Stress Fracture

Is College of the Redwoods broken, or finally healing correctly?

| July 30, 2009

College of the Redwoods' main campus -- a herd of squat wooden buildings overlooking green pastureland and Humboldt Bay from a wide shelf at the base of a redwood-draped hillside, seven miles south of Eureka -- sits on a network of active fault lines. Not by design, mind you. The campus was constructed in the mid-1960s; the underlying Little Salmon fault lines weren't discovered until PG&E workers noticed zigzag striations in the soil in 1980. Several buildings, it turned out, straddle these seismic friction points. Two faults converge beneath the old library, which has an open atrium at its center. If an earthquake strikes, says current CR President/Superintendent Jeff Marsee, the building will simply implode.

No doubt Marsee, who took the helm in July of last year, would discount any symbolism implied by the fact that the community college -- which has spread over the years to instructional sites up and down the North Coast, from Crescent City to Fort Bragg -- was founded on unstable ground. But there it is. CR's history is full of tremors, particularly in the past 10 years as the school has been dogged by unstable enrollment, budget shortfalls and accreditation sanctions.

In 2006, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) put CR on warning status for its inadequate response to recommendations dating back to 1999. The next year, following the departure of longtime President Casey Crabill, the school was downgraded again, this time to academic probation -- just two steps from losing accreditation altogether. Enrollment plummeted by more than 20 percent, and CR found itself saddled with a $4.5 million budget shortfall.

And yet, by the time Marsee arrived in July of 2008, things were looking up. The budget problems had been more or less sussed out, enrollment was back on the rise and, just two days into Marsee's tenure, CR was taken off probation. ACCJC President Barbara Beno commended the school's progress, telling the Eureka Reporter, "They have given other colleges a model for how quickly and how well they can turn 180 degrees." Marsee promised a new era of data-driven results and accountability.

Fast-forward to now. Marsee is engaged in a nasty power struggle with the Academic Senate, the body that represents faculty on campus. Members of student government are complaining that they've been manipulated by administration and ignored by the Board of Trustees. In Fort Bragg, site of CR's Mendocino Coast educational center, a group of citizens, faculty and public officials are leading a movement to secede from the college and align themselves with either Ukiah's Mendocino College or Santa Rosa J.C. -- or even go it alone if they have to. And the state budget approved Friday includes $5.7 billion in cuts to school districts and community colleges.

After being removed from warning status in January, CR was put back on again last month amidst angry finger pointing and accusations of sabotage. (They remain fully accredited while on warning status.) When ACCJC President Beno was reminded of her sunny assessment of CR's turnaround last year, she scoffed. "They turned back," she said on the phone last week. "I guess they're good at turning those 180 degrees."

Depending on whom you ask, CR's latest troubles are either the byproduct of a long overdue overhaul of the school's system of governance or the result of Marsee's misguided power-hoarding. Whichever the case, relations are terse, and the problems need to be resolved quickly. With the deadline for addressing one of the ACCJC's two current recommendations less than six months away, "CR should be very concerned," Beno said. "We've been telling them these things for a long time. ... In fact, federal law requires that if they don't correct these deficiencies by January, we'll have to remove accreditation."

At the center of the maelstrom is Marsee's power struggle with faculty, and the battle is not unique to College of the Redwoods. As government funding for education has steadily dwindled in recent years, the Board of Education has been demanding more accountability. Administrators, under increased pressure to produce quantifiable results with fewer resources, are seizing control from faculty leadership.

Marsee, who earned his master's in economics from Cal State Long Beach and a doctorate in higher education and administration from the University of Texas, has largely abandoned the term "shared governance" -- long the standard at CR -- in favor of "collegial consultation," suggesting a more top-down approach to administration. "The president is responsible for reporting to the board, not the faculty," Marsee said last week from his office on CR's main campus. "It's important to be inclusive and transparent, but it still remains the president's responsibility to make decisions."

His style of governance differs vastly from that of Crabill, who had eliminated the dean structure and allowed more faculty decision-making -- a system Marsee said wasn't working. The Academic Senate lagged on replacing retired instructors in programs like agriculture, welding and engineering, he said. When problems arose, the AS suddenly was not available. Marsee blames CR's 20 percent enrollment decline -- which happened at a time when other schools' rosters were climbing -- on the ineffectiveness of this decentralized power structure. "You have this recurring pattern," he said, "criticize and then disengage."

