Process to Pick New College President at Community College of Philadelphia Proves Problematic

Process to Pick New College President at Community College of Philadelphia Proves Problematic
Dr. Donald Generals Jr., who had no experience as a community college president, says that “was not one of the qualifications” for becoming Community College of Philadelphia’s president.

The search for a new president of the Community College of Philadelphia, which ended with the selection of Dr. Donald Generals Jr., the chief academic officer of Mercer Community College in New Jersey, unfolded in a number of unusual ways.

The faculty had minimal representation on the search committee of 18 members, a large number by conventional standards. Before the college’s Board of Trustees unanimously chose Generals, the faculty union held a straw poll on the three finalists. Generals was the least favored.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, a trustee, seconded the motion to hire Generals. In 2012, Nutter named himself as the first mayor on the board of the Community College of Philadelphia, called CCP, which was founded in 1964.

“It sounds like it’s a most unusual situation,” observes Dr. John Roueche, an expert on community college governance and president of the Roueche Graduate Center at National American University.

The oddities in the search process provoked a campus controversy about the qualifications of Generals, a seasoned community college administrator, after the board announced him as its choice. The final vote was taken April 3.

Since the decision, the incoming president and faculty leaders have expressed a desire to move beyond an irregular process that has raised questions about the mayor’s role and faculty governance at the community college, which receives 15 percent of its budget from the city. The mayor appoints the college’s 15 trustees.

“I prefer not to comment on the presidential search. I had nothing to do with that,” Generals, who took over July 1, tells Diverse. “But I do think it is important that you have shared governance between the faculty and the administration.”

A top aide to Nutter says the mayor is not imposing his own vision on the community college, but made himself a trustee to further his goal of doubling the percentage of college graduates in Philadelphia to make the city more economically competitive.

“Mayor Nutter decided to involve himself more directly in one of the most important issues of the day and see firsthand exactly what is at stake and what is being done to help more students succeed,” says Suzanne Biemiller, the mayor’s first deputy chief of staff.

Biemiller is one of four city officials Nutter appointed as trustees, besides himself. Midway through his second term, Nutter named all 15 board members to five-year terms, including the reappointment of one holdover, according to Linda Wallace, the college’s spokesperson.

Roueche notes that mayors in other large cities also appoint community college boards, citing Chicago as one example. The mayor of New York names about a third of the board of the City University of New York.

“There are a number that do that, and that would bring, as you might imagine, a particular political flavor to the situation,” Roueche says.

When asked about Nutter appointing himself, Roueche chuckles, saying he was unsure what to make of that practice.

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Source: Diverse Education | Kenneth J. Cooper

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