Academic Senate votes ‘no confidence’ in some Board of Trustees members
Weeks of mounting tensions surrounding the Santa Barbara City College Board of Trustees came to a head on Tuesday when the college’s Academic Senate stamped a vote of “no confidence” against certain members of the board during a special meeting.
After deliberating for more than four hours Tuesday, the Academic Senate voted 13-3 with one member abstaining in favor of “no confidence” against five members of the board — Marsha Croninger, Veronica Gallardo, Dr. Peter Haslund, Robert Miller and Kate Parker. Trustees Jonathan Abboud and Dr. Anna Everett were not included in the vote.
The board also agreed on Tuesday to deliver a writ of particulars that would outline particular grievances against the Board of Trustees.
The “no confidence” vote came after the Board of Trustees faced backlash in recent weeks for opposing a vaccine mandate for the fall semester. This policy, many Academic Senate members agreed, was the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” and comes as the latest issue after years of many grievances.
These grievances, according to the Academic Senate, include the board’s alleged lack of respect for faculty expertise, lack of shared governance and failure to listen to the needs of students, faculty and staff, in addition to the board’s recent decision to not enforce a vaccine mandate for the fall semester.
Many Academic Senators and SBCC faculty members spoke during Tuesday’s meeting, discussing their frustrations with the board and the feelings of their constituents within certain departments.
“One of the things I find profoundly problematic is the complete disregard on the part of many board members for our expertise, whether that’s disciplinary expertise, expertise as teachers, expertise as people who actually have contact with students — unlike board members,” Academic Ellen Carey said during Tuesday’s meeting. “Over the years there have been many students, faculty, classified staff who have spoken on various topics — the vaccine issue being only the most recent one — and then been completely ignored by the board or disrespected.”
Robin Goodnough, another academic senator, echoed this point in her comments at Tuesday’s meeting, noting that she has seen many issues with the board during her 25 years as a full-time faculty member. She cited the “revolving door of presidents” that continue to leave SBCC as evidence of the Board of Trustees’ “lack of supportive relationship with the campus.”
“We are there on the ground, and our board is showing increasing and continuing disregard for us, our expertise, our value as employees as advocates,” Ms. Goodnough said.
Tuesday’s meeting came after the Academic Senate conducted a survey among SBCC faculty members in July, which discovered that 79% of faculty members would support a vote of “no confidence” against the board.
In response to the survey results, Board of Trustees member Veronica Gallardo, who was one of the board members who received a vote of “no confidence” Tuesday, issued the following statement to the News-Press in an email:
“One of SBCC’s core principles is ‘student-centered policies, practices, and programs.’ As a trustee for SBCC, when I am reviewing policy, I consider whether a policy in question will have a
‘disproportionate impact’ on students. Mandating a vaccine not only limits access to SBCC, it also creates a barrier to access the SBCC mission which states that ‘SBCC welcomes all students.’ Even if there is an exemption to the mandate, requiring the submission of an exemption still creates a barrier.
Specifically, a vaccine mandate policy prevents a population of students like our local dual enrollment, middle college students, and adult ed (GED) students from accessing SBCC’s ‘diverse learning environment and opportunities to enrich their lives…’ if they are unvaccinated. For many of these students the traditional high school curriculum does not or did not fully support their learning needs.
My job as a trustee is to assist in making SBCC more accessible, not less accessible, to eliminate barriers and open doors, not close them. Adopting a policy to mandate a vaccine runs counter our mission which is why I do not support it.”
At the conclusion of Tuesday’s meeting, the Academic Senate agreed to come back to write the writ of particulars at a later meeting.