Oxnard College students challenge proposed cuts

By David Michael Courtland 09/29/2011

Oxnard College students faced with traveling to other local campuses, or even to other counties, for needed courses packed a conference room on Sept. 21 to make their case for continuing the programs they are enrolled in. Various programs are in danger of being axed in the latest round of budget cuts to hit the Ventura County Community College District.

“I’m a high school drop-out. I enrolled in the TV program and since then I’ve worked for the Disney Channel and other networks,” said Veronica Hendricks, who credited her TV production teacher with giving her the confidence to go out into the industry. “If you take this program away, it’s an extreme disservice to this community.”

Hendricks’ comment was echoed by more than a dozen students from the auto body, business and other programs, who said it would be difficult if not impossible for them to go to another campus, even in the same county, because of finances, transportation and other constraints.

“If it weren’t for the automotive technologies program, I wouldn’t be where I’m at,” said Jeff Santana, who said the training he received in that program was specifically the reason he was able to work in the field, because it provides the equivalent of a year’s worth of experience in the industry. “They don’t need wrench turners; they need technicians.”

But after hearing their pleas, Oxnard College President Richard Durán gave the committee a summary of what they already knew: By November, the three Ventura college campuses must each give Chancellor James Meznek a list of programs to recommend that the district’s board of trustees discontinue.

”We need to start somewhere,” Durán told the committee, as he explained the district has to cut $11 million to $13 million from its 2012-13 budget.

Dropping the eight programs on a proposed list that Durán sent to faculty in a memo — including the college’s highly regarded auto body program — will save about $1.6 million, Durán said. He noted that wouldn’t cover the $2 million to $2.5 million Chancellor James Meznek has ordered the campus must cut from its own budget.

But the only guidelines Durán could give the committee to help make its decisions is a state law that gives four criteria: whether the program can be consolidated with another one in the district, is offered by another at a trade or vocational school in the community, is not in demand by students or is not needed to complete a degree or certificate.

Auto body instructor Jose Ortega said that, according to those guidelines, his program shouldn’t even be on the list.

“It’s not a duplicate program, and of the three campuses, this is the only one to offer it,” said Ortega, adding that the nearest campuses with similar programs are Cerritos College in Los Angeles County and Cypress College in Orange County. “The program’s full and it has a waiting list of five to 10 people trying to get in each semester.”

TV production student Juan Smith, who was among speakers at the meeting and also filmed the discussion, more bluntly summed up the view of many students.

“The auto body and TV programs are the reason that a lot of people come here,” Smith said before the meeting.

“Take those away and you’re taking away any reason to come to this school.”

Faculty Senate President Robert Cabral said Durán’s presentation apparently didn’t answer many of the questions faculty have.

“He used the same talking points without really anything in addition to the memo,” said Cabral, who said he hopes Durán is able to give the committee more hard data to work with by its Oct. 5 meeting.   


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