Turbulence has come in waves in 2018 and 2019. The campus commitment to free speech was put to the test by Patriot Prayer political rallies and leafletting by National Socialists. More substantively, money troubles developed. Enrollment fell 22 percent from 2011-12 to 2019-20, sapping Clark’s budget at the time when the faculty union demanded higher pay. Knight pushed back on salary demands, citing budget concerns. In May, three STEM programs were cut due to budget constraints. Faculty and administrators entered into mediation in July and, after the two sides met monthly without success, on Nov. 13 the union authorized a strike vote.
Reports raised eyebrows
In July, President Knight retired. In September, after reviewing a consultant report, the trustees (who are appointed by the governor) reported concerning information about an employee, later identified as Knight, with regard to the discriminatory behavior toward several college faculty or staff women of color.
In one example, Knight had jokingly greeted one with an awkward remark: “here comes trouble,” and again jokingly “troublemakers.” Knight later stated he thought of the terms as “playful teases,” which he regretted. When Knight cited specific hires of women of color as examples of progress, he was accused of discrimination in the form of “tokenism.” He has disputed the concerns.
Such a contentious series of events raises eyebrows. Knight is a known factor in Vancouver. He is known for his leadership, and for holding himself and everyone else to the same high standards. His 21-year Army career including commanding the Vancouver Barracks, and his presidency of Clark College and State Association of Community Colleges revealed no previous discriminatory behavior.
The Community Foundation’s First Citizen Award — won by Knight in 2016 — is awarded to an individual who stands above virtually all others for character and leadership as a volunteer. This history doesn’t square with the recent concerns aired publicly about Knight.
Clark’s trustees have many challenges, of which the most important may be selecting a new president who can restore fiscal balance and confidence.