Saturday, September 11, 2010

Make a Difference (damn it) ¡es tiempo de cambiar!

The November election is just seven weeks away. But the election doesn't begin and end on that first Tuesday. It's happening right now as thousands of absentee ballots are prepared for distribution. It's happening right now as voters make up their minds based on misinformation and spin funded by private interests eager to make a buck and, yes, public money misappropriated to sway the public's own opinion. It's happening right now as the fat cats and people with power pat each other on the back and say, "Don't worry, this one's in the bag!"

And our college's future hangs in the balance.

It's time to make a difference, to step up, to take a few minutes or an hour, to spend a little to get a lot in return: a college with integrity and vision, a college for the students, a college with accreditation. And it won't cost you a dime.

Here's an easy and fun way to help: devote an hour of your time to precinct walking. It's not nearly as off-putting as it sounds. Highly organized, the effort focuses on active voters identified as supportive of education--it's not "cold calling" or door-to-door salesmanship. And walkers have campaign info and work in pairs, so you're not alone. So far, folks whose doors have been knocked on have been very receptive, even inviting walkers in. Please contact Diane Gustafson at or 619-253-7298 for more info. Really, do it. Now. And tell your friends and family!

If you're still not convinced of the seriousness of SWC's situation, read the comments (below) given at last Wednesday's Governing Board meeting. And note that the ethics policy lingers, as the GB saw fit to adjourn before that issue could be addressed and also before the Academic Senate, Faculty Union, Classified Union, and Associated Student Organization reports could be presented in a public setting (a legal requirement).

Governing Board Comments, Sept 8, 2010 (Janet Mazzarella)

I would like to address the proposed policy on the code of ethics, which is part of the agenda for this evening.

Especially in light of our current status of “probation” from WASC, I find that this proposed policy does not adequately address Recommendation 10: The team recommends that the Governing Board establish and implement a formal procedure for handling potential conflict of interest and ethics policy violations and document adherence to the protocol.

Proposed Ethics Policy 2715 has some reference to the Governing Board acting ethically by saying it has an ethical commitment (#2) or should use independent judgment (#6) or avoid of conflict of interest (#12) but clearly these are just words on the paper that this board does not understand.

Twice in the past couple of weeks Trustee Salcido has said that I was unethical because I, in my role as president of the faculty union, sent a letter to various vendors and contractors asking for campaign contributions 4 years ago for Ms. Salcido’s opponent in the last GB election. I do not deny this, although I find it interesting that I cannot find the letter in any of my documents but she has a copy passed on to her by some unknown party. All the same, I agree I did it. I have brought my campaign contributions which show that I received exactly zero dollars from any vendor. And even if I had received campaign contributions, it would not constitute a conflict of interest as I do not vote on their contracts with district. I have no interest in who receives these large bids or any influence over items on the GB agenda. The faculty union is a private enterprise whereas the members of this GB are public officials.

Ms. Salcido on the other hand does have a conflict of interest. It is unfortunate that she cannot see the difference between a private enterprise and a public official that votes on contracts of her donors. Because this board seems to be unclear what constitutes a conflict, I am recommending stronger, more clear language in the ethics policy #2715.

Here are some of Ms. Salcido’s campaign contributions:

Campaign contribution from Christopher Rowe, Business Owner Echo Pacific Construction Inc. on June 2, 2010 of $1000. One month later on July 14, 2010 Ms. Salcido voted approval on a total fixed fee to Echo Pacific Construction of $4 million.

On May 12, 2010, Ms. Salcido voted to approve a contract to Rocky Coast Framers for $151,000. One month later on June 2, 2010 she received a $500 campaign contribution.

I do not see how the public can believe there is not a “pay to play” attitude between the vendors of Southwestern College’s construction projects for the use of the public tax dollars.

Here are just a few of the other construction dollars donated to GB members Yolanda Salcido and Terri Valladolid. I do not have these matched up with voting records, but I do find it interesting who is financing their election campaigns.