Marsee has since reestablished an administrative team consisting of three vice-presidents, four deans and two operational instructors.

The faculty, not surprisingly, paints a different picture. Marsee, they say, is a borderline dictator who issues decisions with little or no input from educators. In running the school like a business, they argue, he's prioritizing numbers over education, and sacrificing collaboration in the name of efficiency.

"Before Marsee came here, I will tell you that that was the best year I've ever had at this school," said Chemistry Professor Tony Sartori, who served as co-president of the Academic Senate until June 30. "It was just such a sense of wellbeing, good mood and high morale at the end of 2008. Here we are at the end of 2009, and I have never seen the sense of low morale that I see now. The whole community -- it's fractured."

The feud reached a breaking point in April when the Academic Senate, who felt they hadn't been adequately included in the drafting of an Educational Master Plan (EMP), sent a letter to the ACCJC, telling the accrediting committee that the plan was "seriously flawed," had "not been widely discussed and did not have broad-based support."

"The majority of that EMP was Dr. Marsee's plan," Allen Keppner, current co-president of the Academic Senate, told the Journal last week. "The plan that he took in December to the accreditation committee and presented as our plan we had not even seen. We hadn't had an opportunity to look at it, to comment on it, to revise it. In fact," Keppner said, "it was a plan to make money. It was a business plan, not an EMP."

The draft plan was presented to the ACCJC in December as evidence that the school was making progress on its last remaining recommendation -- to establish a standardized system of program reviews. And it was accepted as such. CR was taken off warning status in January, though they were also given a new imperative -- to establish a firm delineation of roles and responsibilities in order to improve communication and rebuild trust. "In essence," Beno said, "this is [saying], 'Stop having arguments over who has what authority.'"

The school was finally free of sanctions, but when the faculty leadership got a hold of the draft EMP, they were outraged. They felt they'd been taken out of the loop and that the plan made no provisions to ensure the quality of education at the college. So they took their complaints to the ACCJC.

Marsee considered the move sabotage. "Their frustration was expressed by -- what was the Russian term? -- the 'scorched-earth policy,'" he said. He and the board of directors worried that the faculty's protest letter would threaten the school's accreditation gains by exposing the institution's ugly underbelly. "It was awful," Marsee said, clearly pained by the memory. "The most frustrating experience. Completely irrational."

Following the letter, Marsee sent an angry response to college staff, telling them, "I am at a loss to understand what is motivating the Academic Senate to send misstatements to the ACCJC, misstatements that could jeopardize the accreditation status of our College."

Misstatements or not, the ACCJC did indeed place CR back on warning status last month. In an April report, Beno wrote that while CR seemed to have made significant progress the previous fall, "the College appears to have slowed or reversed its direction."

Sartori insists faculty did not want or anticipate such a reaction. "We thought [the ACCJC] would want to hear this information from us," he said. Plus, he and Keppner believed they had nowhere else to turn. CR's Board of Trustees has expressed total confidence in President Marsee since April, following a heated staff retreat and board meeting. After confronting the Academic Senate about their protest letter, then meeting with Marsee in closed session, the board emerged backing the new president. "The board has a designated representative," Board President George Truett told the Journal last week. "We delegate to this person our authority. That's Dr. Marsee."

"When they came out and said, 'We are 100 percent behind the president,' we had nowhere to go," Sartori said. "We were dead in the water." He and Keppner firmly believe that Marsee's autocratic leadership threatens the school's future. If the board wouldn't hear their complaints, well, the accreditation committee just might. "It was either do something drastic now or face the severe consequences down the road," Keppner said.

The Academic Senate isn't the only group frustrated with the new power structure. When the college acquired a large copper sculpture by the late Hobart Brown earlier this year, it did so with the help of $14,000 from the Associated Students of College of the Redwoods (ASCR), and the process of approval left some in the student government peeved. ("Eye of the Beholder," June 11) A small box (a shoe box, say the students) was placed in front of the 30-feet-wide piece during its three-week display in the library along with a question -- something along the lines of, "Do you like this?" or "Is this a piece of art you think the school should own?" The response was roughly 78 percent positive.

But then-ASCR Secretary Jennifer Thompson felt the process was a farce. "There was no information about money. ... They didn't know what they were agreeing to," she told the Journal recently. Then-Treasurer Dave Reyes agreed, saying that the 150 or so students who responded to the survey hardly represent a vast majority of the student body, as the administration framed it. "Four thousand students go here," he said. "That [150] is a small fraction."

