Dozens of Palomar College staff and students picketed outside a meeting of the school's governing board on Tuesday (March 14), demanding action be taken against a controversial new dean installed before the beginning of the school year.
"In the seven months that he's been here, he's created a lot of problems," said faculty union president Shannon Lienhart of Dr. Syed Khaled Hussain, dean of arts, media, business, and computer science. "We have over a dozen faculty and staff complain that he's created a hostile work environment, that he has humiliated, intimidated, threatened them. We have six who've become ill, actually developed medical conditions from the stress involved in working with him.
"There was a sexual harassment complaint filed against him that we feel wasn't appropriately investigated — they only interviewed two people instead of conducting a broader investigation that would have uncovered the harassment," Lienhart continued. "We believe that he needs to be removed immediately by buying out his contract."
That contract runs through the end of the 2018 school year but was set to be automatically renewed for an additional year unless the board declined to renew by March 15.
Other staff on hand shared their experiences and those of colleagues they said were scared to come forward.
"It's normal for the deans and department chairs to have meetings," explained music professor Ellen Weller. "Because our department, performing arts, includes music, theater, and dance, our chair felt she would be most efficient talking about those other disciplines with representatives from each with her."
Weller said she and others were locked out of the regular update meetings without explanation.
"He didn’t tell [the department chair] why, but he did start demanding 90-minute weekly meetings instead of 30 minutes, and at first said she couldn't even bring the secretary for the department. She felt insecure and unsafe being alone in a room with him.
"We were told to give him a break, and we did," said Weller. "We're not the population that would normally resort to this kind of tactic. We're professors, we're passionate about our work with students, but when anything gets in the way of that it becomes a problem for us."
Lienhart reported later that despite the group's pleas, the college governing board choose to take no action with regard to Hussain, meaning he is likely set to remain in place through June of 2019.