My phone was silent yesterday, as it has been for weeks. This wasn’t surprising, since the person I was waiting to hear from was Terence Gomes, president of Roxbury Community College.
The longtime leader has been pretty much silent at a time of what can fairly be called crisis for his school. RCC is under both federal and state investigation for financial-aid issues and underreported campus crime. There was widespread outrage, as well, over a jobtraining program, funded by a group of major CEOs, that Gomes rejected, even though it would have provided a prime opportunity for his students at no cost to the school.
Through it all, for weeks now, Gomes has declined request after request to explain what is going on at Roxbury Community College. Actually “declined” might not be the right word. He doesn’t turn down requests to talk; he simply ignores them, as if there were nothing to explain.
Not that his silence is complete. The college did recently publish a four-page newspaper detailing what it called an “outpouring of support from faculty and students despite criticism from the Globe.’’ Gomes has also sent a couple of keep-your-head-up e-mails to faculty and staff.
Still, there’s a lot that people want to know. And since he isn’t returning calls, I thought I’d just pose a few questions in this space. Believe me, this is just a sampling.
Q. President Gomes, why would you turn down a jobs program?
A. This has been a true head-scratcher. A business group wanted to pay RCC students $14.50 an hour to train for jobs and then hire them. Why would Gomes oppose this? After they got over their shock, the businesspeople immediately offered the same program to Bunker Hill Community College, whose president calls it a great success.
Q. Why are more students from Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan — the areas RCC was created to serve — now attending Bunker Hill Community College than RCC?
A. With over 1,500 students from these neighborhoods attending community college in Charlestown, there is simply no question that students are voting with their feet and their CharlieCards. If I ran RCC, this would concern me, both for the near and the long-term. What are other colleges doing that yours isn’t?
Q. Why do partisans of RCC repeatedly rally support by claiming the state wants to close the school or merge it with Bunker Hill?
A. Since its founding in 1973, there have occasionally been, let’s be diplomatic, issues with the management of Roxbury Community College. And consistently, the community has been rallied by the claim that “the power structure” wants to close the school or take control of it away from the people of Roxbury. Is there any evidence that such a move is under consideration? Or is this just an easy way to appeal to emotion?
Q. Are you concerned about the alleged underreporting of crime on campus?
A. The Department of Education appears skeptical about the claim that only five crimes have occurred on campus in the past five years. Do you stand by those reports? Will their report indicate that more crimes have occurred but have gone unreported?
Q. And what about the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center, which is part of the college and is now part of an investigation of mismanagement?
A. A track coach whose team used to train at the Lewis Center told several state agencies last winter that she believes that assaults have been covered up there and that cash from certain events may have been unaccounted for. The manager of the track went public this week discrediting the coach’s claims, which she stands by. Are you confident that the state investigation into this will confirm your employee’s assertion that nothing is amiss?
Last night, an RCC official called me to say Gomes was tied up and offered to answer a few of my questions. Sorry: at this point, Boston needs to hear from the man in charge, the man who suddenly is too busy to explain anything about the confounding but critical institution in his care.
Adrian Walker is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Adrian_Walker.