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Editorial: Serban’s ousting leaves questions at SBCC

By   /   Friday, August 19th, 2011  /   9 Comments

How Andreea Serban came to be fired as president of Santa Barbara City College remains very much a mystery to most of the region’s business community.

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How Andreea Serban came to be fired as president of Santa Barbara City College remains very much a mystery to most of the region’s business community. Here’s what we do know:

• At 3:45 a.m. on July 29, the school’s board of trustees announced that she would be terminated and paid until next June.

• Relations between Serban and a recently elected “dissident” majority on the seven-member board had been contentious, and she may have been looking for a job elsewhere.

• Budget cuts for community colleges and four-year institutions have been brutal given the state’s fiscal crisis.

If our reading of the situation is correct, Serban and the board clashed over the way forward for an institution that’s been described as a crown jewel in the state’s community college system.
Serban, following in the footsteps of her predecessors, wanted to continue building on City College’s strong academic traditions. She wanted to protect and expand for-credit offerings, including some of the best associates degree programs in the state.

She wanted to focus on new initiatives, including a joint-degree program in nursing with CSU Channel Islands.

Serban’s detractors, at least according to other media reports, were far more focused on non-degree and non-credit extension programs that are popular with community members and seniors. And, indeed, City College has a long history of service to community members — including some basic classes in starting and operating small businesses.

But in the absence of a clear, cogent and transparent explanation for what transpired behind those closed doors a few weeks ago, we’d argue that in a time of deep budget cuts, Serban’s approach was the correct one.

Young people and returning veterans need to have access to academic programs that will lead them to undergraduate degrees and eventually advanced degrees. Education, particularly at the community college level, sows the seeds for future success in the workplace or small business ownership.

The Channel Islands joint programs in nursing and business are essential to creating and maintaining a vibrant business community on the South Coast.

Moreover, there is enough wealth around for the private, philanthropic sector to support seniors and non-credit programs if in fact there is sufficient demand for them.

If there is more to the story of Serban’s departure, the public has a right to know what that is. If this is a deep dispute about policy, business should make their voices heard. An orderly transition to a new president for Santa Barbara City College can’t begin until the true story of Serban’s departure emerges from those closed-door meetings.

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  1. Joan Livingston says:

    Under California law, the Education Code sets out rights reserved exclusively to the college Academic Senate as well as the legislated mandate of college wide “shared governance” found in AB 1725. Readers wanting further discussion of these two important topics are invited to view the website for the state-wide Association of Academic Senates of California Community Colleges:

  2. SBCC Grad says:

    The Culinary Program clearly has suffered under her leadership. When questioned about this – she was rude and indifferent. The appearance of being a jewel in the crown can be transitory. The success of graduates will go on to deliver the real results of her term.

    • Joan Livingston says:

      Could you please be more specific about the Culinary Program and how the college CEO had direct control over decisions affecting this program? Thank you. Please share your questions. Note to readers: please review 2010/2011 program budgets and donations for refurbishments of SBCC Culinary program facilities.

  3. Joan Livingston says:

    Dr Andreea Serban is a naturalized US citizen having emigrated from Romania to continue her doctoral studies in educational administration and was recently honored in April 2011 with the following UNESCO appointment:

    From SBCC News reports: SBCC Superintendent/President Named to National Commission

    Superintendent/President Dr. Andreea Serban has been appointed to the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, Cultural Organization) by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
    Currently President of the Board of Directors for the California Colleges for International Education, Dr. Serban is the only community college representative among the commission members who come from a variety of backgrounds including non-governmental organizations, federal, state and local governments, and at-large members. The U.S. Secretary of State selects members to the commission from received nominations after an extensive screening process.

    The U.S. National Commission for the UNESCO is a federal advisory committee to the U.S. Department of State that supports worldwide humanitarian development and values by coordinating efforts and delivering expert advice from the federal, state and local governments and from non-governmental organizations on issues of education, science, communications and culture.

