Bolman fired after criticism of HSU

Editor's note: Headline on article has been changed to reflect uncertainty over the exact cause of Bolman's firing.  Edits shown in story below.

Paul Mann
Mad River Union

HUMBOLDT STATE – Native American science educator Jacquelyn Bolman was fired last fall by Humboldt State University President Lisa Rossbacher for  after allegedly discrediting one of the university’s minority support programs.

HSU officials considered Bolman’s criticism a serious threat to the university’s future grant funding and hastened to expel her.

HSUPD officers dialogue with student protesters in the Native American Forum.  KLH | Union

HSUPD officers dialogue with student protesters in the Native American Forum. KLH | Union

Internal campus documents and email correspondence released under the California Public Records Act via a student government request establish that Bolman assailed the HSU administration of former President Rollin Richmond when she filed a status report to federal officials in Sacramento about LSAMP, shorthand for Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation. It takes its name from a former leading black member of Congress from Ohio.

Bolman, director since 2005 of the university’s Indian Natural Resource, Science and Engineering Program (INRSEP) and also LSAMP supervisor, reported in her status update that the Richmond administration had seriously undercut INRSEP by stripping it from the university’s College of Natural Resources and Sciences (CNRS) in July 2013. The college, one of three, is considered the most academically rigorous and reckoned to wield the most bureaucratic clout on campus.

INRSEP had been part of the college across some four decades and the college provided the program as much as $40,000 each year in discretionary funds, according to Bolman and her former students.

The federal evaluation form Bolman filled out for Sacramento officials expressly asked her to identify “any major obstacles/problems/issues” that had cropped up with minority support programs.

Bolman answered that INRSEP had been transferred to a new, unfunded and therefore less potent agency called Retention and Inclusive Student Success (RISS), part of a new Center for Academic Excellence conceived by Richmond in 2013 in his last year as president. At the time, Richmond readily conceded that his administration had failed to raise the retention and graduation rates of Native American and some other students of color, which he regretted remain HSU’s lowest. The restructuring he ordered was intended to shore up those rates.

But INRSEP’s shift into the new “academic excellence” structure cost it substantial funding with no acknowledgment by Richmond of the importance of maintaining INRSEP’s alignment with the university’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs and faculty, according to Bolman. INRSEP students were seriously and permanently undercut in her view.

Further, the administration acted unilaterally, leaving Bolman in the dark, she claims. “I was not informed of the change until approximately June 26, 2013,” despite the university’s official commitment to greater openness.

Numerous HSU employees have complained for years about poor top-down communication and lack of management transparency, as documented by the university’s Cabinet for Institutional Change, which wrapped up its final report in 2010. Its motto was Einstein’s maxim, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” In its exhaustive research, the cabinet found that institutionalized secrecy and management surreptitiousness were among Humboldt State’s gravest and most enduring flaws.

In a one-on-one interview last week, Bolman recalled that INRSEP students launched a letter-writing campaign in spring 2014 in a bid to reverse their program’s diminished standing and resources. Students appealed, to no avail, to CSU Chancellor Timothy White, CSU Trustees and the governor’s tribal advisor to reverse INRSEP’s demotion.

“It is clear the current [Richmond] administration and leadership do not support under-represented minority students, faculty or staff,” Bolman generalized – and grossly overstated, in the administration’s view – in her report to Sacramento. To make her case, she reeled off a series of statistics demonstrating that Humboldt State’s percentage of full-time faculty and staff of color falls far below statewide and CSU levels, as they have for years despite California’s fast-changing and historically-altered demographic makeup.

Bolman’s evaluation triggered internal objections that would culminate in her summary dismissal last October by the new Rossbacher administration, installed in July. The firing touched off a series of student protests and demonstrations that resumed Jan. 19 with the occupation of HSU’s Native American Forum, where advocates vow to remain until Rossbacher reinstates Bolman as INRSEP’s director. The standoff continued as the Mad River Union went to press.     

Last Sept. 22, Rhea Williamson, dean of the Office of Research, emailed Jenny Zorn, interim provost, stating that Bolman’s report to LSAMP officials “makes very disparaging remarks against HSU and, for totally unclear reasons, against me.”    

Williamson warned that Bolman’s criticism could jeopardize future and crucial financial support for Humboldt State’s STEM disciplines. “It is really unfortunate language used, in that this type of reporting can affect our ability for future funding [sic] for” STEM and other support for students, she said.

