Gary Horton | COC Trustees & a Recurring Nightmare

Gary Horton

We’ve all had recurring nightmares that jarringly wake us from slumber – jostled, eyes wide open, as we try to make sense of the insanity that just happened. We make efforts to overcome these dark visions, yet they come back and come back, no matter how diligent our effort to vanquish these irrationalities. 

Such is the continuing nightmarish saga of our now-tainted College of the Canyons board of trustees, railing against esteemed COC Chancellor Dianne Van Hook. Despite three public meetings with dozens of our community’s most respected leaders speaking on Dr. Van Hook’s behalf, highlighting her remarkable achievements at COC – and despite these same leaders warning of the serious educational and financial consequences of abruptly ending Dr. Van Hook’s employment, still, Trustees Edel Alonso, Joan MacGregor, Jerry Danielsen and Sebastian Cazares continue their inexplicable manhandling of Dr. Van Hook. 

A fourth recurring nightmare is scheduled for today, Wednesday at 4 p.m. in room 301 at the college University Center building. Once again, these four horsemen of apocalypse haunt us, attacking common sense and decency. The agenda for their secret meeting reads: 

2.1 Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release (pursuant to Government Code section 54957).

2.2 Public Employment, Title: Chancellor (pursuant to Government Code section 54957).

2.3 Public Employee Performance Evaluation, Title: Chancellor (pursuant to Government Code section 54957).

2.4 Conference with Legal Counsel – Anticipated Litigation – Significant exposure to litigation pursuant to Government Code section 54956.9 subdivision (d)(2): One potential case.

Ironically, the Headless Horsemen’s lynching is being held in the very University Center building that Dr. Van Hook personally brought to fruition, serving thousands and thousands of students from all ages and all walks of life. This irony of “killing the creator” is totally over the heads of these educational saplings in their dealings with the Giant Sequoia, Dr. Van Hook. 

Community leader upon leader have warned of the serious consequences of recklessly dismissing Dr. Van Hook. At risk is a significant disruption of campus function as the campus executive team and countless professors will either quit or are forced out by new “leadership.” The forward momentum for the college will be extinguished, as visionary Dr. Van Hook is replaced by some everyday bureaucrat selected for his or her pliancy to the trustees. And financial cost? Just look at bullet point 2.4: “Anticipated litigation – significant exposure.” On top of this, some donors to the college have already indicated pullback or complete cessation out of revulsion to these sapling-trustees’ actions. 

This is a bad nightmare where COC is tied helplessly to railway tracks while the train conductor keeps plowing ahead to smash the college to pieces, despite crowds of screaming experts imploring the conductor to stop the train! The trustees are oblivious to tearing apart COC while blowing millions of taxpayer dollars. What a nightmare, indeed! 

Congressman Mike Garcia has written a letter to the trustees outlining Dr. Van Hook’s continuing contribution to the veterans and the public at large, while urging them to end their errant mission. Mr. Garcia has asked me to read his letter to the board of trustees on his behalf, and I will do so with honor. In part, Congressman Garcia writes: 

“I reiterate my strong support for the continued leadership of Dr. Van Hook under her current contract, which has three years remaining. The chancellor’s tireless commitment to this invaluable institution that serves our community has vastly improved the lives of all students and alumni, and I am confident in her ability to remain a dynamic and innovative leader for the college.” 

Garcia also writes, “Her proven track record and years of work to improve the quality of education for students in our community is and of itself a ringing endorsement of her tenure and ability to lead the college into the future.” 

Further, “As a direct result of Dr. Van Hook’s hard work, I have been able to secure more than $5 million in federal funding for COC purposes, ranging from expanding the Advanced Technology Center to renovating the Student Basic Needs Center.” 

Speaking for myself, I don’t know what other plainly observable evidence and testimony could possibly be required to turn these trustees from pulling us all into their completely avoidable nightmare of prematurely ending Dr. Van Hook’s tenure. Everyone with a head on their shoulders has praised Dr. Van Hook’s continuing public contribution while warning these four nightmare headless horsemen of the vast educational and financial damage their ill-advised actions will incur.  

Damage, by the way, for which you and I will pay, and for which our students will suffer. 

Decades ago, before Dr. Van Hook’s arrival, COC was jokingly referred to as “College of the Crayons.” Today, after 36 years of Dr. Van Hook’s incredible vision and immense effort, COC is no joke. Today, COC is larger than many state colleges, and is renowned statewide for its oversized innovation and community impact. 

Trustees Edel Alonso, Joan MacGregor, Jerry Danielsen and Sebastian Cazares are shameful in their conduct. They are bringing shame to the college and extreme damage to its ongoing vision and future. 

Once more to our elected COC trustees: Stop this nightmare you yourselves have brought upon our college and upon our community! 

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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