Still, it was the ASCR that cast the final vote approving the expenditure, and Reyes himself voted "yes." But he says he felt pressured by the unwelcome presence of a faculty member -- Student Services Vice President Keith Snow-Flamer. Reyes and Thompson feel the ASCR was "strong-armed" by the administration into approving the $14,000 expense (augmented with another $11,000 from the non-profit CR Foundation), so they took their complaints to the Board of Trustees. But the board shot them down. "I feel like they didn't really want to hear what we had to say," Thompson said.

"It scares me," Reyes concurred. "If it's that easy to push us into approving something, what are they gonna do to future students?"

Marsee said the controversy provided a wonderful civics lesson. "We had a majority that voted for it and were knowledgeable about it. A minority voted against it," he said. "At some point the minority has to say, 'OK, democracy has ruled. Time to move on.'"

The Mendocino secessionist movement apparently was sparked when Marsee attempted to transfer the popular head of the southern campus' Marine Science Technology program, Greg Grantham, from Fort Bragg up to Eureka. According to a story in the Anderson Valley Advertiser, the move brought longstanding beefs -- like insufficient funding, inadequate course offerings and a perceived lack of attention to community needs -- to a head. Members of the community, including Fort Bragg Mayor Doug Hammerstrom, Vice Mayor Dave Turner and City Manager Linda Ruffing, formed the Community College Interest Group and set about exploring their options.

Marsee may have had good reason to shake things up in Mendocino. The campus, which accommodates roughly 350 full-time-equivalent (FTE) students per semester, has been costing CR roughly half a million dollars annually. According to Marsee, Grantham's Marine Science Technology program was only graduating one or two students each year. "The numbers just didn't work," Marsee said.

But he may have underestimated the reaction of Fort Bragg community-members, who argued that it was the responsibility of the main campus, not professors, to recruit students. Two hundred fifty or so local residents showed up to a public forum at which Marsee solicited ideas for how to make Grantham's program work. When the secessionists persisted, he took the gloves off, telling them that if they truly wanted to divorce themselves from CR and could find another district willing to take them on, then so be it, with one stipulation: They'd have to reimburse the college for the 40 acres of prime, ocean-view real estate they sit on.

The movement appears to have calmed down. Marsee announced Grantham would be staying at Fort Bragg for at least another year. ("We're in an evaluative position," he said.) In the meantime, CR has been working with the Mendocino center to boost enrollment in the Marine Science program through scholarships and Web-based promotions. Calls to Fort Bragg's mayor, vice mayor and city manager were not returned.

Despite these numerous tribulations, Marsee remains remarkably optimistic and ambitious in planning CR's future. Based on summer enrollment and fall registration, he's predicting a 20-25 percent increase in full-time-equivalent students this semester, some of whom will attend classes at two new instructional sites -- one in the McKinleyville Shopping Center and another at Stewart Elementary School, near Arcata High. Construction is set to begin on two new buildings (which carefully dodge those pesky fault lines) at the Eureka main campus. And in the biggest potential development, CR has offered $100,000 -- far below the list price of $748,000 -- for the former Garberville School, a 1939 four-classroom schoolhouse that could potentially give the college a permanent anchor in southern Humboldt. (Along with the offer came a pledge of "close to a million dollars to get the place renovated," Marsee said.)

He insists all this expansion is driven by numbers -- that the investments will almost certainly pay off. The startup money for the Garberville site will come largely from leftover funds generated by Measure Q, the 2004 voter-approved proposition to sell $40.3 million in bonds, currently being paid back through parcel taxes. All Measure Q monies were spent or committed when Marsee arrived, but in February, he halted construction on an $11.5 million student union building, opting instead to renovate the current student union. (More than half a million had already been spent, however.)

Sartori and Keppner are not convinced that these are all wise decisions, and they're annoyed at having been left out of them. "We're not against all these moves," Sartori said. "We want to be involved in them. We want to help. But, guess what? We're not being asked for help. These things are just being done." Both men questioned whether the Garberville expansion would be a legitimate use of Measure Q funds given that no such proposal was presented to voters five years ago when the measure was approved. But Marsee pointed to language in the measure providing for "improvement and expansion of project space."

As CR gears up for another semester, the power struggle remains fierce. It may cool down a bit this fall thanks to a scheduled mediation (requested by the Academic Senate) with the leaders of the state Academic Senate and the League of California Community Colleges.