Williamson added, “[I] have no idea where Dr. Bolman got the idea that I am not in support of LSAMP, having supported it and her by providing funding opportunities, working with Sac State to complete reporting paperwork and the like. I also have recommended including her in every proposal that involves under-represented minority STEM students.”

However, Williamson did not address Bolman’s main point, the downgrade of INRSEP.

Williamson suggested Bolman’s report be revised, with the offending passages redacted. She then took aim at Bolman’s criticism of her: “My support for under-represented minority STEM students is well-documented, and I take offense at being referenced in the report in the manner done.”    

What followed continues to reverberate on campus and dog Rossbacher and her executive associates. They have been denounced by faculty and students alike, not only for Bolman’s dismissal, but also for the manner in which it was carried out last October by three officials: Acting Provost Jenny Zorn, Interim Associate Vice President for Retention Radha Webley (students are calling for her immediate termination and the dismantling of RISS) and Senior Associate Vice President of Faculty Affairs and Human Resources Colleen Mullery.

Faculty and students roundly condemned the trio’s decision to lock down Bolman’s quarters, disrupt mid-term studies and exams and order changed locks and reprogrammed key card entrances. Students reportedly were crying, angry and distraught at Bolman’s summary ouster.

“All the administration will say is that that’s the ‘policy’ for handling firings,” a Native American student said. “It was totally unprofessional and it was done in our home; INRSEP is our home, our student home!” he exclaimed. “All of us felt crushed and helpless that day. We watched the woman who had inspired us and changed every single one of our lives get treated like dirt, right in front of our eyes. It was heartbreaking and all too reminiscent of things in the not-so-distant past that have happened to Indian people here.”

Another student commented that the administration’s treatment of Bolman “also shows real cultural insensitivity, for many reasons. One is a lack of understanding of inter-generational trauma among Native peoples. Another is the feeling of living in a state of duress on a regular basis, the fear of our education being lost because of a lack of funding. We’re constantly living with personal psychological stress.”   She continued, “They did this [the firing] three days prior to Indigenous People’s Week. It was completely insensitive. These administrators just have no idea how to relate to students of color. Although Radha [Webley] is a woman of color, I think in a way she has been thrown under the bus by the administration, used as a scapegoat. At the same time she’s supposed to be serving students of color. She’s doing a bad job and she’s absolutely betrayed our trust. There needs to be a new person in that job.”  The administration’s decision in a campus email to portray the handling of Bolman’s dismissal as “a departure,” not a firing, drew scathing criticism from faculty. In a private email last Oct. 14, long-time Chemistry Professor Robert Zoellner told Zorn, “Dr. Bolman did not voluntarily depart, she was fired. It seems to me that honesty in this regard would be of the utmost importance.”

Zoellner asked why no faculty members were consulted until after the fact. “This is a mess,” he charged, adding that Zorn’s solicitation of faculty advice on how to assist affected students “simply appears to be an attempt to assuage the anger that pervades the campus because of the poorly planned actions of the administrators responsible for Dr. Bolman’s firing. In my opinion, this is a case of ‘clean up your own mess’ for those administrators.”

Zoellner wrote separately to Rossbacher and Zorn in defense of Bolman, stating, “I cannot fathom why you would allow her firing.” He went on, “The shortsightedness of this decision will damage our university and damage our retention of Native American and minority student science majors. If we are serious about improving our student diversity, and if we are serious about improving the retention of our science majors, the firing of Jacquelyn Bolman is one of the worst things we could do.”

Amy Sprowles, assistant professor of Biological Sciences, rebuked the administration both for expelling Bolman and for reorganizing INRSEP. “Clearly something went wrong to rip her out in the middle of the semester, but the fact of the matter is... she built a program whose students were successful, by anyone’s standards. Not an under-represented [student] standard, but by my standard as a scientist,” Sprowles said.

Humanities faculty were equally distressed. Philosophy Professor John Powell suggested a solution, while also voicing pessimism about the chances for shoring up long-neglected Native American studies and retention. “The political allegiances are terribly tangled,” he cautioned in an email to Zorn last fall.

What is required for HSU’s Native American leadership, Powell asserted, “is an unquestionable elder who is politically savvy and a heavy academic hitter, with tenure and no debts to locals, to coordinate Indian programs. We have missed getting that so many times now that I am not sure it is still possible.”

Powell also had grim words for the leadership. “The provost and the president are going to have to be willing to be schooled regarding the dreadful needs and investment (including tolerance of eight-year graduation plans), and [regarding] what it means to be an Indian whose family means more than a degree,” he admonished.

