Volume 46 Number 1
Successful protest leads to change
To Fola Odebunmi, it boiled down to one simple question: Does a college system suffering unprecedented budget cuts really, truly need another $200,000-a-year administrator?”
Orange County Register, July 29, 2010
It’s not often that the traditionally conservative Orange County Register newspaper has nice things to say about union activists, but in this case, the OC Watchdog column “Tax Dollars” devoted quite a bit of ink to an effort by the North Orange County Community College District Faculty Association to re-direct college funding back to the classroom.
The faculty effort began when union leaders got wind of the college district’s plan to hire a new vice chancellor of instruction to replace Kathleen Hodge, a former Fullerton College president who had held the job – in the middle of a budget crisis.
As Fullerton College business professor Marcus Wilson wrote, “In my twenty years at the district, this position has been used as a parking spot for college presidents that had been relieved of their duties… to fill the position now in the middle of a budget crisis is difficult to understand. Last year numerous full-time faculty positions were eliminated to balance the budget and an additional $4.6 million was cut from the extended day budget resulting in over 1,000 classes being cancelled.”
He pointed out that the college this year is cutting 300 more class sections to trim an additional $1 million. “Fullerton has done pretty well for almost 100 years without a Vice Chancellor of Instruction at the district. I would think that we could go at least a few more,” Wilson wrote.
Wilson was not alone in his protest. Led by Odebunmi, the president of the faculty association, about 50 sign-carrying professors turned out at a summer board meeting to protest the hiring.
“Access to education ought to be the right of the future generation of America. Students ought to not have to beg to get education!” Odebunmi read from a prepared statement.
“We all know that hundreds of class sections have been cut across the campuses, in the past year, and 40 full-time faculty positions were eliminated. Hundreds of adjunct faculty have lost their teaching loads, and students’ support services are being threatened. We know we are in the midst of a historical budget crisis. These are very difficult times. Times such as these call for a more sensitive, transparent, and collaborative way of decision making,” she recited.
By the end of the meeting on July 27, Chancellor Ned Doffoney announced the position was not to be filled.
“I think our action took everyone by surprise,” said CCA Board Member Linda Borla, who is an English instructor and faculty association secretary at the college. “They didn’t expect faculty to show up at the board meeting, especially with signs.”
Borla said that even though the board action was to take place during the summer, faculty sprung into action because instructors had seen the impact of budget cuts on their students – many of whom have been turned away from classes they need.
“I think after dealing with this all year, it really struck a chord with them,” she said.
“Action often begets action,” said CCA President Ron Norton Reel. “Not only have our North Orange members mobilized on this issue, they are also waging a political campaign to replace three incumbent board members. This kind of activism only helps to strengthen our chapters and our union.”