'It's our future': PCC students urge 4 on board to step aside

But 3 who are under fire insist they will not quit
2013-05-09T00:00:00Z 2014-08-05T11:03:31Z 'It's our future': PCC students urge 4 on board to step asideCarol Ann Alaimo Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 09, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Students are turning up the heat on four embattled members of Pima Community College's Governing Board.

About 100 turned out Wednesday for a rally at college headquarters, adding their voices to calls for resignations of the four whose integrity and competence are under fire.

"Students are the ones who have the most to lose," if the board members won't go, said John Valenzuela, student government president at PCC's Desert Vista campus.

"It's our future," he said.

The four board members - Brenda Even, Scott Stewart, Marty Cortez and David Longoria - were lambasted for nearly two hours as students and their supporters packed the 164-seat board room to capacity during its Wednesday meeting.

Three of the four - Even, Stewart and Longoria - started the meeting by stating they will not step down.

"I will continue to do the job I was elected to do. I know this will be construed by many as defiant," said Longoria.

Cortez kept her options open. "Resigning is always an option for any elected official," she said.

The four were faulted in a recent investigation that led to PCC being put on probation by its accreditor, the Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission.

Investigators deemed the Governing Board "dysfunctional" and said members shirked their oversight role during the years the school was led by disgraced former Chancellor Roy Flores.

Flores left last year accused of serial sexual harassment. The accreditor said board members failed for years to act on warnings about his inappropriate behavior and the "culture of fear" he created.

PCC now has two years to clean up problems. If it doesn't it could lose accredited status, effectively putting the school out of business.

The call by student leaders for resignations follows similar requests from faculty, local business leaders and others.

Joe McGrath, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan and now attends PCC, said the four board members are imperiling the entire community because of the college's importance to Tucson's economy.

PCC isn't likely to heal if those implicated in its problems stay on, he said.

Even offered students an apology of sorts. "I would apologize for any contribution I made to this situation," she said.

"I also have a responsibility to the people who elected me," she added.

Cortez's apology was more direct. "I apologize for my lack of oversight," she said.

Stewart apologized for dropping the ball in 2008 when someone sent him an anonymous letter about problems at PCC, including sexual harassment.

He said he quit reading it after the first page or so, and thus missed the harassment part. He said he meant to go back and finish reading, but didn't, and didn't mention it to fellow board members.

If he'd read the whole thing "things might have been different," Stewart said.

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at calaimo@azstarnet.com or at 573-4138.

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