MJC faculty take issue with leader

Richard Rose
Richard Rose Unknown

After 18 months as Modesto Junior College president, Richard Rose faces a leadership struggle.

MJC's Academic Senate overwhelmingly voted Tuesday that they have no confidence in Rose's leadership. The vote comes after more than a year of strife between instructors and administrators, particularly Rose.

Faculty accuse Rose of using an authoritarian approach to running the 18,500-student campus. Rose contends instructors want more power in making decisions than they should have.

The senate consists of 30 representatives from MJC's academic and other departments. The group provides an avenue for MJC's 600 instructors to take part in legally required shared govern-ance between administrators and faculty. Two senators opposed the vote.

Rose responded to criticisms via e-mail, and was asked a second time Tuesday to speak directly to the senators. He declined, saying it was inappropriate for him to speak to the group without a formal invitation. Rose attended the vote, showing no reaction to negative comments directed at him or the vote itself.

Rose said he has concentrated on establishing policies and procedures lacking before his arrival. Faculty say the manner in which he's gone about the reshaping is what has ruffled feathers, not the changes themselves.

One of the most glaring examples of Rose's dismissal of fac-ulty input, instructors said, was his decision in May to toss aside months of committee work on determining how to spend the college's $220 million share of school bond construction funds.

Rose said he knew of tension with the senate but did not know the faculty was pushing for a no-confidence vote.

"They went from 0 to 60 like that," he said, snapping his fingers.

Academic Senate President and speech instructor Jim Sahlman disagreed, saying instructors have sat down with Rose informally to voice their objections.

The senate acknowledged the challenges Rose inherited when he came to MJC in summer 2006, such as instability in leadership because of administrator turnover; little progress with a $326 million school bond; no educational, facilities or strategic plans; and significant student enrollment declines.

Serving in his first presidency, faculty leaders said Rose might be in over his head. Rose said faculty are confused about their role at the college.

"They must be involved in the process, but they don't have a say in the decisions," Rose said.

Sahlman agreed that the Academic Senate is advisory; their issue is that Rose isn't heeding their input.

"Trust between faculty and the college president is abysmal, thus affecting cooperation, morale, energy, and professionalism," according to a Nov. 19 memo sent to the group that determines MJC's accreditation.

Sahlman said the vote is a last resort for faculty, who have repeatedly tried to meet Rose halfway.

Part of the he-said-she-said battle pits faculty against Rose over state-mandated collaboration. The law requires that California community college presidents gather recommendations from the Academic Senate on 11 areas of campus governance. If presidents choose not to follow suggestions, they must provide reasoning to support that decision, Sahlman said. Rose must make decisions based on more than just his prerogative, Sahlman said.

To address the issues, Rose sent a facultywide e-mail Thursday and another to all staff Monday.

Industrial electronics instructor and senator Jim Howen wasn't sure how he stood on the vote, saying he saw both sides. At the Nov. 29 academic senate meeting, he said it might be unfair to point the finger in one direction for MJC's tribulations. He said faculty shared in the school's trials. Howen said he wanted to hear Rose's side, but after reading the e-mails, he said he was not impressed.

The senate will take its vote tonight to MJC's governing board, the Yosemite Community College District board of trustees. That meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in the district office boardroom at 2201 Blue Gum Ave. and is open to the public.

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached atmhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339.