by JAMIE VERWYS and BRYAN OROZCO
In October, a group that represents full time faculty at Pima Community College raised a question to instructors that caused a heated reaction from members of the Board of Governors.
The Pima Community College Education Association, PCCEA, asked faculty of Pima if they support holding a formal confidence vote on the performance of Chancellor Lee Lambert. This question was only one component of the annual All Faculty Survey given to determine areas where the college can improve or gain insights into the college’s work environment.
In a Nov. 2 Study Session, Board chair Silvia Lee expressed concerns and disapproval for a “vote of confidence.”
“It sounds like you are trying to incite the faculty against the chancellor,” Lee said during the meeting.
She presented a page-long statement against the inclusion of this question to the Board, suggesting it be sent to all faculty. Among her concerns were that the PCCEA had not previously discussed concerns with the Board or Chancellor, and not all faculty senate had been a part of the process.
“It runs counter to building a culture of respect and puts the very future of our college at-risk,” Lee wrote in the letter.
Ana Jimenez is the Vice President of PCCEA and proved an integral part of the process, sending an email to faculty on Oct. 6 that previewed the upcoming surveys. Jimenez justified questioning support for Lambert with the voices of faculty whose morale has “plummeted.”
“The faculty concerns that prompted this letter included expressions of frustration regarding processes and procedures that had been implemented with little or no faculty input,” she said. “The annual survey is something that is administered each year and we encourage participation from all faculty every year.”
Jimenez elaborated that lack of support from the Board was unfortunate and most likely a misunderstanding of intent.
“While PCCEA is happy to explain how we determine what questions are on the survey in a given year and we always welcome the opportunity to speak directly with the Board, it was unfortunate that some Board members apparently didn’t understand our role and thus we were surprised at both the tone and content of the accusations levied during the Board Study Session,” Jimenez said.
Before the All Faculty Survey was distributed in October, reviews had already been completed on the chancellor, as well as the Board of Governors.
Using tools set by the Association of Community Colleges Trustees, a non-profit that governs community colleges throughout the United States, Pima held evaluations. It was looked at as an opportunity to discuss and clarify the performances of the board and the chancellor from the past two years.
Pima spokesperson Libby Howell said these types of evaluations are common practice in public entities.
“This is a typical process, not only for institutions in higher-ed, but for other kinds of non-profits,” she said.
“In Pima’s case, however, it is especially important because of our recent experience being placed on probation by the Higher Learning Commission. Although we are no longer on probation, it is necessary that we stay on the right path in terms of the institution’s governance.”
The board conducted a self-assessment based on nine key functional areas. The self-assessment helps the board to set standards, clarify expectations and serve as an example of the ongoing commitment to accountability and assessment for the college community, according to their self-assessment.
In comparison to their evaluation from last year, the area most improved was that the “board members keep the chancellor informed of community contacts and issues.”
The item that dropped the lowest from 2014, by .90 points, was that, “the board is adequately informed about the important issues facing the college.”
The board collectively determined that they were making progress and acknowledges that there is a lot of additional work to be done for the next year.
Part of having the self-evaluation is to see how clearly the board understands the institution’s bylaws and if further training is needed, Lee said.
“The chancellor’s job is to do the day to day management. Our job is to govern, set policies, mission, vision, but it is not to do the day to day work, and our bylaws clearly say that,” Lee said.
The board rated the chancellor on eight goals ranging from facilitating programs and services for students to increasing the level of community engagement by the board of governors as well as the chancellor.
The highest rating the chancellor received was the ability to maintain a high standard for ethics, honesty and integrity in all matters. The lowest rating he received was in rallying the college to implement standards of quality and excellence in keeping with HLC guidelines.
Howell said the All Faculty Survey will be available soon.
She said self-assessments and surveys are important in determining new goals for the college.
“This will not only help the institution move forward, but also show the HLC how serious administration and the Board is about making constructive improvements.”
Jimenez is hopeful for Pima’s future.
“There is a lot of work to be done and we hope that the future Board will make a commitment to honoring college policy, renewing trust and working with us to make Pima a wonderful place to work and learn.”