Censure Drive Targets Top Pierce Officials : Education: A faculty group cites distant management style and shortage of supplies. The Academic Senate appears split on the proposal.


A group of Pierce College faculty has called for a vote of no confidence in the school's top three administrators, criticizing their management style and blaming them for decaying facilities and scarce supplies.

The proposal comes as Pierce faces its worst-ever financial crisis and underscores the frustration with canceled programs and maintenance cuts at the second-largest community college in Los Angeles.

Backers said they will propose a vote condemning President Lowell Erickson and vice presidents William Norlund and Donald Love at an Academic Senate meeting Monday.

The faculty has no power of enforcement over administrators. Results of the vote would simply be presented to the district's Board of Trustees, which appointed Erickson in 1991.

The Senate, which includes representatives of each of the school's 27 academic departments, appears essentially split on the issue, said member George Ogar of the chemistry department. Ogar said he will probably vote against the resolution. Of five faculty representatives contacted by The Times, two said they will support the vote of condemnation.

For some teachers, a vote of no confidence is their only recourse against an administration they feel ignores them, said Richard Follett, an English instructor who proposed the vote.

"There is a sense of arrogance when we approach the administration," Follett said. "There's not a lot of communication. It's more of a hierarchical structure, where the administration decides what we need and then gives it to us."

Erickson conceded that he has not attended more than two or three of the Senate's biweekly meetings in 1993.

But he said he is "accessible on a day-to-day basis" and blamed the faculty discontent on the school's ongoing financial crunch.

"Of course there's a morale problem," Erickson said. "We all have a morale problem. You're dealing with people who haven't had a pay raise in three years and who are teaching in classrooms without air conditioning in 90- to 95-degree weather."

After years of falling enrollments and budget cuts, many repairs and improvements have gone untended. And, faced with a $3-million shortfall last spring, administrators dropped more than 100 classes from the fall semester.

"Rather than having no confidence in each other," Erickson said, "we should be working together to overcome this."

Some members of the Senate have struck a conciliatory tone.

"Hopefully, what we can come up with is a list of gripes that the president can work from," said B. Van Vlaenderen, first vice president of the panel. "In my opinion, a vote of no confidence will only hurt the school further."

Van Vlaenderen said topics for discussion could include Erickson's decision to offer limited summer school, which was made without consulting the Senate; the refusal of a $200,000 grant for a high school job-training program; cuts to sports and agriculture programs, and shoddy facilities and poorly maintained grounds.

If there is an affirmative vote Monday, the Senate president will report to the district Board of Trustees, said district spokesman Fausto Capobianco.

Council of Graduate Schools Chairwoman Barbara Solomon, an expert in faculty-administration relationships, said votes of no confidence are rare at academic institutions.

"Usually, it's the weapon of last resort," Solomon said. "But because of the economic climate at many schools, it's starting to happen a little more often. It's almost the only weapon the faculty has."

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