Written by Gustavo Cristobal and Seji Gaerlan
During a routine Faculty Senate meeting, a sitting dean was accused of sexual harassment and the faculty union president called for his dismissal.
During the March 6 meeting, Union President Shannon Lienhart brought in a flier that addressed complaints against a “toxic dean” and in the meeting she named Arts, Media, Business, and Computer Science Division Dean Syed “Khaled” Hussain.
The headline on the flyer read, “Why is a toxic dean being protected? For the past seven months, the Faculty and Staff have been dealing with a toxic probationary Dean.”
The flier had a black and red stripe background and yellow boxes with text and was distributed to the appointed faculty, claiming that Hussain has made threats to job security, threats to courses and programs and “has acted inappropriately and has demonstrated incompetence” as a dean at Palomar.
It also called for faculty to protest next week during a Governing Board meeting to put pressure on the five, union-backed elected officials and on administrators to demand the dismissal of Hussain.
The Telescope reached out to Hussain, his boss President Joi Lin Blake, Interm Vice President Daniel Sourbeer and Palomar spokeswoman Laura Gropen for comment in regards to the grievance. All four said they could not discuss this personnel matter on the advice of their lawyer.
Lienhart said, “It basically started three weeks into his employment when we received a sexual harassment complaint regarding him and since then about three months into his employment, we had over a dozen faculty and staff that complained that he was verbally abusing them, he threatened them, he treated them with hostility, he humiliated them [and] he engaged in public shaming.”
A Human Resources member could not comment on the validity of Leinhart’s statement of sexual harassment or faculty complaints towards Hussain.
Lienhart added that the faculty union has been monitoring Hussain in the workplace and found out that he sabotages employees by creating needless meetings and requests, he creates divisiveness in departments and “he acts in authoritarian ways, [leading] to poor decisions [that] adversely affects programs and students.”
She said that the faculty union has tried to work with Sourbeer and Blake to resolve the issue to no avail.
“Five or six faculty members have suffered things like seizures, hives and serious health concerns,” Lienhart added. “We are asking for the college to step up and to surround these people that have been in serious, abusive situations under this dean and to act in solidarity.”
At the end of the report, Senate President Travis Ritt asked the rest of the senate if they had any comments or questions to add on the record, no comment was given.
According to the Complaint Process section in Palomar’s Administrative Association Handbook, complaints are first informally addressed through both parties to meet an amicable decision. If that fails, the complaint then follows a three level process.
First is a written complaint to Sourbeer, then to Blake, and finally the Governing Board.
Some of the faculty members have expressed their disappointment on how far the situation and the actions being taken on the matter is going. Donna Cosentino, a associate director of photography, said, “I am disgusted by the flyer put out by the union and the inexcusable call to arms against my Dean, Khaled Hussain.”
“This action is ruthless and divisive,” Cosentino added “I have had great interaction with our Dean since he arrived in Fall 2016. I realize there has been much upset with other staff, but my experience and that of several colleagues has been genial and respectful.”
As a sign of protest, Cosentino has terminated her membership from the faculty union as a statement that they have gone too far due to a lack of fact-finding and results form Attorney and Mediator Jose Gonzales.
“It truly feels like a witch hunt,” Cosentino said.
Lienhart and the Palomar Faculty Federation will be holding a rally from 3-3:45 p.m. on March 14 in Parking Lot 1, “in show of solidarity.” A Governing Board meeting is scheduled the same day where public comment is available from 3:45-4 p.m. in room SCC-1. It should be noted that Hussain is the division dean that over sees our publication’s department.