Editorial: Clean record fosters hope

By Editorial Board

After months of sailing in what seems like a rudderless ship, the Contra Costa Community College District has selected Dr. Damon A. Bell to man the helm as interim president at Contra Costa College, pending Governing Board approval at its meeting tonight, in an attempt to get the campus back on course.

CCC is no stranger to interim leadership and since the retirement of former president McKinley Williams in 2012, three of the six people to hold the position of president have been categorized as temporary.

In the recent past, many in the campus community saw the hiring process for leadership positions in the district as ripe for overhaul.

This sentiment reached a fever pitch following the consideration and subsequent removal of two candidates for CCC vice president of student affairs in November of 2018.

In that case, the hiring process was halted when it was discovered that candidates Howard Irvin and LeRoderick Terry were both tied to incidents of sexual misconduct.

Neither of the men included the improprieties when submitting their employment qualifications.

However, candidate vetting has been a problem long before 2018.

In 2016, following the reassignment of former CCC president Mojdeh Mehdizadeh, district Chancellor Fred Wood selected Dr. Chuy Tsang to serve a 4-month stint as interim president.

Dr. Tsang’s appointment drew ire from many in the campus community who knew the interim was part of the administrative body at Santa Monica College who allowed students to be pepper sprayed by campus police during a protest about summer fee increases.

Similarly, Dr. Wood was also embroiled in a pepper spray controversy while serving as an administrator at UC Davis in 2011.

Lately, it seems the bad apples who slip through the screening process have a way of ending up at CCC.

During this interim hiring process, which followed similar guidelines to requirements for hiring a permanent president, candidate identities were not released until the end of the process was in sight.

Despite failing to enact sweeping changes to the vetting process for administrative candidates, Dr. Bell seems to be without a glaring cause for concern.

The same simple Google search that prompted unrest regarding other administrators and educators were clean when applied to Bell.

Because of his experience in an interim position and over a decade of administrative experience, Bell’s resume comes as a breath of fresh air.

Dr. Bell is a member of the NAACP. His hiring begins to fill the void of black male leadership on campus, which is a concern expressed by the African American Staff Association, among others, in recent months.

A little over one year ago the college ushered in a new president with hopes of a fresh beginning. But the sting of a rocky separation sullies feelings of hope and change that accompany most administrative hires.

Because the campus community has been burned in the past, the optimism that accompanies this change brings with it a healthy dose of skepticism.