By MAKYLA HAYS
President of Pima Community College Education Association
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For quite some time, representatives from PCCEA, the full-time faculty association at Pima Community College, have called for more transparency from the Chancellor and upper administration.
This past year, several events have transpired that reveal an issue with transparency from the Chancellor. While each individual situation may not seem like a major issue on its own, the pattern that emerges when viewed together is what concerns PCCEA the most.
At the Governing Board meeting in September, I gave a public comment attempting to address this pattern. My goal was not to embarrass anyone or tear down PCC leadership. Rather, by exposing this pattern, I want to see transparency increase to the benefit of the faculty, staff, students and our community.
I am concerned that the Faculty Senate had to ask multiple times this past year for information about the Higher Learning Commision (HLC) visit scheduled last March, and although May 24 was the date shared that the HLC report was due to the college, that date came and went with no update.
I am concerned that there was no mention on the June Governing Board agenda of the focused visit or the HLC report. Though a question was asked by a board member, no answers were given because the topic wasn’t noticed. It was absent from September’s agenda as well.
I am concerned that it wasn’t until PCCEA emailed the Chancellor in July before the college community was informed that the report had even been received. Even moreso, the Chancellor’s response to that email has not been an increase in transparency, but rather a series of actions that make people feel they are not welcome to speak up or ask questions.
I am concerned that the HLC draft report apparently is being treated as confidential, when that seems to be a departure from past practice. I have asked the Chancellor to explain this change and received no answer.
I am concerned that since February 2021, the Chancellor has been announced as a finalist for jobs at three other community colleges, each before decisions were made about his evaluation and goals, or his contract and pay. Now, as his evaluation is being considered for this year, the draft HLC report is being held as confidential. It seems a thorough evaluation would not be complete without consideration of the report from our accreditor.
I am concerned that the public comment section of recent board meetings have turned into what feels like a popularity contest for the Chancellor, detracting from actual business at the college.
I am concerned that in June, the board voted on new employee salary structures without hearing public comment first. And on September’s agenda, board member comments were moved to the end of the meeting, with hints that this may become a permanent change. This feels like an attempt to minimize the impact of statements being brought forward by Board and community members.
I am concerned that the Chancellor has decided to answer expressions of employee concern with a widespread touting of the Forbes top Arizona employer report and public messages to employees with instructions to not be negative, minimizing legitimate employee concerns at best and discouraging them from speaking up at worst.
I am concerned that the Board may not be getting enough information to carry out fiscal oversight on large contracts and supervision of the Chancellor. The classification and compensation study by the Segal Consultant, the mechanism used to develop new salary structures and pay rates for employees, is one example. There are too many outstanding legitimate employee questions on these new structures for that money to have been well spent.
In addition, the grievance filed by the All Employee Representative Council (AERC) for not being included in the process as Administrative Policy prescribes shows a breakdown of consensus building with elected employee representatives. The subsequent denial by the Office of Dispute Resolution (ODR) to even consider that grievance highlights the inability of employees to be confident in bringing their concerns through internal channels.
Overall, I am concerned that the Chancellor has been given too much independence from the Board and is not being held accountable for acting with transparency.
My final statement to the Governing Board summed up the goal in bringing this pattern to light: “I am deeply concerned, and I feel there are no other internal avenues for me to use. I ask the Board not to be distracted by news reports, high-level charts and graphs, or flashy terminology, but to encourage follow-up questions, treat each other with respect, hold the Chancellor accountable for consensus building and improving employee morale, and ensure the main focus is on serving the community and our students in a transparent manner above reproach.”
During his report to the Board, seemingly in response to my comment, the Chancellor once again pointed to reports of Pima’s success and being recognized by Forbes and Harvard as proof that things are going well here at PCC. I would argue that PCC employees are doing their best to overcome obstacles and reach goals for our students. The first step to removing those obstacles, I believe, is increasing transparency from the Chancellor and his team. A close second would be to capitalize on the incredible talent and passion of the employees who work at this college through true shared governance and cultivating a supportive work environment. Just imagine what Pima Community College could become for our students and community if these changes were made.
Makyla Hays is a Math instructor and PCCEA president.