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Relationship between Pueblo Community College president and faculty questioned after no-confidence vote

PUEBLO, Colo. (KRDO) -- Faculty at Pueblo Community College approved a “vote of no confidence” against President Patty Erjavec, as they said the institution is declining under her leadership.

On February 16, PCC faculty passed the “vote of no confidence” 54-27-14 and sent the notice the next day to the Colorado Community College System’s Chancellor Joe Garcia. The Colorado Community College System (CCCS) oversees 13 colleges throughout Colorado, including Pueblo Community College (PCC).

“What we've made clear in the document is that there is a pattern of behavior that has led to a lack of trust between faculty and administration, so what we would like to see is certainly trust restored,” said a faculty member, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.

However, the faculty’s vote is strictly symbolic and doesn’t trigger any actions affecting Erjavec’s position as president. But it does send a message to Garcia — who as Chancellor has authority to remove Erjavec from her position — that nearly 57% of PCC faculty that voted don’t trust her leadership.

“Dr. Erjavec has been abusive, dishonest, and has dismissed all efforts to collaborate,” the letter of no confidence states. “We feel her oppressive tenure will continue to weaken employee morale on campus to the detriment of PCC and the students it serves.”

Erjavec said about 490 faculty members were eligible to vote but only 95 actually did. Two faculty members, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said the 95 people who voted was the majority of the full-time faculty.

In the faculty’s notice to Garcia, it outlined three main reasons for the “vote of no confidence.”

The first alleged Erjavec “established a pattern of pervasive hostility, retaliation, and interpersonal abuse with both faculty and staff.”

Because of the behavior, staff said they are frightened of intimidation and retaliation from Erjavec and “concerned that they will lose their position and/or administrative support for their programs if they speak out against the President’s ideas.”

“Sometimes as a leader, you have to make tough decisions and they're not always popular and you don't always agree,” Erjavec said. “But I'm still committed to the team and to our faculty.”

The letter states the second reason for the “no-confidence vote” alleges Erjavec “often relies on misleading, outdated and/or irrelevant data to justify insular decisions.”

It specifically said faculty wasn’t given access to financial information. Erjavec countered the claim saying the vice president of finance gives an overview of the college’s financial position for the previous semester. But the letter said the information provided is outdated, incomplete or inaccurate.

“I am the president of the institution, and I really have the responsibility of making sure that all of our constituents, all of our students, everyone has that same opportunity,” Erjavec said. “Things change over time.”

The third reason for the “no-confidence vote” alleges Erjavec “wholly and consistently rejected processes and strategies that would support effective shared governance at PCC.”

The president tried to launch a new shared governance model that the faculty claims would have limited faculty input for important decisions, which they said is a violation of the college’s protocols.

“When we're talking about what's in the best interests of the students, you've got to listen to your faculty, because they're in the classroom with them every day,” a faculty member said.

The new shared governance model was never implemented, because Erjavec said she listened to the faculty’s concerns.

“We are still talking about what needs to be tweaked from a continuous improvement perspective in order to deliver the best academics and student support we possibly can,” Erjavec said.

A recently released audit by the Colorado Community College System also shows concerning trends.

It found PCC didn’t perform required reconciliations or effective secondary reviews, which may result in misstatements and inaccurate financial records.

The chancellor’s office said Garcia doesn’t plan on firing Erjavec. Instead, he is going to bring administration and faculty together to form a plan to move forward.

“The chancellor is lending us some personnel resources to come down and bring us together, more opportunity for people's voices to be heard and more opportunity to find a path forward, where we remain focused on the strategic plan, on our role and mission, on our ability to deliver affordable education to anybody that wants it,” Erjavec said.

The two faculty members said the effect of this vote on the college and its students will be based on the response from Erjavec and Garcia.

“I don't think that bringing these concerns out is going to do damage the college or its students,” one faculty member said. “I think it's shining a light on things that need to be addressed. If these things aren't addressed, and they come up later on, they only stand to cause more harm to the college and to our students.”

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Quinn Ritzdorf

Quinn is a reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.


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