How Andreea Serban came to be fired as president of Santa Barbara City College remains very much a mystery to most of the region’s business community. Here’s what we do know:
• At 3:45 a.m. on July 29, the school’s board of trustees announced that she would be terminated and paid until next June.
• Relations between Serban and a recently elected “dissident” majority on the seven-member board had been contentious, and she may have been looking for a job elsewhere.
• Budget cuts for community colleges and four-year institutions have been brutal given the state’s fiscal crisis.
If our reading of the situation is correct, Serban and the board clashed over the way forward for an institution that’s been described as a crown jewel in the state’s community college system.
Serban, following in the footsteps of her predecessors, wanted to continue building on City College’s strong academic traditions. She wanted to protect and expand for-credit offerings, including some of the best associates degree programs in the state.
She wanted to focus on new initiatives, including a joint-degree program in nursing with CSU Channel Islands.
Serban’s detractors, at least according to other media reports, were far more focused on non-degree and non-credit extension programs that are popular with community members and seniors. And, indeed, City College has a long history of service to community members — including some basic classes in starting and operating small businesses.
But in the absence of a clear, cogent and transparent explanation for what transpired behind those closed doors a few weeks ago, we’d argue that in a time of deep budget cuts, Serban’s approach was the correct one.
Young people and returning veterans need to have access to academic programs that will lead them to undergraduate degrees and eventually advanced degrees. Education, particularly at the community college level, sows the seeds for future success in the workplace or small business ownership.
The Channel Islands joint programs in nursing and business are essential to creating and maintaining a vibrant business community on the South Coast.
Moreover, there is enough wealth around for the private, philanthropic sector to support seniors and non-credit programs if in fact there is sufficient demand for them.
If there is more to the story of Serban’s departure, the public has a right to know what that is. If this is a deep dispute about policy, business should make their voices heard. An orderly transition to a new president for Santa Barbara City College can’t begin until the true story of Serban’s departure emerges from those closed-door meetings.