Senate moves ahead with resolution during special meeting

February 13, 2021

By Luke Wrin Piper, Managing Editor

The Laney College Faculty Senate approved a censure (an “official reprimand”) of Laney College President Rudy Besikof during a “special meeting” on Tuesday, February 9.

The vote arose from concerns over the president’s “lack of planning, communication and leadership” at the college, according to the censure resolution.

The resolution lists faculty member grievances regarding mismanagement and noncommunication on behalf of the president. At the faculty senate, representatives from faculty division constituencies are present to vote for the best interest and voice of the faculty group in mind. 

A “special meeting”

“This is about finding solutions. And a censure is a formal reprimand and it is putting on record that there are issues which have not been addressed. And it is a way of moving forward with that on record,” Machine Technology Department Chair and senator Adam Balogh said.

When reaching out to faculty who were in attendance of the special meeting, The Citizen received responses that were nearly all off-the-record. The appearance of unity and the fear of retaliation were cited among reasons by those who did not want to be identified by the publication. Other faculty, however, see any retaliation stemming from speaking about the censure more than unlikely.

A site visit from the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) is scheduled for March 1-4 and factors into the commission’s decision regarding the college’s accreditation status. In response to concerns that Besikof’s censure by the faculty senate could put the college’s accreditation status at risk, Biology Faculty Member Rebecca Bailey said, “If we have issues with accreditation over this, it’s because the problems exist, not because we are speaking up about them.”

Peralta District Academic Senate President Donald Moore spoke at the special meeting sharing hopes for solutions that improve the current climate regarding relations with President Besikof.

“We can improve on this (situation) with better communication, and better engagement, and interaction, and collaboration,” Moore said.

In a final vote, the faculty senate voted to approve the resolution with 15 yays, 9 abstentions and zero nays. 

Grievances building 

Laney career and technical education (CTE) faculty sent a letter dated January 29 to President Besikof, Laney Acting Vice President of Instruction Mark Fields and Peralta Interim Chancellor Carla Walter detailing issues of concern starting in September 2020. 

According to the letter, CTE faculty had been requesting a return to in-person lab instruction when they learned that district Coordinator of Special Grants and Programs Carmen Fairley had been put on leave, with no alternative point-person given for them to move forward with planning. Despite still being listed in this role on the Peralta website, Fairley has not responded for comment. 

The CTE faculty also cited being “disproportionately impacted by a lack of planning, unclear communication from college and district leadership and sudden CTE leadership changes.”

In November 2020, the CTE faculty authored a resolution approved at the college and at the district’s CTE committee that called for immediate, meaningful plans to be be finalized for CTE to return with late-start face-to-face instruction for the remainder of the fall 2020 semester, using the models of neighboring community colleges and Laney’s own in-person instruction “held successfully summer 2020” as points of reference to consult on how to proceed safely at Laney. 

The January 29 letter also details how the CTE faculty had been informed that their division dean, Peter Crabtree, was being placed on leave until he “retires” at the end of his contract in June. The CTE faculty explained that the news was “a shock to many faculty” who had depended on the leadership and planning of Crabtree, and his assistant, for the successful planning and spending of over $5 million in grants. 

Crabtree did not respond to The Citizen for comment.

In the wake of these changes, the CTE faculty sent administrators (including President Besikof) a list of specific questions regarding who the replacements will be and how they should proceed going into the future. While the January 29 letter received responses from Besikof, Walter and Fields, a lack of specificity in the responses was cited in the first sentence of the censure of President Besikof. 

Walter, Fields and Besikof did not respond to The Citizen for comment.

President Besikof has been invited to attend the upcoming regular meeting of the faculty senate on February 16. The senate has meetings on the first and third Tuesday of each month. 

Besikof was voted in to the position by the Peralta Board of Trustees in November 2020, having previously served as interim president following the departure of Tammeil Gilkerson.

In the vein of transparency, let it be known that Faculty Senate President Eleni Gastis is also journalism department chair at Laney College and advisor of The Citizen.