Most students attending Yuba College in Marysville are unaware of its outlying centers and campuses. They are also unaware of the struggle for resources each campus faces. In the midst of this struggle, the district’s Board of Trustees has committed itself to seeing the Woodland campus become a full college by 2007.
The feasibility of that commitment, in light of state budget problems and the district’s own fiscal instability, has caused concern among many faculty and staff.
“That is the big question,” said Professor David Rubiales of the Marysville campus. “What is the cost of Woodland becoming a community college? Is it going to be a better college? Are the improvements going to justify the cost? I am not convinced yet. And I do not think the faculty is convinced yet.”
The Woodland campus, located in Yolo County, is an hour drive from Marysville, a distance of approximately 50 miles. Although all the signs leading to the Woodland campus announce “Woodland Community College,” the Woodland Center is actually an extension site of Yuba College.
In 1998 the YCCD Board of Trustees approved a resolution to convert the Woodland Center into a college, and in 1999 the Board proposed to develop the center into a college by 2003. In 2002 the Board postponed that date, proposing to develop the Woodland campus into a college by 2007.
Professor Jim Finstad, who has been employed at Yuba College since the early 1970’s, said that the original concept for the plan came from Yuba College President Dan Walker. According to Finstad, the plan was to expand the District to bring property tax money to build up Yuba College prior to Proposition 13, in 1972. After Walker left the district, said Finstad, “economic pressure changed the plan.”
“The board has made a commitment,” explained Angela Fairchild, Executive Dean of the Woodland campus. “We still will not have the staffing structure that we will need. We are trying to do it in stages.”
Fairchild spoke of adding one dean and about four faculty members during the first stage. “We are also talking about at some point in time a custodial position,” she added.
Of the dean position, Fairchild said, “District wide it doesn’t mean a new position. It may be one reassignment, which we need anyway.”
The faculty positions Fairchild sees as essential to the Woodland campus include a chemistry instructor, librarian and biology instructor. A new science building is due for completion in Fall 2004 at Woodland. Construction of a new Learning Resource Center is scheduled to begin in 2005.
According to Fairchild, the Woodland campus needs at least 20 full-time faculty members to become an accredited stand-alone community college. Currently, 18 full-time and 100 part-time faculty members are assigned to the Woodland campus, according to the Yuba College Personnel Office.
Not having all the resources and staffing they need now while being granted college status does not sit well with some Woodland faculty. “It doesn’t matter to me whether Woodland becomes a college or not,” said Jesse Ortiz, a counselor at Woodland. “What is important to me is the immediate needs of our students-what is needed now.”
Rubiales said, “I taught at Woodland full time. From the faculty viewpoint, it can be very frustrating.” When asked how the district will benefit from this transition, Rubiales replied, “You have gotten down to the essential question in terms of services to students. There is going to be more bureaucracy. The question is, will Woodland be a better college? If it can be shown it will, I will support it.”
Fairchild said, “We’re examining and trying to create a structure that will allow us to serve the students and district without adding costs.”
Dr. Nicki Harrington, Superintendent/President of Yuba College, said, “We’re also working on what kind of advantages we have as a two-college instead of a one-college district. For some things, you end up acquiring more dollars by having a second whole college in your district. So you can’t take the existing Yuba Community College District budget and say ‘Ok if we make two colleges, then we have the same amount of money to spend that we have today.'”
A Multi-College Plan Project Team, composed of faculty, staff and administrators from both the Marysville and Woodland campuses, began meeting in February to investigate the possible advantages of moving to a multi-college district. According to the team’s purpose statement, the group will proceed with a plan “for the conversion and transition of the district to multi-college status by Fall 2007.”
“Our charge in the Multi-College-Project is to take a look at the plan,” said Vice President of Student Services, Paul Mendoza, a member of the project team. “We haven’t come to the ‘How’ yet.”
Wanting to know more about how the transition from single-college to multi-college district is to take place, faculty, staff, and students met with members of the Multi-College Project Team, who were joined by Dr. Harrington, on April 29.
The Forum, attended mainly by Yuba College faculty, filled room 803 to capacity. There was an air of heavy scrutiny and much circumspection voiced among members of the faculty.
Professor Steve Klein questioned the participatory model of the Multi-College Project Team since its purpose statement establishes that it must support the transition to a multi-college district by 2007. In response, Dr. Harrington outlined the history of Board decisions and resolutions, concluding, “At any point along the way, the Board can change the timeline or pieces of the plan.”
Many audience members pointed out the poor state of the facilities on the Marysville campus and the declining number of faculty members serving students, as fewer faculty retirements are replaced.
A student present asked about the benefits to students. “How much will student services be cut above and beyond what they’ve already been cut? Where is the funding going to come from?” Dr. Harrington responded, “It’s not a matter of adding more funds to it. It’s a matter of redesigning the staff you have.”
David Perez, an EOPS specialist, said in an interview, “After the meeting about the multi-campus issues, I understand the concerns. There are many uncertain variables. However, growth around the Marysville campus as well as the Woodland campus is happening. Therefore, would we rather let others do it to us, or take control and make it happen? I prefer the latter.”
In an interview with The Prospector, held after the meeting, Dr. Harrington responded to the accusation that she is trying to bulldoze the multi-college plan through, regardless of the evidence. “I’ve been asked that a lot,” said Harrington. “The reason I don’t answer the question directly is that I don’t want people to spend a lot of time on the negative. Everything points in the direction that the move will happen. It’s not going to stop. Instead of trying to avert that, I need people to help me to prepare for the future, so it will work well for students. I can’t do this alone.”
Dr. Harrington shared the flyer distributed for the position of Superintendent/President when she applied. One of the bulleted items under “challenges and opportunities” was “leading the District during a period of uncertain funding and increasing demand for services.” Another bulleted item further down the list was “providing leadership in the District’s efforts to transition into a multi-college District.”
This is what I was hired for,” said Dr. Harrington. “I didn’t think this up on my own.”