s
s
Sections
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, nearly 1.5 million people used their mobile devices to visit our sites.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Wow! You read a lot!
Reading enhances confidence, empathy, decision-making, and overall life satisfaction. Keep it up! Subscribe.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
Until next month, you can always look over someone's shoulder at the coffee shop.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
We don't just cover the North Bay. We live here.
Did You Know? In the first 10 days of the North Bay fire, we posted 390 stories about the fire. And they were shared nearly 137,000 times.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Supporting the community that supports us.
Obviously you value quality local journalism. Thank you.
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
Oops, you're out of free articles.
We miss you already! (Subscriptions start at just 99 cents.)
Already a subscriber?
iPhone
X

The "Follow This Story" feature will notify you when any articles related to this story are posted.

When you follow a story, the next time a related article is published — it could be days, weeks or months — you'll receive an email informing you of the update.

If you no longer want to follow a story, click the "Unfollow" link on that story. There's also an "Unfollow" link in every email notification we send you.

This tool is available only to subscribers; please make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

X

Please note: This feature is available only to subscribers; make sure you're logged in if you want to follow a story.

In the latest jolt to leaders of Santa Rosa Junior College, the Academic Senate overwhelmingly passed late Wednesday night a vote of no confidence in college President Frank Chong, who last week provoked an uproar among faculty, staff members and students by unexpectedly canceling at least half of all summer classes before backing off the disputed proposal a day later.

The college’s surprise move last week, in an announcement by a senior member of Chong’s administration, came as students were poised to register for both summer and fall classes early this week and threw the campus community into turmoil, said Eric Thompson, president of the Academic Senate.

The 26-member body rejected calls for Chong’s firing at its meeting Wednesday night, voting instead to call upon the Board of Trustees to put him on probation for one year. The faculty panel called on Chong and his administration to use that time to rebuild a tradition of “shared governance” that faculty members said had eroded since Chong assumed his post six years ago.

“The overwhelming majority wanted to give him a chance rather than to call for his firing,” Thompson said Thursday.

Chong, reached Thursday by phone, said he was “still trying to process everything,” conceding that the past week had been difficult to weather, with the no-confidence vote — the first of his tenure in Santa Rosa — coming as “a really humbling experience.”

The last no-confidence vote in an SRJC president was in 1997. Then-President Robert Agrella, Chong’s predecessor, and college trustees were censured by the Academic Senate over their handling of an investigation into six anonymous letters critical of Agrella, which resulted in a firing and a campuswide scandal.

The Academic Senate’s resolution on Chong will be presented Tuesday to the elected seven-member Board of Trustees, which already has scheduled a closed-door evaluation of Chong’s job performance. Most agree that he mishandled the summer course reductions, and Chong has publicly apologized for the head-spinning series of announcements last week.

The course cuts were envisioned to help close a budget gap of at least $6.5 million that Chong has linked mostly to declining student enrollment at the 100-year-old college. Whether trustees would take any disciplinary action after the no-confidence vote is in question as Chong enjoys broad support on the board.

Trustee Jeff Kunde bristled at the notion that the board would cede its responsibility for directing and managing the president, calling the no-confidence vote “inappropriate” and “mean-spirited.”

Board Vice President Jordan Burns described it as “disheartening,” particularly given Chong’s actions over the past week, including his follow-up proposal to cut administrators’ pay to help reduce campus costs.

Chong, who was paid $307,470 and earned $24,230 in health benefits last year, is among the highest-paid public officials in Sonoma County.

“I hear their frustration,” Burns said, “and I’m committed to holding Dr. Chong accountable for his actions and to ensure better shared governance, and that we continue to move in a positive direction.”

Trustee Mariana Martinez said Chong has so many strengths that any consideration of the recent mishap has to be seen “holistically,” in the context of otherwise positive leadership.

She alone among five board members contacted Thursday thought the idea of probation had some merit, as it would clearly communicate the severity of the missteps “just so everybody knows where we’re at and where we want to move forward.”

Board President Maggie Fishman said she would not address the subject of probation until the board meets and discusses the situation. But she said Chong had shown “strength and resolve” in his immediate willingness to take responsibility for his error. Trustee Don Edgar declined to comment.

Chong, in an interview earlier this week, said the budget shortfall could force the college to downsize, given student enrollment that he said no longer supports the number of class offerings. The summer class reductions would have saved about $2 million, college officials said.

The tumult comes amid an impasse in tense contract negotiations with faculty members.

In the March 29 email announcing the cuts, Mary Kay Rudolph, senior vice president of student affairs, said administrators wanted to get the word out before registration started Monday. Staff members and students had been busy all week arranging schedules and trying to provide longer-term planning needed to keep students in school and stabilize enrollment, particularly given student losses in the wake of last October’s wildfires, Thompson said.

The move to slash classes came out of the blue, he said. People ran down campus corridors as the email hit cellphones, he said.

“This act was done as a decision of the senior administration of the college without the consultation or even the knowledge of any other group, without the knowledge of any faculty,” Thompson said. “As the Academic Senate president, I usually at least hear about decisions like this and, in fact, usually I’m asked whether it’s a good idea.”

Chong, in the interview Thursday, said leaders “need to accept criticism and need to take it seriously,” and said he appreciated the support reflected in the Senate’s decision not to seek his dismissal.

“I think the Academic Senate has been fair with me — very fair,” Chong said, “and I look forward to trying to re-establish trust, which clearly has been damaged.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Show Comment