OCC loses college safety assistants on campus

As many as 30 college safety assistants were put on an indefinite furlough over the summer following the Coast Community College District’s move toward compliance with state labor laws.

Neither Orange Coast College nor the district were able to provide exactly how many CSAs were employed at the college last semester. According to one source within the CSA program, who asked to remain anonymous as he is still employed by the college, estimates that there were between 25 and 35 CSAs on campus in the spring.

Another source, who is currently working as a CSA and did not have the authorization to speak on this matter, estimates that there used to be about 15 CSAs regularly scheduled.

According to Erik Fallis, the district director for public affairs, OCC’s Campus Safety department submitted a request for 45 positions, including the CSA program. Fallis said that 36 positions had been approved, including 12 short term employees, six substitutes and 13 student assistants.

However, Director of Campus Safety Jim Rudy said last week that only four CSAs are employed in on-campus field operations this semester. Rudy said students should expect a delay in arrival times for tasks traditionally performed by CSAs, such as class escorts for students with disabilities.

Rudy said he sees the CSA program as a vital cog in the larger machine of Campus Safety.

“They’re the eyes and ears out there,” Rudy said. “They do patrols of campus and if they see anything that is suspicious, they will call an officer to the scene to further investigate.”

Despite being described as important to the Campus Safety office, the CSA source said that his finances have been heavily impacted because he hasn’t worked since May 15 because of the furloughs.

“I’m effectively down $5,000 [in lost wages] that I would normally have, which has impacted my ability to pay my bills. And I’ll look bad leaving a job I effectively started in March,” he said.

A Campus Safety officer, who was not authorized to speak on this matter, described a department left confused about why so many CSAs had been furloughed and weren’t working this semester.

“We were scared for our jobs and we wanted answers,” the officer said of Campus Safety officers working on campus.

He added that many of the officers felt unprepared and that meetings with the district and the campus left them with no answers.

Many of the changes within the CSA program are as a result of a study which found the district to be in violation of state law regarding categorization of temporary staff and the length of their employment, Fallis said.

“That is what we are trying to address. There are folks who have been in these roles for a long time and with state law, we were not in compliance,” he added.

The district is not required to provide benefits to temporary staff and were found to be retaining these employees for several years at a time. One current CSA, a position classified as temporary, has been employed on campus for almost 15 years.

Marco Baeza, the district’s vice chancellor for human resources, refutes that any labor law violations occurred but said changes are coming to the department.

“It’s a transition to building a more structured model to supporting our temporary employees and making sure that we remain compliant according to state law,” Baeza said.

Fallis added that the district and college are working closely together to navigate the regulations.

As for how this situation transpired, the source in the CSA program primarily lays the blame at the district’s doorstep.

“Jim [Rudy] is trying his best for us and I do believe that. But I also believe that the higher ups in the district don’t care about our department. The school won’t care until something happens and they blame us,” the CSA said.

The Campus Safety officer expressed a similar sentiment.

“Things don’t happen until people get upset. So when they get upset, maybe then you’ll see a change,” he said.

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