The Pierce College Academic Senate is still arguing after approximately three months of heated discussion and after it voted to promote one of its vice presidents to presidency following weeks of heated discussion.
Discussions continue over whether or not to set up a special election for the faculty to vote on a new president.
During the latest senate meeting on Nov. 18, debate on a motion to do a special election “as soon as feasible to fill the remaining terms of office” took up nearly the entire meeting, according to reporters present at the discussion. Because of this, some items included in the meeting’s agenda were not discussed.
“It’s a time suck, basically,” said Kathy Holland, adjunct faculty at-large representative.
The motion passed with 18 ayes, 11 objections and 5 abstentions, according to documents. However, the action is out of order based on the Academic Senate bylaws, which state that amendments to the bylaws — special elections to this effect are not covered by the document — require a two-thirds majority vote, not a majority.
“Most of the senators do not know their bylaws nor are they familiar with Robert’s Rules of Order,” said Richard Skidmore, chair of the Bylaws Taskforce.
Skidmore said that he has since alerted some members of the Academic Senate’s executive board of the error, and is waiting for them to acknowledge the error.
The motion and succeeding lengthy discussion is only part of the ongoing debate, after former senate president John Zayac resigned for personal reasons before he officially began his term.
“There are some members of the senate who do not want to follow the bylaws, and they want to target the current sitting president,” Skidmore said. “You cannot arbitrarily ignore the bylaws.”
Kathy Oborn, current Academic Senate president, took the position after the group voted to recognize her as the rightful executive.
“Kathy Oborn is put in a bad situation. It’s a no-win situation for her,” Academic Senate member James McKeever said. ““I really do believe she wants to do the right thing, but I don’t know if there’s a proper path to get there.”
The issue has brought to light problems with the group’s bylaws and the senate’s unfamiliarity as a whole with Robert’s Rules of Order.
“Sometimes it takes a crazy disaster like this to get people to think, ‘We need to update our bylaws,’” Holland said.
While the Bylaws Taskforce is currently working to make changes to the entire document in time for next semester, there are some senate members who are pushing just for a section on special elections to be given priority.
“Until we come to terms with that, it’s the white elephant in the room,” said Margarita Pillado, Academic Senate vice president of curriculum.
However, many members of the taskforce say that taking their time is important to ensure a thorough revision of the bylaws.
“You can’t just call for a special election. You have to give us a bit of time. Other people want to fix this and fix other problems later, but I say, ‘Why not do this right the first time even if it takes us a bit longer?’” said Anthony Gabrielli, senate and Bylaws Taskforce member. “We need to go back and make it a coherent change that occurs. I don’t believe there is any debate on whether a special election should be included but it has to be formulated in a way that doesn’t affect the bylaws.”
Holland agrees with Gabrielli.
“This is something we should not do in haste because if we do it in haste it will com back to haunt us. It’s always appropriate to take more time than necessary to cross the Ts and dot Is because bylaws are the rules of our group. If our bylaws are a mess we function as a mess,” she said.
There are also faculty members like Modern Language Department Chair Fernando Oleas, who don’t think the elections are ever going to happen.
“They just manipulate [the situation] not to hold elections,” he said.
Members of the taskforce say they are trying their best to get the process done as quickly possible.
“Nobody on the task force is delaying or forestalling the process to get a special election,” Gabrielli said. “This isn’t going to take long if they just leave us alone.”
This is the first time the senate has had to deal with problems like this, according to Holland, who has been active with the group since the late ‘90s.
“If at the end of the term, it would be a non-issue, but because it’s at the beginning of a two-year term it becomes more significant and much more meaningful to people,” she said.
McKeever describes the situation to be “almost like a tug of war.”
“People dig really deep in the trenches. We’re just going to pull and pull until it falls apart,” he said. “Because of this, it’s tearing the campus in two. It shouldn’t be that way. What’s really being lost is what we’re here for: educating students.”
Holland says that considering how long it is taking for the situation to blow over, it might take even longer for everyone to recover.
“It’s that explosive and crazy. It’s a disaster. You never recover from disasters immediately,” she said. “It takes time to reestablish relations and get back to where we can all work together.”