TCC trustees examine faculty complaints against school president

Tacoma Community College’s trustees met for more than an hour Monday to discuss faculty complaints against college President Sheila Ruhland, but took no official action.

The board meeting followed a Nov. 9 group letter from faculty members asking that the board replace Ruhland because of her alleged handling of the school’s accreditation status and of perceived racial insensitivity. As of Monday, 87 of the 90 tenured faculty members currently teaching at TCC had signed the letter, several faculty members said.

The result of their concerns is unclear. TCC board President Bob Ryan said after the Monday meeting that board members had called the special meeting “to discuss all the varying issues and thoughts” related to the complaints against Ruhland, who did not attend. The board adjourned immediately after the closed session. A request by TCC teacher Mary Fox for public comments was denied.

After nearly all 30 faculty and staff members in attendance left the room, Ryan told a reporter that it would be “premature” to say whether Ruhland’s job status will be discussed by the board.

“We’re trying to be deliberate,” Ryan said.

Ryan said the complaint letter will likely be discussed at the TCC board’s scheduled Dec. 14 meeting, but declined to specify what action might happen. TCC Federation of Teachers President David Howard, who signed the letter, said he hopes the December meeting will bring some evidence of progress.

“I’d like to see some results,” Howard said.

Through a TCC spokeswoman, Ruhland declined a request for comment. She became president of the college, which has an enrollment of more than 13,000, in March 2015.

In 1979, faculty and staff made a vote of no confidence in TCC president Larry Stevens, who remained at the school until 1982. But Ruhland’s predecessor, Pamela Transue, retired in 2014 after 17 years as president without a similar faculty complaint.

Derrick Nunnally: 253-597-8693, @dcnunnally