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Post-Thirty Celebratory Thoughts (and some notes from the Plenary)

Every one of us who did a single thing to help pass Prop 30 – including voting! – deserves a big thanks and a celebration!

For a long time, there was a .25% sales tax to support education (Arnold passed and supported it), and no one even noticed it was there.  It expired January 1, I believe, and so we needed Prop 30 just to maintain the level of funding we already have.  Yes, it involved some new taxes (of the 1%), and it passed!

But it does not solve all our problems.  

What does it mean for Oxnard College?  We had an Accreditation forum on Wednesday morning, so I was able to ask Dr. Durán what his initial intentions were about our recommendations for AP 4021 Program Discontinuance at our college.  He said that he had no plans to bring forward any programs for discontinuance under AP 4021.

Please remember that there are other ways to reduce programs – but only one way to actually discontinue them.  All over the state, programs are being discontinued for budgetary reasons.  In many colleges, high cost programs are facing a dire situation.  Some colleges have a series of high cost programs (let’s say, more than $5000 per FTES) and then, other criteria must be brought to bear in order to decide which of those high cost programs will have to go.  Even with Prop 30, this is a reality for many colleges.

Sometimes the decisions look (apparently) easy, in terms of programs.  For example, a program that’s really expensive, serves few students and is in some way outdated or duplicated within the region is at high risk.  Let’s say Vending Machine Repair (yes, that’s really in the “Green Book” for California Community College equivalency).  Let’s further say that once upon a time, Vending Machine Repair attracted lots of students, but now that vending machines are largely digital, the skills in the VMR program are not much in demand.  So it has few students, and two faculty people.  It’s expensive.  Should it go while something else, such as Architecture, which in our hypothetical is a new program, growing in students (although still not a lot of students) stays.

These are the questions that faculty all over the state are having to address.

But at Oxnard College, I believe I can safely say that Dental Hygiene isn’t going anywhere, and that both Dental Assisting and Television will be staying (even if they need to have some cost-saving structural changes or program-improving other changes made to them).  Now, everyone has time to bring about change.

The problem of TIME is key.  Faculty are notoriously SLOW in changing or responding to change.  (Um, yes, that’s because we are busy TEACHING).  The State of California is throwing fast balls at us at a rate never before seen.  The current legislators have the view that “If the teachers won’t do it themselves, we’ll do it for them.”  This is not good.  We need to get out in front of the demands of the legislators (who are, after all, representing the thoughts and ideas of the various interests that reside in their districts).  This was a big theme at the plenary session and I’ll be writing more on that.  A short way of putting it is this:  you are teachers and so am I, but right now I am being paid for that proactive work (along with the rest of the Exec Board – you all need to learn how to take advantage of us and direct the work we do!)

In the meantime, though, I want to return to what has become a favorite theme of mine:  Athletics.  Now, anyone who knows me, also knows that aside from anthropological interest in sport (which I have in abundance), I am not a sports fan.  I am not athletic.  I have to say that when I actually know some of the people who are playing on the field, that changes for me, and I do love to play ping pong and badminton.  I love to watch equestrian events.  That’s about it.  If I had to choose a major sport to view, it would be baseball.  I know the World Series was played recently but I have no idea who won (was it the San Francisco Giants?  Is there such a team?)

Anyway, as you can see, Athletics is not my field of expertise.

But, over the years, and especially in the past year, I have become a huge fan of Athletics – as a discipline, a program and a community college essential.  Unlike the disciplines protected by TItle V, Athletics doesn’t need to go before our Board of Trustees (BoT) to be discontinued.  Jonas Crawford knows this, and his athletes know this (I was so proud of them at the last board meeting – they gathered respectfully and quietly outside the meeting, so that the Board saw them, but they did not approach the mic – because they all know it’s not a BoT decision).

Yes, I am leading up to something.  I believe that our Academic Senate should pass a resolution in favor of changing our local mission statement to include protection and support of Athletics.  An AS President is supposed to remain neutral, in general, and yet going to the Plenary made me realize that this neutrality applies specifically to the way meetings and debates are run.  Michelle Pilati, our wonderful State Academic Senate President, gives workshops, explains, gives data, and yes, states positions that she believes are in favor of our Colleges (as a whole body).  Naturally, she encourages debate and accepts defeat gracefully and collegially.  Everyone has a position.  The State AS President only votes when there is a tie, and if one is paying attention, it is fairly clear which side Michelle will come down on if the resolution is that close.