"There's got to be some changes from the way Jeff [Marsee] operates," Sartori insisted. Marsee, meanwhile, says faculty leaders "are not the operational administrators they perceive themselves to be." With both sides expecting validation, someone will eventually be forced to give ground.

CR's board of directors has already chosen a side, and Truett, the board president, has been infected by Marsee's enthusiasm. "I'm excited about CR, because until Jeff Marsee came there was really no coherent vision," Truett said. "He has taken the ball and run with it."

Just how far he can run remains to be seen. The January compliance deadline is looming, and without accreditation CR would be of virtually no value to students hoping to continue their education at a four-year institution. Should CR succeed in resolving that first recommendation from the ACCJC, it will have until June of 2011 to respond to the second, which requires the college to "develop a means by which trust can be enhanced and respect increased... ."

 Stress Fracture

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Comments (30)

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I'ts too bad Marsee didn't spend as much time with the faculty as he did with the Board. He could have won faculty support very easily from the beginning. Faculty were ready and willing to support him. Instead, he shut them out, threw out all their ideas and insulted them, forced "his vision" and "his plan" on them, denigrated all of their previous hard work on getting the college off probation, pursued vengefull attacks against specific faculty he was personally angry with, and I'm sure there's more that I don't know about. Trust needs more than enhancement. Trust level is at a negative 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. Respect? He might gain some if he showed some. Honestly, with the Board in his pocket, I don't think he has any interest in actually gaining faculty trust or respect. He doesn't need it- he just wants to "trowel on the Maybelline" to get a pass from ACCJC. I think he is right now lobbying for a favorable consultant to lead the upcoming mediation. That's how untrustful I am.

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Posted by Insult to Injury on 07/30/2009 at 10:33 AM

Although it might seem, from the description, that the faculty are just a bunch of 'trouble-makers,' I'd like to point out that just because a person has a lofty title does not mean he knows what he is doing.
Also the faculty have been through a lot at this school -- they have seen presidents come and go -- and most are there for the long haul. The president's motivation is to make himself look good -- not to make the school a better place in the long run.

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Posted by The emperor has no clothes on 07/30/2009 at 5:11 PM

The focus in this article of Mendocino's discussion on whether we should stay with CR or try another institution is misleading. This is not the most important nor most contentious issue for this community. The potential transfer of Professor Grantham and ending of the unique Marine Science Technology Program was the impetus for the community to get involved, but the real issues are how decisions and priorities are arrived at, and whether Eureka listens. Example: Measure Q was overwhelmingly voted for by Mendocino voters. One of its major benefits was supposed to be sorely needed rennovations to the science labs. These were not done due to earthquake needs in Eureka. Rather than prioritize these neglected labs, instead the Eureka administration is intent on finding and spending new money to move Fine Woodworking from its current location to Campus. Fine Woodworking faculty do not want to move and this has been said many times. Moving Fine Woodworking will not improve the budget, increase enrollment, or any of the other admirable goals constantly promoted. If there is money available, it should be used to do the promised renovations on the Science labs, but we can't get Eureka to listen or explain why.

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Posted by concerned in Mendocino on 07/30/2009 at 6:08 PM

Well, Mendo, you folks should be checking the Board minutes and agendas regularly. Measure Q monies have, and are being proposed, to be spent all over the place but not at Mendo. This Aug 4th the Board will discuss, in closed session, the purchase of the Garberville site using Measure Q funds. Earthequake needs? Hey, maybe, I don't know, but sounds like a line. Here's how priorities are arrived at: Marsee says, Marsee does. The Board smiles and says, "Yay!"

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Posted by Insult to Injury on 07/30/2009 at 7:25 PM

Here's a simplistic outline. There are two ways to run a large unwieldy institution. One, you can pull everybody together, get them working together for a common cause, with common goals. You can encourage innovation and creativity in striving for excellence. You can (what a concept!) ask the people who do the work what they think would make things work better for the client or customer (ie, student, community member). Two, you can force people to implement your ideas through threats and/or rewards. You can cut your way through any existing processes that would involve considering pesky other opinions. You can direct everyone to just do their job, not question anything, and do what they're told and everything will be fine. You can point out, as examples, those who do question things. Tell me which institution you'd rather work for.

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Posted by Insult to Injury on 07/30/2009 at 7:40 PM

Marsee's oft-repeated mantra says it all: "My Vision is Your Vision."

