Monday, August 02, 2010

crappy contractor + donation = CC building contracts

This is the kind of stick we should be using to beat trustees and administrators into submission, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out this is going on all over the place when they are very creative about getting bond measures and donations for buildings, but default to poor talk of budget woes in contract negotiations with faculty.

Faculty unions have long known that boards of trustees are often filled with local business people who didn't take on the position out of the goodness of their heart but to do favors for their cronies--like tossing them contracts for buildings. At one school where I worked, the faculty had no job security or health insurance and made $20 an hour less than surrounding districts, the nursing and firefighting programs were forced to reuse and share what should have been one time use materials like bandages, BUT the school found the money to build a jumbotron sign by the freeway and remodel all the bathrooms on campus twice in the five years I was there. And at every campus I have ever worked at, construction goes on even as classes and whole programs of study are being cut.

The standard excuse that is made for why faculty look the other way is we do need the classroom space, and buildings are paid for with a separate source of money, bond measures. But a bond is a loan that must be repaid, and that money competes with the number of classes offered students and pay and benefits for faculty.

In community colleges and college in general, administrators like to call themselves "CEO's" and "CFO's" as if that makes them more competent and trustworthy. But they are public servants, serving taxpayers and students, not investors, unless they think contractors who make campaign donations to bond measures and donations to the endowment for construction projects that those donors then get the contracts for are their real bosses.

It is time faculty and the FACCC start looking at more radical solutions to fix the inverted priorities of trustees and administrators.

When we finally noticed Wall Street and banks were screwing not only the world economy but their own customers, some started to look to the European model for boards of directors, where part of the board is chosen by investors, and part are elected by the workers for the company. This is a good way to keep the companies from outsourcing all their jobs, becoming an Enron-like three card Monte game, or playing MBA bookkeeping tricks like laying off workers to make a company look profitable instead of improving the product or its marketing.

This is the solution we need for our colleges: more like a democratic co-op than a top down corporation.

Some would say "shared governance" with academic senates already does this, but administrators and trustees treat the academic senate's input as advisory at best on financial issues and can disregard it at will. And in fact, administrators try to undermine faculty leadership by converting supervisory positions from faculty elected by faculty to administrators hired by administrators.

The way to correct this is to put faculty and even other employees of the district on the board of trustees on an equal footing, half elected by the community, half by the employees. I would even give the student trustees votes. If someone didn't like that, then give the student trustee a tie-breaker vote.

We have to do something this radical or we will end up with campuses with a hundred shiny new buildings, an administrator for each one, but not a single instructor or student in them.


Contractor with big donations, questioned performance wins community college projects

The Los Angeles Community College District has awarded a series of multimillion-dollar contracts to a firm that district officials said needed to be babysat to meet construction standards and was doing an “absolutely awful job.”

The firm, Sinanian Development Inc., lost a contract in July 2008 about a month after district officials had criticized its work performance at public meetings.

The same month, the company began contributing $75,000 to the district’s construction bond measure, the first contributions made by the company to any district campaign.

Those donations made Sinanian one of the largest contributors to the successful bond measure among hundreds of contractors and others who donated. The Measure J campaign collected more than $1.5 million in contributions from June 2008 to January 2009.