Letter from science division calls out poor campus communication

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Letter from science division calls out poor campus communication

Katie James, Associate Editor

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A letter from a group faculty in the sciences division was presented at the Board of Trustees Sept. 13 meeting in response to gender-equity related discrimination that has erupted at the college in recent months.

The letter, composed by biology instructor Robert Fischer and signed by 32 other faculty members, included a list of four remedies they demanded be implemented immediately.

“The lack of communication, leadership, and support exhibited by our president, our administration, and the Board of Trustees has had direct and harmful effects on SBCC’s faculty and on our campus community,” the letter read. “And it puts our reputation in the community at risk.”

Fischer said the decision to write the letter was made by an “overwhelming majority” vote at the sciences divisions meeting in the week prior to Fall semester starting. The letter reflects the consensus of the group, despite Fischer being the main writer.

He said the lack of transparency from the administration and the realization that female colleagues were facing these hardships alone and without support from the college is what spurred the group to compose the letter.

“The few responses made by administration were insulting and dismissive, and they did nothing to clarify the issues for the rest of the campus community,” the letter read.

“The faculty involved in the [harassment] are suffering. They feel discriminated against, gaslighted, alienated, and disposable to the institution… The gendered nature of many of these events leads many of us to wonder if women are less valued on this campus than men.”  

Superintendent-President Anthony Beebe sent out an open letter of apology the day after the letter was sent to him, a week before it was discussed at the Board of Trustees meeting, which was meant to fulfill the first remedy demanded in the letter— “a sincere and candid apology from the administration to the entire campus.”

Fischer feels the apology letter sent out by Beebe is likely well intentioned but is “full of tepid and defensive statements,” under exaggerated the amount of displeasure on campus with leaders actions and makes a false equivalency between the people perpetrating misogynistic behavior and the victims of it.

The other three remedies listed in the letter were that the administration practice transparency in matters of significance, that they take faculty needs more seriously, particularly when they are associated with “legal protections arising from historical injustices,” and that the actions taken by the administration must be evaluated not only for how effective they are, but also for what message they convey.

When the letter was discussed during the board meeting, there were some who attended that did not support the letter. Fischer said one response in particular was concerning to him.

“Craig Price, SBCC college’s general counsel, spoke to the Board at their last meeting regarding ethics and the Brown Act,” he said. “Regarding the current controversies, he strongly implied that Title IX complainant put the college at risk of lawsuits if their complaints are found not to have violated the law.

“Whether intended or not, this is victim-blaming and, because it’s Title IX we’re talking about, its misogyny.”

Krystle Farmer, the student trustee, said she agreed with the contents of the letter and that the board and administration needs to rise to meet the demands.

“Reading this letter, these have been long ongoing issues that people have came to forward and gone through the processes … and nobody did anything about it,” Farmer said.

“They are watching us, and they are watching what we do. And we are not doing enough.”

 

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