“Native American Studies has been struggling to exist as a separate discipline ever since its inception,” laments Marlon Sherman, chair of the Department of Native American Studies and professor of Federal Indian Law. “Our class sections are full, but it’s disappointing to me personally because, as successful as that sounds, most of the classes are geared to general education. It looks as if Native American Studies is turning into a service organization. We’re serving everybody but indigenous students.”

Equally disturbing, the program’s faculty ranks remain depleted, Sherman says, which he considers a consequence of 70 years of history in which succeeding HSU administrations offered no recognition of the fact that the university occupies ancient tribal territory. There have been “spurts to augment and protect [the program] over the years, but they have failed to buttress it in a significant way as a long-term solution – which is for the university to kick in some funding for more faculty.”

In 1998 there were five full-time faculty in Native American Studies, according to Sherman. “Today there is the equivalent of one-and-a-half. We are way, way, way down.”

Paul Mann was an HSU press secretary from 2003 to 2014 – Ed.


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  1. Dennis Turner said:

    This kind of stuff always goes on and the fight never ends. Sometimes, like this time someone makes a point. Jackie is too cool to mess with. Most everybody loves her, and her professionalism is unquestionable. She does her homework, and gives her all. I bet those folks rue the day they decided to yank on her chain. 🙂

  2. Lost Croat Outburst said:

    Yeah, really. I guess “Queef assumes that nobody else can read Mann’s piece. I love the idea that the Administration could simply redact a critical report. What is the use of having a critical report if the subjects can alter the critique at will? Why not use your brains to respond to the charges? Hard to believe this is happening in 2015 and the number of women acting like arrogant, clueless men. Bolman needs to return and Rossbacher and her henchmen(women) need to leave. Clean house NOW.

  3. Lost Croat Outburst said:

    Another disgruntled employee or ex-employee? They keep piling up. You must be referring to another article in some other dimension because I note plenty of attributions and quotes from current professors. Rossbacher has been a huge disappointment and a very bad fit for the school and Humboldt County. Just another Crohn or Richmond in a skirt. Very sad. You also seem to deny Mann his right to be a “source” with an experienced opinion

  4. flancrest said:

    Weird that the AP can get it done, but you have excuses for why you can’t. I guess they’re all hopelessly naive.

  5. So Kali said:

    Do you have any aptitude for anything besides throwing poop,

    That got you banned from comments at sites across the
    entire USA!

  6. Kevpod said:

    “But more likely I would have convinced a student that retaliation was actually unlikely, and that their voice was important for the story.”

    That is laughably naive, and indicates a lack of field experience.

    The reality is that you are rarely going to bend frightened story subjects to your will while talking to them at a news scene. Your real-world choice here is to include the voices of those who feel intimidated on the terms they are comfortable with, or only feature remarks by their perceived intimidators.

    That would make it easy for powers-that-be to squash dissent with the full cooperation of the docile reporter.

    Stories by “flancrest” would include only those who feel safe enough to comment. That’s a choice I wouldn’t know how to defend.

    You’ll see similar examples of this same principle throughout the world of news. It’s a well-established practice, a more inclusive choice and makes for a more balanced and complete story.

  7. flancrest said:

    Different rights for different people? This isn’t about rights at all, it’s about how to practice journalism. Something with which you seem to struggle seeing as you apparently do not understand the difference between a story published under a byline and a comment posted on the internet, and the RESPONSIBILITY the former has to attribute quotes to their sources.

    Were I the reporter on this story, I would have told the students that I use anonymous sources only in extremely limited circumstances, as the AP recommends, and that this circumstance does not justify the use of anonymity. I would have encouraged the students to speak on the record with attribution. Had the refused, I would not have published their quotes, and probably would have included a sentence along the lines of “Native American students at the protest were not willing to comment publicly for fear of reprisals.” But more likely I would have convinced a student that retaliation was actually unlikely, and that their voice was important for the story.

    A good reporter builds relationships with sources around trust, and with that trust, gets people to speak on the record. A lazy “reporter” uses anonymous quotes because it’s easier, and then acts like anonymous internet comments are the same thing and that therefore he’s not terrible at his profession.

  8. Kevpod said:

    Oh, I’d love to hear why “flancrest” is allowed to comment, but the students who are actually part of the story should not be.
    Please, explain the principle behind different rights for different people.
    And your choices in composing the story would have been:
    1. Disallow students who won’t comment by name from speaking in their own words.
    2. Allow unattributed comments for balance.
    3. Or?

