Dean Bell Speaks Out

  Susan Bell
Dean of Instruction
Mendocino College

By Susan Bell
September 18, 1996

To: Mendocino College Board of Trustees

Dear Trustees:

I believe that it is the right of every employee at Mendocino College to work in an environment in which professional ethics are held at the highest standard, and with the expectation that processes and practices insure the protection of this right. When, for example, such things as inaccurate and damaging personnel evaluations, chronically illegal uses of funds and unethical and illegal hiring are practiced by upper management, a hostile work environment is created and public trust is violated. This is the case at Mendocino College.

Despite the efforts of myriad people - from full-time and part-time faculty to classified staff and managers - to alter this condition, the situation has not been corrected. In fact, it has reached a level in which several years of poor and irresponsible management have resulted in severe illness, anger and apathy among a significant number of long-term staff. An atmosphere of "kill the messengers" and denial of our real problems (not the specious claim of financial shortfalls that is touted to be the primary cause of disgruntlement) has intensified in the more than 10 years that I have been employed at Mendocino College. A significant proportion of staff either have decided through personal experience that has ended in retribution, or the observation of subtle and not-so-subtle retribution towards co-workers who speak out against improprieties, to maintain a low profileÑ thus obscuring the widespread disgust, disappointment and dissatisfaction that exists within the institution.

I have lived in this community for more than twenty years and have worked diligently and effectively for nearly half of them at the main campus and our centers, helping to insure that our curricula and other programs and initiatives serve the communities in Lake and Mendocino Counties and bring credit to Mendocino College as an institution of higher learning. I do not wish to leave this college, yet realize that by writing this letter I have violated the unwritten, but privately verbalized and tacitly understood rule, to remain silent. However, I feel it's my responsibility as a mid-manager to those with whom I work, to you, to the community and to myself to come forth on these issues. I hope I can trust in my professional reputation for honesty and fairness to have you take seriously that which must appear on the surface as a blatant overreaction to a negative personnel evaluation. I have never in my professional life been put in a position in which I had to resort to informing a governing board about irregular practices by my supervisor and others in upper managementÑbut then, I have never before felt I had been slandered or felt the immense burden of disillusionment among my coworkers and some of our students.

What has happened to me since Don Vasconcellos became my supervisor is the tip of what is occurring regularly at the college. I ask that you fully and independently (that is, not in collaboration with and under the direction of the personnel director, the executive vice president of academic affairs and the superintendent/president) investigate what is happening here. Unless there is absolute confidentiality (something I believe we as a staff have never seen), our employees will not jeopardize their jobs by stepping forward with the truth.

Specifically, I ask you to investigate fully 1) the ethics and legality of my November 1995 evaluation and the handling of my evaluation rebuttal to date, 2) the legality of uses of categorical monies in VATEA, EOPS, DSP&S, and matriculation, and 3) the recent selection process for the Career Center Secretary and the Public Information/Foundation Officer. These three items alone should provide more than ample evidence of the nature and extent of unethical and illegal practices sanctioned at Mendocino College, and lead to a fuller understanding and realization that significant problems exist and need to be remedied immediately.

I write to you as my last hope to help effect needed changes through internal channels, and would hope that I, in the company of others, may meet with you face-to-face about all of this. I hope that the personal embarrassment I feel in writing, coupled with what I believe is a rational fear of immediate or eventual retribution, will have been worth the effortÑthat the efforts of others and myself to appraise you of current conditions will result in key changes, ensuring morally and legally supportable operational policies and practices at Mendocino College - and perhaps most importantly, the restoration of trust, faith, and healthy working environment for all our staff.


Susan C. Bell, Dean of Instruction

Copies to:
Dr. Carl Ehmann, Superintendent/President;
Don Vasconcellous, Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs;
Karen Chaty, Personnel Director/Affirmative Action Officer;
Candie Dickinson, Gender Equity Coordinator;
Sue Blundell, Academic Senate President

Copyright Mendocino College Eagle 1996
Permission granted to excerpt or use this article if source is cited

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