In a move to ease mounting pressure and defuse the reaction to what would be another acrimonious appointment to an administrative position at Contra Costa College, President Katrina VanderWoude has discontinued the searches for both the vice president of student services and the vice president of academic affairs positions.
The decision, which was announced in a campuswide email sent just before 9:30 p.m. Friday night, came as a shock as a growing number of people in the campus community opposed the finalist status of two vice presidential candidates.
Halting the search, no matter its stage, was completely the right move for the president to make.
In Friday’s email, written to members of the campus community, Dr. VanderWoude reminded them she had said she would halt the search “at any time I felt we could not find the right candidate, either because I was not confident about the pool or if there were problems with the recruitment.”
In this case, the president could have found fault in both areas.
It’s true that two of the five finalists for vice president of student services, regardless of resumé or recommendation, were flawed as they had credible accounts of sexual assault leveled against them.
Also, the process that allowed these defective candidates to make it into the final five must be deemed faulty.
However, in her email, none of the problems that led to this halt of the process seems to be up for evaluation. To the contrary, the president said all of the Contra Costa Community College District protocols were followed. She even exalted everyone involved.
VanderWoude wrote, “Both searches garnered a diverse pool of qualified candidates and both search committees worked tirelessly to screen and interview applicants. Both committees did a stellar job and I want to personally thank them for their work.”
What part of offering the college vice presidential finalists who have sexually harassed and assaulted their co-workers could be labeled anything close to stellar?
Nevertheless, America is the land of second chances and if this fiasco has any silver lining, it’s that now there is a more clear understanding of who should and should not be considered for employment on this campus.
One day before VanderWoude’s email was sent, Associated Students Union President Alexander Walker Griffin posted, on his Instagram account, a letter he wrote to the VanderWoude questioning the background of two of the finalists.
He wrote, “Given Dr. LeRodrick Terry’s sexual harassment allegations and Dr. Howard Irvin’s previous criminal convictions, I do not believe students would feel comfortable with either gentlemen leading our great establishment.”
In her Friday email VanderWoude said she will follow-up with the college community to discuss how she plans to handle the recruitment for these two positions moving forward.
However, in the same way students are kept in the dark about the process that delivered these flawed candidates, no details were given as to how these “follow-ups” will be conducted.
One thing is clear: Contra Costa College students must remain vigilant and hold their administrators accountable when they decide to open new positions, when they convene committees to fill those positions and when those who would fill those positions show up on campus to discuss their qualifications. Because their futures depends on it.