The accusations are contained in a document read by a senate member during the public comment portion of CBC’s monthly meeting of the board of trustees Monday.
The senate elected to produce a document outlining the charges in lieu of passing what a straw vote indicated would be an almost unanimous vote of no confidence in Espinoza.
“She has mentioned this in public before,” notes Faculty Senate President Dr. Emmanuel Alvarado. “She carries a vote of no confidence as a badge of honor.”
“Dr. Espinoza is in violation of the most important SACS principle — integrity,” the statement says. “(She has) withheld information and provided inaccurate information to the public, in direct violation of (a) SACS principle... which states, ‘the institution operates with integrity in all matters.’”
The senate charges occur in the wake of stringent budgetary cutbacks and layoffs to combat a deficit approaching $2 million in the face of steadily dropping overall enrollment.
“In the reorganization of the college,” the statement says, “Dr. Espinoza has made several questionable assignments and promotions.”
Among the charges:
• Reversing an established college practice by conducting an internal search for a vice president using lowered credential requirements.
• While an external search was underway, Dr. Espinoza awarded, without an interview process, a deanship to Dr. Randy Lindeman after he submitted his resignation and then had the personnel department conduct a “sham” interview of a “significantly more qualified candidate.”
• Promotion of a junior staffer to replace a retired director in the financial department “which allowed the president wide latitude in the budgetary process which resulted in failure to address shortfalls in a timely manner.”
• Criteria to decide which instructors would be laid off applied inconsistently.
• Appointment of “super” division chairs... without an interview process.
Alvarado doesn’t mince words about the charges. “When you hire an interim dean as the result of somebody coming to you and saying they want to resign... and while there is an open search going on — people in good faith were applying for the position — I think that’s, at best, questionable ethics and, at worst, a public act of corruption.”
He was out of the country during the last board meeting; history instructor Margery McCurdy read the statement.
Espinoza and the faculty senate have been at odds since she began her campus-wide restructuring. From the start, the senate says, rather than being party to the process, Espinoza has all but silenced it.
“The public comment portion of a board meeting is not the place to discuss the items in our statement,” Alvarado laments. “That that’s the only place where our concerns can be heard is indicative of the lack of communication between the senate and the president.”
During public comments at a board meeting, the speaker is heard but board members are not allowed to respond. After she was finished, board chairman Paul Jaure asked McCurdy if the board could have a copy of the statement. McCurdy refused, saying she would have to ask Alvarado first.
Because the letter was read at a public meeting, the document is supposed to be available for anyone. Alvarado sent copies to the board the next day.
SACS recommends the existence of a faculty association, or senate, or union, but it doesn’t make it mandatory. Many Texas colleges do not have one. The CBC senate, comprised of 15 elected members, meets monthly during the school year, often using the college’s video conferencing facility to confer with members from CBC’s off-campus sites.
Its influence is at the dictates of the college president.
“It’s mostly of an advisory nature,’ Alvarado says.
However, he warns, during its reaccreditation investigation, SACS might complain that the college is lacking in input from the faculty when it makes decisions.
Some members, he says, are strongly considering notifying SACS, citing the lack of communication with the president’s office.
In previous interviews, Espinoza has stressed that the lines of communication are open; many faculty members maintain that those channels are restrictive instead of being free.
“Only a certain kind of input is allowed,” Alvarado says. Those who try to circumvent the process, or choose to speak out publicly, “are subject,” he says, “to retaliation.”
While Espinoza says she appreciates the number of faculty members who have expressed support and enthusiasm for her reorganization efforts, at least six instructors in core areas are planning to resign in protest.
One is English instructor Jeff Massengill, who resigned after he learned that after he urged the board to rethink its decision not to renew contracts for a dozen instructors, he was demoted from division chair. He learned about the decision via an email.
“...it has become painfully clear that I will not be afforded even the most basic professional courtesies...under the present administration,” he stated in his resignation letter, that included 28 pages documenting his thwarted attempts to get administrators to answer his emails.
Instructors who are leaving “are united in their concerns that they want to be at a place where their input and skills and work and years of experience are not subject to control,” Alvarado says. “They would like to work in an environment that is more academically free.”
Alvarado has resigned, seeking that freedom.
“What I fear,” he says, “is that there is an increasing level of hostility within the college, especially among people who are not going away. I worry that if it continues, it will be increasingly difficult for CBC to get the reaccreditation from SACS. The stakes are pretty high. This is the only institution of higher learning in Bee County, in Jim Wells County. You can’t provide quality education if you have internal strife. You simply can’t do it.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.