Pitzer Students, Faculty Outraged Over Skandera Hall Dedication

The Pitzer College Office of Communications, in an email dated May 6, announced that the multi-purpose hall previously named 2014 Hall would be renamed Skandera Hall to honor former college president Laura Skandera Trombley, at the request of the donors who contributed the funds for the hall’s construction. This announcement sparked a wave of disapproval from Pitzer students and faculty who believe Trombley's actions as president severely damaged Pitzer and its core values.

Trombley exited Pitzer amid contentions that she ignored Pitzer’s tradition of shared governance between faculty and administrators. Trombley made a series of high-level personnel changes without consulting the Faculty Executive Committee (FEC) and stopped attending FEC meetings, according to a September 2015 TSL article.

“This action of the Board and the President was an extreme and harmful violation of the proper role of the Faculty in College governance,” wrote Dan Segal, an anthropology and history professor at Pitzer, in an email to TSL

The Pitzer faculty voted no confidence on Trombley’s position as president during an FEC meeting on June 22, 2015, only eight days before she retired from Pitzer.

The donors’ intention was always to name the hall Skandera Hall, but “at the time of [the] gifts, President Trombley requested that the College defer the naming until she retired as president,” according to an email from the Office of Communications.

Segal wrote, “In proceeding with the naming of a building at the College in honor of ex-president Trombley, Pitzer’s Board of Trustees has conveyed, with clarity, its contempt both for the Faculty and the proper role of the Faculty in the governance of the College."

Sasha Forbath PZ ’18 started an online petition advocating for Pitzer to change the name of the hall to honor a more universally respected leader in Pitzer’s community. The petition has garnered 74 supporters as of Sept. 15.

“The fact that Pitzer has decided to rename 2014 Hall after a president that received a no-confidence vote by faculty is alarming,” wrote Forbath in the statement attached to her petition. “It is in the hands of the Pitzer community to advocate for 2014 Hall to be renamed after a respected and not contentious figurehead."

So far, Pitzer has not issued an official response to student and faculty concerns about Skandera Hall’s name.

“The College is aware that an online petition was started in May,” Pitzer’s Vice President for College Advancement Adrian Stevens wrote in an email to TSL. “I’m unable to respond to student actions online or anywhere else that have not been presented to the College.”

Stevens further noted that the donors who donated to Skandera Hall were responsible for naming it, and that Pitzer had no role in or control over the naming process.

“The name of the building … is designated by the donor/s and not the College,” Stevens wrote in an email to TSL. “I am unable to speak on behalf of the donors’ specific intentions. However, the College is grateful to the donors for their generous support of Pitzer College in a way that benefits every member of the community."

Like Forbath and her petition's signatories, Segal believes that Pitzer should rename Skandera Hall. He suggested rededicating it as “John Skandera Hall,” in honor of Trombley’s father, a life-long elementary school teacher, as a conciliatory measure to the donors and Board of Trustees.

Nevertheless, Segal believes that Skandera Hall’s name is the symptom of a larger issue at Pitzer.

“A new naming of the building would deal with the immediate matter of the building’s name, but it would still leave this College with a Board of Trustees that holds its Faculty, and the role of the Faculty in governance, in contempt. This must change; and for it to change, the Faculty will have to act with integrity and resolve,” wrote Segal.

Neither Trombley nor Pitzer Board of Trustees member Donald Gould could be reached for comment.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Pitzer Board of Trustees member Donald Gould as the board's president. The Pitzer Board of Trustees does not have a president. The current chair is Shahan Sogihikian.