JCCC faculty enters fray on inquiry of Carlsen
Kansas City Star, The (MO)-May 4, 2006
Author: MELODEE HALL BLOBAUM
Johnson County Community College faculty members are turning up the volume in expressing concern about college leadership since last month’s departure of longtime president Charles Carlsen.
Members of the faculty association have directed the group’s executive council to draft a statement similar to one released by 10 of the association’s former presidents late last week.
That statement called for Board of Trustees Chairwoman Elaine Perilla to excuse herself from involvement in an independent investigation into allegations that Carlsen sexually harassed a female employee in 2003.
But at least two trustees said the faculty was acting hastily.
“I think it’s premature,” said Trustee Ben Hodge, noting that the independent investigation had barely started.
Trustees will meet tonight to discuss an interim president and the search for a new president. It was unclear whether their agenda would include other subjects.
At their regular meeting last week, trustees directed their attorney to contact Kansas City lawyer Betsy Badger to see if she would conduct the review. Their resolution limited the investigation to interviews with faculty and staff on the “public allegation” involving Carlsen and said the findings and recommendations would not be disclosed publicly in order to protect the confidentiality of personnel.
That raised red flags for the faculty.
“There’s widespread agreement that the investigation should examine all the issues, not just the allegations against Chuck Carlsen,” said Vincent Clark, president of the faculty association. “The motion passed by the board used the singular, and you have to conclude, since it was written by the lawyer, that was on purpose.”
The earlier statement by the former college presidents asked that the investigation include not only the allegation against Carlsen but also the process involved in handling it.
Perilla declined to comment on the earlier statement, which also called for her to resign as board chairwoman.
Both Hodge and Trustee Jon Stewart said they stand behind Perilla.
Perilla and board vice-chairman Lynn Mitchelson issued a statement late Friday through public relations consultant David Westbrook to clarify the board’s views on public disclosure of the report and its recommendations.
The statement said, in part, “If the consultant believes our policies are sound and require no revision, then I think we have a duty to disclose the consultant’s reasoning for this conclusion. … There is a delicate balance between the privacy rights we must honor for our staff and the disclosure obligations we must meet when facing our taxpayers and constituents.”
The sexual harassment allegations against Carlsen came to light in the campus newspaper’s April 13 edition. Carlsen announced a voluntary leave of absence that evening and retired a week later.
He denied the allegations to the school newspaper and in his retirement letter said he had done nothing wrong.
The school newspaper article also reported that Perilla had been given a copy of a 22-page narrative about the harassment.
Clark said the faculty association, which represents about 300 full-time faculty members, believes neither Perilla nor two staff members who may have been privy to the allegations should be involved in the investigation.
Perilla said she expected that trustees tonight would discuss the process both for choosing an interim president and beginning the search for a new leader.
Charles Bishop, a history professor and former president of the faculty association, said someone from outside the college might be the best interim leader.
“Anybody here is going to be tainted because of their alliance with Carlsen or with the board,” he said. “Somebody with stature from the community would be great.”
Faculty members would like a say in the selection of both an interim and permanent leader.
Clark said, “Talking about a process is a good idea, doing something quickly is a good idea, but appointing someone without any consultation (with the faculty) is an extremely bad idea.”
The Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees will meet at 7 tonight in the Hugh Speer Board Room in the General Education Building at the college, 12345 College Blvd., Overland Park.
Index Terms: News
Record Number: 1850553
Copyright 2006 The Kansas City Star Co.