Toward the end of last year in our Winter Edition we printed a story about the YCCD human resource director Albert Alt. Amongst the various faculty negotiations and their progress the relationship between the Yuba College Board of Trustees and the Faculty/Academic Senate had been deteriorating. Up until now that relationship had been tenuous at best with contention on both sides.
Faculty and the board seemed to come to a standstill on contract negotiations during the budget crisis and in the end, a contract was negotiated after very rough rounds.
A firing of an employee for the taking of a table from a vehicle headed to a dump inspired some angst as well. Some believe the board wanted to get rid of this individual and used the incident to get their way. We were unable to acquire a comment on this from persons on the Board.
More importantly to students, however, is the conflict between the board of directors and the Academic Senate. During the incident with Alt, the Academic Senate was accused to over-stepping its bounds into personnel issues by initiating the vote of no confidence in Alt, but the Senate denied the claims.
The Academic Senate president, Helen Nickolson, had mentioned that the Board is having a lot of closed sessions. The Board can legally, and is required to, go into closed session for personnel, property, and legal isssues. The Board always seems to have an unanimous decision on matters which it decides upon. The Senate finds it hard to believe that on every decision everyone has the same opinion.
At a recent Academic Senate meeting, the idea of disbanding the Senate altogether to send a message to the Board was flirted with. Thankfully that option was not pursued, as it potentially could have stripped our college of accreditation.
Early on it was common for the Senate President to co-chair the admin hiring committee which does as it sounds: considers new-hires. However, after doing so for some time, the Board decided to exclude the president.
The most recent issue between the Academic Senate and the Board involved a tenure hearing. Now normal procedure is for the Academic Senate to approve or deny tenure to an instructor. If the tenure is denied that is it, but if it is approved then the result is forwarded to the board designee, who in this case was Nicki Harrington, to bring before the board for approval. Should the board not approve it the Academic Senate is permitted to present before the Board its reasoning as to why it should be approved. The thing is that Board did not approve the tenure approved by the senate, and gave no chance for the Senate to explain why as they are permitted to under law.
The Senate feels as if it is slowly being placed in the back seat of this vehicle and have not had much cooperation from the Board until now.
The Academic Senate issued a request to meet with the Board and administration approval, and it was granted. The Senate seeks the option to evaluate their immediate supervisors much in the way that the students rate some instructors based on their experiences with them. “I hope by talking, discussing, and structuring that we will see the light to go forward despite our conflicts, our goal is to provide quality education for our students to achieve our outcomes.” said Helen Nickolson, President of the Academic Senate.
Alan Florey, the Board president, had a much different side of the story. According to him an independant third party investigative firm was hired to review the issue and Mr. Alt. The firm reported that the claims against Alt were unfounded so no action was taken. He said “I believe it is best to weigh the evidence and take action accordingly”
He also said that it didn’t make much sense to be on the committee that is hiring your boss. He did mention however that the senate does weigh in on hiring of faculty.
In regards to the closed sessions, Florey stated that the Board meets in closed session once a month which is relatively low comparative to the city board. He also stated that the closed sessions have been required due to personnel issues, namely the contract conflict, and that the Board seems unanimous because they remove all non-unanimous issues from the agenda and pursue them personally on the outside. Another thing Florey said regarding the meetings was that the reports given seem like one sided reports because the board cannot respond to a report until it is agendized where it can be discussed next meeting.
Regarding the tenure hearing issue Florey said that all he received from the Senate was a sentence or two saying we approve tenure. He wondered why they felt they should have a second crack at the bat.