Ana Salgado | The Poly Post

Union chapters vote in no confidence against Coley

By Michael Yu and Matthew Acosta, Feb. 7, 2023

The CSU Employee Union Executive Board and the CPP members of the Statewide University Police Association both issued unanimous votes of no confidence against Cal Poly Pomona University President Soraya M. Coley, citing what they called politicizing campus safety, a bloated salary, the mishandling of multiple embezzlement cases and more. 

These statements reflect a growing rift between administration and the university police department that has become more obvious over the course of the last year. University Police Department Sergeant Marcus Simpson filed a lawsuit in October of 2022 that included allegations that Coley interfered with police investigations and illegally exposed the identity of whistleblowers, accusations that the president and her administration have denied. Simpson is also the police union’s chapter director and some of the reasons given by the unions for their votes of no confidence, which were announced Wednesday, aligned with his lawsuit’s allegations. 

The staff union claimed that “her unethical leadership, malfeasance, violation of campus policies and institutional integrity and display of misconduct have negatively impacted the entire campus community.”  

The statements came as a unanimous decision from both the Executive Board of the CSUEU, Chapter 319, the CPP division and the CPP members of SUPA. The CSUEU represents over 16,000 support staff across all 23 CSU campuses, while SUPA represents 23 university police agencies across California. 

Cynthia Peters, CPP’s senior communications specialist, said in a statement that the CSEU statements gauged only the executive board, not the union’s rank-and-file. 

“Some of the stated issues are related to a current lawsuit,” Peters said in a statement. “Cal Poly Pomona believes that the allegations in the lawsuit substantially misrepresent the facts. Other issues cited, such as salary steps and presidential salary and compensation, are determined and managed by the CSU Office of the Chancellor and are not under the control of Cal Poly Pomona. While the President and campus leadership have not received any notification of either of these votes from the unions, the President always welcomes the opportunity to engage with them on important issues.”

In a statement announcing the vote, the union chapters criticized what they called four sets of deficiencies that include the reduction of staff levels, a lack of promotional paths for staff, unjust salary increases and politicizing campus safety. 

Ana Salgado | The Poly Post

According to the union, Coley has failed to manage appropriate staffing throughout the campus due to merging positions in multiple departments. The union stated that this “has resulted in the downsizing of departmental staff support levels for students, faculty, and the campus community,” as well as an increase in workload for the “skeleton crew” left in various departments. 

Additionally, the staff union claimed a lack of promotional paths for staff, citing that the university has continuously hired from outside sources, leading to a lack of engagement and promotions within existing staff. 

The statement claims that Coley has failed to address the union’s 5% Salary Steps, or Senate Bill 556, that aimed to increase salary for over 20,000 CSU staff, such as custodians and groundskeepers, who faced pay inequity. The staff union alleges that Coley has been “giving some staff salary increases in lieu of not replacing necessary vacant staff positions and pushing the work of those vacancies onto current staff.” 

The union chapters noted how Coley also received a pay raise of $100,307, raising her base salary to $440,544, as well as additional compensation of $16,944. This salary raise also came with a pay cut for faculty, from 4% to 3%, as reported in a previous Poly Post article. 

The staff union stated that Coley has “politicized” campus safety, regarding the two embezzlements by university employees. Both statements claim that during the investigations, Coley had a prepared police report “destroyed” and in another, she ordered changes to the police report. Additionally, they state that Coley illegally exposed the name and ranks of whistleblowers’ identities through a mass email sent to 53 other administrators. 

The vote refers to a former police chief that the union claimed was hired without the proper vetting, who engaged in alleged misconduct during a short tenure.

“President Coley has failed to facilitate appropriate staffing of the campus police department and failed to conduct a proper background investigation prior to retention of a police chief,” states the SUPA members.

The SUPA statement also claimed that “failures to appropriately address the needs and concerns of University employees related to the on-campus murder of a security officer in 2018,” a case that was previously covered by The Poly Post. 

“For each of the aforementioned reasons, the SUPA members employed by CSU Pomona are no longer confident that President Soraya Coley is capable of effectively leading the campus at CSU Pomona,” the SUPA letter states. 

Feature image by Ana Salgado

 A previous version of this article did not make clear that the votes of no confidence involved the local chapters of the CSUEU and SUPA and not the statewide groups. It has been corrected. Additionally, a previous version of this article stated that the votes reflected a growing rift between administration, faculty, and the university police department. Because the CSUEU represents staff, and not faculty, that sentence has been amended. 

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