The Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees held a special meeting Thursday to conduct a “performance evaluation” of college Superintendent and President Anthony Beebe, however took no action following about an hour and 20 minutes of closed session discussion.
Students, staff and campus faculty have spent the last several months calling for new leadership to take over at the school in the wake of the controversy surrounding the college’s handling of an administrator returning to her position last month after making a racist remark in a November meeting. During Thursday’s meeting, several faculty members made similar requests and outlined ways in which black students have been treated unfairly on campus.
A woman who declined to share her name but was introduced by the board as Simone, who works at the college, shared a complaint she filed earlier this week with the college’s human resources department due to a pattern of feeling intimidated, unsafe and fearing for other black students on campus and believed that Dr. Beebe was responsible.
In January, Dr. Beebe cancelled a meeting aimed at addressing some of the harm caused to black students, faculty and staff just 15 minutes before it was scheduled to begin, Simone said.
A week later he rescheduled office hours but invited an attorney to be present. This was after Simone, who is black, had told Dr. Beebe and Luz Reyes-Martin, executive director of Public Affairs and Communications, that black students were hesitant to meet with Dr. Beebe and were concerned about how they were being treated on campus, she said.
Annette Cordero, who has been working at the college since 1975, told the board this was the most divided she’s ever seen the college.
“I’ve been at this college through eight presidents, and this is unfortunately the most that I’ve ever seen this campus divided on any particular issue – and I think the lowest morale I have ever seen,” she said.
“As other people have said, I have really been thinking, like, how soon can I retire because it’s become an unpleasant place to be,” she added. “I love my students , I love being in my classroom but I don’t love what this college has become.”
SBCC has been no stranger to controversy recently.
In March 2018, former adjunct philosophy professor Mark McIntire was accused by four female faculty members of Title IX violations.
The women said Mr. McIntire was engaging in bullying and sexual harassment via email. An investigation cleared Mr. McIntire and he later reached a settlement with the school for $120,000 and Dr. Beebe issued an apology for his handling of the complaints.
In November 2018, Lyndsay Maas, vice president of Business Services for the college, used a derogatory term for blacks during a gender equity work group meeting. Ms. Maas was placed on unpaid leave for several months and last month announced she would return to campus.
The SBCC school paper, The Channels, recently reported Ms. Maas was paid in full for 59 of the 67 days she was placed on leave. She was paid $23,000 in gross pay over the two months she was away and about $14,000 for January.
The college has not provided January’s payroll but officials said Ms. Maas was paid until she returned Jan. 25. The only pay she lost was for eight days, around $5,000, The Channels reported.
During a Board of Trustee meeting the day before she came back to campus, more than two dozen students protested the college’s decision to allow her to return. One student said that the campus was “embarrassed” to have Dr. Beebe serve as the college’s president.
During that meeting, the board also received push back on their decision not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance before meetings.
The board was facing accusations of violating free speech rights and emails from Board President Robert Miller surfaced, which included Mr. Miller saying the pledge was “steeped in expressions of nativism and white nationalism.”
Within a week, the college announced they would again recite the pledge before meetings.
Several days before that announcement, Mr. McIntire sent a recommendation letter to the Chancellor of California Community Colleges calling for the school to suspend all future sessions for the 2019 academic year until an investigation was conducted.
During Thursday’s special meeting, the board convened and recited the pledge.
Several attendees remained seated, as did board member Jonathan Abboud.
Ms. Cordero addressed the Title IX investigation while speaking to the board Thursday.
“When people of color, particularly students, have been coming before you for months expressing concerns to have no response from you — and yet three white woman come and express concern and within a week you have given them exactly what they ask for,” she said.
“Whether you meant that in any particular way or not is irrelevant. You can’t be blind enough not to see how that could be perceived.”
Following the meeting, two board members scoffed at the notion that Dr. Beebe was being fired or called to resign. Both board members said that Thursday’s special meeting was a routine evaluation and had no bearing on Dr. Beebe’s future at the college.
Multiple attempts to reach Dr. Beebe went unanswered as of press time.
Dr. Beebe was announced as the superintendent and president of SBCC in May of 2016 and assumed his new role July 1, 2016.
In announcing the hire, college officials said Dr. Beebe was hired based on his “experience working in diverse communities,” among other criteria.
Dr. Beebe came to SBCC after serving as president of San Diego City College.
In April 2018, SBCC’s Board of Trustees named Dr. Beebe as the Outstanding Administrator of the Year, an award given to a nominee who demonstrates an ability to exhibit honesty and integrity worthy of respect and creating a positive work environment, according to the college.