Lack of campus liaisons foster divide in community relations

By Editorial Board

Over the past year, the Contra Costa Community College District has continued what some see as a disturbing trend of decreasing the number of people of color in leadership positions at Contra Costa College.

On Thursday, CCC President Mojdeh Mehdizadeh announced she would be returning to her old post at the District Office, effective March 15, as executive vice chancellor of education and technology, a position she held for a decade before coming to CCC.

The change comes on the heels of both former vice president of academic and student affairs Tammeil Gilkerson and dean of student services Vicki Ferguson leaving CCC to assume leadership roles in the nearby Peralta Community College District.

CCC also was forced to replace former senior dean of instruction Donna Floyd after her retirement last year.

Change is inevitable, but when the changes leave the CCC administration more out of touch with the students and the community it serves, it can’t be seen in any other way than problematic.

Most of the selections hired to fill these voids have minimal connections to the campus or the community — and it shows.

One is a chancellor’s appointment, one a Plan B hire and two were handed their positions in less than transparent conditions.

This isn’t shared governance.

Although race is not the sole determining factor in selecting the ideal candidate, only one of the replacement administrators is a person of color.

As administrators change, some feel the shift will further widen the gap between the college and the diverse community it serves.

Mehdizadeh’s interim replacement, retired Santa Monica College president/superintendent Dr. Chui L. Tsang, appointed to the position by (district) Chancellor Fred E. Wood, has only a minimal connection to the students he will be charged to serve.

Floyd’s successor, former Diablo Valley College (Pleasant Hill) dean of biological and health sciences, physical sciences and engineering Tish Young, and Gilkerson’s successor Ken Sherwood, who served as vice president of academic affairs and student learning at Oxnard College in Southern California, had no ties to the West Contra Costa County community prior to their hiring last summer.

Ferguson’s stand-in, Interim Dean of Student Services Dennis Franco, who has served as dean of enrollment services for two years, was appointed in January and can’t be expected to continue on as enrollment dean while serving as dean of students.

So, who in the upper administration is left for students to trust?

The shift away from community engagement comes as no surprise judging by the direction district officials continue to steer campus leadership.

The empathetic ear Mehdizadeh used to address problems on campus might be a thing of the past.

In 2012, during a budgetary crisis, Tsang supported the proposal of a two-tiered course system where students taking core classes would be charged more per course during winter and summer intersessions.

Currently, CCC is experiencing its own budgetary crisis and while Mehdizadeh may have a soft spot for the community, Tsang may be the cold-hearted cost-cutter the district wants.