Bell fills interim position

Campus enters transitional point, optimism grows


Special To / The Advocate

The Contra Costa Community College District selected Dr. Damon A. Bell as interim president of Contra Costa College

By Jose Arebalo, News Editor

The hiring process for administrative positions on campus has been a disaster in previous years as large gaps in the system allowed candidates to be considered who do not accurately reflect what the campus community wants.

This time around there has been a spirit of inclusivity fostered from the district level that was welcomed by the campus.

While the process had its issues in the past, things were done differently this time around to ensure the campus’s most desired candidate was selected.

This time around, the Contra Costa Community College District selected Dr. Damon A. Bell as interim president of Contra Costa College and at tonight’s Governing Board meeting, the board will be asked to approve his contract which will last through June 30, 2021.

Classified Senate President Brandy Gibson worked together with Academic Senate President Katherine Krolikowski and Insti-tutional Effectiveness and Equity Dean Mayra Padilla to plan out the hiring process.

The process seemed to be more streamlined with a steady release of information to the campus and garnered support from Human Resources at the District Office as well.

“I think the process has improved, and I think that there are still things that we can do to make it a better process all around,” Gibson said. “Now that we’ve selected somebody, we’ll have a chance to debrief with the District Office and HR about some changes that we’re positive about and the things we still want to see done a little differently.”

Unfortunately, to the dismay of many, hiring committees are not allowed to look at more information than what the candidates have submitted.

This rule has resulted in concerning situations before and should hopefully be avoided moving forward.

Gibson said the process for hiring an interim position is not laid out specifically by the district, so they asked the district to use the regular procedures for hiring a full-time president.

They worked closely with district HR to craft the exact questions, rubric and job description to use.

One of the better qualities of this search was the amount of input that the committee requested from the campus.

Gibson said there were forums held where faculty and students were able to share their opinions.

The public consensus was brought into clear focus for the candidates and the committee.

“What they really want is somebody who will listen, who will want to make informed decisions, who can nurture faculty and staff on campus and help with some healing,” Gibson said. The hope is that Dr. Bell can help create a safe space in which we can have conversations about what needs to happen to improve the campus.

A shift in overall morale of the campus is desperately needed and the community is ready to have a leader who can bring everyone to the table.

“In the last several years, with all the changes in administrators and all the differences, we have, as faculty and staff, grown apart. We sometimes see ourselves as competing interests when what we really need to do is come together,” Gibson said.

Lack of leadership has left many people on campus dealing with more than should be expected of them, which can lead to extra stress.

“A lot of the people that have been on campus have taken on additional responsibilities and feel the weight of ownership of tasks that really aren’t theirs,” Gibson said.

The hiring of two interim deans has certainly helped with the workload and she looks forward to the hiring of a new vice president she said.

To Gibson, the process flowed fairly well as the committee communicated with the district about what the campus needed in terms of support and backup, she said.

“I think he (Bell) comes to us with a unique background and a lot of experience working in an interim position,” Gibson said. “He knows what it’s like to come onto a campus where there’s been instabilities, so it’s not going to be something that he’s surprised by.”

Associated Student Union Vice President Alfredo Angulo got to sit in on the hiring committee as a representative for the student voice.

“We thought Bell had all the things we were looking for from a good candidate,” Angulo said.

They have chosen a candidate that seems up to the task of pulling together and lightening the load on campus staff.

“He has the institutional knowledge to get the job done, he’s shown that he has knowledge of our community and he’s a good community builder,” Angulo said.

One of the biggest demands that the campus has of its new leader is someone who is able to foster a cohesive working environment.

“Right now, the college really needs someone to foment a sense of community and collaboration, especially among administrators,” Angulo said.

La Raza Student Union President Ricardo Sanchez shared how students looked at the hiring process this time around.

“Many of us felt like it was rushed. We wanted a little more time,” Sanchez said. With the loss of a full-time president, many projects have been put on hold and there’s been pressure and stress on the campus community from that gap.

When the new hire was planned, the Associated Student Union gave a list of their desired qualities. We sent a list of recommendations in the form of a resolution to the hiring committee, Sanchez said.

“We want somebody who has a background with communities of color, works towards social justice and is comfortable and active on campus,” he said.

This was done in hopes that Bell will be more proactive with students on campus — at least more so than previous presidents.