Thankfully, where faculty are involved, there are very few close resolutions.  I’ll speak to some of those in a later post.

In the meantime, I want to get everyone thinking about the upcoming Planning Year.  The District has to write a new Educational Master Plan.  California’s Master Plan is 50 years old and being heavily eroded to the point that either it has to change or we have to admit we’re not following it.  Not following the Master Plan vacates it and makes it meaningless.  New legislation – just in the past year – has vacated parts of the Master Plan, while not so acknowledging that this has happened.  Is this a temporary deviation from the plan?

I believe it is permanent, and I believe that eventually, the California Master Plan for Education will be amended.  That’s my prediction.

In the meantime, colleges (and districts) are left in the lurch.  Do we attempt to follow the law or the Master Plan?  We actually have no choice:  the law is what must be followed.  But in what way do we change our planning?  You may remember that our own BoT not only passed a resolution in favor of Prop 30, but its individual members spent time in advocacy for it.  This resolution allowed each of us to advocate for Prop 30 to the limit permitted by laws involving teacher advocacy; it actually encouraged us to do so.  Do we want to build such practices into our planning?  Perhaps.

By all this, I am trying to get to a central question of what we should be teaching and what we should be doing.  Why does California try to guarantee education for all of its citizens in the first place?  It’s not to make them into little worker bees.  It’s to build good citizens and a strong socium.  It is to enact basic principles of a fair, equitable and democratic society.  This is done is so many ways across our curriculum, I couldn’t possible enumerate them.  But I do believe we have to change our curriculum, our outlines, our objectives, our teaching styles to make sure that this central function is part of everyone’s program.  Some programs (Political Science is the obvious one) have far more involvement in the specifics of this mandate, but look at Dental Hygiene through the same lens.

Dental Hygiene serves as many as 30,000 people (mostly children) in the Oxnard area every year, giving them free or near-free access to dental care.  My number may not be quite right, but I’m pretty sure I’m close.  20 students (or so) times 15 patients on a practicum day times 100 such days gives that number.  This is a huge contribution to society and to the principles of sharing and compassion.

In other words, I am not joking when I suggest that math people learn all about the rest of campus and the local community so that word problems can involve local issues.  The students in Math R105, under the leadership of Prof. Mark Bates, did an amazing job looking at success rates and core issues among our own students regarding transitional math.  Everyone needs to be involved in shaping the future of California community college education, and that can happen only when more of us know what the real issues are (yes, it involves MONEY, but that’s not enough to know!)

In the next six months, VCCCD is going to write its new (six year) Educational Master Plan.  The body tasked with doing that is DCAA, and yet, the body that’s started the process and set up the framework is DCAP.  If you don’t know what those acronyms mean, shoot me an email or make a comment here and I’ll do a glossary on this blog.  Jim Merrill, Teresa Bonham and myself sit on DCAA.  Dr. Durán and I sit on DCAP.  Once the District EMP is done, then OC will rewrite its own EMP.  I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at EMP’s from around the state, studying them, and marveling at just how much a good EMP can do to improve a college, to give it direction – and to ultimately revise mission and vision statements.

RIght now, OC’s mission statement is a bit out of synch with the District’s – but theirs will probably change before ours will (just based on the planning model).

Let’s advocate and lobby for a district-wide mission statement that embraces what we do at OC and supports it!

Let’s eventually pass a second resolution encouraging the board to do what other boards have done and declare that Athletics is part of the mission of the community colleges.  Hopefully, as corollary of this discussion, it will become clear that the various college Foundations should support the areas of the mission where funds are lacking.

And as to all the other issues facing us:  we can be proactive, as I am advocating we be, with Athletics.  Do not think it’s just Athletics that should be on our radar!  That’s why I am encouraging all of you (teachers, readers of this blog, students, administrators, anyone at all) to help form an Academic Senate agenda for Spring that will aid us in protecting and improving our joint mission.

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Posted by on November 12, 2012 in 10 + 1, ASCCC, Athletics, Plenary Sessions

 

Budget Ruminations & Sadness

I thought about titling this post Budget Nightmare.  If Prop. 30 doesn’t pass in California (and we need Prop. 38 to fail as well), schools in California are going to enter a phase never before seen in California education. I would like to think voters can see that.  I hope they do.  Polls say that Prop. 30 is passing – by a lean margin, of about 55%.  It should be winning by way more than that.  How can people not see that?

