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Faculty, Other Staff Demand Voice at College

In separate votes, they call on leader of Santa Monica campus to change her style or quit.

June 10, 2003|Rebecca Trounson | Times Staff Writer

Angered by budget cuts and pending faculty layoffs, instructors and staff at Santa Monica College have voted no confidence in the college president, Piedad F. Robertson, calling on her to change her leadership style or step down.

"We need to have significant input on important decisions on this campus and we've had none of that," Gordon Dossett, president of the community college's academic senate, said Monday. "The administration doesn't listen."

Robertson, who has headed the 32,000-student college since 1995, dismissed the criticism.

"This is about killing the messenger because they don't like the message," she said. "For a long time, we've been blessed by having budgets that were very successful and we've been able to do a lot of exciting things. Now, all of a sudden, we have to stop that, and it hurts."

Robertson said she had no plans to resign.

Pushed by the state budget crisis, the college announced in March that it would be forced to eliminate 10 academic programs for the next school year and cut 13 administrative positions.

Since then, with a slightly better outlook for the state's community college system, Santa Monica has whittled the list of programs to be cut to five, Robertson said.

Eight full-time and 30 part-time faculty members are now scheduled to be laid off at the end of the school year. But faculty and staff members have not been mollified.

In separate votes announced Friday, both groups overwhelmingly approved resolutions of no confidence in Robertson, criticizing her leadership and urging the college's board of trustees not to extend her contract.

The contract expires in 2006.

Dossett, who has taught English composition and literature at the college for 20 years, said faculty members have been angered by Robertson's failure to consult them on program cutbacks. The faculty voted 413 to 68 against her.

"We said we're willing to talk with you about ways to save all these programs, but they didn't listen," Dossett said.

"They just said the programs were being discontinued."

By a vote of 225 to 45, classified employees, including the college's police, accountants and custodians, also voted against Robertson.

"Our group felt that Dr. Robertson tends to decide what she wants and goes after it without considering other people's opinions or feelings," said Lee Peterson, supervisor of the college's computer lab and president of its classified employee senate.

"This administration doesn't share much in shared governance," he said.

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