Palomar College professor picket

"We were told to give him a break, and we did."

"In the seven months that he's been here, he's created a lot of problems," said Palomar's faculty union president.
  • "In the seven months that he's been here, he's created a lot of problems," said Palomar's faculty union president.

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.

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For all its success in getting a bond issue and remodeling the campus in San Marcos, while adding facilities elsewhere, Palomar never seems able to shake off situations like this one. In the early 2000's the faculty was at loggerheads with the president and the board for what seemed like years. If these community colleges display the sort of conflict in microcosm that a larger college or university experiences, whoa! And why does a community college find it necessary to hire an outsider and give him a multi-year contract? Can't it grow someone from within, or find a candidate from one of the other colleges in the county? The answers are clear: no they can't. That is unless the president and board wanted someone from outside to come in and get tough.

Visduh, it turns out that being a boss is different, especially at a college. There's a reason to be interested in why somebody would want to go from being a teacher to being a boss. It may be a good reason. Often it isn't. Deans are relatively low on the management scale, and those jobs pay more than teaching, but for the most part teachers aren't working to get rich. So your idea that maybe right; it was a job for a lone ranger type, who shouldn't be surprised if they are expected to ride out after their work is done. (Teachers tend to teach until they drop, in the same room they started in often, while administrators climb from one job to the next, going wherever they aren't already hated.)

I can't disagree with you or Bob Hudson. Self-governance in colleges and universities is supposed to insure that all sides are heard and that no miscarriages occur, yet factions gang up on other factions, and the fights are bitter. But in this case, the controversy isn't about long-simmering academic rivalries, but about a "leader" who it appears managed to alienate his entire area of responsibility, almost as soon as he arrived.

In my own experience, I always used to be amused (or irritated) at academic administrators who proclaimed themselves to be leaders, when they were anything but leaders. I'll decide, based on my observations, who is a leader and who is not.

Working for a school district, I can say from experience that they are too soft at the top. Suck it up, quit whinging, and donate some of your salaries to the Classified staff who have to put up with your crap.

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