The Seville Group: 2500
Gould Electric: 1000
An engineer/Climatec Industry : 250
Able Heating and Air Conditioning: 200
La Jolla Electric: 400
TMT Tile/Marble Corp: 200
Richardson Steel: 200
Standard Drywall: 200
Advance Plumbing Co: 200
CJR Concrete: 400
Infrastructure PAC of the Asso of General Contractors: 2500
HAR Construction: 300

We know that this particular fundraiser on June 2 at the home of Nick Alioto, VP of Finance and controlling party of the bidding process, brought in $35,000 for these two candidates. If that is not a conflict of interest I don't know what is.

Previous faculty union president and current secretary Phil Lopez had this to say:

Last week, I emailed an article, "The Making of a Real College Newspaper," from one of the best sources of commentary on higher education--Inside Higher Ed--to all of you. I did so because of the comments from Trustee Jean Roesch that were published in the online edition of the SWC Sun.

Dr. Roesch was offended by some negative comments published by the Sun--and that's OK. The Sun has been critical--more than once--of me, and I didn't like it, either. But a crucial difference between Trustee Roesch and me is that I'm not a Governing Board member. I don't vote on reassigned time for the advisor to the Sun. Dr. Roesch does.

My concern is Trustee Roesch’s statement that negative articles are somehow bad and that the Sun has "a responsibility to put the college first." That is simply wrong. Southwestern College already has cheerleaders, and we pay their advisor. We have a brand-new PR person, Chris Bender, and we pay him, too. But a college newspaper and the role of its advisor is something else entirely.

Apparently, when student journalists do good work--the Sun was the number one college-newspaper in the US last year—something has gone wrong. We all know what happened: The faculty advisor to the Sun lost his reassigned time.

Let me quote briefly for the IHE article:

"Firing the advisor [or in this case, eliminating his reassigned time] is not the best way to produce a strong student newspaper. The difficult and mature choice is to learn to live with a free student press the same way the government must live with the professional press."

"The Founding Fathers wrote the First Amendment knowing full well that the press and the government would be at odds forever. The same healthy battle between leaders and the press must play out on campus, too."

I need to remind you that California has the strongest laws in the country protecting the independence of college newspaper advisors. We don't want to go there, but we will if we have to because the pattern and history of retaliation here is clear.

When the advisor to the Sun first lost his reassigned time, the explanation given to the SCEA was that he was "double-dipping" because he received both a stipend and reassigned time for his work. Compensation in the form of both time and money is a common practice in many California community colleges, and it is not unusual at SWC, either. Department chairs receive a stipend for their work over the summer as well as reassigned time, and Head Athletic Coaches get reassigned time and an eleven-month contract.

A few months later, when this issue was covered in local newspapers and on TV, both the Superintendent/President and the Vice President for Academic Affairs insisted that the ONLY issue was money. "We're in the middle of a budget crisis," they said. "The District simply cannot afford this reassigned time."

You've heard me say--many times--that there is no dire budget crisis at SWC. I'll say it again: We will end the past fiscal year with several million dollars in reserves over and above the seven percent Governing Board reserve that you insist on maintaining,

Furthermore, in late Spring and during the Summer of 09, you approved dozens of reassigned time positions at costs that were wildly inflated. For example, reassigned time for department chairs and Academic Senate officers was reported to cost $1.17 million. You approved this expenditure. The actual cost was only 1/3 of this. The $800,000 difference between what the Board approved and actual costs is one hundred times more than sufficient to pay for reassigned time for the newspaper advisor. So money is not--and never has been--the real issue.

Next, the SCEA and the Academic Senate tried to get reassigned time placed on the Board agenda so you would have the opportunity to make a clear and public decision about our student newspaper. Our requests were ignored twice, and once the issue was agendized as a discussion item, not an action item. No decision could be made.

Finally, in March at the Board meeting in Otay Mesa, reassigned time for the advisor to the Sun appeared on the agenda as an action item. It appeared that the Board was very close to approving it, but then someone pointed out that three other faculty members who had also lost reassigned time were not included in this agenda item. It would have been easy to approve one position in March and the others in April, but the Board decided to consider all four positions the following month.

