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Foothill College's president wants job back after being placed on administrative leave

Community college district's board set to review Thuy Nguyen's employment at April 4 meeting

Foothill College President Thuy Nguyen has been on paid administrative leave since late 2021, when the community college district's board of trustees voted not to renew her contract, which expires after June 2022. Embarcadero Media file photo by Sinead Chang.

Five months after being placed on paid administrative leave amid a rift with faculty members, Foothill College President Thuy Nguyen wants to come back to lead the community college and is asking the district's board to renew her contract for next school year.

Nguyen told the Palo Alto Weekly that she has seen Foothill make progress on various fronts in recent years, particularly around racial equity, and she wants to help that work continue.

"I don't want to see it recede," Nguyen said. "I really want to be a part of the college and work together — and so that's why I'm very much interested in coming back to get the work done."

The Foothill-De Anza Community College District board of trustees voted unanimously in October 2021 not to renew Nguyen's contract, which expires at the end of June. She was subsequently placed on paid administrative leave and former Foothill President Bernadine Chuck Fong took over as acting president.

The board's decision came after the college's Academic Senate passed a vote of no confidence, which said that under Nguyen's leadership, faculty voices had been ignored except to rubber-stamp decisions that had already been made.

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A series of letters from community groups and local leaders, including the Asian Law Alliance, Vietnamese American Professional Women Association of Silicon Valley, local NAACP chapter and former state Assembly member and Foothill-De Anza trustee Paul Fong are now urging the board to reconsider and to immediately reinstate Nguyen, who was the first Vietnamese American college president in the country.

"President Nguyen has been an effective champion of racial equity and, in this time of national racial reckoning, issues of racial equity and systemic racism must be addressed at Foothill College," the nearly identical letters state.

The topic of Nguyen's reinstatement and contract renewal is on the agenda for the Monday, April 4, board meeting, although it is unclear whether the trustees will take any action on the matter. The item was placed on the agenda in response to the letters urging the district to reinstate Nguyen. According to the meeting agenda, the board plans to adjourn to closed session following any comments by the public.

Board President Patrick Ahrens would not comment on the record about Nguyen's employment and Academic Senate President Kathryn Maurer did not respond to requests for comment. District spokesperson Becky Bartindale said in a statement that the district is limited in what it can say, beyond that the board believed not renewing her contract "was needed to allow the college to move beyond a state of conflict and to establish the conditions under which administrators, faculty, staff, and students could work collaboratively to achieve student success with universally equitable outcomes."

Last fall, dozens of faculty members wrote letters to the district's board raising concerns about Nguyen's leadership. One letter was signed by 37 faculty members of color and argued that the no confidence vote was the result of Nguyen's refusal to meaningfully work with the faculty senate's leadership.

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"We recognize that institutional inequities, racism, and unconscious bias are a reality that so many women of color in leadership roles face," the letter reads. "However, we reject the idea that this vote of no confidence is a result of such realities."

Letters supporting Nguyen, on the other hand, point to her long track record of working to tackle racial inequities and say that her leadership is needed at Foothill College. Some of the letters also reference a May 2021 independent evaluation of Nguyen, which is quoted as stating that people responded to Nguyen differently than they would a white person in the same position.

The district declined to release the evaluation, citing the privacy of personnel records and Nguyen similarly declined to share the full evaluation, citing the privacy concerns of another employee referred to in the evaluation.

Members of the president's cabinet at Foothill College wrote a letter to the board ahead of next week's meeting opposing the efforts of external groups to seek Nguyen's reinstatement.

"Efforts by outside political action groups, or elected officials, to press our board for the benefit of one individual, undermine our college community and the progress we are making to better serve students and improve the campus climate," the letter states.

Nguyen said she welcomes further discussions with the faculty, and while she knows it will be difficult, she believes it's important for her and faculty members to come back to the table and engage in honest conversations.

"It will take fortitude. It will take a lot of love and compassion, but this is the work, and I need to model it," Nguyen said.

Before being hired at Foothill in 2016, Nguyen served as interim general counsel in the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office.

She earned her undergraduate degree from Yale University and law degree from University of California, Los Angeles. Nguyen and her family came to the United States as refugees after the end of the Vietnam War.

According to her biography on the college's website, she is the founding chair of the board overseeing California's community college to law school pathway program, which she helped initiate. She also received the Diversity Award from the State Bar of California in 2016.

Nguyen said she is dedicated to work around racial equity and recognizes how hard it can be, but believes Foothill has the ingredients necessary to make real change.

