Foothill College President Thuy Nguyen is out of a job, with the community college district's board of trustees voting unanimously Monday night, Oct. 25, not to renew her contract.
The decision comes amid internal strife at the college; Foothill's academic senate took a vote of no confidence in Nguyen at a meeting earlier on Monday.
Nguyen, who has led Foothill since 2016, will be put on paid administrative leave effective Nov. 1. Her current contract runs through June 2022 and her annual base salary is $262,038.12, district spokesperson Becky Bartindale confirmed.
Former Foothill President Bernadine Chuck Fong will take the helm and serve as acting president starting next week, according to a letter Chancellor Judy Miner sent to staff Monday night. Fong previously served as Foothill's president from 1994 until her retirement in 2006, Bartindale said.
District board President Peter Landsberger said at Monday's meeting that not renewing Nguyen's contract was "needed to allow the college to move beyond the current state of conflict."
The board's vote came in a closed session Monday evening.
An audio recording of public comments before the board went into closed session included faculty speaking out against Nguyen. Attached to the meeting agenda were 74 pages of written comments weighing in on Nguyen's leadership at Foothill. Some called for her ouster, arguing that she ignores faculty input and lacks leadership skills, while others contended that her removal would be a reflection of institutional bias and a lack of willingness to address inequity at the college.
Sara Cooper, an associate professor of biology, wrote the board that faculty lacks confidence in Nguyen but fears retribution if they speak up, adding that the governance process at Foothill is in "tatters."
"President Nguyen's relationship with faculty is beyond repair," Cooper wrote. "There is no collaborative or collegial consultation about anything."
Others wrote to support Nguyen, including Asian Law Alliance (ALA) Executive Director Richard Konda, who told the board that addressing injustice and systemic racism is necessary, especially at higher education institutions like Foothill.
"Instead of engaging in the difficult but necessary dialogue, it may seem more convenient or expedient to some to marginalize a leader of color like President Nguyen because she is only one person," Konda wrote. "ALA wants you to know that President Nguyen is not alone, and that she has the support of many and she represents many."
In a public letter after the decision was announced, Nguyen wrote that it has been an "absolute honor" to serve as president and went on to thank the board of trustees, Miner, district faculty and staff, students and the community. Nguyen also outlined achievements the college has made during her tenure, in particular pointing to Foothill's work on racial equity.
"I have put my best efforts into this task, even to the very end, of advancing Foothill College’s commitment to racial equity," Nguyen wrote.
Nguyen is the first Vietnamese American college president in the country, according to her biography on Foothill's website. She and her family fled Vietnam when she was 3 years old and ultimately settled in Oakland.
Landsberger said at Monday's meeting that the board prioritizes equity and student success but believes its decision not to renew Nguyen's contract was necessary to ensure administrators, faculty, staff and students can work collaboratively.
"Nothing in this action should be interpreted as a retreat from Foothill's equity agenda," said Landsberger. "Foothill-De Anza has a long history of advancing equity and inclusion, and this work will continue uninterrupted."
This story has been updated.