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Posted by Concerned in Eureka on 07/30/2009 at 7:55 PM

Lurching towards a monarchy The year before Dr. Marsee arrived, the college banded together under a retired college president to deal with the accreditation crisis. Everyone was consulted; the process was transparent and the participants felt involved and valued. He left, and Marsee walked in with a clean slate, due to the college's unified cooperation.
He immediately began treating CR like a private kingdom, as you've read. But it's not just the senior faculty and Academic Senate who were ignored; he treated long-time staff members like peons.
Marsee could have found a good managerial way to get people on board. (He claims they're dragging their feet. Hell, they were never consulted.) He could easily have gotten together with the faculty and begun by congratulating them on their hard work the past year, then by offering to meet with a committee to address what he saw as the problems and goals we faced. He did the opposite. His hubris is so staggering that he has accomplished what years of internecine power struggles failed to do -- he managed to unite the faculty. Against him.
In an era of drastic budget cuts, he hired an entire raft of high-paid vice-presidents and deans, who now have to learn on the job, as he dismissed the division chairs who had critical knowledge and hands-on experience. The ship of state was left top-heavy and is, as the fall term approaches, floundering. The article hints at but does not cover the other aspect of the president's megalomania: micromanagement. I can't possibly provide a list, but the man is driving everyone crazy with his need to control every tiny aspect of the college. For example, we just received a notice that staff parking permits would no longer be handled by Security. Instead they have been transferred to the vice president for Finance. Any parking issues now must be walked up to the Palace. Why? Surely not because there was incompetence or misbehavior. Evidently to put every detail under the president's microscope. The near-contempt for faculty and staff has and will continue to take its toll. Their mantra is, "I can endure this jackass. I'm just hanging in till I'm eligible for retirement." Any army that replaces its sergeants with colonels is not only top-heavy, but dangerously inexperienced, if not inept. Dr. Marsee, in his quest to make CR "more like a business" has alienated the faculty, trivialized the staff, and begun his regime with dumb power-grabs. The guy is good enough a hustler to have conned the Trustees -- why didn't he use some of that charm on his own troops?

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Posted by Dan Cancrizan on 07/30/2009 at 8:23 PM

Dan: this is absolutely accurate. Also: few people have spoken on behalf of the staff at CR. They don't have the protection of tenure like some of the faculty, and have had to endure this last year largely in cowed silence.

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Posted by Concerned in Eureka on 07/30/2009 at 9:17 PM

Wow -- this guy is incredible! Not only are the ("whiny") faculty having trouble with him, but also students, staff, and the community members at the Mendocino campus also find him hard to work with (and find that he does not listen ... nor does he care). Does anyone get along with him besides the Trustees? (It is hard to trust their judgment after all this.)
BTW Mendocino, the Measure Q money was also supposed to improve classrooms and labs in Eureka -- and it does not look like that is ever going to happen.
Furthermore, when did CR get notice of warning status -- a month ago? And has anything at all been done to work on fixing the problems that the astute Accrediting commission has exposed? Time is marching on. . .

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Posted by Exposed on 07/31/2009 at 8:16 AM

Marsee states that the faculty have been running the show for the last ten years. Where'd you hear that from. Here's the truth at least over the last, maybe seven years. Crabill may have had faculty in Admin roles but they were totally loyal to her. They helped her keep track of faculty opposition so she could deal with those "roque" faculty members and Admin who were not following her toxic, pied piper song that nearly ran the college into the ground. She could marginalize them before those dissenters could garner enough opposition to stop her pet projects that were jepardizing the solvency of the institution. Thank goodness ACCJC stepped up since the Board was happily dancing to her toxic beat. Sure when she left there was a void in leadership but, Tom Harris stepped in and taught those that remained that real leadership in an institution is owned by every member, down to the Maintenance Staff. The enrollment numbers improved, ACCJC recommendations were being addressed in unprecendented ways. The only thing Marsee needed to do was bring some oversight to the Facilities Master Plan. There was still major problems with collaboration and transparency. He also needed to finish getting the mechanisms in place to build the Educational Master Plan. Instead he's decided to take the college from this community and make it all his, just like Casey did. I can't believe the Board is so blind to see that this is Casey Crabill in a gentlemen's suit. He gives them glitz and glamour of expansion to new instructional sites (expensive overhead) when, according to Marsee himself, we are underutilizing our current sites. Forcing expansion of offerrings in areas where there is not enough faculty to cover our current filling sections let alone, the additional evening sections he demands we add. Evening sessions that always have less enrollment then their daytime counterparts. The only difference I have seen with Marsee is that he lacks the interpersonal relationship skills to conduct his hostile take-over, to pad his resume, under the radar. It appears however, that the Board learned nothing from what happened with Casey Crabill. Here we go again... Please Board WAKE UP, before it is too late.

