Students at Woodland Community College are performing the work of classified staff members, according to representatives of the California School Employees Association (CSEA). On February 18, Tom Page, a state labor representative, informed Woodland College president Angela Fairchilds via letter that CSEA has been made aware of students participating in classified staff duties at Woodland. Teresa Dorantes Basile, CSEA president, stated that her union knows that students are replacing classified staff members at Woodland and that it would be up to President Fairchilds to take some kind of action with regards to this issue.
“I don’t think that we’ll ever find out who it is that is responsible for the firing of classified staff and the act of replacing them with students,” said Dorantes, “but we can specify the areas in which the students are replacing classified staff”.
Dorantes cited the library and tutoring center as places within the Woodland College that are utilizing this controversial procedure.
A source requesting anonymity stated that students are definitely replacing classified staff members at Woodland in violation of CSEA contract and that the students are not privy to the consequences of these occurrences. “Student volunteers are being indirectly asked to learn how to do classified staff members’ jobs,” said this source, “students are being asked to come into the library and tutoring center in order to keep these areas open and proper supervision is missing.”
This source maintained that, when a student suffered an epileptic seizure on the 19th of February in the tutoring center, the lack of classified training that the students in that area possessed was made manifest with regards to this situation and how it was handled.
The California Education Code, section 69960, stipulates that students shall not work in positions that have been held by classified staff members during a time of layoffs or labor dispute,according to Dorantes. “Students cannot be placed in an area/office where layoffs have occurred during a time of labor dispute,” said an anonymous source, “and students must complete new contracts for these positions at the start of every semester.” The anonymous source went on to say that “students have stated that the layoffs have created more jobs for them.”
Dr. Al Konuwa, vice president of Woodland College, argues that nothing negligent or unethical is taking place at the campus. “Students performing maintenance work are taking part in a work experience program,” said Konuwa, “and many of these students were working before the layoffs.”
As for the other departments, Woodland College Dean Ken Nather, who oversees the library, writing and tutoring centers, says that nothing has changed in the three years that he has been at Woodland. “We are not asking anyone to volunteer,” said Nather, “the only student volunteer we have is fulfilling a CalWORKS requirement.”
Nather said that the incident involving the epileptic seizure was one that he personally viewed and that there was no incompetence on display. “Jim Day, one of our custodians, brought the police over and there were no students running aroun,d, said Nather.”
“Student confirmation (concerning the re-enlistment of students with regards to certain jobs) is taking place every semester or every academic year, depending on how long the students stay,” stated Nather. He also said that he did not require confirmation from two particular students who were moving from Fall to Spring.
An anonymous student said, “I don’t think we have replaced anyone.” The student went on to state that, as far as she knew, “No new positions had been created because of the layoffs.”
The layoffs in question took place on January 30th (thirty of them), and, according to Nather, “Woodland Community College has consistently kept about the same number of students working in the library and the tutoring center.”
The California Education Code, section 69960, Subsection C, states “The employment of a work-study student shall not displace workers currently employed by the participating employer, or impair existing contracts for services. No position filled by a work-study student shall have been occupied by a regular employee during the current or immediately preceding twelve months.” The CSEA contract, likewise, prohibits the replacement of classified staff members with students and this issue, according to the representatives of California School Employees Association, has not gone away. President Fairchilds could not be reached for comment.