Faculty at Pacifica Graduate Institute (PGI) held a no-confidence vote in Provost Dr. Peter Rojcewicz last Thursday after two long-serving members of the school’s esteemed Clinical Psychology PhD program were suddenly ousted in late July with a third faculty member resigning in protest.
The recent turmoil follows the contentious removal of the department’s chair last year and another resignation by a core faculty member in protest, cumulative losses that have effectively gutted the program and left students at the school’s Santa Barbara and Carpinteria campuses without dissertation chairs, a director of clinical training, or a clear path to completing their doctorate degrees.
Rojcewicz, who was appointed provost in January 2020, did not respond to requests for comment. Those with inside knowledge of the situation claim Rojcewicz has displayed a heavy-handed leadership style since arriving at Pacifica and has allegedly retaliated against individuals who challenge his authority. Pacifica’s president, Dr. Joseph Cambray, who is scheduled to retire at the end of the month, said he could not publicly discuss personnel matters.
Meanwhile, a cohort of 70 clinical psychology students representing a majority of the program sent a letter August 10 to Pacifica administrators expressing “serious concerns” with the “abrupt and unexplained dismissals” of Drs. Oksana Yakushko and Michael Sipiora this summer and the continuing turnover in the department.
“As graduate students, we dedicate considerable time and energy to our education; we expect stability in the program,” the letter states. “As consumers, we take on a significant financial commitment to attend PGI; we expect prompt and transparent communication.” Tuition for the five-year program tops $40,000 a year.
Many students intentionally applied to Pacifica for the opportunity to work with Yakushko and Sipiora, both highly decorated and respected figures in the field of depth psychology, the letter continues. “Their collaboration with and encouragement for the tenets of social justice and diversity, equity, and inclusion have emboldened us to soulfully pioneer the future of our field,” it says. But in light of current circumstances, “Many of us question the viability of continuing our education at Pacifica.”
Sign up for Indy Today to receive fresh news from Independent.com, in your inbox, every morning.
Official grievances have since been filed with Pacifica’s accrediting body, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, as well as the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education.
Yakushko said she was currently receiving legal assistance and could not comment for this story. Sipiora also declined to speak on the matter.
On August 16, a group of nine faculty members sent a letter of their own to the administration requesting the pair be reinstated and supporting the demand by students for increased communication from school leaders. “While additional PGI faculty have made their support known,” the letter states in apparent reference to Rojcewicz’s reputation for professional reprisals, “they are hesitant to add their names publicly for fear of retaliatory actions from the PGI administration.”
One of the signatories, Dr. Darren Del Castillo, said in an email to the Independent that students have “voiced legitimate complaints about a lack of transparency among the administration at PGI that had significant ramifications for their continuing education.” They were owed more consideration and response to their concerns, he said, “and from all accounts, were denied this entirely.”
Dr. Dennis Slattery, Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the Mythological Studies program, said he has been part of the Pacifica community for 27 years and has “loved my affiliation with it.” “My hope,” he said, “is that some form of reconciliation and compromise can be reached by those holding positions as faculty and administrators so that the differences that have divided the school can find places of unity in order to preserve such a unique institution and benefit the students who have made such a commitment to study there.”
With Cambray’s upcoming departure, Pacifica’s Board of Trustees was scheduled to meet last Friday to name its new president. A public announcement has not yet been made.