President Mark Rocha extended a peace offering in the form of a letter to faculty days after a contentious Board of Trustees meeting in which many individuals read letters highly critical of him and his policies.
His letter included two promises to help fix the hostile climate on campus, along with his sympathies to faculty about working under stressful times.
“Two things I promise: I am here to listen and we start this process of hearing today. As I hear you express dismay at the current campus climate, I want you to know that I share your feelings and your deep concerns. The current climate is not good if it distracts even one of you from putting your full energy into the service of your students.”
At the Board meeting, of the 15 public comments, 13 were directed at Rocha and his administration. Before public comment began, Board President John Martin advised the audience to keep public comments professional and to keep a civil discourse.
â€œIf there is ever a place that civil discourse needs to happen itâ€™s on community college campuses where freedom of thought is so highly prized,â€ he said.
The majority of the speakers kept their comments professional and closely within the three-minute time limit set by the board.
Another letter read and written by Instructor Lauren Anderson blamed Rocha and his administration for putting an image of the faculty in a bad light for students to inappropriately believe.
â€œMany of my colleagues are hurt and astounded by your lack of understanding about what we do for this campus each day,â€ she said. â€œStudents have been exposed to inappropriate examples of lies, deceit and false claims from the administrators. Students have been asked to believe that their classes have been cut due to faculty salaries. The community has been led to believe that the faculty is greedy and selfish, out for nothing more than personal gain. These smoke and mirror tactics are forms of propaganda to hide the lack of performance on the part of your administrators.â€
Roberta Tragarz, a faculty Â member at Santiago Canyon College, came to the meeting to read a letter from her and Rochaâ€™s former colleague, Margaret Manson from Santiago Canyon College. Before she got to a section of the letter in which Mansonâ€™s letter described Rochaâ€™s behavior as â€œaggressive,â€ Martin interrupted her and warned that she not make her comment personal.
â€œI want to make sure this does not get personal. I donâ€™t want it to get to a personal level,â€ he said.
The next public comment speaker Instructor Melissa Michelson, continued to read the rest of the letter, which described Rochaâ€™s â€œaggressive behavior,â€ but she was not interrupted.
Several faculty and staff members questioned whether Martinâ€™s warning and interruption during public comment could be a violation of the Brown Act, which lists policies and procedures for public governing bodies, such as the board of trustees.
The Brown Act states, â€œAny attempt to restrict the content of such speech must be narrowly tailored to effectuate a compelling state interest. Specifically, the courts found that policies that prohibited members of the public from criticizing school district employees were unconstitutional (Leventhal v. Vista Unified School Dist. (1997) 973 F.Supp. 951; Baca v. Moreno Valley Unified School Dist. (1996) 936 F.Supp. 719.)
Rochaâ€™s letter to the faculty asks for the community to work together towards healing the hostile atmosphere on campus, with changing the structure of administration.
â€œThere are colleagues who â€¦ may have made up their minds that the path to healing is to make a change in the administration. It may come as a surprise to you to hear that I completely agree with this view! But not in the way some may think. In my humble view healing will come to PCC not by changing yet again the personnel of this administration, but by changing the very nature of administration itself. And together, we must set about this project right now.â€