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October 3, 2006 > Will Ohlone mayhem bring change?

Will Ohlone mayhem bring change?

Recently an interview with Ohlone College President Dr. Douglas Treadway and Board of Trustees President Robert Brunton about the disposition of Ohlone College frontage property was published in our paper (Vol. 5 No. 32, September 12 - 18). Exception was taken by many to the tone and content of Mr. Brunton's remarks. A subsequent Ohlone College Board of Trustees meeting, convened on Wednesday, September 27, opened to a room filled with interested and involved citizens, staff, employees and students who spoke passionately about perceived harm by these and previous statements and actions by Mr. Brunton to the college.  A statement by the Board of Trustees is printed in this issue to clear any misconception about extension of Dr. Treadway's contract.

 Two resolutions, one in support of Ohlone College President Treadway was signed by 116 full-time faculty and 10 adjunct faculty while another expressing "no confidence" and asking for the resignation of Board of Trustees President Robert Brunton was signed by 105 full-time faculty and 9 adjunct faculty. Both were presented by Faculty Senate President Susan Myers accompanied by emotional statements from others representing a myriad of campus groups, all excoriating Brunton. Although emotions were at a fever pitch accompanied by demands for immediate action, the outcome of Mr. Brunton's status will most probably be determined at the next board meeting (Oct 11 at 3 p.m. - Jackson Theatre). A question of unethical behavior served to ratchet the stakes a bit further. I found it interesting to hear college professors speak of the simplicity and intuitive nature of ethics and a code of ethics even though many college courses are taught and much philosophical debate can be found on the subject.

Although emotions were at a feverish pitch, the meeting progressed in an orderly - yet lengthy - fashion. Final outcome is still in doubt due to procedural requirements, but critical voices and resolutions of universal support of administrative leadership were heard. Finally, and probably most importantly, questions of board behavior expanded from condemnation of the board president to a long overdue examination of board composition and competency. It was humiliating as a member of the public to watch the majority of the board squirm indecisively and lack the fortitude to state a solid position of how to proceed with the matter, some bowing obsequiously to catcalls from the audience and political expediency. We elected these people!

Although a crowd may give opinions and use a bully pulpit to urge action, it is the elected board that represents the voice of the owners - the public. Here, this board failed in just about every respect. Sharing and probably shouldering most of the blame for this spectacle of poor responsiveness and stewardship are you and me. We elected this board and have been reelecting them year after year. It is time to take a close look at whom is representing us and why. If current trustees can make a cogent case for continuation on the board, more power to them, but if not, why are they consistently reelected? Is it because we just don't care about our college? Why do we retain a system that segregates votes on particular seats, dividing the power of the electorate? Why do we tolerate board members whose residency is in question? Why do we elect board members with obvious physical and mental limitations? Is this any way to treat our institution of higher learning? Should the public turn its back on our college by not electing responsible trustees who have the expertise and wisdom to guide strategic and administrative efforts? Will we continue to turn a blind eye toward fiscal issues looming in the near future for our college?

The idea of a board of trustees is to act in the public's interest, working in partnership with administration and employees. Each of these partners will act in their own interest but should be checked by the judgment and opinions of other interested parties. Ultimately it is the Board of Trustees that holds the public trust and it cannot shirk from its responsibility to provide the ultimate promise of a community college. There may be similar or competing thoughts, methods and actions to further the interests of Ohlone College, but all parties at the table must be strong and beyond reproach in their role.

Even though Mr. Brunton's term of office as president of the board is almost complete, he would be wise to step aside to calm the emotional atmosphere. However, he was elected to his position on the board and though some of his remarks may have been intemperate, this should not disqualify him from serving his term as a trustee. In the event serious allegations of ethical violations prove true, that would be a different matter. In the meantime, we, the public have some serious repair work to do in this and future elections.

 
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