College administrators offer apologies for employee harm

The work environment is said to be improving at Oklahoma City Community College as faculty and staff continue to seek change from the administration.    

Though some believe there are still administrators on campus who need to be held accountable for damage they are claimed to have caused to employees.

“Morale is starting to increase, and so much more has been going on since I first shared my story in September,” OCCC Professor of Political Sciences Markus Smith said in a YouTube video he published Wednesday, Feb 9.

 “We are still far from where we need to be as an institution. I believe we will get there soon, but it will take some time.” Smith said in the video. 

 The video titled “Recap and Update Regarding the Chaos and Culture at Oklahoma City Community College” is his most recent release in a series Smith began uploading last fall, where he first shared his experience of what he claimed was a hostile, discriminatory, and toxic culture working at the college.

 Since the first video published in September of 2020, a significant number of employees and faculty members have come forward with their own stories that support Smith’s allegations against the college. 

He said these events ultimately led to a historical shift in OCCC administration and it’s employee policies. 

“Since my video back in September, the college has removed, updated, and created well over 20 policies if not more,” Smith said in the Feb 9 video. 

 He said the Human Resources department is no longer controlled by those who caused the “punitive and retaliatory culture that has gone on for years.” 

 Though he acknowledged the many efforts of change the college has made in recent months, Smith said he and others are concerned that Vice President of Academic Affairs Kim Jameson is still employed in a supervisory role.

 “Kim Jameson is believed to have been one of the main administrators who perpetrated the punitive and retaliatory culture that hurts so many faculty members,” Smith said.

He said Jameson was able to hurt faculty members because her supervisor, Greg Gardner, allowed her to. He said Gardner enabled Jameson by not taking action on several grievances that have been filed against her over the years.

Smith said he speaks on behalf of the faculty when he suggests her dismissal from the college is necessary.

“Many of us faculty truly believe that [she] has no place where we go, as she has no place in a leadership or supervisory position based on the damage she has inflicted on so many past and present faculty members over the years,” Smith said.

In response, Jameson told the Pioneer through email that she is sorry if the actions and decisions she had to make in her various roles at the college have hurt anyone.

“The way people feel is paramount and more important than my intentions, which have always been good,” she said.

“I am truly sorry to anyone who has felt hurt or mistreated as a result of any decision I have had to make or action I have had to take.”

Jameson said she is happy to see the college making more inclusive changes to their policy and is grateful to those that have spoken out against an alleged unethical work culture at the college.

Smith also communicated concern about Interim OCCC President and Provost Jeremy Thomas.  

Smith said faculty and employees lack trust in Thomas, who was chosen by former President Jerry Steward to be provost. 

He said Thomas represents the status quo.

 Smith also claimed that Thomas is one of the members of administration that faculty and staff have complained about.

“There have been some employees that have worked under Thomas as Vice President of Student Affairs that said he did not treat them with respect,” Smith said.

In an email to the Pioneer, Thomas asked for the opportunity to make amends to those who he may have wronged.

“I’ve never intended to treat anyone with disrespect,” he said. 

“If anyone feels I have, I would be grateful if you’d let me know privately. I’d like to make amends for that.” 

Thomas also said he is planning to adopt his own management style at the college.

“I want to be respectful of my predecessors and of the board and selection committees that make hiring decisions, but I think it’s fair to say that my predecessor and I differ from one another greatly.” 

Executive Vice President Danita Rose, who was complimented often in Smith’s video, said she has not found any complaints against Thomas on record but understands that does not necessarily invalidate the claims. 

“I want to acknowledge anyone whose feelings have been hurt. That’s real. It is real damage,” she said.

Smith named Rose specifically in his praise of the work the college has done to mend the employee/administrator relationship.

“I believe as long as now Executive Vice President of the college Danita remains in her position and a member of the college that we will continue to see more and more change over time,” he said.

In her 18 months of employment with the school, Rose said she has been very busy learning how to navigate this culture shift at the college.

Rose said she is seeing a pattern of employees that felt their jobs would be in jeopardy if they opened up about what they were experiencing. 

“As I look at this college, I don’t know why people weren’t speaking up – except that they must have been afraid to do so,” Rose said.

She said she intends to keep fighting for change at OCCC, even if it goes against what others in her position would have done. 

“I don’t care who I know or what they’ve done for me. I’m going to do the right thing, and that’s the end of the story,” Rose said.

“I am no one’s puppet.” 

Smith said he is prepared to leave the job in Rose’s hands.

“Enough of us faculty staff and employees have already come forward to compel the college and for Ms. Rose to make change.”

Smith said that Rose had earned his trust, despite being an Oklahoma City Community College administrator.

 “Until I see otherwise,” he said.