The Academic Senate squabbled at its Oct. 21 meeting over a miscommunication involving a letter inviting the Board of Trustees to participate in town hall meetings designed to improve communication on campus.
The letter, sent without the approval of the senate, invited board members to participate in town hall meetings to try to alleviate tension between the two bodies.
The Board sent a letter in response to the Committee’s invitation, on Oct. 17, declining to take part in the town halls. The letter cites the Brown Act and the Board’s bylaws as one of the reasons for deciding not to participate.
“The Brown Act does not permit the Board of Trustees or the Academic Senate to hold unagendized or impromptu public meetings,” reads the Board’s letter. “Our bylaws and the Brown Act require that we speak only as a Board.”
The letter was sent to the Board, on Oct. 11, in an attempt to show the Senate’s willingness to help improve communication.
“We hope these community meetings will demonstrate to the community, as well as to the accreditation board, our dedication to the college,” reads the letter.
The letter was signed “Academic Senate Ad Hoc Committee for Town Hall Meeting” followed by the five Committee member’s names.
“The letter should have gone to the Academic Senate [for approval],” said senate president Eduardo Cairo.
Most senators agreed that they wish the letter had come to the Senate before being sent to the Board.
“If you are going to send a letter for the group, then you would think we would at least get to see it,” said senator Kathleen Uyekawa.
Senator Matt Henes proposed that the committee write a letter of apology to the Board to explain the situation. “I think it’s incumbent that the Board of Trustees know the Academic Senate did not sanction that letter,” he said.
Senator Melissa Michaelson, one of the members of the committee, said that the committee would be more than happy to apologize to the Board.
Some worried that sending apology letters would lower the credibility of the Committee in the eyes of the Board.
“As soon as you start writing letters … it implies a ‘rogue’ committee,” said senator Martha House. She expressed concerns that a letter would send a bad message and undermine the committee.
Others argued that the Senate should be the one to send a letter to the Board to show that it is still in control of the committee.
“I think the credibility will go up by sending an explanatory letter,” said senator Gloria Horton. “It shows that we are capable of policing ourselves.”
The Senate unanimously approved the writing of the two letters: an apology to the Executive Committee and an explanation to the Board. The letter to the Board will be brought back to the Senate to be reviewed and edited.
A few senators questioned the accuracy of the Board’s interpretation of the Brown Act.
“My opinion is that it is not correct … they have participated in many events,” said Cairo.
“To say they can’t have a meeting that is not a Brown Act meeting is erroneous,” said senator Mary-Erin Crook.
The general understanding was that the attendance of two or three Board members at the town halls would be in accordance with the Brown Act.
Another thing the Board mentioned in its letter was how the Committee did not include President Mark Rocha in the invitation to the town halls.
“In that regard, I noticed that you did not include the Superintendent-President on your email,” reads the response. “In the future, please first direct any and all correspondence to the Board to our Secretary, Dr. Rocha.”
The Senate noted how concerned the Board seemed with Rocha not being addressed in the letter. “The Board jumped on Rocha not being included,” said Henes.
Michaelson said that the Committee wanted a “meeting with the Board to decide whether to include Rocha.”
The Board’s response had the Senate agreeing it solidified the need for open communication.
“Communication is so strained,” said senator Kris Pilon. “The response from the Board is so defensive, [it shows] we need to open up communication as soon as possible.”
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