A tense emergency Board of Directors reveals conflict between faculty and Administration.
Tempers flared when an emergency Zoom meeting by the University Board of Directors turned into verbal arguments and accusations between several members on the call.
The Aug. 28 meeting held by the University Center Board of Directors and open to the public originally set forth to tackle various agenda items and approve of new members.
The two items that took up a majority of the meeting, however, where the firing of the UC’s legal counsel and changes the administration has made that affect facilities managed by the group.
When the meeting was opened to public comment, student employees of the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center stated that they were being asked by HSU to leave their offices. Center Activities Manager Bridget Hand confirmed this information, stating that employees were given little notice to clear their offices.
Vice President of Enrollment Management Jason Meriwether and Acting Executive Director Todd Larson stated that the reason for departure was so that the building could prepare for renovations. Meriwether said that the space may be used for other departments in the meantime.
Gracie Olivia, a student employee at HBAC, said that the job offered leadership roles and was a vital part of the community.
“I want the board and everyone attending this meeting to understand the importance of the Center,” said Olivia.
With no office to operate out of, both Olivia and Hand noted that they would not be able to offer equipment rentals.
Faculty Representative Steve Martin and Financial Officer Gregg Foster expressed confusion and anger at the circumstances. According to them, the UC board was uninformed of the entire situation.
“Why are wholesale changes being made before the program review?” said Foster in the Zoom chat. “The loss of HBAC as a public facility is a real loss to the community.”
In an email, Martin continued to express his frustration at the situation.
“I’m concerned that employees of HBAC say that they can’t provide services to students safely and effectively because of the changes that were implemented over the summer, said Martin. “Changes that were implemented without first consulting the University Center Board.”
Meriwether expressed his surprise with the board, stating that proper written notice was provided to former UC Executive Director Dave Nakamura. Martin said during the call that Nakamura was fired by the administration before being able to properly brief the UC Board.
Further complicating the matter was the lack of legal representation for the UC Board regarding these actions, as the attorney for the group had been let go by Larson.
The attorney from Erikson Law Firm, which had represented the UC Board of Directors since 2017, had refused to help draft a proposal with Larson to present to the Board. Larson also said the attorney had also violated a written contract agreed upon by the two, which to Larson “raised some red flags.”
Foster, Martin and other members of the Board said that this was a decision that should have been run solely by the Board itself.
Martin said that even if the action was legal, it raised moral and ethical flags about Larson and his actions put the board in a state of unease.
These actions have created a fear among faculty members outside the board as well, that discouraged faculty members from speaking up.
“Like everyone else in my position, we fear retaliation from an administration that is overreaching and abusing their power,” said one source close to the situation, who wished to remain anonymous. “If you are receiving PC responses from others, it’s because we are all very worried about what we are witnessing. We have been given specific language to use when speaking with the media and that language only reflects that of the administration’s story.”
The next UC Board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 10.