A decade ago when I was hired as a faculty member in the Rancho Santiago Community College District I was proud to be part of a team of faculty, staff and administration that put the well being of our community’s students first.
It was clear when Chancellor Raul Rodriguez arrived in 2010 that priorities shifted. Immediately it became obvious students were not a priority. While he’ll be the first to blame someone or something for the problems under his watch, his excuses have worn thin.
At the same time he was working on a special project to help Saudi Arabian college students, Santa Ana College students had to resort to selling hot dogs to save their classes from being cut. While dozens of employees were laid off, Chancellor Rodriguez gladly accepted $2500 a month for seven years (yes, that’s right – seven years) to pay for his relocation to Orange County from Northern California. And after he told faculty they had to work more for less, his relocation expenses were added to his base salary to boost his pension which was later deemed illegal. There are many more examples of hypocrisy under Rodriguez’s leadership, but it’s the health of our students that has been compromised and prompted me to finally express my outrage.
Santa Ana College serves over 30,000 students. The student health center is a vital part of the campus and is staffed with medical personnel to assist students with a variety of services from emergencies to routine visits – visits that they may not be able to afford on their own. Students pay a mandatory health fee for the staffing of the health center which includes a medical doctor and nurses on site.
For more than a month now the hours at Santa Ana College’s health center have been cut from over 30 hours a week to 13. Anyone needing medical assistance on a Tuesday or Friday will be turned away. On the other three days there is minimal staffing, often without a medical doctor.
The disregard for students’ health is about as low as the leadership can go in the Rancho District. Using taxpayer dollars for ventures abroad and salary spiking is one thing, but attempting to save money at the expense of the health of our community’s students lowers the bar to a level this District has never seen before.
Chancellor Rodriguez has shown this community he has no problem singling out groups. He informed his own employees that women and Jews were unable to travel to Saudi Arabia to participate on his special project. As a Jewish woman I found this statement despicable and as an employee I felt unworthy that I was part of a group singled out.
I can only hope that because Santa Ana College students are often poor and underrepresented that Chancellor Rodriguez doesn’t feel they too are unworthy.
Renee Miller was a Professor, Disabled Students Program and Services at Santa Ana College for eleven years before her retirement in December.
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