In last week’s Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting, PCC faculty reprimanded the BOT for requesting the project proposal of the Black Family Reunion, an event that is meant to recruit students of color, instead of reaching out directly to the event organizers.
In July’s meeting, trustee Steve Gibson suggested removing an item from the consent calendar. A consent calendar is a list of items up for approval by the board so that the items can be approved all at once instead of one item at a time. This particular item was to hire a contractor, LP Virtual Production, to organize the Black Family Reunion. Gibson suggested that they put aside the agenda item, because he wanted to obtain LP Virtual Studios’ event proposal, a document which details the event plan and which was used to evaluate the contractor before they were hired.
“I think some trustees would really benefit from seeing all the details so that they can bring in their constituencies—stakeholders and constituencies—to make the event even better,” Gibson said. “I would move that the full text of the proposal be sent to the trustees.”
The trustees, except for trustee James Osterling, accepted a motion to obtain the contractor’s event proposal, despite explicit disapproval from Superintendent/President Erika Endrijonas. Endrijonas believed that asking for the proposal was inappropriate, and she pleaded with the trustee members to reconsider their request for the proposal. She claimed that the proposal was under the purview of operations and therefore should not be a concern of the trustee members who should only deal with the allocations of funds for the school.
“This is the first time in three and a half years that I’ve been asked to provide documentation at this level,” Endrijonas said. “In the past when we have had contracts like this on the agenda, when the trustees have asked questions, we’ve provided details and that’s sufficient. So, it seems to me that what I’ve been able to do, and what I have been trusted to do for three and a half years would also be trusted now, but it’s clear that’s not the case.”
Endrijonas is hired by and works for the Board Of Trustees, and therefore gave them the event proposal (a proposal that became public after the contractor was hired and could be examined by a public records request anyway).
Endrijonas was not the only one that found this concerning. Oronne Nwaneri is the director of Upward Bound, an adjunct professor at PCC and vice president of the Association of Black Employees (TABE). She and others wanted to voice their concerns about the level of attention that the BOT showed in the Black student event.
“I feel that the Board of Trustees have the right to understand every single item on the Board of Trustees’ agenda but that was not the only event on the Board of Trustees’ agenda,” Nwaneri said. “I wanted to be sure to voice my disappointment that the focus was on this particular contract when there were millions of dollars of contracts that were on those same board items.”
Some PCC employees, who voiced their opinion in last week’s meeting, suggested that the behavior of the board was politically or racially motivated. Gibson voiced other motivations, however, and his interest in the Black Family Reunion goes deeper than his role as a trustee member.
“As the only Black trustee, I really consider it my duty to really pay attention to issues that involve Black students and Black staff,” Gibson said. “I think that one of my goals of coming here was to increase equity and diversity on the campus and to, if possible, bring in more Black students and more Black staff.”
Gibson represents area 3, including parts of Pasadena and Altadena, which is 16% African American and 55% Latin American, according to the PCC website, so he feels an obligation to represent his district as well as his own background. Gibson explained that he has always supported the Black Family Reunion, and his motivation was to be of service to the event.
“As soon as I learned that it was going to be a Black focused event, I was very interested, and I really wanted to know and see how I could help and all the board could help,” Gibson said.
The question is whether or not it is appropriate for a trustee member to want to help with a campus event. The role of a trustee member is to properly and effectively allocate funds for those they represent, according to an opinion column from The Business Journals. Endrijonas believes that the level of detail the BOT members were requesting was inappropriate. Gibson believes that his knowledge of the proposal was appropriate for his role as a trustee.
“We don’t handle the details,” Gibson said. “We don’t tell the administration how to do their details, but I wanna read everything that I am voting for.”
Nwaneri understands that board members should know what they are voting for, but was disappointed with the manner in which information on the event was obtained. In the future, she hopes for direct communication with the board members. Indeed, Gibson has now been in touch with TABE and has gone to some meetings.
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