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Union opposes Clark College plan to cut Ukrainian counselor

The following is from the Clark College Association for Higher Education (CCAHE):

VANCOUVER, Wash. (April 25, 2023) — While many of Washington state’s community and technical colleges are currently hiring more counselors to serve their growing numbers of students with mental health challenges, Clark College is proposing to eliminate one of its three tenured mental health counselors.

This counselor, Valentina Pishchanskaya-Cayanan, also happens to be Ukrainian.

“When more than 600 Ukrainian refugees have enrolled at Clark over the past year, the idea to cut a counselor who is also Ukrainian is stunning,” said Suzanne Southerland, president of the Clark College faculty union.

The number of mental health counselors at Clark has been dwindling over the years.

“With this cut, Clark will have one of the highest counselor/student ratios among the state’s community colleges at 1,300 students per one counselor,” Southerland said.

TAKE A STAND — Faculty, students, mental health experts, Ukrainian refugee advocates and union affiliates are invited to attend the Clark College Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday, April 26 at 5 pm. The meeting is virtual. Click here to join via Zoom. The CCAHE invites all to use this profile and/or this background for the meeting and offers this background information in you choose to participate in public comment. 

“As a community college, it behooves us to embrace our new community members, especially because they are refugees,” said Sydney Brahmavar, professor of climate science and secretary of the faculty union. “Helping immigrants integrate, learn skills to become independent and ultimately contribute to our community is exactly what a community college exists to do.”

Surprisingly, college officials are moving forward with this proposal despite the fact that this cut would also be a violation of the faculty contract.

“They seem to be unable to admit that they’ve made a mistake,” Southerland said.

Students are also surprised. The Associated Students of Clark College (ASCC) contributes student fees to the tune of $160,000 a year to the Counseling Center. While college officials claimed to have notified those who would be impacted by this cut, students are not aware.


The Clark College Association for Higher Education (CCAHE), an affiliate of the Washington Education Association, is the union for full-time and part-time faculty at Clark College. CCAHE represents faculty only. Clark College staff are represented by a different union, WPEA/UFCW 365.

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