New community college chancellor sees rough waters ahead

The California Community Colleges Board of Governors announced a unanimous selection of Brice W. Harris as the 15th chancellor on Sept. 27, according to a CCC press release.Harris will replace Jack Scott, who retired earlier this month. During Scott’s time in office, state funding to community colleges was cut by $809 million—12 percent of the total budget. Additionally, tuition fees have doubled and schools have cut course offerings by about 15 percent.From course reductions to potential layoffs, and a cancellation of a winter session, Santa Monica College hasn’t been spared in these cuts.“I know that this is the right person for the right job at the right time,” Scott said at a news conference in Sacramento.“He has the knowledge and the skills to lead this system during what we all know are going to be some difficult days ahead,” board President Scott Himelstein said at a news conference in Sacramento.The chancellor’s office is awaiting the decision of Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, and has continued to educate the public about it’s importance.If the Nov. 6 ballot measure fails, CCC would face a mid-year funding cut of $338 million and nearly 100,000 more students will be shoved out of the system. Locally, that means a reduction in 500 sections from spring semester, and fewer seats for SMC students. Part-time faculty and classified employees could also face layoffs and furloughs, the school says. Vice Chancellor for CommunicationsPaul Feist said that Harris’ priorities don’t fall far from Scott’s. “The community college as a whole will be cut by the middle of the academic year,” he said. “I think [Harris] is not banking on it passing, but has expressed support for it.Harris has previously served 16 years as chancellor of the Los Rios Community College District, which is one of the largest multi-college districts in America, according to the college’s website. Harris was also the president of Fresno City College and has provided guidance to four community colleges: American River, Cosumnes River, Folsom Lake and Sacramento CityHarris said that he and the board of governors are in place to interpret the state’s priorities and to set guide posts, not to dictate or direct the teaching and learning that takes place at each of the colleges. Harris encourages improvement in student success, funding, and access and degree completion rates, according to Feist.Married with three grown children, Harris previously attended Southwestern Oklahoma State University, the University of Arkansas, Nova Southeastern University and Harvard University before joining the community college system.He will receive an annual salary of $198,500, plus a standard benefits package afforded to state employees, the same as his predecessor, according to a CCC press release.Harris will replace Erik Skinner, who is serving as acting chancellor Nov.6.