I can’t take credit for calling the work we’re doing in the Planning and Budget Council at Oxnard College “The Doomsday Scenario,” that was Vice President Mike Bush’s phrase.  He’s been pretty good about putting things in both complex terms – and then, the harder thing, in simple terms that I can understand.

We have to cut $1.6 million dollars from an already “flat” (actually slightly smaller) budget for Fiscal Year 2013 if Prop. 30 doesn’t pass.  If Prop 30 does pass we still have cuts to make.  I hope everyone realizes that.

We have to make these cuts in a way that still serves as many students as possible, both for the obvious reason of serving as many students as possible with our small budget and because if we serve fewer students, our future revenues go down.  We go into the Death Spiral (Alan Hayashi coined that one).  We were rescued last year from the Death Spiral by an adjustment to this year’s allocation, but I doubt we’ll be rescued again as each of the three colleges in our district come to grips with the realities that have plagued Oxnard College for so long.

We have virtually no clerical staff.  One person, Darlene Inda, is now doing the work formerly assigned to what I estimate (conservatively) to be 1.8 people.  Work that isn’t done by the now laid-off employees is simply done by whoever remains, it’s hard to estimate how much that has increased the workloads of everyone from the President on down.  Our Executive Vice President does not have an administrative assistant of her own.  Student workers fill roles formerly held by longer term employees.  Committees are taking on the work formerly done by such people as a public relations employee.   Most faculty know they have to be virtually self-sufficient, and if they don’t know that, they are learning it this year.

Reading the resource requests that faculty wrote last year, I have to shake my head.  Virtually everyone wants something.  Many programs asked for more clerical help, more faculty – but our budget is shrinking while salaries go up by step and column (as they should).  Instead of creatively planning on how to get by with less – even if Prop 30 passes, it’s not a panacea, and furthermore, it’s temporary; some faculty chose extravagantly (and perhaps woefully) dramatic language to describe their needs.  I’m not quoting any particular programs (I’m compiling the collective wail of faculty):  “If we don’t get more help, we aren’t going to be able to meet our learning outcomes” or “If we don’t get clerical help, the faculty are not going to be able to oversee labs properly.”  YIKES.  If that’s really true and your program is already expensive (it still has clerical support, for example), then you’re making an entire committee of people ask the question:  Can we afford you?

If we can’t afford your program, we can’t afford it.  We can’t risk student safety or faculty safety in a program that puts people at risk due to faculty inattention.  That would be in violation of Ed Code.

Did that sound harsh?  Well, let’s go on to the harsh part and why I’m so sad this weekend and obsessing about the College.

Athletics.

I am not a sports fan and I’m not athletic.  I’ve never been athletic, although I did love to go to football games in high school and college, those years are far behind me.

But I am very much aware of how important physical education is to human beings, how so many people are in fact constructed in such a way that kinetic learning is central to the whole way they approach the world.

We are very unlikely to cut Physical Education, in my view.  Remember, this blog represents my opinions, but I do feel people are better off knowing my opinions if they’re going to trust me to represent them and to ask the right questions of the administration.

But we are almost certainly going to cut Athletics.

Athletics (intramural sports, where our baseball team, our soccer teams, our cross country teams compete against other colleges) is not mandated by Title V/Ed Code.  These programs fall into what is called the “co-curricular” area, like…the cafeteria.  Last year, the Board eliminated cafeterias at all three colleges.  Oxnard College now has a café only because we have Culinary program at OC.  If that café fails to be self-sustaining, it will like be no more.

We have a childcare center on campus too.  It’s not mandated by law to exist.  It’s essentially a “co-curricular” program.  It has been given two years to break even (and it doesn’t take money from the general fund right now due to monies set aside at a different level of our funding model) or it goes away.

We have a healthcare center.  It may be at risk.

OCTV was “co-curricular.”  There was no legal mandate for it.  It was ended last year, another great sadness.

But, as we look at eliminating academic programs that are too expensive, academic programs that have a higher-than-average cost per student educated, Athletics is not only on the table to be cut, but there’s virtually no way that a program that is both 1) more expensive than average – by quite a bit; and 2) not required by law…has a good chance of surviving.

