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Clark College admits to violation of nondiscrimination policy

Clark College officials admitted that the community college violated its nondiscrimination policy on one occasion but denied three other discrimination claims Tuesday.

The Clark College Board of Trustees unanimously voted Tuesday to acknowledge the single violation, describing it as a “salary disparity” for an employee that has since been “retroactively remedied.”

Further details were not available on this and three other “complaints against a public employee” that have been the focus of numerous closed-door sessions of the board over the course of the summer. During the investigation, the board learned what it described as “concerning” information gathered by a Seattle firm, D Diamond Consulting, at a cost up to $13,000 to investigate the four allegations.

“We have taken these complaints very seriously,” trustee chair Jane Jacobsen said following a brief executive session.

The board also directed Interim Clark College President Sandra Fowler-Hill to create and update the following policies by the end of March 2020 in response to the investigation:

• To review and update the performance evaluation process for the college president and members of the college’s executive cabinet, a team of vice presidents and college directors.

• To establish standard practices for setting salaries for staff serving in an interim position.

• To establish a process for complaints made against the college president, executive cabinet members or board of trustees.

More details about the complaints could be available next week. Those named in the complaint have seven days to ask the college to reconsider its findings. If no such request is made, the decision will become final and the complaint may then become a matter of public record.

Questions of equity

The investigation comes in the midst of ongoing questions about what the college is doing to support its students and employees of color.

Reporting by Oregon Public Broadcasting last year detailed a culture where employees of color felt alienated and isolated at the college. A spate of racist and anti-Semitic posters were left at Clark College in 2017 and 2018, causing fear and concern among students and staff.

And the college remains without a permanent leader in its Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Emails showed now-retired President Bob Knight put a halt to the hiring process at the end of May following months of searching for someone to fill the newly promoted vice president position.

Email records also show that Knight expressed concern that candidates identified by the consulting firm did not meet the “minimum qualifications” for the position, an argument that took several members of the hiring committee aback.

“I, as with all members of the committee, was thorough in my reading of the candidate’s application materials and would like to have a clearer explanation as to what ‘minimum qualifications’ may not have been met,” wrote Christina Smith, an English professor at the college in an email regarding the delays.


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