Coos Bay College Faculty Demands Ouster of President

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), June 12, 2008 | Go to article overview
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Coos Bay College Faculty Demands Ouster of President

Byline: Winston Ross The Register-Guard

CORRECTION(Ran June 13, 2008): City/Region: A headline on Page D1 Thursday mischaracterized a vote by faculty members at Southwestern Oregon Community College. Faculty members voted "no confidence" in college President Judith Hansen.

COOS BAY - Judith Hansen came to Southwestern Oregon Community College in 2005 with an ambitious agenda. The newly appointed president planned to restructure the school's leadership top to bottom, dissolving a hierarchy and leveling the decision-making process, making the institution more efficient and saving cash along the way.

She may have overreached. After a passionate, three-hour meeting rife with shouting matches and tearful diatribes, the college's faculty cast secret ballots that added up to an overwhelming vote of no confidence this week in its leader. Of 71 ballots cast, 53 were against Hansen.

"Most of us have come to realize there is a problem at this college," said art professor James Frist, who made the motion for a no-confidence vote.

"It is a failure of presidential leadership, a failure of presidential management, and a failure of budgeting ... the college is less efficient than it was before. The president has more people reporting to her than before. Her employees have less discretionary power, and they're more fearful in their jobs. Employees are working harder and getting more stressed out than ever before."

The vote, Frist said, sends a message to Hansen, but more importantly to the college's board, which has been wrangling for months over how to deal with a bevy of complaints leveled against the three-year veteran that range from her allegedly telling campus police not to cite underage students for possessing alcohol to mismanaging the budget to bullying members of the college's faculty and staff.

Earlier this spring, a divided board decided to hire an investigator from the Oregon School Boards Association to determine whether Hansen had violated her contract through a series of decisions she made since taking office. Then the board reversed its decision, by a 4-3 vote, and is now split among supporters of the president and those who think she should be held accountable for problems at the 47-year-old institution.

The faculty took a separate, nonbinding vote urging the board to reinstate that investigation, and it passed 62-7.

"I hope the board dismisses the president," Frist said. "This has no binding power, but it's a very strong message."

Hansen has twice defended herself publicly, once at a board meeting last month and again at the faculty meeting Thursday. In a statement she delivered to the board in May, Hansen vigorously rebutted a six-part set of "concerns" that board member Harry Abel released.

"To the extent that board member Abel or any other board member solicited comments from (SWOCC) employees, or promised the employees who provided information any specific outcome, or accepted information from employees and withheld their reports from me, the president's employment contract has been breached, the board policies have been violated, and my ability to succeed as leader of (SWOCC) has been sabotaged," Hansen wrote.

She also challenged the board's involvement in the school, adding that Oregon courts say "have interpreted governance by policy to mean that the governing board does not manage the institution, provide any administrative services or become involved in the day-to-day operations of the institution."

Abel's complaints, along with those expressed in Thursday's meeting and those of other board members, include:

That Hansen ordered then-campus security director Bill Winfield to stop issuing citations for "minor in possession" for some underage drinking and illegal substance usage on campus in a meeting on May 24, 2007. Abel said Hansen also stopped reporting drug- and alcohol-related incidents, as required under federal rules, to avoid negative publicity for the school.

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Coos Bay College Faculty Demands Ouster of President


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