"It's extraordinary to see the way students are transformed by the education we provide," Nguyen said. "I feel like it would be such a loss if we can't get this together and come together."

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William Eltherington is a freelancer researcher.

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Foothill College's president wants job back after being placed on administrative leave

Community college district's board set to review Thuy Nguyen's employment at April 4 meeting

by Zoe Morgan / Palo Alto Weekly / William Eltherington / Contributor

Uploaded: Fri, Apr 1, 2022, 6:51 am

Five months after being placed on paid administrative leave amid a rift with faculty members, Foothill College President Thuy Nguyen wants to come back to lead the community college and is asking the district's board to renew her contract for next school year.

Nguyen told the Palo Alto Weekly that she has seen Foothill make progress on various fronts in recent years, particularly around racial equity, and she wants to help that work continue.

"I don't want to see it recede," Nguyen said. "I really want to be a part of the college and work together — and so that's why I'm very much interested in coming back to get the work done."

The Foothill-De Anza Community College District board of trustees voted unanimously in October 2021 not to renew Nguyen's contract, which expires at the end of June. She was subsequently placed on paid administrative leave and former Foothill President Bernadine Chuck Fong took over as acting president.

The board's decision came after the college's Academic Senate passed a vote of no confidence, which said that under Nguyen's leadership, faculty voices had been ignored except to rubber-stamp decisions that had already been made.

A series of letters from community groups and local leaders, including the Asian Law Alliance, Vietnamese American Professional Women Association of Silicon Valley, local NAACP chapter and former state Assembly member and Foothill-De Anza trustee Paul Fong are now urging the board to reconsider and to immediately reinstate Nguyen, who was the first Vietnamese American college president in the country.

"President Nguyen has been an effective champion of racial equity and, in this time of national racial reckoning, issues of racial equity and systemic racism must be addressed at Foothill College," the nearly identical letters state.

The topic of Nguyen's reinstatement and contract renewal is on the agenda for the Monday, April 4, board meeting, although it is unclear whether the trustees will take any action on the matter. The item was placed on the agenda in response to the letters urging the district to reinstate Nguyen. According to the meeting agenda, the board plans to adjourn to closed session following any comments by the public.

Board President Patrick Ahrens would not comment on the record about Nguyen's employment and Academic Senate President Kathryn Maurer did not respond to requests for comment. District spokesperson Becky Bartindale said in a statement that the district is limited in what it can say, beyond that the board believed not renewing her contract "was needed to allow the college to move beyond a state of conflict and to establish the conditions under which administrators, faculty, staff, and students could work collaboratively to achieve student success with universally equitable outcomes."

Last fall, dozens of faculty members wrote letters to the district's board raising concerns about Nguyen's leadership. One letter was signed by 37 faculty members of color and argued that the no confidence vote was the result of Nguyen's refusal to meaningfully work with the faculty senate's leadership.

"We recognize that institutional inequities, racism, and unconscious bias are a reality that so many women of color in leadership roles face," the letter reads. "However, we reject the idea that this vote of no confidence is a result of such realities."

Letters supporting Nguyen, on the other hand, point to her long track record of working to tackle racial inequities and say that her leadership is needed at Foothill College. Some of the letters also reference a May 2021 independent evaluation of Nguyen, which is quoted as stating that people responded to Nguyen differently than they would a white person in the same position.

The district declined to release the evaluation, citing the privacy of personnel records and Nguyen similarly declined to share the full evaluation, citing the privacy concerns of another employee referred to in the evaluation.

Members of the president's cabinet at Foothill College wrote a letter to the board ahead of next week's meeting opposing the efforts of external groups to seek Nguyen's reinstatement.

"Efforts by outside political action groups, or elected officials, to press our board for the benefit of one individual, undermine our college community and the progress we are making to better serve students and improve the campus climate," the letter states.

Nguyen said she welcomes further discussions with the faculty, and while she knows it will be difficult, she believes it's important for her and faculty members to come back to the table and engage in honest conversations.

"It will take fortitude. It will take a lot of love and compassion, but this is the work, and I need to model it," Nguyen said.

Before being hired at Foothill in 2016, Nguyen served as interim general counsel in the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office.

She earned her undergraduate degree from Yale University and law degree from University of California, Los Angeles. Nguyen and her family came to the United States as refugees after the end of the Vietnam War.

According to her biography on the college's website, she is the founding chair of the board overseeing California's community college to law school pathway program, which she helped initiate. She also received the Diversity Award from the State Bar of California in 2016.

