Arbitrator to decide if former theater director’s termination justified

Over the past several months, Clackamas Community College put together a grievance committee consisting of eight full-time faculty members to determine if Jim Eikrem, the former theater director for Clackamas Community College, was terminated justifiably last fall.  

Eikrem, who worked at CCC for 11 years before being fired last September, is currently in arbitration with the college. Eikrem was terminated after several complaints claiming he was verbally abusive and displayed a pattern of inappropriate behavior. 

Eikrem did not return multiple requests for comment from The Clackamas Print. 

An arbitrator is set to decide by June 18 if Eikrem’s termination was handled properly by the college.

The grievance committee unanimously decided on Oct. 20 that Eikrem’s termination was justifiable. In response, the Faculty Senate at CCC decided to send the dispute to arbitration.

Kerrie Hughes, a communications instructor and member of the grievance committee, said the Faculty Senate was concerned about due process.

“It seems as though it turned from ‘Did Jim do these things or not do these things?’ to ‘Did administration fire him in the right process?’” she said.

Two sources who spoke to The Clackamas Print said they filed formal complaints about Eikrem to Sue Goff, the Dean of Arts and Sciences and Eikrem’s direct supervisor. 

Goff declined to comment on the matter. 

The Clackamas Print requested copies of complaints emailed to Sue Goff regarding Eikrem, but the request was denied, citing an exemption to public records law for “faculty records relating to matters such as conduct, personal and academic evaluations, disciplinary actions.”

Jennifer Jett, an administrative assistant for the Arts and Sciences department at CCC, recalled two interactions she had with Eikrem which she felt were inappropriate, unprofessional and made her uncomfortable.

Jett recalled an incident from 2016 in which Eikrem asked her to film him pretending to urinate in the men’s restroom as part of the promotion of that year’s production of “Urinetown.” 

“He was like, ‘It’ll be fine, nothing’s gonna happen. You just need to film me at the urinal from behind,’” Jett said. “I did go in there with him and I’m like, I can’t. He wants me to film him at the urinal, as he’s taking down his pants.”

Jett also recalled an altercation she had with Eikrem in the spring of 2022 in which he attempted to force his way into her office after a public argument. 

According to Jett, Eikrem made a comment that upset her and she responded by leaving the room. Eikrem pursued Jett, following her to her office and loudly urging her to come out and speak with him.

“He was like, ‘I want to talk to you now. You need to open up this door now,’” Jett said. “It was just such a bad situation that I had trouble coming back here (to CCC) after that.”

Several students and staff members who filed complaints against Eikrem refused to comment on the situation. Others spoke on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation. 

According to Matt Mazza, a student and Artist in Residence at CCC, seven people filed complaints with CCC regarding Eikrem and his behavior in the spring of 2022. 

“There were several times that I personally witnessed Jim Eikrem being inappropriate, in a hostile work environment sense,” Mazza said. 

Mazza said he witnessed Eikrem not respecting people’s privacy in dressing rooms and instructing students to undress onstage in a way that made people uncomfortable.

Other complaints levied against Eikrem included continuous misgendering of transgender students.

Volren Palshikar, a former student of Eikrem and trans man, said Eikrem continuously misgendered him, despite regularly being corrected by his students.

“He would not listen to them, or care about me,” Palshikar said.

Palshikar also said that Eikrem had a habit of entering the women’s dressing room without giving notice. 

Three sources said this was jarring for students, especially a handful of actors under the age of 18.

“He’d just walk into the woman’s dressing room without knocking or anything,” Palshikar said. “That shouldn’t happen.”

Julia Holloway, a former CCC student, said, “Jim was using his power in an inappropriate way to bully people, and in a retaliatory fashion. Like, somebody would speak out against something he was saying; he would bully them the next day, or if somebody said something he didn’t like, he would nitpick them until they were upset.”

Holloway also recalled an incident in which Eikrem directed two adolescent actresses to wrestle each other for a scene. 

“It was disturbing, because there were questions at that point about why (Eikrem) felt the need to have little girls wrestling on the ground for that long in front of him,” Holloway said.

Jett, who has historically taken promotional photos for many of the CCC theater productions, was taking photos while Eikrem was directing this scene. 

He’s like, ‘Get on the floor. You get on top of her, you do this,’” Jett said. I’m thinking, what does this have to do with the show?”

Hannah Jacobs, another former CCC student, did not have issues with Eikrem.

“I definitely think that each interaction I had with Jim was nothing but professional,” Jacobs said.

The Clackamas Print obtained a letter sent by Eikrem and his attorney to Vice President of Instruction David Plotkin and Vice-Dean of Human Resources Melissa Richardson. 

In the letter, dated Sept. 16, 2022, Eikrem and his representation refuted all claims of wrongdoing and said there were no grounds for termination. 

Eikrem specifically denied entering dressing rooms without advance notice, and knowingly creating a hostile working environment. 

“While I deny intentionally creating an uncomfortable environment or engaging in any discrimination or retaliation, I would welcome additional training and remediation in any areas where I can improve my work relationships and interactions with students, actors and other production members,” Eikrem wrote.

According to the Clackamas Community College Education Association faculty agreement, the arbitrator’s decision is the final step in the grievance process. The arbitrator is tasked with making sure administrative policy was followed correctly. If the arbitrator determines it was not, the arbitrator can require the college to reconsider the matter.

Joseph Lohmolder

Joseph Lohmolder is the Editor in Chief for the Clackamas Print. He was the previous Managing Editor and News Editor. Joe has been on staff at The Clackamas Print and a member of the Digital Media Communications program since the fall of 2020. In his free time, Joseph enjoys writing and taking photos.