It’s been nearly three months since former president/superintendent Dr. Jeff Marsee was dismissed from campus by the board of trustees.
While changes have been made, the student body population has seen little disruption to campus activities since Marsee’s departure.
Acting President Dr. Kathy Hart’s end time in her interim role remains open while the board, on April 17, asked staff to begin work in an effort to hire a new president. This time, the search will happen without the aid of a consultant, according to news reports.
In this issue, The Collegian takes a look at how this story developed over time.
After interviews and a public presentation with two other job candidates, Marsee is chosen unanimously for the position of superintendent/president of the college on Feb. 22, 2011. Marsee was employed then in the same position at College of the Redwoods in Eureka.
A quick Google search by Collegian staff on the day the hiring was announced brought up articles discussing College of the Redwoods staff dissatisfaction with Marsee, who was considered an ostracizing force on the campus. The Collegian noted that much in an article published in the Feb. 25, 2011 issue.
“A 2010 story in The Journal, a Humboldt County alternative weekly newspaper, included quotes from campus staff at College of the Redwoods decrying his leadership, saying Marsee created a ‘hostile’ environment for staff…,” the article related.
The board of trustees, however, was not privy to much of the information about his background, members later said.
“(We) wanted to visit where he worked before, but Pamela Fisher (a search consultant) didn’t want us to do that, which we used to do before,” said trustee Dr. Mary Ann Cox.
Some of the trustees even went to search Marsee’s background on their own.
“A few of us did in fact look into his background, and were dissuaded from going any further,” said trustee C. Jennet Stebbins.
The board voted 7-0 for Marsee based on the previous experience that was known to them.
“He was the only sitting president who had applied,” said trustee Dr. Teresa Brown.
Marsee was to start in May.
NEW SCHOOL YEAR, NEW ACTIONS
There was calm until Aug. 17, 2011 when Vice President of Student Services Michael Kerns announced to the Associated Student Body Government (ASBG) that ownership of the long-standing campus flea market would be taken away from the student overseeing group.
“I will be transitioning the management of the flea market from the ASBG to the college foundation,” he told ASBG members during a special meeting.
Funds raised at the flea market would now go to the Passport to College Foundation.
The announcement met resistance from ASBG.
On Aug. 25, 2011, a “welcome back” barbecue held for students by ASBG turned into a protest against the move. The governing body had shirts made for students reading “Students Together Fighting United.” Petitions were made available for signature.
Members of ASBG told The Collegian a lawsuit would be filed against the campus administration over the move. The lawsuit never materialized.
The flea market continues to operate out of ASBG control.
A CHANGE IN CONFIDENCE
The beginning of the spring semester brought about a change in attitudes toward Marsee on campus.
On Jan. 25, the San Joaquin Delta College Teachers Association (SJDCTA) voted “no confidence” in Marsee. Ninety-six percent of the members who voted were against the president.
The campus’ California School Employees Association group also voted 119 out of 287 members in favor of no confidence. The ASBG followed suit as well.
On Jan. 31, the board held a special meeting to discuss “potential discipline, dismissal or release” of Marsee.
“There were many indications of the vote of no confidence,” said trustee Cox.
The indicators weren’t just vocal. In the February SJDCTA newsletter “Taking the Pulse” a small item credited to Dr. Elizabeth Maloney said “Marsee displayed a blatant disregard of SJDC Policy and Procedure.”
According to the article, Marsee “allowed students to remain on campus who had threatened staff” and consistently “dismissed claims of abuse, and harassment of students.”
Maloney said “he went out of his way to stir up conflict between employee groups by telling classified staff that adhering to contract language on faculty compensation will require classified layoff” in the newsletter.
At the Jan. 31 meeting the board did not come to a decision and instead recessed the decision for two days after Mike Hakeem of Hakeem, Ellis and Marengo told the members Marsee could pursue legal action against the campus if dismissed.
“As the Law firm representing Dr. Marsee, we are not here to threaten litigation but to advise the Board of Trustees to seek legal advice regarding the issues with Dr. Marsee,” he told the board.
The board delayed a final decision until Feb. 3, when less than a year after his hiring, Marsee was dismissed by another unanimous board vote. Hart was them named acting president.
The board advised campus officials that the members would like a new search for president to begin, this time without the aid of a consultant.
Marsee’s buyout will cost the college $350,000 in total.