New UCSD Administrator Not Replacing Fired Teaching Director, Also Not Vice Chancellor’s Spouse

Incoming Associate Director of the Teaching + Learning Commons Dr. Carolyn Sandoval was not hired to replace the Center for Engaged Teaching Director Dr. Jace Hargis, contrary to implications by the Triton’s article “UCSD Fires Teaching Center Director Without Reason; Hires Administrator’s Wife Instead.” Dr. Sandoval is also not married to Vice Chancellor of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Becky Pettit, despite the Triton’s classification of Sandoval as Pettit’s “wife.”

The Triton’s reporting on the reorganization states that “the Director of the Center for Engaged Teaching, Jace Hargis, was terminated from his position this year and the encompassing center was reorganized with a new lead: Carolyn L. Sandoval.” However, statements released publicly on the restructuring of the Commons and to the UCSD Guardian specifically indicate that Sandoval is not the new head of the Center for Engaged Teaching and was instead hired for a completely different position than the one from which Hargis was removed.

An email to faculty and staff from the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor on March 2 describing the reorganization of the Teaching + Learning Commons explains that previously, the Commons was divided into the Center for Engaged Teaching, the Center for Digital Learning, the Writing Hub, and the Triton Achievement Hub. However, in an effort to “remove the perceived boundaries associated” with the distinct centers, the Center for Engaged Teaching and the Center for Digital Learning will be dissolved and the Engaged Teaching Hub and the Digital Learning Hub will take their place.

With Dr. Karen Flammer making the transition from director of the Center for Digital Learning to director of the Digital Learning Hub, Hargis was the only head of the pre-existing centers and hubs to be removed from his role during the restructuring of the Commons.

“The four hubs include: the Triton Achievement Hub, directed by Susan Rinaldi, and the Writing Hub, directed by Matt Nelson — both were already in place under The Commons structure,” Faculty Director of the Teaching + Learning Commons Gabriele Wienhausen told the UCSD Guardian. “The two newly created hubs include the Digital Learning Hub, directed by Karen Flammer, and the Engaged Teaching Hub, with the director position still open.”

The vacancy in the directorship for the Engaged Teaching Hub means that Sandoval was not hired to take Hargis’ place upon his termination, nor is she the “new lead” of the Engaged Teaching Hub.

Sandoval was also not hired as “Director of the Teaching + Learning Commons,” which the Triton’s reporting inaccurately states toward the end of the article, but was instead selected as the associate director of the Teaching + Learning Commons. According to the email sent out March 2nd explaining the reorganization of the Commons, the position of associate director was a new role created as part of the restructuring to oversee all four hubs.

“In this role, Dr. Sandoval will co-direct the Commons’ Senior Management Team and staff with Faculty Director Wienhausen, and ensure coordination and synergies within the Commons,” Executive Vice Chancellor Elizabeth Simmons writes in the message.

Following the announcement of Sandoval as the new associate director, concerns have been raised over the nature of her relationship with Vice Chancellor Pettit.

An unnamed source familiar with their relationship informed the Guardian that Pettit and Sandoval are not married, so Sandoval is not legally Pettit’s “wife” as the Triton states. However, the source also refused to confirm or deny that there was any other form of personal relationship between Sandoval and Pettit, who both relocated to UC San Diego from Texas A&M in 2018 and 2015, respectively.  

Based on a letter published by Wienhausen on March 21 detailing the search and hiring for the associate director position, it appears that she was sent an earlier letter that brought up the issue of Pettit’s involvement in the appointment process, which Wienhausen denies.

“Contrary to the claims made in the letter received on March 5, 2018, the Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion was not involved,” Wienhausen wrote.

Wienhausen’s letter also states that Sandoval, who was the associate director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Texas A&M, was “unanimously affirmed as the best candidate for the position” by the search advisory committee and was approved by the Academic Administrator and Academic Coordinator Review Panel.

There is still no information on why the Commons removed Hargis from his position. When asked directly why Hargis was fired from his position, Senior Director of Strategic Marketing  Communications Judy Piercey declined to provide an answer.

“We cannot discuss personnel matters,” Piercey stated.

Note from the reporter: I am a current student employee of the Teaching + Learning Commons. I was inspired to write this article after I noticed several inaccurate and misleading statements in the Triton’s original reporting. I was in no way influenced to write this article by my supervisors, and I had very little direct contact with them throughout the process of investigating and writing this article. In the few instances in which I spoke to members of the Commons’ staff regarding my plan to publish an article, I drew a clear line between my employment at the Commons and my work on this piece as a journalist.