Parkland Professor Is Now Also Parkland Trustee
Rochelle Harden was sworn in Wednesday night as the first-ever African-American trustee at Parkland College in Champaign. But that milestone has been overshadowed by the fact that the new trustee is also a member of the community college’s faculty.
Harden is a longtime English professor at Parkland College. And Lorna Geiler, the attorney for both Parkland Collee and its board has told her that because of her faculty position, state law regarding community colleges bars her from also serving as a trustee. (The charge had first been raised by Michael Monaghan, executive director of the Illinois Community College Trustees Association; the Parkland Board belongs to that organization).
Harden disagrees with the argument that she’s disqualified from serving as a trustee. She says Illinois law allows her to serve, as long as she avoids votes and executive session discussions that would create a conflict of interest.
“Will it dilute my impact on the board?” said Harden. “Not at all. Not at all. In fact, I think it would be even more helpful for me to explain to the board: These are the instructional issues that we’re facing. These are the challenges that students are facing. Take that information with you when you go into private sessions and discuss that more.”
In fact, Harden abstained from a personnel vote during her very first Parkland Board meeting Wednesday night. She did so in front of several well-wishers who came to see her be sworn in as a trustee.
The charge by the Parkland College attorney about whether Harden can be both professor and trustee came out in reporting by the New-Gazette, which obtained memos between Harden and Geiler through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Publicly, Parkland College officials are saying nothing about the matter, or whether it might be discussed by trustees in the future. In addition, a Parkland spokesperson would not confirm if an April 17th emergency meeting of the Parkland Board was held to discuss Harden’s status.
Harden was sworn in as a Parkland trustee Wednesday evening, along with three trustees who had been re-elected: Dana Trimble, Bianca Green and Greg Knott. Shahad Alsayyad was sworn in as the Parkland board's student trustee.