Student allegations prompt Presidential Search Committee inquiry
November 8, 2018
The Board of Trustees has directed the university to conduct an internal investigation into the allegations made about an Oct. 12 meeting between student leaders and members of the Presidential Search Committee (PSC).
The students alleged in an Oct. 23 email to the Committee that the two PSC members present in the meeting used sexist and condescending language to dismiss their concerns and ideas.
Specifically, the students said the suggestion of having a female or diverse university president—such as a man of color or an immigrant—was met with hostility.
“To be clear: sexism, racism and any other actions that marginalize members of our community is unacceptable,” said a statement from PSC co-chair John M. Sobrato. “These are serious allegations, and on behalf of the Board of Trustees, I assure you of our commitment to a thorough, fair and independent investigation into this matter.”
According to that email from Sobrato and Gentzkow, the investigation was prompted in light of “new allegations” by The Santa Clara in a Nov. 1 article, as well as a message of support signed by more than 100 faculty members condemning the “egregious” treatment of the student leaders.
In order to protect the integrity of the pending investigation, the scheduled Nov. 2 meeting between the same 10 student leaders and the PSC co-chairs was canceled.
According to the Committee, the meeting was originally meant as a chance to reconvene and “gather constructive input from our student leaders on the qualifications of our next president during that discussion.”
“Once the investigation is complete, we look forward to the opportunity to again meet with SCU’s student leaders to restart a conversation focused on their views of the attributes we should be looking for in SCU’s next president,” Sobrato’s statement said.
It is unclear when the investigation will conclude.
Sam Perez, president of the Associated Student Government (ASG), is “pleased” the search committee is taking the situation seriously but hopes this incident will not detract from the ASG’s goals of having student representation on the Committee.
“I left the initial meeting feeling defeated due to the personal impact of the inherent offensive nature of the sexist comments and overall dismissive engagement that transgressed during this interaction,” Perez said in an email. “However, I find myself more disturbed by the systematic levels of injustice this sort of problematic dialogue lends itself to as a result of [the] lack of student representation on the Presidential Search Committee.
ASG passed a resolution to have presidential candidate finalists meet with the student senate as a way of trying to include students in the search process. The university has yet to respond to the resolution.
“[The investigation] would address the innate injustice done unto the persons present in the meeting as women and as students,” Perez said in an email. “However, it does not solve the institutional injustice connoted upon the students as individuals unable to receive proper representation in an increasingly important decision that affects each and every one of us.”
A resolution was also passed by Faculty Senate at their Nov. 7 meeting to support the right of students to have a spot on the Presidential Search Committee.
Faculty Senate members expressed confusion and frustration over how committee members are picked in the first place. But they decided to table an amendment to the resolution specifying that faculty and student representatives should be picked by their respective senate body in the future.
A similar concern to students over representation on the committee was made by faculty members, who expressed the desire to see greater staff representation on the PSC.
In response to this, the Committee announced in an Oct. 25 campus-wide email that Eva Blanco Macias—dean of undergraduate admission—would join the search group.
“I’m pleased to be a member and hope to contribute in a meaningful way in pursuit of a leader who will advance our university vision and community interests,” Blanco Macias said. “As a member of the committee, I will ask that we keep our campus community informed frequently throughout the process so stay tuned.”
The investigation will be conducted by Van Dermyden Maddux Investigations Law firm, which specializes in workplace and Title IX campus investigations in California and Nevada.
The investigators have broad authority and will meet with the parties involved, seeking whatever documentation they deem necessary.
Contact Perla Luna at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.