Despite controversy, Palomar College moves ahead with $1 million presidential suite
Palomar College President Joi Lin Blake’s office suite is shown on the top floor of the school’s new $67 million library on Feb. 4, 2019. (Megan Wood/inewsource)

Despite controversy, Palomar College moves ahead with $1 million presidential suite

Construction of Palomar College President Joi Lin Blake’s $1 million office suite is moving forward after she defended the project on Friday to the school’s committee that oversees bond spending.

When voters are asked to approve school bond measures, elected officials generally give assurances the tax money will be spent wisely to benefit students. Independent bond oversight committees also are supposed to be a watchdog.

Committee member Michael Hunsaker asked the group to consider cheaper options for Blake’s office after inewsource reported that the college is spending bond money to remodel its new $67 million library to build a top-floor presidential suite.

Hunsaker also asked that more be done to communicate with the public about the project, “because right now it’s just looking like some sort of elitism,” he said.

“I think at least some sort of study should be made as to whether or not there’s any alternatives that would be cheaper and still advance the prestige of your office,” Hunsaker told Blake.

Blake said the president has had an office in the San Marcos campus library for 30 years, and the space being remodeled was a conference room not dedicated to any specific group on campus.

“It’s not a million-dollar suite for my workspace,” Blake said. “I have two assistants, I have a cabinet, I have governance councils next to me that have grown because the college has grown.”

Palomar College President Joi Lin Blake is shown at a meeting of the school’s Independent Citizens Oversight Committee on March 1, 2019.(Megan Wood/inewsource)

Construction of the 2,232-square-foot suite began in late January, just as the new library opened, and is expected to be completed this summer. It will include her office, space for two staffers, and a conference room, restroom, work/break room and waiting area.

Two bond oversight committee members, Athenea Luciano and Glen Winn, spoke Friday in support of the decision to build the office suite. Luciano said she visited the library when it was under construction last year and thought the space for the president’s suite was “moderate.”

“I found it to be very appropriate for what you’re doing,” Luciano told Blake.

Three faculty members also backed putting the president’s suite in the new library but said it was bad planning by college officials to not have had it part of the original design plan.

Money for the new library and presidential suite remodel came from Proposition M, a $694 million bond measure voters passed in 2006. A campus construction plan used to sell voters on the bond detailed renovating the campus’ old library to house all administrative staff, including the president.

That building is now empty and there are no plans to renovate it. College officials have said the building is now too small for what was originally planned.

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About Megan Wood:

Megan Wood
Megan Wood was a multimedia journalist for inewsource. To contact inewsource with questions, tips or corrections, email contact@inewsource.org.