EXCLUSIVE: College Chairman Resigns, Says 'Sanctuary Campus' Decision Was 'Final Straw'
Gene Pitts resigned as chairman of the Board of Directors of Portland Community College (PCC) in December. He cited the college’s decision to make itself a "sanctuary college" as the final straw.
Pitts says he became increasingly dismayed at the erosion of support for the rule of law among the student body and certain faculty members, and he also believes that this short-sighted -- and largely symbolic -- gesture could jeopardize federal funding that the college receives.
In his resignation letter, Pitts shared his deep concerns with the new college president and fellow board members:
President Mitsui and Board members,
I have spoken to each of you, so it should not be a surprise that I was not aligned with the College's decision to deem itself a "sanctuary college." As I've shared with you, I felt that the decision to use the term "sanctuary college" politicizes the college, places risk on the backs of the 40+ percent of the college's students that receive Pell grant monies (and ultimately on the college's Federal funding), and alienates a percentage of voters as we approach the college's next bond campaign. From my Intel career, I understand and have embraced the importance of "disagree and commit" in order to provide a one-voice on matters. However, on this issue I cannot commit. For that reason, I am resigning my position as Board Chair and as Board Member serving Zone 6.
I wish the Board and the College well.
Pitts, an electrical engineering manager in his day job, writes in an email to PJ Media that he originally ran for a position on the Board to make a difference -- but that it quickly became clear that wasn’t to be:
I should … mention that this Board is not compensated. That is a continuing misconception among the student population. I ran for this position because I believed that I could make a positive difference. However, it is clear to me that the college has become increasingly activist (particularly post-election). And when I say activist, it is more than a subset of the students. The activism extends to certain faculty and administration.
That first became apparent to me back in March of 2016 when the college – surprising the Board -- decided to bring the races together by conducting a “Whiteness History Month”. My conversations with high-level college administration fell on deaf ears, and it was clear that they were squarely in support of this initiative.
PCC’s Whiteness History Month created national headlines and controversy for the school. According to reports, during a Black Power workshop, one woman was ejected for questioning claims that Donald Trump was racist:
A sign posted outside the room’s door set the racial tone for the lecture.
“Please respect that this workshop is for Black and African identified folks exploring their blackness in a healthy and community based manor [sic].”
During the lecture, the speaker’s message apparently turned from informative to political, with the speaker insinuating that Trump was a racist.
A woman listening to the lecture who was not a student decided to question his politically charged anti-Trump direction, as she told an independent journalist who showed up to film the event shortly after.
Shortly after she was made to leave, the woman told the videographer she asked the speaker why Trump had support from black voters if it was true he was a racist. That was when, she said, she was asked to leave.
Things continued to boil, Pitts says, until he could no longer participate:
The declaration of PCC as a "sanctuary college" was the final straw. I firmly believe that the rule of law is the glue that holds our society together, and the college effectively thumbed its nose at that concept by way of this declaration.
The college, and much of its student body, relies on Federal funding (over forty percent of the students at PCC receive Pell Grants). It is my belief that this declaration unnecessarily politicized the college, and placed risk on the backs of those students who truly need those Federal monies to get their education.
The full declaration by PCC can be read at their website. Pitts believes that, while the move is largely symbolic, it could have real fiscal implications for the college:
My interpretation -- the declaration is a hollow and meaningless promise, but the symbolism of this action is anything but hollow and meaningless. I believe that it may have very real and very negative financial implications to the college and its students.
Pitts points out that the declaration comes at a sensitive time for the college:
Ironically, the college will begin its Bond renewal campaign later this year. I would encourage the voters to consider the recent actions of the college before casting their votes. I know that I will.