  9. flancrest said:

    Do you really not understand the difference between quoted sources in an article and comments below the article?

    Because it seems like you really don’t understand the difference.

  10. Kevin Hoover said:

    Special pleading. You’ve conjured a special reason why we should allow flancrest to comment anonymously, but not the students. You are advocating a double standard which would suppress anonymous student comment while allowing yours.

    Regardless, perhaps you could explain which choices you would have made.
    1. Disallow students who won’t comment by name from speaking in their own words.
    2. Allow unattributed comments for balance.
    3. Or?

  11. flancrest said:

    No, the subject is the use of anonymous quotes in a newspaper article and sound journalistic practices. That’s not the same as attribution.

    Instead, you’ve changed the subject and gotten hung up on my use of a pseudonym in a comments section, which conveniently allows you to ignore the substantive points I’m making about unattributed sources IN A NEWS STORY. I capitalized in the hopes that perhaps you would understand the difference, indeed it’s even more troubling that you think internet commenters have the same standards of attribution that an actual journalist does.

    Moreover, you should attribute what I’m saying to the AP, as I’ve actually bothered to quote them, and attributed it as well. If someone says, “there’s a speech at the HSU quad,” and you go cover the speech, you don’t need to cite the person who told you about the speech, just the speaker. This shouldn’t be this hard.

  12. Kevin Hoover said:

    The subject is attribution, no? As demanded by “flancrest.”

  13. flancrest said:

    Nice try changing the subject, I see what you’re trying to do, but my identity has nothing to do with whether it’s poor journalism to use anonymous sources. According to the Associated Press (see how I’m using attribution) it is a poor practice except in special cases. If you would actually like to reply to that substance, I’d welcome an explanation, but your insistence that my anonymity has anything to do with your poor journalism is deflection at best.

  14. flancrest said:

    “Didn’t want to be named” isn’t the standard journalists should be using. From the Associated Press:

    It means we always strive to identify all the sources of our information, shielding them with anonymity only when they insist upon it and when they provide vital information – not opinion or speculation; when there is no other way to obtain that information; and when we know the source is knowledgeable and reliable.

    That’s not at all the case here, and Ummmmm and others are completely correct that you aren’t practicing journalism when you allow this kind of unattributed rumor and hearsay.

  15. Kevpod said:

    This wasn’t criticism, just vandalism by someone sitting around in the underpants in the middle of a weekday, calling reporters names. Or ripping off an employer – maybe the taxpayers? – somewhere by doing this activity on the clock.
    Criticism is what the gentleman who called our office offered. He identified himself, then stated his objections to a detail of the coverage. We checked with the reporter, then updated the story to be accurate.
    That was constructive criticism, which we adore, hunger for, process and act upon.

  16. Pamela Ward said:

    you have no idea WTH you’re talking about. Your logic is flawed – Richmond may be one of the WORSE presidents ever at HSU – his sports fishing w Dan Cullen and his funding of the athletic department slaries and benefits at the expense of the students wo asking them if the want to support those coaches? It’s his “legacy” the “new” gym etc. BUT, it’s NOT a priority for the majority of students that come to HSU – but hey – 400 students that also happen to be athletes .. that’s a demographic that we want to force everyone to support! He even claimed .. to my face, that ” … as much as I hate to say this, the athletes bring diversity to this campus.” What? we couldn’t use all that funding for students of color that are interested in Science, Art, Music .. etc etc etc – students of color’s only “skill” or “interests” are sports!? Shameful .. and, I was APPAULED to see him “march’ around campus when these protests first started as if he supported those students and Bolman – yet, he NEVER came out and said – this is wrong and I urge the incoming president to … why? Because he is at the crux of all this.

  17. Pamela Ward said:

    That’s all you got from this story? I took 8.5 yrs and I didn’t change majors .. not ONCE! And. it’s not a race .. who cares if someone changes majors .. and do you REALLY expect a young adult to know wo any doubt what they want to major in in the first semester? or even the first few? they may think they know and then they go to one of those REQUIRED classes outside their major and BAM! they’ve discovered their passion, which is better for all concerned.. Again, is that all you got?

  18. Jack Durham said:

    Jean, we’re not the only news outlet to cover this story, although we have covered it in more depth than others. The Lumberjack, Lost Coast Outpost, Times-Standard, KHSU, KIEM-TV and others have also covered the story. The Union has also printed many happy, positive stories about HSU.

