Palomar's Hiring Woes

A speech by Netta Schroer to the Palomar College's Governing Board on May 14th --

Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Netta Schroer and I am a Psychology faculty member and was a member of the psychology hiring committee this spring to hire 2 new faculty members.  Let me start by saying that I love Palomar. I love the message that I received when I was hired about Palomar accepting the top 100% of students. I bought all the Palomar swag. I have the hoodie. I have shirts. I have the mugs and the tumblers, and even bought something for my husband. And I helped build our department. We struggled with fewer than normal faculty members due to retirees, deaths, and sabbaticals. We met these challenges because students were important. We received 2 hires over the last 3 years to help rebuild our department and those new hires took on overload classes so we wouldn’t have to cancel them. Our mission has always been about our students. I say this to emphasize how our goal has always been to meet our students’ needs, while being conservative with classes to not cancel on our PTers.

Administration wanted us to expand course offerings. Since I’ve been here, a course with 2 section offerings is about to be 6 (with a request a few weeks ago to make it 7). We want to build the centers. We have a Full timer starting to teach at the North Center in fall and other full timers ready to start there as well. The reason we received a second position was specifically so we could start having a full-time presence at the south center to build the psychology program there.

This is my 4th hiring committee; this is the first time I genuinely felt that there was no interest, let alone concern, for faculty opinion.

We received more applications this round than in previous ones. Faculty on the hiring committee spent conservatively hundreds of hours reviewing all the applications, discussing the selection for first level interviews, interviewing 1st level candidates and watching teaching demos, checking references, and interviewing and watching teaching demos in the 2nd level. And we selected highly qualified applicants to send to both first and then second level interviews.

After second level interviews, we went to deliberate with the president. We reported information from the interviews and the reference checks. Then, something happened that I had never seen. The president did not ask our opinion of who we thought would be the best colleague or who would contribute the most to Palomar College. Rather, we were told (with no discussion) which 1 person would be hired, which would definitely not be hired, and that our second position would be a failed search. The current hiring policy is for the second level committee to discuss and reach a consensus on new hires, that the President then presents to the governing board for final approval. However, we were never given the opportunity for discussion or consensus. The president spent 1 hour with each applicant and all of the faculty’s many hours of hard work was dismissed.

This does not seem to be an isolated incident, as similar experiences have been reported from multiple hiring committees. All our candidates more than met minimum qualifications and we missed out on some exemplary colleagues, ones that specifically discussed things like community outreach, which faculty are so often encouraged to participate in.

The only stated reason for the failed search, in the case of psychology, was that the pool wasn’t “strong” enough and we could do better. However, among the candidates left in the failed search, were strong instructors and collaborative colleagues who would have greatly contributed to not just our discipline, but the institution as well. Unfortunately, it appeared as if a decision had already been made because no sooner had we summarized the qualifications of each candidate, did the president announce one hire and failed the search on the rest. 

Again, we received more applications than in previous years. My inclination was that our pool was not thought to be diverse enough. We know the importance of diversity so we received extra funding to advertise our positions with the Association of Black Psychologists, the National Latino/a Psychological Association, the American Psychological Association, the Western Psychological Association, and several psychology listservs. If people were looking for a job, they would have seen our ad. If diversity was truly the underlying reason, the above advertising practices certainly attempted to attract such a pool. However, state laws, which HR trains us all to adhere to so as to avoid a discrimination law suit, prevents us from knowing the backgrounds of any applicant. In short, we proactively attracted as diverse a pool as possible and then chose the best instructors from the resulting pool while adhering to the law. This process avoids discriminatory practices of the past. Our discipline studies and understands the importance of diversity at Palomar. We sought it out and were successful. In fact, we did have diversity in our sample but because we were never given the opportunity to share our overall opinions, we were never able to discuss the ways in which are candidates were diverse.

We respect the expertise of administration. We all share common goals of diversity and meeting student needs. The value of teamwork and discussion is that it lets each of us bring our particular expertise to the table. This is fundamental to the shared governance model. We listened to the president when she presented her objections to a particular candidate. However, this did not seem to be reciprocated. We felt and feel demoralized, angry, and disrespected. This experience showed a lack of respect for the shared governance process. The heart of the shared governance process is faculty and Administration working together to build and maintain a strong Palomar, yet the hundreds of hours of time by experts in their field, not to mention the time and money spent by HR and the good faith efforts on the part of applicants, was all ignored and we ultimately lost out on great instructors. We have brought high quality instructors to Palomar in past and are truly saddened that the message of Better Together does not seem to include faculty input and expertise. Thank you for your time.

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