This is what I mean when I say we’re heading into budgetary times never before seen in California.  There are many factors.  We have lots of youngsters and not a lot of oldsters (who would ostensibly be paying taxes).  We have Prop 13 from decades ago protecting the oldsters.  We are increasing in minimum wage and part time jobs rather than in well-paying jobs.  The bottom fell out of the real estate market.  Enron screwed us over (and that’s a huge factor, don’t forget it).

If we could sell tickets to games and break even, Athletics would likely stay.  That is not the case at Oxnard College.  Students, for whatever reason, do not spend lots of money buying tickets – they do not arrive in huge numbers at games.  Could we change that?  Could Athletics live within a new budget created by ticket sales?  These are questions for the future.  Is Athletics going to survive while we cut classes needed for certificates, degrees and transfer, when the State of California says we have to have certificates and degrees – but not Athletics?

I cannot precisely say why this makes me so sad, to the point of having a nightmare about it last night.  I think perhaps it is the extreme effort that athletes put into their sports, the dedication, devotion and courage I’ve seen from athletes over the 26 years I’ve worked for this district.  In the classroom, athletes have made a difference.  Yes, some of them are sometimes squirrelly, but my own classroom research shows that these young men and women find a reason to be in school – because of athletics – and that they are intelligent, cooperative young people who end up doing very well in class.  They are often class leaders.  In anthropology, because we study sport, they bring a dimension to the classroom that cannot be gained by merely taking a physical education class.

In the end, college is not about athletics.  The “big schools” will be able to afford it, there will be places for really talented athletes to continue to show their talents.  The suddenness with which baseball disappeared from Moorpark last year, and basketball from Oxnard, though, are troubling.  What does this teach young people about the ability of their elders to plan?  Is it really necessary to treat this as an all or nothing kind of game?  I understand we’re not required to fund Athletics, and I understand that we’re cutting virtually every single thing we’re not required to do.  When we go to look at what other wonderful things we’re going to have to cut, though, I want everyone to remember that Athletics has had to look this disaster squarely in the eye for a year or more.  Our young athletes have been exposed to lessons about the world that other students did not have to face.  Our talented Athletics staff, headed up by Athletics Director Jonas Crawford, has had to carry on with a heavy weight tied to a thin thread hanging over their heads.

I have contacted the Oxnard College Foundation regarding funding for Athletics.  It seems to be so harsh to go from a still-living program to no program in such a short time.  I haven’t heard back yet.  I have no idea how to fund raise.  Students want to help, there is support for Athletics; there is simply no budget.  Since this is happening in a woefully similar way nationwide, we are looking at how other campuses have dealt with this.  Student-run intramural (as opposed to intermural) athletics are fun, but they are not quite the same (especially for sports like football, basketball and baseball, but for all sports).  Do students want to pay more fees to keep Athletics?  No student of whom I’ve asked that question has given an immediate response.  They need to think about it.  Will the community step up and help?  Where are the corporate sponsors?  What about the incredibly wealthy sports teams and athletes – can they be approached for help?

Will Oxnard itself get behind its youth – because the remaining athletes at OC are indeed local youth – and support Athletics at Oxnard once they understand how dire the situation is?  How is that kind of community support generated?   People who do a lot of community organizing are already in over their heads trying to work on Prop 30 and on keeping regular academic programs, on getting kindergarten and elementary class sizes down.

The brain is a complex organ, and the motor cortex is right in the middle of it for a reason.  The earliest known universities had Athletics and considered taking competition to higher levels an essential component of education.  It’s true that we can compete in other areas, but competition in Athletics has a purity to it, and a deep connection to the human spirit that cannot be denied.

Going to the gym for personal fitness is great, but Athletics brings something else to the table.  I will argue that we not cut co-curriculars altogether at OC, but I am not optimistic that even a small sum will be set aside for them.  They are all in the same boat and must become self-supporting.  It’s not exactly the best time in the world to try and raise more money, either.

It’s just very hard to even contemplate ending any of these programs when they are healthy and vibrant, just because of lack of money.  Where, oh where, are the rich philanthropists when you need them?  Can’t just one person out there buy a smaller yacht and donate the money to OC Athletics?  I can’t help it, that’s where my imagination goes.