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Posted by Short History on 07/31/2009 at 5:00 PM

Just take a look at the current enrollment for these new instructional sites: not only do we lack the faculty and money to support them, but we also lack adequate student numbers as well. Marsee is very much like Crabill, only with more overt arrogance and less underhanded, calculating gloss. Both of these presidents have (and have had) the aptitude to drive our college right into into financial ruin. Can we possibly bring Dr. Harris back?

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Posted by Agreed on 07/31/2009 at 5:35 PM

There's something you can do right now: don't let him buy that $100,000 bus and don't let him buy that Garberville site.

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Posted by To CR's Board on 07/31/2009 at 5:59 PM

Step two: Make Marsee fully concentrate on fulfilling (in a transparent, collegial, and operationally meaningful way) the recommendations of the ACCJC. They will be back for another visit this October, as we all know.

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Posted by To CR's Board on 07/31/2009 at 6:27 PM

Leslie Marsee is on the Aug. 3 BOT packet for personnel approval (as a volunteer). Of course Jeff (Marsee) couldn't begin his wife's indulgence with CR with a pay...that will follow later.

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Posted by News Flash on 08/01/2009 at 7:48 AM

PLEASE DO NOT PRINT MY NAME BECAUSE I WOULD LIKE TO REMAIN ACTIVE IN THE EFFORTS WE ARE MAKING TO RESOLVE DIFFERENCES. THANK YOU. FROM A CONCERNED MENDOCINO COAST RESIDENT: This well considered article and the valuable comments following it are very much appreciated. When Jeff Marsee came down to talk to our community about the potential removal of Greg Grantham from our campus he was as condescending and dictatorial as he could possible have been. He didn't appear to listen to anything constructive. We care about our campus and are not working to remove it from the CR mother ship. We have formed a college advocacy committee which is concerned with trying to support what is good here and to help bring about what is needed and missing. We have sub-committees looking into housing, curriculum, information gathering, financial assistance from the community, and only one small group looking into the options regarding our stewardship organization. One sub-committee is working hard to bring back the "Winter In The Redwoods" gala event to raise money for student scholarships. We voted overwhelmingly for measure Q. and our property owners are paying for those bonds. Yet what we have received is a redesigned library that is far less user and staff friendly than what we had to begin with. We have no science lab repairs and renovations and we have hallways with no electrical outlets for janitors to plug their vacuume cleaners into. And then there is the business of a world renowned woodworking program that is very happy in their present quarters which overlook Pudding Creek. Administration is planning on moving them when no one associated with the program wishes to move or spend the vast amount of money it would require to do so. All of these kinds of situations could be resolved reasonably if only someone were listening and willing to discuss rather than dictate. Thank you for this forum.

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Posted by [name redacted at poster's request] on 08/03/2009 at 11:40 AM

PLEASE DO NOT PRINT MY NAME BECAUSE I WOULD LIKE TO REMAIN ACTIVE IN THE EFFORTS WE ARE MAKING TO RESOLVE DIFFERENCES. THANK YOU. FROM A CONCERNED MENDOCINO COAST RESIDENT: This well considered article and the valuable comments following it are very much appreciated. When Jeff Marsee came down to talk to our community about the potential removal of Greg Grantham from our campus he was as condescending and dictatorial as he could possible have been. He didn't appear to listen to anything constructive. We care about our campus and are not working to remove it from the CR mother ship. We have formed a college advocacy committee which is concerned with trying to support what is good here and to help bring about what is needed and missing. We have sub-committees looking into housing, curriculum, information gathering, financial assistance from the community, and only one small group looking into the options regarding our stewardship organization. One sub-committee is working hard to bring back the "Winter In The Redwoods" gala event to raise money for student scholarships. We voted overwhelmingly for measure Q. and our property owners are paying for those bonds. Yet what we have received is a redesigned library that is far less user and staff friendly than what we had to begin with. We have no science lab repairs and renovations and we have hallways with no electrical outlets for janitors to plug their vacuume cleaners into. And then there is the business of a world renowned woodworking program that is very happy in their present quarters which overlook Pudding Creek. Administration is planning on moving them when no one associated with the program wishes to move or spend the vast amount of money it would require to do so. All of these kinds of situations could be resolved reasonably if only someone were listening and willing to discuss rather than dictate. Thank you for this forum.

