Interim President Riggs Struggles to “Hold Up Sky”

Rebecca Krueger, Staff Writer

“The sky is falling,” said Jim Riggs and as the one-year interim president of GCC, it is his intention to catch it before it crashes.

Riggs spoke of changes needing to be made at the faculty meeting on Oct. 11.

“We are going to have to make GCC a lot smaller,” said Riggs, whose budget plan relies on whether or not Proposition 30 passes.

‘If the tax initiative doesn’t pass then there will be faculty layoffs and eliminations of entire departments,’ said Ron Nakasone, vice president of administrative services, reaffirming what he and Riggs spoke about during the faculty meeting.

Both Nakasone and Riggs don’t know the specific departments that are in danger of being cut, but they gave a vague inclination of where they are looking.

“Right now we are trying to look at data in which departments make sense, like if there is a low enrollment, or there isn’t a high demand,” said Nakasone during an interview. “It’s like PE, visual arts, music, singing, or art. These departments are getting less of a priority than some transfer departments, because the direction that I think the state is looking towards is transfer, workforce training and basic skills.”

Democratic state senator Carol Liu’s conference at GCC on Sept. 24 confirms Nakasone’s belief that the state is promoting a focus on students transfer, career tech and basic skills to increase the number of graduates who will then occupy the states labor force.

It seems that any specialty, personal enrichment or, as Nakasone described, “peripheral” departments would be in danger of being eliminated.

“For instance, some people come here and take a ceramics class. They take it because they enjoy that type of thing, rather than making a career out of ceramics,” said Nakasone.

If any eliminations of departments were to take place it would be by next fall, according to Nakasone.

Riggs, Nakasone and the rest of the board of trustees have not decided what specific departments to cut, if the tax initiative doesn’t pass.

“I don’t think we’ve made it through that process yet to identify which departments are going to go for sure,” said Nakasone, “we are still looking at different possibilities.”

The faculty positions that are in danger of being laid off are also unknown to Riggs and Nakasone.

“Right now the actual positions have not been announced yet,” said Riggs during an interview. “We have started into the process of identifying them, but i cant really give you a list of those programs up to this point.”

Where faculty cuts are being considered are areas that may be over staffed, or where programs have been suspended or closed.

The first issue of layoffs would start Jan. 1, teachers would not be included. It would require, what Riggs referred to as, a March 15th notice if faculty were to be laid off. If that is the case it would still take a year for these layoffs to be implemented, according to Riggs.

“By law the board would take the final action to layoff any faculty, but there are no plans to layoff any permanent faculty at this point,” said Riggs.

Rather than immediately laying off faculty the board of trustees has decided not to hire people to fill in vacant positions.

“That’s what we are trying to do first and foremost, and then we would have to do layoffs,” said Riggs.

It was mentioned that the board of trustees could hire adjunct employees but it wouldn’t save the college as much money as leaving the positions vacant.

There is a total of 715 classes cut since the ’08 to ’09 fiscal year to the ’11 to ’12 fiscal year at GCC. In ‘08 to ‘09 there were 4,353 courses offered at GCC, and in ’11 to ’12 there were 3,640 classes. There are 100 classes less this fall semester than the previous spring of ’12, according to Riggs during an interview.

Precautionary measures have already been taken for the upcoming fall semester by scheduling a cut of another 100 to 150 courses if Proposition 30 fails, amounting to a total of 250 classes cut in the ’12 to ’13 fiscal year. Retroactive to the possibility of Proposition 30’s failure, the 250 course cut is equivalent to a 7.3 percent reduction since the ’08 to ’09 fiscal year, according to Riggs.

“We are down 100 sections [this semester] because we want to be safe, so we don’t have to cut it all out off spring. We have built a schedule for spring to be down 100, therefore if we have 200 sections built in for reduction and then if prop 30 fails, what we need to do would be cut another 50,” said Riggs.

If Proposition 30 passes the board of trustees will not cut 100 classes from the upcoming spring semester. Instead, they will add the 100 courses cut from spring semester ’12 as well as an additional 50 classes, as stated by Riggs.

“As you can see there is a 300 course swing between failure which is down 250, and if the tax initiative passes up 50 from last year,” said Riggs, “but that’s what we are preparing for [100 cuts in spring] we’ll know Nov. 6 after the election whether we can add that 100 back.”

Community Colleges are given a budget by the state based off of enrollment in classes. Cutting more than 250 classes would result in a drop of enrollment and lead to a destructive decline. If this happens the state would start cutting payments made to the institution, according to Riggs.

“We can’t afford it,” said Riggs, “What we need to make sure we are able to do is offer courses.”

Regarding current enrollment GCC is just breaking even according to Riggs.

“You can enroll as many people as you want , once you go above that, you’re not making any money. The state will only pay so much,” said Riggs, “It’s not a matter if there is a market for it we just don’t have the money to offer those courses.”

Riggs’s first priority is to save money to add courses back not only because students need them but that is how community colleges are funded.

If proposition 30 fails then there will be an outstanding deficit of $2,827,959 million. This upcoming year’s budget status includes pay cuts from CSEA (California School Employees Association), college managers, the Guild (the union for the American Federation of Teachers), and other areas, according to GCC’S Budget Committee.

Everything will be confirmed on Nov. 7, agreed Riggs and Nakasone. GCC’S budget is at the mercy of whether or not the state’s tax initiative passes.