Over the last few weeks, The Watchdog has received several anonymous tips that rumors are spreading throughout the Bellevue College faculty with regard to the elongated search for a new president. Three rumors are most repeated: The first, that Interim President Laura Saunders is leaving BC at the end of the year, whether a new president is found or not; the second, that several faculty members have left the college because of their dissatisfaction with the search; the third, that the previous two final candidates in the last search both unexpectedly withdrew their names because of inappropriate questioning. The Watchdog has determined to find the absolute, factual truth behind these rumors.
President Saunders was not available for an interview, but her Executive Assistant, Lisa Corcoran, was unaware of any such statement made by Saunders. “I haven’t heard anything about her leaving the college.”
This was later confirmed by David Sandler, Public Relations Manager, who declined to comment for four days before agreeing to an interview. “She has not set any date for when she plans to leave,” he said. “She considers it a privilege to serve as interim president in the best interests of the college. She wants to ensure a smooth transition [between her leaving and a new president stepping in].”
“We do have a contract in place with Dr. Saunders,” said Paul Chiles, Chair of the Board of Trustees. “She would absolutely never leave us in our need. She would not leave us without her leadership unless we had someone to take her place.”
As for the rumor that several faculty members have left their positions at BC in protest of the extended presidential search, it’s uncontested that many faculty members have been frustrated with the Board of Trustees and the Search Committee’s lack of transparency on the subject. In the presidential search open forum held on Wednesday, May 2, Eva Norling, a foreign language professor, said, “My confidence in the Board has been extremely shaken.”
Also at this forum, Laura Nudelman added, “Hearing this story, my impression is that this [The Board] is a dysfunctional group. I don’t think the Board understands what this lack of a decision has done to the college.”
While the open forums have shown dissatisfaction over the search process, it appears that higher officials within the college have not been notified of any resignations over this issue.
Tom Nielson, the Vice President of Instruction, said, “No faculty member has informed me that he/she left the college because of the presidential search process.”
Sandler stated, “I tossed that up to the administration and no one had heard that. If they [members of the faculty] are leaving, we haven’t heard it. That’s not to say it hasn’t happened, but we haven’t heard anything.” When asked about the seeming disconnect between the faculty and the Board, he replied, “The Board of Trustees have taken great lengths to communicate with the faculty. The Board of Trustees has made an effort to improve the flow of information as best as they can.”
The Board has contracted to continue open forums in order to promote understanding and keep the faculty fully informed on the happenings.
Chiles added, “We are committed to keeping the campus community involved this time around; we intend to be more forthright with the faculty.”
Finally, the third rumor circulating was about the withdrawal of both primary candidates from the presidential search.
Chiles explained that members of the search committee and the Board had to sign confidentiality agreements in regards to this search. However, primary candidate Cheryl Roberts dropped from the race, announcing to her home paper in Salem, OR., that the long process was taking her away from her actual job.
When contacted, Roberts was unable to confirm or deny the rumor. “I really want to uphold the confidentiality of the agreement,” she said. “I really can’t respond in a way that you want, because I want to uphold that agreement.”
“We as a Board thought these candidates were very capable people,” said Chiles. He added that the reason for dismissal was the inability to reach a unanimous decision.
“The second effort [to find a new president] has commenced, as was announced to the campus recently,” said Jennifer Prekeges, program chair of Nuclear Medicine Technology and member of the advisory committee. “I continue to serve as a faculty representative on the advisory committee for the search, and as such am not authorized to comment on the committee’s deliberations.”
Chiles also explained that the Board was undergoing some changes to the search process. For example, last year’s search was done by the Search Committee, which included only two Board members. This year, the entire Board of Trustees will be involved in the search process. The Board has also changed the way they vote on candidates. Instead of the unanimous vote they decided on previously, now it is a majority vote.
“The Board couldn’t get behind one candidate. That’s how the decision to change the unanimous vote was decided. We decided it wasn’t in the best interest of the college to continue it. That’s democracy,” he said.
Sources who wish to remain anonymous have claimed that the reason the candidates were dropped was because of inappropriate questioning on the part of the Board and the search agency. However, no proof for or against this point of view has been found.
It remains to be seen what the truth behind these rumors are. Read the first issue of the Watchdog in fall quarter for a follow-up on the facts surrounding these rumors.
Seven people have declined to comment and/or never responded to interview invitations.