Letter to the Editor:The Abrupt Dismissal of Clem Guthro as Dean of the University Library

In Letters to the Editor, Opinion

I address this letter to the members of this university and its governing body with great concern in the actions taken by the Vice President and Provost Kari Knutson Miller, and President Fram Virjee to abruptly fire Clem Guthro as Dean of the Pollak Library at Cal State Fullerton.

On March 2, 2018, with the blessing and will of the president, Clem Guthro, the highest ranked employee responsible for the collection, restoration and direction of the library, was dismissed from his duties and responsibilities by the interim provost and vice president of academic affairs, Kari Knutson Miller, and escorted off campus. It has been two months and neither President Virjee nor the office of the provost and vice president, have issued any transparency that supports the actions taken were appropriate and warranted. The deliberate absence of delicacy from the newly appointed administration has issued frustration, shock and disbelief from library employees, founding Pollak librarian Ernest Toy and his wife Beverly Toy, who wrote to the president, the Patrons of the Library, political science professor emeritus of CSUF and respected library administrators across the nation. Academic Senate Representative Megan Wagner read a letter composed by library staff and faculty protesting the firing of dean Clem Guthro, to the Academic Senate on March 22, 2018.

My name is Marco Moreno and I would like to voice my resistance to the actions taken by the provost with the discretion and will of the president to dismiss Guthro after only three months in their new appointment as senior administrators of this university. As a student and member of this university, I am concerned that what occurred on March 2 was a move by the new administration to centralize the consensus about the direction of the library. By dismissing the perspective of an experienced but newly arrived university librarian, this stroke of power by the administration so early on in their appointment disseminates an organizational and working culture that disarms and discourages me as a user of the library. While I understand that all senior administrators, such as deans, serve the president of the university at will, and can be relieved of their duties and responsibilities at the discretion of the president, it is imperative that a series of protocols and policies be established that examine the intent behind the direct act of unilateral governing with no administrative and logistical oversight.

This university conducted a national search to identify and select a candidate that could execute the renovation of the library and take the necessary logistical steps that could successfully implement the goals of the Library of the Future (LOFT); Guthro was selected just last year as the individual to lead this transition. Guthro proudly served CSUF as head librarian for eleven months and was the first potentially permanent Dean of the Pollak Library in four years. Under his short time as the Dean of the Library, Guthro oversaw among others: (1) the reopening and newly designed first floor on the south side of the library; (2) began the “Faculty Noon Time Talks,” which is a series of 22 faculty-led presentations about their research to a cross-disciplinary audience; (3) oversaw the transition into the new CSU OneSearch catalog platform; and (4) “established strong working relationships with the campus cultural centers, University Learning Center, Supplemental Instruction, and Student Affairs, set plans in place for a multifaith prayer space in the library, and established a committee to ensure that the library was a welcoming, inclusive, and safe space for all students.”

It is imperative we as students and users of the library ask ourselves, and specifically ask of those who have been appointed and accepted positions to serve this student body, its staff and faculty, and this community: When was the last time a dean of any of the eight colleges of CSUF was fired and escorted out? What measures were utilized to evaluate the progress Guthro had made? And why did this new temporary administration dismiss this experienced employee?

The only source of information that has illustrated “reasons” for not retaining Guthro are included in a document recently published in the Daily Titan. In this article, two documents are examined: One lists reasons for not retaining Guthro and a second document with responses from Guthro to each and every assertion that was made. To be clear, I do not expect to know or understand all the perspectives about what occurred, but I am certain that what is mentioned in the first document is not consistent with the dean that I got to know during his time here. Guthro was collaborative and never dismissed students’ needs.

Based on the presented assertions made within both documents for not retaining Guthro as well as the responses issued by Guthro himself, his dismissal is not indicative of non-collaboration, as it is claimed. Both of these documents reveal the library is a highly contested place for space and many senior officials across divisions and departments outside of the administrators of the library hold individual ideas and interests about how to utilize its space.

I have been a member of this university for seven years. I completed my undergraduate degree in psychology and have now returned to receive my master’s degree in cultural anthropology. Being a part of this university for seven years has offered me the space and time to develop as a civically involved student in a global world. Because of my commitment as a civically and community involved student, I was recently nominated and awarded a 2018 Newman Civic Fellowship — an award that honored the work I have developed and the programming I have been a part of. This recognition is the first to be awarded to a CSUF student and I feel a great privilege to be a part of a new generation of public problem solvers out of this university.

In the nomination of this fellowship, President Virjee wrote a letter on my behalf in which he mentioned some admirable qualities about me. Additionally, several staff from the office of the provost helped to ensure that my nomination was completed. I am thankful for their support on this nomination. However, based upon a careful reflection of the documents that have been published and released regarding Guthro’s dismissal and sequence of events since, I state unequivocally that I have never felt less as a member of this public university than in this instance. I am disappointed by the absence of delicacy Guthro received here at CSUF by the members of this newly appointed and interim administration.

