With changes happening quickly at Yuba College, it’s reasonable to be wary. Former Vice President Dr. Kevin Trutna is “on loan” to a college outside of our district, former President Dr. Kay Adkins and former Vice Chancellor Dr. Beatriz Espinoza left for positions in other states, and the second Vice Chancellor spot formerly held by Al Alt was eliminated – all over the summer. Speculations are running through minds of faculty and students, hopes and fears are being voiced, and rumors are spreading like wildfire. After gaining Chancellor Dr. Douglas Houston a year ago when Nikki Harrington retired early, people are wondering if it’s too much, too soon.
According to new Interim Vice Chancellor, Dr. Kayleigh Carabajal – appointed by Dr. Houston after working together at Lassen Community College, where she just left her position as Dean of Academic Services – Dr. Houston has created a three phase reorganization plan for Yuba College. Dr. Carabajal states, “Initiating this process he began reorganizing the functions furthest from students that have the least direct impact on them, so he made the deliberate decision to administratively reduce.”
Dr. Carabajal says she spends a lot of time prioritizing plans. “Phase 1 of reorganization will save nearly half a million dollars. Phase 2, which started on Wednesday (September 5, 2012), addresses the manner in which we deliver student services like financial aid, counseling, assessment, and tutoring. We will realign processes as we enhance services offered to students. We’re striving for a world class learning experience for students, but in cost effective ways, in an era when cost has an impact.” She explains the half million saved becomes a safety net, in case the tax initiative, Prop 30, fails to pass in November and we get a 7.3% workload reduction at our college.
Phase 3 will look at and reinvent educational courses and programs offered to students. Dr. Carabajal says, “Student services reorganization is being done by people working in student services, with their recommendations of what is needed. Educational reorganization will be the same – done by faculty so it’ll be most effective for students, rather than being developed and imposed upon them by administrators.”
Lisa Jensen-Martin, former Psychology professor and six year President of the Yuba College Faculty Association – appointed Acting Vice President – says, “In the huge upper management transition, there needed to be someone who knew Yuba, with an ability to keep the college in good working condition, and also navigate the upcoming accreditation in October. We had a pre-meeting yesterday with the chair of the accrediting team yesterday.”
Rod Beilby, former Dean of Athletics and acting President of Yuba College, who was interviewed with Jensen-Martin, say faculty members are stepping up to fill spots that were left open from leadership changes. “It’s challenging. Our chancellor advertised to find someone from the outside to come in as Interim President for the year, but it didn’t happen as planned. Two weeks before the semester started, I was called by him asking to meet with me. I knew our President and Vice President were gone but I had no idea what he was thinking; this was the furthest thing from my mind. I was asked to be Acting President until the end of September, then become Interim President for the year until someone permanent is hired.”
Asked if they felt capable of improving issues at Yuba College, Jensen-Martin immediately and confidently answered, “I don’t think either one of us would’ve come into the situation thinking that we couldn’t do it. I’d never come into a situation that I knew I was going fail at, and I know Rod feels the same way. Yes there’s a lot of work and a lot of things that could have been done differently to better situations, but Rod and I have committed to take one step at a time and make positive changes every day we are here.”
Beilby says, “From day one we moved forward without worrying about things in the past. You can only worry about things you can control and prior to us sitting in these seats, we had no control. Now we do, and not just with Measure J but with many things affecting this campus. With our backgrounds, we’re strong willed people and not afraid to be vocal. Neither of us have hidden agendas; we’re in it for the best interest of the college and specifically for the students in the community. Neither of us applied or politicked for these jobs; they came out of left field and blindsided us.”
In regards to specific plans for improvement, Jensen-Martin responds, “One thing I’m focusing on is the college council, to make sure that it’s a shared governance body with all stakeholders from students, to staff and faculty, to administrators having a voice on significant issues to the college. Issues will be looked at, solutions and options considered, and recommendations go forward to the president, who’ll always have ultimate decision making say. Our college has yearned for true participatory governance; I believe the college council is the place to have it. We’ll have meetings on things that have college wide implications. This is now on Fridays in room 303 from 1:00-3:00. We have student representatives in the Associated Students of Yuba College (ASYC) but any students willing to participate are welcome. That’s one of my big goals. If it happens, even when Rod and I are gone, it’ll be a positive change that will hopefully continue.”
Beilby says, “There’s various reasons in the past as to why we splintered with shared governance but coming from an athletic background, I know the only way teams become successful is to get everyone on board, so that’s my biggest challenge. I know it can be done because we have all the right people. It’s a matter of getting them together and putting them in one room so we can get changes going in a positive direction. We may have to ultimately make decisions but we want input before we make them, so they don’t come back on us without us having considered certain things because we didn’t include everyone in it.”
Dr. Houston and the administrators face a series of problems with high stakes; the downfall of wrong decisions can affect everyone involved with Yuba College – from those fresh-out-of-high school students beginning college careers, to transfer students getting through that last math class to move on to higher education, to staff and faculty. You could find yourself thrown under the bus for a number of reasons, if the problems arising aren’t dealt with swiftly and efficiently.
Our new administrators appear to be on the same page, along with our chancellor, with their goals and priorities. It seems these changes thus far have brought with them a group of strong, committed individuals with fresh outlooks, ideas, and problem-solving techniques. Rather than hoping they’re what we need to move forward towards improving how our school is run, let’s get involved and make sure.