By Katherine Garcia
Several students from Palo Alto College’s chapter of the Student Leadership Coalition expressed discontent with Chancellor Bruce Leslie and his stance on transfer degrees listing no specific major during the citizens-to-be-heard portion of the regular board meeting Tuesday in Killen Center.
Gilbert Perez, business management graduate of Palo Alto, began by ripping his degree in half. “That’s how I feel. You want to take them away? There you go,” he said
Perez said faculty at Palo Alto are “working together to take other options to possibly replace the chancellor.”
He said more Palo Alto students would attend the next board meeting to express their discontent with Leslie, and “we should have this room packed and outside.”
“You’ve failed at three other colleges. … You’re failing us,” he said, referring to Leslie’s employment before joining the district in 2006.
Leslie was chancellor of Connecticut Community-Technical College System 1996-99, overseeing a $200 million budget, 12 colleges and 2,000 employees. He resigned in 1999 after college presidents didn’t support his attempts to standardize academics, according to an article in the San Antonio Express-News.
He was chancellor of the Houston Community College System from October 2000 to June 2006, and oversaw a $200 million budget for six colleges, 5,000 employees and 55,000 students per semester. The article said Leslie resigned from in 2006 after disagreements with trustees.
Leslie has a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor of arts from Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.
“You’re playing games, and we are tired of this,” Perez said of the chancellor’s current performance.
“We want lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers to come out of Palo Alto. So cosmetology, agricultural, gas and oil, and apparently brewery is coming next.” Palo Alto offers degrees in cosmetology and oil and gas process technology.
Simon Sanchez, computer science sophomore at Palo Alto, referenced Dec. 25 commentary Leslie wrote for the Express-News, in which the chancellor said transfer majors were still the best practice.
The newspaper published the commentary after the chancellor emailed all Alamo Colleges faculty and staff Dec. 22 to say the district would rescind transfer degrees for now but continue the conversation with faculty and employees.
The chancellor came to this agreement in a meeting with the Super Senate, the Faculty Senate presidents of all five Alamo Colleges, Dec. 19.
He said the purpose of replacing majors with transfer majors was allowing students to “customize” the courses needed to transfer to the desired university or college while saving money.
He wrote, “The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s recent report that the average student requires six years to attain a baccalaureate degree – taking 147 hours for the 120-hour degree – costs the student over $68,000 in expenses and deferred compensation. Our intent has been to change this trend.”
Sanchez said the committee re-evaluating majors should be at a college-level instead of Leslie leading the process.
He referenced a Jan. 29 meeting with the Super Senate. According to a timeline emailed to all faculty at this college by English Professor Dawn Elmore, president of this college’s Faculty Senate and the Super Senate, there were discussions at four of the five colleges.
But the chancellor did not accept ideas “because they are solution-oriented rather than open-ended and are college-based rather than district-oriented.”
According to the email, the chancellor then sent out his own timeline for a district process of evaluating majors, but the Super Senate came up with its own cross-college plan to evaluate majors, transfer issues and degree completion.
“Dr. Leslie chooses to bypass any collective decision-making in order to promote his thoughts of what he believes is best for student success,” Sanchez said.
“Our response to his persistent disregard to having a collective process to promote problem-solving — I believe Dr. Leslie should be removed,” he said, asking trustees to lead the discussion for removing Leslie.
Debra Garner, psychology sophomore at Palo Alto, expressed complaints about Northeast Lakeview and PAC. She had to re-enroll for classes two years ago after repeatedly being dropped because of financial aid issues.
She also said the district discriminates against Palo Alto because it is on the South Side, and she wants opportunities and funding for a building like this college’s renovated Challenger Education Center and Scobee Planetarium.
The classrooms are bursting at the seams, there aren’t enough advisers and she is “fighting for what is right, and what is right is equal education opportunities across the board.”
Kristen Tarin, psychology sophomore at PAC, told Leslie, “In this contract (the people you serve) agreed to let you lead; they agreed to let you be leader.”
After the meeting, Leslie said the back-and-forth helps the decision-making process. Before criticizing, people should understand the facts around the whole transfer process to “figure out the best solutions,” he said.
The next committee meetings start at 6 p.m. March 17, and the regular board meeting is 6 p.m. March 24. Citizens-to-be-heard speakers can sign up from 5-5:55 p.m. outside Room 101.