For over four decades the faculty of the Rancho Santiago Community College District (RSCCD) were a rarity in Orange County.
Unlike every other community college in the county as well as the California State University, Fullerton, the faculty were not part of a statewide union. Faculty remained content working with their administration as a local association. On a few occasions inquiries were made by the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), but the RSCCD faculty wanted to remain quietly on their own and happily complacent.
Then came the hiring of Raul Rodriguez in August 2010 as the District’s chancellor. Rodriguez came to the RSCCD from San Joaquin Delta College where he served as its college president for eight years. His tenure at Delta was marked with numerous controversies, chaos and self-serving deals which included grand jury investigations, a critical state controller’s report on misuse of bond funds, Brown Act violations, accusations of bad faith bargaining and the awarding of bonuses to administrators without board approval. Faculty at Delta College did a good job of getting the word out about the problems under Rodriguez and it probably resulted in his failed attempts to secure a Chancellor’s job, until he found employment in the RSCCD.
The RSCCD was the perfect setting for Rodriguez’s self-serving, management by chaos style. A faculty without the resources of a statewide union and no experience at organizing for any cause was a disaster ready to happen, and it didn’t take long.
When it was uncovered that Rodriguez was forming a partnership with a company in Saudi Arabia and public funds were used to start negotiations with the Saudis, the faculty barely could get a dozen members to a meeting to protest.
When word got out that Rodriguez planned to offer RSCCD employees a first priority to assist with the Saudi partnership, but was clear that District employees of the Jewish faith or women couldn’t participate on-site, faculty members didn’t seem to care.
When it was reported a District administrator received $3500 in gifts in return for $12 million in contracts for the District, and Rodriguez excused the practice as “good networking”, not one faculty member disputed his distorted reasoning.
When Rodriguez and a fellow administrator were “debriefing” after a conference and together downed 10 glasses of Cachaca; 4 cocktails and 4 beers that was reported as “binge” drinking, not one faculty member called him out.
When Rodriguez defied CalPERS and claimed his salary increase was not pension spiking despite pension law proving otherwise, faculty were silent.
With four decades of complacency the RSCCD faculty were overly trusting and forgiving. Rodriguez made it especially easy with his nice guy persona offering excuses that faculty believed for every misdeed. And when there was doubt about his excuses, no one played the victim card better than Rodriguez.
However, it was the proposal requesting faculty to work 20% more for no additional pay at the same time Rodriguez’s base salary was increased almost 10% that provided a much needed wake-up call. Within weeks, forty years of complacency abruptly ended as faculty voted 94% in favor of affiliation with CTA.
Whether one supports unions or not, the reasons that led to affiliation is a legacy that rests entirely with Rodriguez.
With CTA affiliation, RSCCD becomes the last community college district in Orange county to shed their independence. It will take time to see the effects it will have on faculty, but we do know what Rodriguez can expect immediately.
He will now have a team of forensic auditors and lawyers looking over his shoulder and his nice guy persona will no longer provide an excuse worthy of believing.
Dr. Barry Resnick, a professor of counseling, is in his 38th year as a faculty member in the Rancho Santiago CCD. He has resided with his family in the city of Orange for over 30 years.
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