  19. Wendy Burke said:

    Students interested in a model to strive for improvement at HSU might be interested in looking at the policies in place at my alma mater, a very liberal and forward thinking college, The Evergreen State College, in Olympia Washington. The hiring process includes many opportunities and mandatory student involvement. Faculty dismissal process:

    Faculty hiring process:

  20. jeandoran said:

    HSU is a vital parto of Humboldt but only the MadRiverUnion coversa breach in the happy excistence of HSU?????

  21. Kevin Hoover said:

    The students didn’t want to be named. So the choice is either give them no voice in the story or don’t attribute the comments.

  22. Ummmmm said:

    It’s normal in journalism to not use unattributed quotes without a damn good reason (often then citing the reason why the person’s identity is being kept confidential). What’s the damn good reason in this instance?

  23. norcalguy101 said:

    If Bolman was required by the Federal grant application to be forthright and open about barriers to the students she believed to be true, then per Section 1102.5.(b). of the California Labor Code, her termination could be viewed as retaliatory by the Humboldt State administration. However, she would have had to file a complaint with the University within six months of the retaliatory act, dismissal, and if she agreed to a severance payment, she may have waived any claim of retaliation.

  24. Bryn Robertson said:

    Thank you MRU for filing a CPRA request, it’s about time the community gets these details.

    As for the lack of attribution of the student quotes, it’s a problem. Those students have names and are likely eager to be heard. Overall though, it’s great to read a thorough update on a critical story, both for HSU and the community.

  25. DD O said:

    Thanks for the insight Paul. Informative and we’ll written. DD O

  26. Queef said:

    Or, conversely, henceforth you could just be less of a dick. And thanks for the tip. I think I’ll change my name to Queefpod.

  27. Kevpod said:

    You are as every bit as good at sarcasm as you are criticism.

  28. Kevpod said:

    Henceforth we’ll try and comport with the lofty professional standards for criticism and attribution of “Queef.”

  29. Queef said:

    I see some edits have been made, steps in the right direction. Not because of me, I know, but appreciated and respected all the same.

  30. Jack Durham said:

    The disclosure that Paul Mann is a retired HSU employee appears on page A5 of the print edition. I added that disclosure a few minutes ago to this online article. FYI.

  31. Queef said:

    I’m pretty comfortable with its specificity. Thanks for the
    conversation. All in all I’d say your openness to criticism will take
    you far. Like right about to where you are now. Good luck.

  32. OldFatLady60 said:

    “including tolerance of eight-year graduation plans”. Back to the days of perpetual students, changing majors and focus as soon as they get close to completing a degree? I have family who took twenty years to finish a degree, but they were working full time and paying their own way (and stuck to one major)

  33. Kevpod said:

    Not specific enough, and the only one who needs to worry about your penchant for poo-throwing is you.
    What is the agenda, the vast swaths, the information based on facts not in evidence? Name them, and actually be specific.
    How do you know Mann is “disgruntled,” a fact not in evidence? Be specific.

  34. Queef said:

    Well I already mentioned a couple of concerns, but I’ll type slower this time so you can get them. 1. The article demonstrates a clear agenda. 2. It contains vast swaths of unattributed information. 3. It draws conclusions based on facts not in evidence. 4. It was written by a disgruntled former employee of HSU. 5. The reporter’s connection to the story is not disclosed, contrary to standard journalistic practice. So there are five specific objections to the reporting, but why don’t you go on back to worrying about my aptitude. I’m sure that’s easier.

  35. Kevpod said:

    Do you have any aptitude for anything besides throwing poop?
    Name a specific objection to the reporting.

  36. Edward Palmer said:

    What hasn’t been mentioned is the marginalization of the ITEPP Program, a parallel program geared towards Native students who wish to become teachers and administrators, as well as The Center for Indian Community Development which helped both programs, and the large Native Community spread across 3 Counties with Language and Cultural restoration and educational programs in it’s own right. CICD was responsible for the success and Facilitation of the W.K Kellogg Grant which gave millions towards the re-teaching of History and Social Sciences to High School teachers, within the inclusion of a parallel history of Native American tribes nationwide.

    Lastly, this type of ‘dismissal’ by the HSU administration illustrates the same fight myself and my fellow Natives, and supportive faculty and non-Native students had in 1998.

  37. Queef said:

    A cobbled together pile of unattributed half-truths written by Richmond’s personal knob polisher? New low, MRU. New. Low.

  38. Fiercely Calm said:

    Why is it when they change the game, they hide the rule book?

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