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Posted by [name redacted at poster's request] on 08/03/2009 at 11:40 AM

What never ceases to amaze me is how the culture at CR never seems to change. The faculty strongly opposed the administration of Cedric Sampson. Then when that entire administration dissolved and by 1999 every administrator from the Human Resources Director on up had been there less than two years, there continued to be strife between the faculty and the administration. Once again, nearly every administrator is new, yet the faculty and the administrators can not get along. Although it would be easy to point the finger at the faculty as the common denominator, don't forget the board. Despite a few new faces, it seems the board continues to nod approval rather than take a critical look at whatever is presented to them. The administration and board want the faculty to nod approval as well, yet the very reason ACCJC doesn't approve of CR goes back to the original accreditation process back in 1999. Jeff Bobbitt, and perhaps a few others, essentially wrote the Self-Study without examining much of anything and allowed no input from other administrators and just a few nodding faculty. Well, nice job, we thought when we received ACCJC approval, but apparently they didn't think it was quite so nice 5 years later when Jeff wrote our mid-term report AGAIN without input from the college as a whole. No wonder ACCJC put the college back on Probation Status. History has repeated itself, AGAIN. And now it appears CR did it again--submitted a report without extensive college-wide input. And now we are again on Warning Status. Accreditation is supposed to involve extensive self-examination and concerted effort to improve. Therein lies my advice to all facets--Faculty, Administration, and Board. Do a good self-examination rather than finger pointing. Then resolve to resolve the problems. There is a whole lot at stake here. We can't get ourselves a new accredited college; only you can do that for us. You can retire or move on to other colleges. Our students cannot. Please do the hard work once again to get CR back on track. You did a miraculous job once. Please do it again.

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Posted by History Repeats Itself Again and Again on 08/04/2009 at 11:22 AM

Marsee simply thinks that field trips and Frisbee Golf and athletics and wine-growing and art collecting and real estate are simply more "fun" than the sustained and detailed concentration it will take to work through our very serious accreditation problems. Our accreditation has now largely been relegated to his inexperienced (or inattentive) senior staff. It's extremely alarming.

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Posted by Let's Face It on 08/04/2009 at 1:52 PM

I am a disabled firefighter trying to re-educate myself back into the work force. Unfortunately I am also one of three older students that were physically battered and verbally assaulted over the length of the Spring 09 semester and I can attest that the problems are far deeper than the issues stated in the article. The administration has turned a blind eye to the abusive behavior of a few students and the negligent behavior of several faculty in the HRC Culinary program. Assaulted students were led to believe that irrelevant "hearings" would handle the issues but the follow up hearings never came and some of the hearings weren't relevant to the issues at hand. CR simply drug the situation out until the semester was over. Any actions the college even feigned taking were only prompted after I went to the Arcata PD and asked for patrols of the HRC kitchen lab in Arcata. (There was no security at the time.) The lack of action by the school forced us to contact the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges and report the situation. Two of us have decided that we can't go on in the hostile learning environment that CR encourages and have enrolled in other programs at a great personal/financial cost. This wasn't always the case. My first year at CR (Fall 07/Spring 08) was professional and productive. There were two big changes after the previously mentioned semester; Marsee came to CR and changed the focus of staff and a new coordinator for the HRC program.

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Posted by It goes deeper on 08/04/2009 at 2:47 PM

It should be noted that the ACJCC noted, in one of their reports to CR during 07-08, that the faculty had a responsibility to report failures or difficulties associated with meeting accreditation requirements to the commission and that they could not sit passively by while the Administration did the shuck and jive. The Academic Senate's reporting of the goings on at CR was in fulfillment of an ACJCC dictate and should be viewed as a necessary and responsible action undertaken with CR's best interest in mind. If accountability and transparency is a community and college goal then the Faculty are doing their part to make that a reality. Lastly, there is a fairly clear cause/effect relationship here between the ACCJC's placement of the college back on "warning" status and the arrival of Jeff Marsee. He is the only variable that stands between the college's full accreditation and the removal of that status. The entire college performed a herculean effort to regain its accreditation from the ACCJC. Jeff Marsee decided to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. To be fair, this is his first college presidency. Realistically, though, he is handling this job poorly. His micromanagement is likely a result of his insecurity as a president (the opposite of Tom Harris). Moreover, the people at his previous institution who our committee interviewed about Marsee admit that they LIED about what a great leader and strong visionary he is just so they could get rid of him!! It is such a shame that he has, in a very short period of time, destroyed most of the good work the staff, administration, and faculty have done over the last couple of years to make this college into a well-functioning institution. At such a small place, it would seem easy to right the ship. With Jeff Marsee, this may well be impossible.