    “I am very excited about being part of this commission. We are living and working in an increasingly global world. One of our goals at SBCC is to ensure that students have the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values to compete in an international marketplace and as citizens of the world,” said Dr. Andreea Serban, SBCC Superintendent/President. “I believe in the core tenet that led to the formation of UNESCO after World War II which is that collaboration among nations through education, science and culture remains a cornerstone of a peaceful world. I look forward to contributing to this fundamental belief from the community college and higher education perspective.”

    “I’m delighted with this appointment!” said Dr. Peter Haslund, President of the SBCC Board of Trustees. “This is a major achievement and an honor to both Dr. Serban and SBCC in that it illustrates our ongoing commitment to be a part of an educated global community.”

  4. Joan Livingston says:

    California Education Code 66010.4 sets out the primary and additional missions of California Community Colleges:

    The missions and functions of California’s public and independent segments, and their respective institutions of higher education shall be differentiated as follows:

    (a)(1)The California Community Colleges shall, as a primary mission, offer academic and vocational instruction at the lower division level for both younger and older students, including those persons returning to school. Public community colleges shall offer instruction through but not beyond the second year of college. These institutions may grant the associate in arts and the associate in science degree.

    (2)In addition to the primary mission of academic and vocational instruction, the community colleges shall offer instruction and courses to achieve all of the following:

    (A)The provision of remedial instruction for those in need of it and, in conjunction with the school districts, instruction in English as a second language, adult noncredit instruction, and support services which help students succeed at the postsecondary level are reaffirmed and supported as essential and important functions of the community colleges.

    (B)The provision of adult noncredit education curricula in areas defined as being in the state’s interest is an essential and important function of the community colleges.

    (C)The provision of community services courses and programs is an authorized function of the community colleges so long as their provision is compatible with an institution’s ability to meet its obligations in its primary missions.

    (3)A primary mission of the California Community Colleges is to advance California’s economic growth and global competitiveness through education, training, and services that contribute to continuous work force improvement.

    (4)The community colleges may conduct to the extent that state funding is provided, institutional research concerning student learning and retention as is needed to facilitate their educational missions.

  5. Joan Livingston says:

    The four new SBCC trustees (Blum, Croninger, Haslund and Macker) carried the endorsements of the Santa Barbara County Democrat Central Committee and the Executive board (only) of the SBCC Instructors Association faculty employee bargaining group. SBCC Governing Board members are “non-partisan” elected positions with four year terms.

  6. Yoko Ono says:

    Here is an interesting fact. One of our tenants is a sweet old lady who has a daughter on the teaching staff at the SBCC. About a year ago, the old lady came to have a coffee with us and told us that her daugheter had just stopped over and told her she (the daughter) was heading to a meating to discuss how to get rid of the SBCC president. The main reason they wanted her gone was due to the fact that she was “foreigner” and “Republican”… The old lady, a retired educator herself, was shocked that her daughter had “joined a group of vigilantes”!

    I guess, it took about one year to get the job done!

  7. Santa Barbaran says:

    The public already knows. The public saw some of the most unprofessional leadership from this woman. Voters decided to get rid of trustees who would rubber stamp anything she said. Faculty members spoke out. This editorial is weak and pretty after the fact, guys.

    • Joan Livingston says:

      I am a current SBCC trustee and one of the long-serving incumbents for the past 17 years, The prior SBCC board members who were voted out in 2010 “rubber-stamped” nothing. They were knowledgeable, active, engaged and the board as a whole received exemplary reviews for its professionalism and collegiality in the last 2009 ACCJC accreditation which is available online at the website. Negative, “weak on facts”, anonymous comments like those just posted by “Santa Barbaran” have had a very corrosive effect on the reputation of SBCC.

      Dr Andreea Serban has served both SBCC and the entire California Community College system with distinction, as your editorial highlights. The new SBCC board majority has spoken and Dr Serban is no longer with the college. I wish her well. She is a woman of exceptional talents. Thank you Pacific Coast Business Times for your editorial concerns about the future SBCC.
      Signed: Joan Livingston

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