of being in Alt’s presence, especially when alone. Some staff members have elected to stop meeting with Alt altogether.
Other faculty, however, have stood up in light of these allegations. Some faculty members have begun to make their thoughts on Alt public. Brian Jukes, an English professor at Yuba College, is one such teacher, and has long believed that Alt is unsuited to his position. “This is somebody who, I think… has a history of making very poor judgments when it comes to his relationships with colleagues and others within the college,” Jukes said. He also spoke at the November 19 Board meeting, correcting assumptions that Yuba College’s Academic Senate had been responsible for gathering and issuing the 66-page document and that it was the body presenting the resolution against Alt.
Alt himself has not said much to the public regarding these matters. The Prospector has made several requests to Alt for an interview, but he ultimately remained silent. He was, though, present at the meeting which could very well have decided the course of his career; specifically, whether or not it would end. He looked on, with Dr. Trutna sitting at his side, as Jukes; Ledesma; Monica Chahal, who read the District faculty’s resolution against Alt; and Professor Lisa Jensen-Martin, president of the Yuba College Faculty Association, made statements in regards to Alt and his alleged behavior.
When all was said and done, the lawyer representing the YCCD Board took the podium and made a powerful argument against the validity of the faculty’s case. “The actions of the Yuba College Academic Senate were illegal, unconstitutional and unprofessional,” he said, bringing forth moans and other sounds of discontent from the faculty as he explained how the Academic Senate overstepped its boundaries and authority by “investigating” a personnel matter. The Senate, he claimed, has power only in the academic realm, being curriculum and other strictly educational matters. When he had finished his piece, not a single pair of hands gave applause, a sign that the meeting had taken a sharp turn away from the confidence and optimism that was prevalent only minutes before.
However, what was perhaps the most important statement made that night did not come from lawyers or faculty, or even from the elected Board members. The Student Representative to the Board, Juan Cervantes, made a motion for rebuttal after the lawyer had spoken, which might have provided the opportunity to challenge what was perceived to be poor logic and spin on the part of the lawyer. The other members of the Board sat silent, no one seconding the motion, and the meeting proceeded. The voice of the students at that meeting was muted.
The faculty suffered a great blow to their case, but their resolve has not weakened. Assembling immediately after the meeting, they discussed at length what road they might take to ensure their friends and colleagues would never be under threat, real or perceived, again. Many more meetings and contention lie ahead, and the veracity of Dobbs’ statements, as well as future of Mr. Alt, are yet unknown.
The next Board meeting will be held place at Yuba College on December 10 at 4:00 p.m. This will be the chance for any concerned students to voice their opinions on the matter and to support the student representative, Cervantes, should the Board choose once again to still the voice of the college.