The City College Board of Trustees will vote Thursday/22 to finalize the appointment of a new chancellor who comes with a very mixed record.
Mark Rocha was forced to leave his last position, at Pasadena City College, after the Faculty Senate voted 23-0 to express no confidence in his management.
The City College teachers’ union, AFT Local 2121, lobbied furiously against him, but the trustees, in closed session, vote to offer him the job. The only step left is to approve his contract, which will be done in open session Thursday.
“We were shocked,” Tim Killikelly, president of Local 2121, told me. “The word I keep hearing is ‘aghast.’”
Killikelly said his contacts in Pasadena warned that Rocha “has a history of lack of respect for shared governance.
“We were hoping for a chancellor that we could respect and trust,” he said. “This was not the right choice.”
That’s pretty serious language for the head of the faculty union who will soon have to work with a new chancellor, and it’s a sign of how deeply concerned the teachers are with Rocha.
Most of the City College trustees I’ve spoken to didn’t want to say anything for the record, since the discussions about the new chancellor were in closed session. But the overall impression that I got was that the pool of candidates was weak, that Rocha was the best of the lot – and that the board was reluctant to delay any further the choice of a new leader.
Killikelly said that he would rather the board chose another interim chancellor and kept the search going until they found the right candidate. “This is someone the faculty doesn’t trust,” he said.
But the trustees were eager to put someone in the job, however imperfect, who would bring some stability to the school. “City College has had six chancellors in the past eight years,” Thea Selby, the board president, told me.
Rocha would be the first Latino to lead City College.
Interim chancellors, she said, have a hard time finding senior managers, because those people know that the next boss may want someone else.
“We know how Local 2121 feels, and we’re listening,” Selby said.
Several trustees met with union leaders today — after the decision was made. “He is the one employee who reports to us, and we are going to make sure he goes in the right direction,” Selby said.
And, in a refreshing bit of open and honest discussion, Selby did not try to sugarcoat the decision or talk about how completely wonderful the new chancellor was.
“We knew this was a risk,” she said. “He addressed his past issues head-on, and we are going into this with our eyes open.”
I appreciate that, and the fact that it’s been hard to find a new leader. And there are serious management problems that need to be addressed.
But with all the issues at City College these days — all the work we’ve all done, working together, to save the school — starting off the next complex chapter of an institution that is crucial to the city and still very fragile with a leader who doesn’t have the support of the faculty is a pretty serious gamble.
Wouldn’t it be great to have an inspirational leader who made us all proud of City College? “We have worked too hard to bring the institution back to the brink of success,” Alisa Messer, teacher and longtime union activist, told me.
Is that just impossible? Really?
The meeting’s at 4pm at 50 Phelan, Room 140