I urge Associated Students and the Academic Senate to develop policies and protocols that make this situation significantly more difficult to occur. It is imperative that an assessment be made concerning the lack of transparency and accountability throughout this entire process of the dismissal and treatment of a senior ranking and experienced leader. Furthermore, if there are currently no provisions or procedures in place that oversee the reach of either the provost or the president, especially if both hold temporary contracts, then those provisions must be developed and implemented to combat that deeply irresponsible culture of dismissing competent and experienced individuals.

Furthermore, the library is a public institution that houses literatures and histories of communities who are not part of the dominant narrative of the university but have fought to bring historical and cultural consciousness to those who utilize and preserve their collection. The students at CSUF as well as the staff of the library deserve transparency in situations that impact them. The fate and long-term direction of the library, as well as any other segment within this institution, should not be in the sole hands of individuals who have been newly appointed to temporary positions. As the university seeks to hire two new associate deans to lead the library before a permanent dean is hired once again, the decision-making process for the direction of the library should not minimize the perspective of the senior ranking directors of the library. I urge that a series of protocols and practices be developed independently to assure that governance of CSUF is inclusive to the input of CSUF students and library employees.

I conclude in support of the appeal made by the Toys and library administrators who knew Guthro in offering immediate relief to Guthro, in a year’s salary and health insurance as works to secure another job. Health insurance would offer significant support in medical expenses for his family. In a released letter the Toys wrote to President Virjee asking him to take immediate actions and respond to the “black cloud” his administration has created for a former employee. They are asking that Guthro be issued a year’s salary and health insurance, an expenditure that is within the budget. Taking this action would bring immediate relief necessary for the well-being of Guthro and his family. I support the action voiced by founding Pollak librarian Ernest and his wife Beverly Toy. This is an appropriate step to take and I am convinced it would provide Guthro and his family peace of mind as Mrs. Guthro is recovering from multiple transplant operations.

Marco A. Moreno
Fullerton, Calif.

M.A Cultural Anthropology (candidate spring 2019)
B.A. Psychology, CSUF 2015
2018 Newman Civic Fellow
2017-18 Graduate Equity Scholar
Outro /

Clem and I first met several days after his appointment began in April of 2017 near the end of President Mildred García’s tenure. I had recently read the CSUF News Center article that mentioned his appointment and arrival at the university as the new Dean of the Pollak Library.

I was sitting down in the tables in front of College Park editing a poem I had composed when I recognized him from the images of the articles that welcomed him to the university. It had been four years since the university had a potentially permanent Dean of the Library and I was excited they hired an individual who had a lot of experience. In the articles, Guthro appeared motivated to learn and begin working on new additions for the library that were consistent with the student body it served. I introduced myself and welcomed him to the university. He extended his hand and said, “My name is Clement Guthro, but call me Clem.” He asked me what I studied and what I was working on. I told him I was a graduate student with the division of cultural anthropology studying murals, graffiti and public art in Orange County. He was intrigued by my topic and mentioned that he was excited about interacting with students on campus to be able to understand the student body of the university that he was going to represent in the library and its programs. He issued me his attention and spoke with me for about 15 minutes. Before he departed, he told me to keep him informed about my thesis.

Since that first encounter, we developed a healthy collegial relationship. Our conversations would always start with, “How is your thesis going? Tell me about murals.” Gradually, he started noticing murals on his own and would send me images of those he had encountered or read about. As we began to speak more frequently, he said to me one day that he thought the library would greatly benefit from a mural that represented its student body. He thought the students would respond quite well to it and the president (Mildred García) would be open to it. Guthro would go on to attend with me the opening reception at Chapman University showcasing the upcoming mural project by Emigdio “Higgy” Vasquez, the son of the renowned Latino artist and alumnus of CSUF, who has two murals permanently housed at CSUF in University Hall. The new Dean of the Library, who in spite of supporting his family and wife who was enduring a long-term hospitalization, was attending events after work to learn, understand and develop future programming that could speak to the diverse student body of this campus and bring them into center stage of the library.

During this period [working as Dean of the Library], I was dealing with a wife who had been diagnosed with end stage liver disease and was in the hospital for 150 days starting October 5, 2017. During the next 150 days [around 5 months and half of his time as Dean of the Library], I took only 7 days vacation/sick time related to her illness. I started working every morning by 7:00am. I took my laptop to the hospital every night and continued to work there. When there were evening events that I was required to attend (Milo) or things that would be helpful (President’s celebration of Native Americans) I was there. I worked tirelessly on behalf of the University to move LOFT forward and to make a difference for students.
Clem Guthro, March 9, 2018.

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