OP-ED: Cerritos College is at a crossroads

Photo by Parker Knight, Creative Commons License

Photo by Parker Knight, Creative Commons License

Cerritos College is 60 years old this year. The old saying is that nothing is certain but change. This certainly applies to the college, the people it serves, and its constituencies, on and off campus.

Some of us watched it go from a bunch of bungalows to “junior college” to a “community college” to something else altogether.

Cerritos College is indeed, both in the best of times and the worst of times. Best in all the new buildings being built thanks to your general obligation bond dollars. Worst in that the human capital in those buildings is being treated as less while teaching your students.  

The college is coming closer to being entirely rebuilt. Soon, there will be more new buildings with state of the art teaching facilities than ever before. And those who teach and learn in them will reap the benefits of your investment.

We thank you.

So while Cerritos College facilities will be second to none, the faculty who work there find it odd and ironic that their work conditions are more 19th than 21st century. For instance:

•Cerritos College was the last in the state to have a faculty union. Even those of us who were non-union voted for a union in 2003. 

•That union still does not have a full contract after many administrators, presidents and boards that have come and gone. Someone above us has decided they do not want a full union contract. Administration gets to make the rules up as they go.

•Part-time faculty at Cerritos College make less per hour than any other faculty in the LA basin. And not by just a little: 30-50% less.

•And some full-time faculty have not had a real raise in 10, 12, 18, 20+ years.

•Working conditions that other colleges take for granted, like respect for educators, reasonable student–teacher ratios and wages to recruit and retain the best. Our students deserve the best.

Now paint those on a canvas of a college board that has stockpiled a reserve of $50 million.

Ever since the great 21st century recession in 2008, the college board of trustees has been stockpiling money. They got that money from not offering as many classes to students and paying the faculty less.  

California law requires colleges to have a 5 percent reserve. At Cerritos that is around $4-$5 million. Cerritos College has $50 million in reserves and that is 42% of its annual budget. Is this something to be proud of?

Again, these are your tax dollars that are saved for what? More administrators? Higher administrative salaries? 

The reserve monies are supposed to be spent on students and faculty and the education process. Offer more classes for students. Pay professors what other colleges pay.

In 2016, Cerritos College is at a crossroads -- between a faculty of 900 and a board of seven. 

Will the seven board members rule that the people who inhabit the buildings they build -- your students and their professors -- are at least as important as the structures themselves?  Or will they hold onto a way of life that is 13 years old and work against the interests of both students and professors? 

In November 2016 four members of the Cerritos College Board of Trustees are up for re-election.
This op-ed was written by the executive board of the Cerritos College Faculty Federation, the faculty union at Cerritos College.