Pima Community College Is Precious To Me

Response to Luis A. Gonzales & Carol A. Gorsuch Letter dated 1/21/21

Sylvia M. Lee, Ph.D

I wish to respond to the defamatory statements made in a January 21, 2021 article in the Arizona Daily Independent written by Luis A. Gonzales (ghost-written by Carol A. Gorsuch) regarding my history at Pima Community College (PCC).

I was given a second chance as a student at PCC and eventually went on to get a Ph.D, that’s why the college is so precious to me personally. Fast forward 45 years later, I had a 30 year career at universities and community colleges around the U.S. and I was so fortunate to come home to Tucson and work at PCC. I served as dean of student development at Desert Vista, West, and helped open the new Northwest campus. I then served as dean of instruction at East campus and finished my career as campus president at both Northwest and Community campuses.

In 2011, I decided to retire ten years earlier than planned because the college had suffered from a decade of neglect and wrongdoing that eventually laid the groundwork for PCC being placed on probation in Spring 2013. The college leaders had dismantled the open-admissions policy and began requiring college level test scores to enter, which is absolutely contrary to the mission of community colleges around the county. I knew I could help the college if I ran for the PCC governing board. I was elected in November of 2012 and served until 2018.

Mr. Gonzales and Ms. Gorsuch accused me of being “the whistle blower that gave the college a bad name and was highly responsible for the college’s being placed on probation by our accreditor, the HLC.” My response: I am proud of everything I did during this dark, tumultuous time in PCC’s history to bring leadership failings and wrongdoing to the forefront so we collectively could right the wrongs. But I was not “the” whistleblower and I did not give PCC a “bad name.” In fact, PCC was placed on probation for a plethora of reasons, most of which stemmed from a decade of neglect and wrongdoing by the then chancellor and the complicity of the then governing board.

Carol A.Gorsuch was the primary author of the letter sent to the HLC accrediting body on July 2, 2012. A group called CFAIRR also sent a letter to the HLC in 2012, which included Mario Gonzales and Luis A. Gonzales. It is unacceptable to have Mr. Gonzales and Ms. Gorsuch call me a whistleblower when both of them were involved in events that led to PCC’s probation.

Mr. Gonzales and Ms. Gorsuch also accused me of “dismantling the meet and confer process, thus denying employee’s fair due process.” My response: I did not dismantle the Meet & Confer process. The process is still functioning and includes all employees, even if they are not dues paying members, which it did not before. The remaining petty yet defamatory charges are not worthy of response.

Dr. Sylvia Lee is a former Pima Community College Campus President. Dr. Lee was elected in 2012 to the Pima College Board from District 3.