It’s no secret that there’s a mess here at the College. Students can’t get classes, Classified Staff and Faculty have been let go, given pink slips, or allowed to retire with no replacement in sight–a move that will guarantee even less classes in the future. And the issue of the $29,000+ raise for the Chancellor? Well, I’m as dumbfounded as the rest of us are.
As to why it’s such a mess, well, there’s a whole ‘nother mess in itself. Ask a Board Member and they’ll tell you that it’s the State of California’s fault for putting us in the red. Or they might say it’s the Faculty’s fault for not taking a pay cut. Ask someone else and they’ll tell you we were $1.4 million in the red before the State of California ever got involved, and the Board has become the poster child for mismanagement and fiscal irresponsibility–what good is a pay cut if the money will not be spent getting the students what they need?
Many students want to do something about it. But what? If you’re one of these students, you probably began at the beginning: gather information, ask questions. Sounds like a good start.
Like me, however, many students have found the sad truth that their questions go unceremoniously unanswered. Their requests for information are impolitely ignored.
Case in point: the last Board of Trustees meeting. Students hoping to give a face to Board-imposed hardships are suddenly told they must limit their statement to two minutes. Two minutes? What can you say in two minutes? So a student suggests to the board that if there’s no time to hear from the students now, please schedule a special meeting just to hear comments. Sound like a reasonable request? I thought so. But I’m not on the Board. That excellent suggestion was completely ignored by the Board of Trustees. Not so much as a “thank you for your time.”
Which brings us back to the big question: what can a student do about it all?
First off, there is some good news to be had. When times get tough we look to our leadership for guidance. It would appear the District leadership has failed us in this respect. But the student leadership . . . that’s another story.
The good news is that your Student Trustee, Stephen Frothingham and your ASYC President Juan Cervantes (who was the Student Trustee last year, and knows firsthand how the Board of Trustees operates) have both stepped forward to provide you with the leadership you so desperately deserve in these troubled times.
Want to see real leadership? Stephen returned his travel budget to the District general fund and went on record as saying he would pay his own way to go to Student Leadership Conferences this year. He urged the Board to do the same. Juan made a formal request that the board do just that as a means of showing leadership from the top. The board refused to take Stephen’s excellent example, by the way. Now they’re out there spending the District’s money while Steven pays his own way. I call this leadership from below. When the Board went to hide for 45 minutes at the Woodland College Board meeting in February, Stephen said “I’m staying,” and began to field questions from the gallery.
Stephen and Juan both ask tough questions. And when they get no answers they ask again and again until someone is shamed into providing an answer. It shouldn’t have to be that way.
Here’s an example: Stephen Frothingham knows that parking is and always has been a problem at Yuba College. Who doesn’t? With a $190 million Measure J bond in process, Stephen asked if more parking is included in the plan. New parking would cost about $400,000 to buy land and pave it–a very small percentage of the total bond money. He was told by the Chancellor that parking would not increase substantially. But he didn’t give up. What does “not substantially” mean? Well, in this case it means not at all. No new parking. Zip. Nada. But Stephen isn’t giving up. If you can’t get more parking with a $190 million bond, when can you get it?
You get the picture. But trust me, I’ve seen your student leaders in action and they’re not only pro-active, but they’re smart. Sure, it’s leadership from below, but let me tell you, at least they’re leading.
So what can you do? To start with, I suggest a little soul searching. What are your talents? What are your gifts? Can you write well? Write a letter to the Appeal-Democrat. Write a poem for the April poetry wall. Write a song if that’s what you’re good at. (I’ll help you set it to music, if you like.) Can you speak well? Come to a Board meeting and speak your mind. (Although you might want to prepare an alternate 2-minute statement just in case.) Are you organized? Offer your services to the ASYC. Need exercise? Take part in the March on the State Capitol on March 22nd. Want to lead? Consider running for ASYC in mid April. Can you draw? Draw a political cartoon for The Prospector. Have some free time? Offer to pass out leaflets or collect signatures for a petition to get more parking spaces. Attend a Board meeting and see for yourself what’s going on. Got a computer? Go to ycfa.org (the Yuba College Faculty Association web site) and look at the information available there. You can even find it on Facebook.
The YCFA site is not only more organized than what the District has on their site, but it’s linked to sources. You can see where all the information came from. Find out the true story of Vice Chancellor Al Alt’s firing from the Redding Police Department due to felony charges involving a fraudulent insurance claim, his verbal assault of a Dean at Yuba College, the Faculty’s resultant vote of no confidence, and the Board’s unbelievable response: promote him to Vice Chancellor and give him a hefty raise. (www.ycfapac.org/AlbertAlt). I know, I know, it sounds like bad fiction writing, but it’s true, and it’s all documented. Read it for yourself.
Or maybe you’re one of those people who think you don’t have any particular talent? Contact your student leaders anyway. They will welcome your help. Better yet, get creative. You decide what needs to be done . . . and do it.
Believe it or not, the single strongest force to have put pressure on the Board of Trustees this year has been the students. YOU. When Faculty speak, they are accused of lobbying and ignored. When Classified Staff step forward, they are threatened with job loss. But when the students speak up, we’re getting to the heart of the matter. This institution exists for the students, it should serve the students, it should listen to the students.
Make yourself heard. Lead from below. We’re certainly not getting any leadership from the top.
Robert Mathews has been a professor of music at Yuba College for ten years. More of his musings can be found at ycfa.org. He welcomes feedback at