The contract for one of Palomar College’s deans, who allegedly conducted himself in a manner that was verbally abusive to faculty, and was accused of sexual harassment, was bought out over the summer months.
Syed “Khaled” Hussain, was the dean of the Arts, Media, Business and Computer Sciences division. He was hired in the fall of 2016, and almost immediately began experiencing issues with the faculty members that he oversaw.
“After about four or five weeks we started getting multiple complaints, and about three months into his employment I had about a dozen complaints from various faculty members and staff, and they were serious complaints,” said Shannon Lienhart, former co president of the Palomar Faculty Federation (PFF).
Upon receiving the complaints, Lienhart went before the president, vice-president and Governing Board of the college, to reach out and try to handle the matter privately. Lienhart said that in both cases she felt disregarded, and that neither the administration, nor the board took the matter seriously.
President Joi Lin Blake said “The college does have a process of how they handle personnel matters, and we follow that to the letter.”
“We had many faculty members and staff people who became very ill,” Lienhart said. “We had a person who broke out in hives, we had a person whose blood pressure spiked, we had another person who had started suffering seizures…”
Pat Hahn, a former professor for Palomar College in the Digital Broadcasting Arts (DBA) department, was among the individuals who had concerns regarding his health, and how it was being affected by the environment Hussain was believed to be causing.
Professor Hahn had been working at Palomar College for 19 years before deciding to retire last semester due to the stress that he said Hussain caused him. “I have a heart condition, so the stress… The stress was going to continue on,” Hahn said. “I have perfect health, but my doctor said you can’t have a lot of stress.”
Due to the rising concerns of the faculty, and the lack of results from contact with the Palomar administration, Lienhart decided to make public the Hussain issue by handing out fliers at the faculty senate meeting on March 6, that read “Why is a toxic dean being protected? For the past seven months, the Faculty and Staff have been dealing with a toxic probationary Dean.”
On March 14, a rally was held in front of the Student Services Center. The rally consisted of around 100 members of faculty and of the student body combined. The intention of the rally was to convince the Palomar administration, and the Governing Board to get rid of Hussain.
Following the rally, Hussain was put on administrative leave, and an independent investigation was sanctioned to look into the allegations against him. The result of the investigation was the clearing of all charges brought against Hussain.
However, after the investigation, tensions between the faculty, Hussain, and the administration still ran high. In July the contract for Dean Hussain was bought out by the administration. Whether it was due to the turmoil between faculty and Hussain, or some other matter, President Blake declined to state.
Hussain was also unresponsive to multiple requests over text for comment.
Upon hearing that his contract had been bought out by the Palomar administration, Lienhart said “I was relieved, I was relieved…”
Although the issues surrounding the faculty and former Dean Hussain have been mostly resolved, the impact of the ordeal may still affect faculty and administration relations moving forward.
Throughout the employment of Hussain, relations between faculty and administration consistently deteriorated. In a previous Telescope article, Professor of the theatre arts, Michael Mufson was quoted saying during the March 14 rally, “we, as the faculty, have been totally dismissed by this administration in this situation and it’s not acceptable.”
Following the decision to put Hussain on adminstrative leave, Professor Hahn said that ”I didn’t trust the administrators to really let him go, I thought they were going to bring them back. It was a trust issue.”
At the beginning of last semester, when several of Hahn’s courses began to get dropped, he said “I felt a constant undermining, and a lack of understanding. There was no communication between us. It was just, ‘I’m the boss and this is what we’re gonna do.’ There was a divide between the faculty and the administrators.”
Following the results of the investigation, Lienhart said that she believed the results were biased. “I believe that they (the administration) basically told the investigator what the results they wanted to have were when they hired him.”
President Blake stated firmly that “the administration I can confidently say supports every employee on this campus. I am committed to open an honest dialogue and communication, but when it come to personnel matters, part of that support from employees is respecting employees’ rights, and honoring who they are, and allowing folks to maintain their self respect and dignity and not at the expense of any other employee.”