In April, I thought this issue would be put to rest. Board members praised the Sun and the work of its advisor, and you praised the work done by the coaches of our award-winning debate team, too. "But we can't approve reassigned time for these faculty members," you said. "That would be micromanagement." You also indicated that these positions should be negotiated.

The SCEA agrees. Because reassigned time costs money, it is a form of compensation and is therefore a mandatory subject for bargaining under the provisions of the Education Employment Relations Act. The SCEA, following your direction, brought all current non-contractual reassigned time positions--the Puente Project English instructor and counselor, BSI coordinators, the swimming pool director, everything--to the bargaining table. That's what you said to do. We also included the position of the SLO Coordinator in our list, and we filed an official "Demand to Bargain" the job description and compensation for that position because it's a new one.

Realizing that the Sun position is controversial and that the SLO Coordinator is important for accreditation, the SCEA indicated that we should bargain these positions first. The District said no. We were told that the District did not want to bargain these positions on a "piecemeal" basis. We'd do them in a block, and, furthermore, the District wanted to bargain all contractual reassigned time positions as well.

Of course, that's a huge task that will require considerable time. In the meantime, we have no SLO Coordinator--a position that is crucial to accreditation.

[At this point in my speech, I ran out of time. GB President Yolanda Salcido would not allow me to continue. I ad-libbed for a bit, but I don't remember exactly what I said. What appears below is the remainder of the speech I had written. Please note that the important information the Board needs to know--the SCEA wants to to sit down and negotiate these issues as soon as possible because accreditation is at stake--was not heard by the Governing Board.]

Here’s where things get complicated and uncomfortable: Last week, the District posted an internal job offering for the SLO Coordinator, listing the job description and compensation for this position. However, neither of these has been bargained, much less agreed to, by the SCEA. Because we have filed a “Demand to Bargain” these issues, the District’s decision to move ahead without negotiating constitutes an Unfair Labor Practice. Of course, we will file a ULP complaint with the State, but this action also appears to violate the Board’s direction to negotiate all non-
contractual reassigned time positions. It is also entirely self-contradictory: The District says it does not intend to bargain these positions on a “piecemeal” basis, but by separating the SLO Coordinator position from the others, it is doing exactly that.

I need to be absolutely clear here. The SCEA is ready, willing, and able to sit down with the District’s negotiating team to discuss the SLO Coordinator position. We can begin tomorrow. But the SCEA must also insist that we discuss reassigned time for the advisor to the Sun at the same time.

In the language of interest-based bargaining, the SCEA and the District share a strong common interest in maintaining our accreditation by moving forward with the SLO Coordinator position. However, the SCEA also has a strong interest—one we share with students and our entire community as well—in a free press, students’ First and Fourth Amendment rights, and the independence of our college newspaper advisor. Apparently, the District does not share this interest. Apparently, the District is willing to do anything—even risking our accreditation—to eliminate reassigned time for the advisor to the Sun.

Let me be even clearer: The SCEA cannot and will not sacrifice one of these sets of interests to preserve the other. This is a battlefield we are willing to die on. But it is a battlefield the District has created.
This is it. If you care about the future of education in the South Bay, now is the time to act. Later will be too late. . . .

In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. --Martin Luther King, Jr.


  1. Gee....according to Southwestern College's own website, Ms. Salcido earned a juris doctorate degree from Western State College of Law. One would think that she is therefore equipped with the knowledge and information, (even more so than the 'average' governing board member,) to understand the importance of Conflict of Interest provisions of the law and college policy. Likewise, she should also have the knowledge and information to understand that even the 'appearance' of a conflict is often enough to do significant damage. I wonder...did she even pass the Bar exam? Why did she lose the job at the South County Court? Why is she stalling?

  2. I can tell you this much: a search of the State Bar of California ( up no members with names matching or similar to Yolanda Salcido. She is not a licensed attorney.

  3. another anonymous: So Yolanda Salcido is not a licensed attorney. Well, I'm a licensed aromatherapist, and this smells bad.