If approved by SBCC’s Board of Trustees, Dr. Helen Benjamin would serve a six-week term as the college’s interim superintendent/president starting July 26. | Credit: Courtesy SBCC

The sudden resignation of superintendent/president Utpal Goswami announced last week sent Santa Barbara City College administration scrambling to find a suitable candidate to fill the position on an interim basis, while the school searches for a permanent replacement.

After initially announcing newly hired executive vice president Kathleen Scott as acting superintendent/president, the Board of Trustees announced a motion to appoint Dr. Helen Benjamin — who previously served as interim president following the departure of Anthony Beebe in 2019 — in the role pending final approval at the July 22 board meeting.

If approved, Benjamin would serve a six-week term starting July 26. This would be the second time the former chancellor of the Contra Costa Community College District has come out of retirement to temporarily fill the position as head of  SBCC, which has seen six presidents come and go since 2008.

“Benjamin came out of retirement and previously served as interim superintendent/president at SBCC for several months in the Spring, Summer, and Fall of 2019,” said Victor Bryant, acting executive director of communications, in an announcement on July 14. “She will do so again in the same capacity.”

Benjamin comes at a time of turmoil within shared governance at the college, as Goswami tendered his resignation days before the Academic Senate planned a no-confidence vote against him and four other members of the Board of Trustees for voting against a COVID vaccination mandate that has been pushed by faculty leaders. The mandate would require students, staff, and faculty to be vaccinated before attending in-person activities.

After starting her career as dean of language arts and humanistic studies at Los Medanos College in 1990, Benjamin consistently moved up within the district — serving in educational programs and services, as interim president of Los Medanos College, president of Contra Costa College, and vice chancellor of the district before being appointed chancellor in 2005. 

The details of her compensation and terms of employment have not yet been announced.

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