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Faculty members express ‘sadness and anxiety’ over petition

Story by Ana Acosta

Faculty will vote on their level of confidence in the future of President/Superintendent Joi Lin Blake’s leadership.

The poll was distributed to full-time faculty members on Oct. 4, collected on  Oct. 21, and will be counted on Oct. 28.

The Faculty Senate will present the results at the Nov. 12 Governing Board meeting. President Blake has chosen not to respond at this time.

president joi lin blake
President Blake at the Governing Board meeting on Oct. 8. Justin Enriquez/The Telescope

Two faculty members, Barbara Kelber and Jerry Jenkins, presented the petition that requested the Faculty Senate to issue the poll at the Sept. 23 meeting.

In an email, Kelber expressed why Jenkins and herself decided to initiate the petition.

“My disappointment and discouragement had been building over a year’s time,” Kelber wrote.

“Like Dr. Kelber, my decision to create the petition came with extreme sadness and anxiety,” Jenkins wrote in an email.

The petition outlined three main concerns regarding President Blake’s three year tenure. The first being the dismissal or departure of “several skilled, qualified administrators.”

Kelber said that the resignation of Star Rivera-Lacy was the first reason why she decided to take action.

“VP Lacey was the latest of several high-level administrators who represented talent and diversity and who resigned or were dismissed,” Kelber wrote. “This is alarming, and the situation continues to damage our college.”

Another reason listed on the official ballot said that President Blake has failed to consistently follow shared governance policies, specifically regarding the establishment of the Middle College program in Fall 2020. Kelber said that the program went without required shared governance discussion.

Instead, the Middle College program was announced in a published guest column piece for the San Diego Union Tribune that was written by President Blake.

“I was stunned and angry,” Kelber wrote. “This had not been properly reviewed and discussed in our regular shared governance councils, and launching yet another initiative in these unstable times seemed foolish and lacking in careful consideration.”

According to the Faculty Senate Constitution, 10 percent of full-time faculty members must sign a petition to initiate an opinion poll regarding either policies or people hired.

Kelber and Jenkins created the petition and received 40 signatures to represent the required 10 percent of full-time faculty members.

Some faculty members also shared why they decided to sign the petition. April Cunningham, Palomar’s Instruction Librarian, shared her reasons for signing.

april cunningham
April Cunningham at the Palomar College Governing Board Meeting, San Marcos Campus, Oct. 8, 2019. Adel Bautista/The Telescope.

“There’s been a lot of talk for at least the past year about what most people call a ‘vote of no confidence’,” Cunningham wrote in an email. “I thought it was time to move us forward instead of keeping us swirling around the same rumors
and concerns.”

Beth Pearson, another faculty member who shared her reasons for signing the petition.

“My concern about the leadership at Palomar College has intensified in the last few months with the departure of several respected Vice Presidents and Deans,” Pearson wrote in an email. “And because of my own experience working with President Blake in which I observed behavior that I and my colleagues in the room considered disrespectful and unprofessional.”

Anonymous poll ballots were distributed through campus mail on Oct. 4 to full-time and probationary faculty members. The ballots will be collected on Oct. 21 and counted at the Oct. 28 Faculty Senate meeting. An independent third-party member of the League of Women Voters will be present to witness the counting.

“I think there are many other faculty like me, who have not yet made up their mind about how confident they feel about Dr. Blake’s leadership,” Cunningham wrote. “Even though calling it a vote of no confidence makes it sound that we already know the outcome, for faculty who are confident that Dr. Blake is leading the district well, the poll is a chance to have their point of view counted.”

Kelber wrote in an email that the goal of the petition is to reflect the opinion of all full-time faculty members.

“I hope the outcome will be based on 100 percent voting participation among the full-time faculty (the only group voting),” Kelber wrote.

“Whether the outcome reflects broad confidence in President Blake’s ability to lead us at this critical time, or no confidence at all, the Faculty Senate will report the results to the Governing Board and the Faculty will have had a voice in guiding the Board’s actions going forward.”

aacosta@the-telescope.com

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