Nguyen said she is dedicated to work around racial equity and recognizes how hard it can be, but believes Foothill has the ingredients necessary to make real change.

"It's extraordinary to see the way students are transformed by the education we provide," Nguyen said. "I feel like it would be such a loss if we can't get this together and come together."

William Eltherington is a freelancer researcher.

Comments

KEN HOROWITZ
Registered user
Downtown North
on Apr 1, 2022 at 7:42 am
KEN HOROWITZ, Downtown North
Registered user
on Apr 1, 2022 at 7:42 am

As a professor at Foothill College for over 45 years, the Board of Trustees’ decision last October to terminate President Thuy Nguyen’s contract was perplexing. On Oct. 15, 2021 the Faculty, Administrators, and the Board submitted the College’s midterm accreditation report to the Accreditation Association of Community and Junior Colleges citing all its accomplishments and the work done by President Nguyen. You can find this report on www.foothill.edu. Yet ten days later (on Oct. 25, 2021), the Board ousted President Nguyen. The Board’s decision was ill advised and it is my hope that she will be reinstated at Monday evening’s meeting. She is a valuable asset to our community and students. The fact that she wants her job back says a lot about her character and why she is admired by so many people.


Ben Sadler
Registered user
Midtown
on Apr 1, 2022 at 3:10 pm
Ben Sadler, Midtown
Registered user
on Apr 1, 2022 at 3:10 pm

JCs do not have associate, assistant, and full professorships as in colleges and universities.

In junior college they are called instructors regardless of whether they have a Master's or a Ph.D.

Lastly, a Ph.D. should only be called (or referred to as) 'Doctor' in their field or in an academic environment rather than in everyday life like medical doctors and dentists.

And the same applies to chiropractors


Luke Hoskins
Registered user
Palo Alto Hills
on Apr 2, 2022 at 9:56 am
Luke Hoskins, Palo Alto Hills
Registered user
on Apr 2, 2022 at 9:56 am

"The fact that she wants her job back says a lot about her character..."

What is the current salary and benefits package for a Foothill-De Anza Community College District President?

This might be another reason.


William Hitchens
Registered user
Mountain View
on Apr 2, 2022 at 7:09 pm
William Hitchens, Mountain View
Registered user
on Apr 2, 2022 at 7:09 pm

I have friends who are members of the Foothill College Academic Senate --- none of whom have inferior Education majors. They have real, honest-to-god difficult university MS and PhD degrees in really difficult majors --- pathetically useless "Education degrees" excluded. They could have had far better academic careers than Foothill JC but they have chosen to help Foothill students to better their lives.
All of them, like all great teachers, are concerned about three things. The first is the success of their students after they graduate. The second is quality of their education. The third is the HONESTY of their education. And they all hate politically correct useless garbage and other non-educational garbage social mandates forced upon them by Foothill College's so-called "ignorant administrators". Including this poor useless fool begging to get her job back again [portion removed.]


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Apr 3, 2022 at 10:42 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Apr 3, 2022 at 10:42 am

I was lucky to go to a great JC - Santa Monica City College back in the day when JC's were as good as state colleges in teaching the skills needed to progress to a 4 year school. The focus was on helping students get the right classes for their projected 4 year degree. That was back in the day when schools taught reading, writing, and arithmetic - and great sports programs that helped talented people to get onto the bigger teams. Unfortunately the education system to day in America is overrun by People pushing political agendas to serve their own needs of there advocacy groups - not the students.


John Donegan
Registered user
another community
on Apr 3, 2022 at 11:21 am
John Donegan, another community
Registered user
on Apr 3, 2022 at 11:21 am

The letters supporting Ms. Nguyen all praise her work on "racial equity" and such, but none mention her effectiveness as an educator. At what point did the role of a school in providing a good education become of secondary importance?


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 4, 2022 at 7:55 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Apr 4, 2022 at 7:55 pm

I don’t think she should get her job back. She’s focused on non-deliverable “equity.” (?)
How about being administrative leader for all?


KEN HOROWITZ
Registered user
Downtown North
on Apr 5, 2022 at 6:26 am
KEN HOROWITZ, Downtown North
Registered user
on Apr 5, 2022 at 6:26 am

Dr. Ken Horowitz is a dentist and earned a DMD degree from Tufts University.
He taught in the dental hygiene program and was its supervising dentist.
Having a doctorate degree, he is entitled to be called a professor at Foothill College.


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