City College Seeks Chancellor Who Will Stay Among 3 Finalists

Three chancellor candidates are being considered for City College of San Francisco. Courtesy image

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The top three candidates vying to become the new chancellor of City College of San Francisco participated in virtual forums last week where they were presented with identical questions.

“We had a diverse group of candidates that interviewed with us both externally and internally, with broad ranges of experiences all across the country,” Trustee Alan Wong said at a recent board meeting.

Two candidates, Kristina Whalen and David Martin, previously worked at the college but moved on to other colleges. Christopher Villa most recently as President of Portland Community College-Rock Creek, but has experience with California’s community colleges.

For years, finding a chancellor who will stay and lead has been a focal point for the college. Members of the college community are seeking a chancellor who will provide consistent leadership.

Since 2011, City College has had more than half a dozen leaders. Analysis by student journalists at the college’s student-run newspaper the Guardsman found that chancellorship of the college has changed hands nine times in the last decade.

Don Griffin, Pamela Fisher, Thelma Scott Skillman, Art Tyler, Susan Lamb, Mark Rocha, Deputy Chancellor Dianna Gonzalez and Rajen Vurdien all served for a few months to a couple years. Gonzalez, who presently serves as interim chancellor, has served in the role for two stints. 

The usual tenure length for a community college chancellor in California is 5.2 years, according to a 2018 study by the Community College League of California.

Three chancellors this year

After Rocha resigned under unclear circumstances in March 2020, Vurdien, who followed Rocha as President of Pasadena City College, took over as the college’s chancellor in July 2020 for a year-long contract. The college declined to extend it.

Gonzales, who also served as interim chancellor during last year’s three-month gap before Vurdien’s chancellorship following Rocha’s resignation, was appointed to the role once again by a ranked-choice vote amongst the Board of Trustees from a pool of six candidates.

Vurdien had parting words about the college.

“[City College] is a very creative institution,” Vurdien said. “People have plenty of ideas, people create new programs, people work with students […] These are places where the community demands a lot from the college — very often, the college cannot deliver.”

After closing with well wishes and optimism that a “united front with a unified request for funding” might yield more support from city and state officials, Vurdien re-entered retirement with a promise to show up as a commentator at future meetings of the Board of Trustees.

The next meeting of the Board of Trustees is Sept. 21.

Disclosure: Ingleside Light Publisher Alex Mullaney is an instructor at City College.