Jason Ball, Former OCC Student

My involvement at Orange Coast College and UCLA has shown me that there is no shortage of people willing to proclaim how much they “love the students.” You’d be surprised how much love there is for “the students” when student money is involved.

It’s funny what love can make you do. Administrators will gush over “the students” while increasing class sizes, laying off faculty, and raising fees.

Now it seems that love is compelling Coastline Community College District Chancellor Ding-Jo Currie to snatch OCC student money out of the hands of the Associated Students of OCC at the expense of programs.

All as she touts her proposed for-profit publishing venture based out of Coastline, which will squeeze more money out of students.

At the risk of seeming a little cynical, I’m starting to feel as though students are either trapped in an abusive relationship or that, just maybe, there are politics involved here.

Perhaps it’s both. Campus politics can be tricky, and it can be hard to say what needs to be said.

Faculty deal with bosses and peers they may have to work with for decades. Lacking the protection of tenure, staff must tread lightly. Students, generally much newer to the campus and still learning the political ropes, have to sit as equals in committees with authority figures they must look up at as soon as they leave the table. Yet for us alumni there’s no reason to mince words.

The proposal to take the bookstore revenue from OCC students does not stem from love for students, but is the product of the district’s choice to appoint an aspiring business leader as Chancellor.

It is true that Currie was previously Coastline’s president, but her move against OCC students is a victory for her ambition as a businesswoman, standing in contrast to her responsibility as an educator.

In one move Currie will cut OCC programs, increase district revenue by millions, and benefit her home college.

Her pet project will be a monument on her resume demonstrating her mastery of the education “business.” Nobody can deny that Currie is charming and charismatic, but the fog of charisma can only obscure so much.

Currie claims OCC’s traditionally stable bookstore is too unreliable a source of revenue for students — but not too volatile to be part of the district budget. She touts the benefits of her pet project while justifying her usurpation of funds, then claims the two issues are unrelated. She makes student investment in her project compulsory while pretending the ability for students to buy Coastline books “at cost” is a great deal.

If Currie respected students she’d leave the funds alone or at least recognize students as investors and give them an annual return.

After all she’s so concerned with securing a stable source of income for ASOCC. We may have seen this coming.

Currie did give us fair warning in her acceptance letter when she compared the colleges to businesses and governing the campuses to commanding an army, rather than recognizing our colleges as institutions of higher learning that operate democratically through a system of governance shared by faculty, staff, students and administrators.

Still, Currie’s military analogy was right in one regard: there is a war in higher education and it is for which vision of education will dominate.

I hope that OCC’s traditional vision wins, that vision which recognizes students as more than consumers, schools more than a factories, and knowledge as more than a commodity.

However, if the Ding-Jo’s of the world win, than at least the 47 programs and student-centered services that rely on ASOCC support can console themselves by remembering that though they’ve lost their funding, they have gained the one thing money can’t buy: love.

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