Oh Cuesta, my Cuesta
February 9, 2012
OPINION By MARILYN ROSSA
My heart hurts right now. My Cuesta College is seriously wounded. Many of you have been here long enough to remember. There was a time when you only had to interview at Cuesta to fall in love with it. But, times have changed.
How many Cuesta College faculty members have you talked to today who are scared to death that they will lose their job?–first, terrified that their name will be at the top of the pink slip list. Now, certain that Cuesta will close and they will be out of a job. Where are your faculty leaders to quell your fears on today’s news?
Regarding the above issue of pink-slipping, had the faculty, under the leadership of both faculty organizations, applied enormous collective pressure on the district–and, I mean up to and including a job action–Cuesta would not be sending out 23 pink slips to tenured faculty. So, why is the district sending that huge number out? Because they can. Where is the outrage? Where is the outcry? Why the terrible silence? Have you given up?
And, then the news of today. Of course, no longer do I say I’m surprised. I was a bit surprised when Cuesta was put on accreditation warning in 2009. This was Cuesta? Stable, solid Cuesta? The crown jewel of California’s community colleges? The college with the the highest transfer rate of all the cc’s in the state? This was a Cuesta which won multiple state and national awards for academic excellence. One whose Disabled Students Programs and Services was nationally, no internationally, renowned. We had students coming from other countries just to get into our DSPS; now, like so many other programs at Cuesta, it is a mere skeleton of what it used to be and shrinking.
Yes, Gil Stork had to reveal the ACCJC’s ruling in its entirety, and that’s a good thing. But, he didn’t give you the whole picture. He yelled “fire” and told you not to panic. His tone was unnecessarily inflammatory. To start with, he should have told you that Cuesta is not the only college in this situation. College of the Redwoods just got a “show cause” notice: http://www.times-standard.com/ci_19889869?source=most_viewed. I don’t know if there are others, but, at least you can know that we are not alone.
Further, even with the miniscule chance that Cuesta will lose its accreditation (It’s hard for me to even put that down), Cuesta, as such, will not close. If history is any guide, it would be subsumed into another community college district. Read: Compton College. From a 2011, LA Times article: “School officials had embezzled money and the college was seen as woefully mismanaged when an oversight agency revoked Compton’s accreditation in 2005. After the college gave up on its appeals, it was subsumed by El Camino Community College in Torrance, becoming El Camino Compton Center.” Compton continues to work toward re-accreditation.
In 2006, the Chancellor’s Office made this statement:
“Had the state not taken the extraordinary measures that it has, Compton Community College would have been the first publicly-funded community college in the nation to lose its accreditation and close its doors. Closing the college was never an option. The state invested considerable staffing and fiscal resources to save Compton, because its students and district residents deserve quality education that is accessible, affordable, and located in their own community.
“Although the journey to full recovery and fiscal health will require years of intensive rebuilding of its entire infrastructure, Compton Community College remains open, its classes accredited, and essential state support will continue to remedy the problems that jeopardized its fiscal stability and existence. Educational access at Compton will be preserved for future generations.”
So, just as Compton is now “El Camino College, Compton Center,” Cuesta can become “Allan Hancock College, Cuesta Center.” Has a nice ring to it, eh?
Because of what had been reported to me today about new faculty anxiety, I think it important for you to know that if you slip by the pink-slipping, you’ll still have a job.
So, now the spin and the finger-pointing begins. There’s enough blame to go around, that’s for sure. One of the biggest players by law in the accreditation process is the Academic Senate. Senates have enormous power in accreditation if they wield it. Unfortunately, ours haven’t. Accreditation reports are not official unless signed by the Senate President. I had to withhold my signature more than once during my several terms as Senate President some years ago: held up signing until the college president agreed to faculty positions. We came to amicable agreement.