At Feb. 22’s town hall meeting in the Laney College Forum, Peralta Community College District Chancellor Dr. Jowel C. Laguerre recounted his visit to the campus on a rainy day, and the structural leaks he witnessed.
“It became abundantly clear to me that we need a whole lot more than what we have in order to address the needs that we have at Laney College, specifically around those leaks,” he said.
“I contacted our lobbyist [Patrick McCallum] in Sacramento and I shared with him that, what I witnessed.”
Laguerre said that the district faced “an emergency at Laney, and that I would like for them to help us in any way possible to secure emergency funds from the state of California to be able to address the issues that we have.”
He then introduced Vice Chancellor of General Service Dr. Sadiq B. Ikharo, who expounded on the infrastructure issues on campus.
Laguerre began his tenure in July 2015, but Ikharo has been aware of infrastructure issues on Laney’s campus for many years.
Ikharo introduced the engineers from the district, who are tasked with addressing the items placed on the Emergency Repairs and Deferred Maintenance List, also known as the Laney “Fix-It” List.
This list includes leaks, HVAC issues, Office of Civil Rights/ADA issues, doors, the Laney swimming pool, the Student Center kitchen, and the Tower elevators.
Afterwards, the town hall meeting was opened for about a half hour of questions from the audience, consisting largely of faculty along with Chris Weidenbach’s English 201 class.
While Laguerre and Ikharo were able to list the problems that faculty, students, and staff struggle with on a daily basis, they were unable to convince many veteran faculty members that these problems would indeed be fixed on the timeline presented.
Louis Quindlen, co-chair of the district facilities committee, had a question of trust. “Many of these issues on this list have been on here since 2013-14, okay?” he said.
“So I have a problem when you say that we’re going to begin to mitigate these issues that have been on here for three or four years,” he continued.
Quindlen’s comment was met with applause. “Many of these issues, like the elevator, should have been dealt with a long time ago,” he said.
Quindlen referred to a document he had pulled up on his phone, which stated the scope of the Tower Renovation Project, set to begin May 2009, and be completed in Spring of 2011. “Top priority: HVAC, elevator,” said Quindlen, reading from the document.
“We have had to live with incompetence, with failure, it’s impacted our enrollment, it impacts the attitude of our faculty, and everybody that attends here when everything is breaking down around us,” he said.
“You have every right to be frustrated…let’s open a new chapter, where you hold us accountable.”
Ikharo hoped that given his new presentation, the faculty would see that they have plans to “get it done.”
Quindlen was not satisfied with this response.
“Why would I trust any more of what you’re saying now than I did [in previous years]?”
“It just seems like we’re a little bit too late, and running out of time,” one faculty member said of the progress necessary to complete the needed remodeling.
Weidenbach echoed this sentiment, saying: “I feel like these concerns have been aired and aired, and voiced and ignored, and the whole project delayed, and delayed, and delayed—it’s far too late already.”
Said Laguerre in response: “It’s not too late, because the college is going to go on for a while—”
Weidenbach interjected: “It’s too late because we’ve already lost enrollment, and we’re already depressing the students… we’ve been neglected.”
An instructor from the Cosmetology Department expressed her surprise to not find any of the issues within her department on the Laney “Fix-It” List.
“Please consider,” she said, “this is one of your longest running programs. This program, on a turn-by-turn basis, continually has a waitlist.”
She also said she didn’t understand that why, with that much money coming into that department for decades, she didn’t see any renovations.
She then addressed Laguerre: “I heard you when you said that this school will still be here for many years to come,” she said, “[but] my goal is not within your lifetime, my goal is within the amount of time that I spend here at Laney.”
The town hall also introduced Tammeil Gilkerson, the new president of Laney College, who spoke about how she hoped to address the many infrastructure problems at Laney.
“I’m really, really excited to be coming to the campus, and really to just be rolling up the sleeves and working collectively with you all,” Gilkerson said.
Her tenure as President of Laney College will begin on March 30, 2017.
The Campus-Wide Town Hall meeting was Gilkerson’s first opportunity to learn about the infrastructure issues at Laney.
“Throughout the presentation and the questions, I recognized that there is more depth and history to the issues than what was covered during the convening,” she said.
“My role is to endeavor to learn the facts, history, and multiple perspectives and to help facilitate a collaborative solution for addressing the issues.”
For more on President Gilkerson, see the story by Laney’s Office of Public Information.