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Posted by Bobo on 08/05/2009 at 1:28 PM

This situation is analogous to the free-wheeling, unregulated banking industry just before the crash. You are the regulators here. You must step in and investigate these concerns. The whole community is dependent on you.

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Posted by To CR's Board on 08/05/2009 at 5:37 PM

I wish somebody would follow the money. I know that is supposed to be Marsee's area of expertise, but I am really worried. I am hearing that departments still have no budget, I mean ZERO money, while at the same time I see him making proposals to spend hundreds of thousands, and yet another consultant was hired, this time to survey voters on a possible new bond issue. And, I've heard rumors of misuse of funds in some areas. I suspect Marsee was counting on enrollment growth for an infusion of "growth money" from the state, but that has now been frozen. CCs statewide are canceling classes because of the "no-growth" funding and other cuts. He's saying our budget is fine now, but I think we will hear differently when we need the money for something that he personally doesn't support or care about. Like staff salaries, filling vacancies at the lower levels, maintenance and security, all those boring operational expenses. Most of our staff were already overloaded, due to Casey Crabill's policy of shrinking the number of support staff, she was very open about that, stating that we had about 25-30 unfilled staff positions that she had no intention of filling, ever. Now Marsee creates more work for fewer staff with no pay increases. How long can that go on? Our budget is supposed to be set based on our program reviews in an open process. Well, sure, that happens, but then it goes into the "black box" of upper magmt and never comes back out.

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Posted by Insult to Injury on 08/15/2009 at 11:00 AM

Marsee's area of expertise is spending money like it will never end, and I am very doubtful that the program review process will ever truly guide his planning or budgeting. He disregarded program review last year, and we should all be closely watching to see if he disregards it this year as well. If he does it again, he will be (yet again) violating one of our principal accreditation directives.

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Posted by He never plans ahead on 08/17/2009 at 5:10 PM

I resent this article and its community comments. Professors at CR work 8 months out of the year and are not even required to hold office hours at a college that does not provide its students with campus email addresses. What kind of "professor" position doesn't have to hold office hours for students, in good conscious? Did the Academic Senate overlook that they weren't holding office hours for students in these recent years? Or would that have cut into their 4 months of vacation? Meanwhile, the true framework of CR work all year-round, regularly checking their emails from home in the evenings and weekends to be on top of the large influx of work daily on their desks, or even coming in on weekends, off of vacation, or in the middle of the night to assure the buildings are functioning and students are able to attend a physical school building. These are people who often work through the standard holiday time in December on projects just to get a jump on the flow of work during the year. Those are the people who assist students seeking success through the "growing pains" the college so regularly goes through. Those persons have done so mostly driven by a desire to do right by the students they serve, and that can be evidenced, since they have done so without their pay raises for nearly 6 years in a row. Where is the Academic Senate on those issues in the last 6 years when they supposedly had everything in working order? And where is the Humboldt community for those persons on whom they rely when calling the school to take care of business? We all know a family affected to this extreme degree by the CR staff's workload. A strong supportive staff for a college is the backbone their opportunity to teach stands on. I have yet to see faculty make a presence, or even make intonations of interest at having a presence, at any CR orientation or recruitment function, which is usually held outside of standard hours, and more appropriate for them, considering those efforts recruit students to their programs of study. The staff and managers at CR are underpaid and overworked by normal standards, and surely in comparison to the faculty at CR. Faculty are out of line causing so much disruption that would not only jeopardize the future security of the school where they teach, but also dis-respect the amount of work, sacrifice, and--dare I say it--PRIDE that so many others have invested into the operations and success in the CR community. I'd love to see faculty demonstrate an ounce of PRIDE in where they work instead of such heated condemnation and tantrums, but I can't hold my breath that long.

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Posted by Dear CR Faculty, where is your PRIDE on 08/20/2009 at 9:17 AM

PS--Good luck, Dr. Marsee.

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Posted by Where is your Pride, 2 on 08/20/2009 at 9:29 AM
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