Francisco Rodriguez held a meeting on campus to speak and hear from students and staff.
By Gabriel Arizon, Co-Editor-in-Chief
The chancellor for the Los Angeles Community College District visited Valley College to talk with faculty and students about his role and responsibilities and to address concerns from the community.
Chancellor Francisco C. Rodriguez held an informal talk April 18 in the Administration and Career Advancement building with over 30 people to speak about his position within the district and to answer questions. Rodriguez started off by announcing two Valley students, Alexander Richardson and Diana Castro, who had won scholarships from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. The foundation provides the largest private scholarship in the country to high-achieving community college students with financial need.
The scholarship provides up to $40,000 a year for three years to complete a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college and an additional $75,000 for graduate study. Out of the 2,500 applicants in the country, only 61 were awarded.
“I would like to thank the school, the teachers, the faculty and everyone who helped me. This is incredible,” Castro said.
“I actually got this before most of my acceptance letters,” Richardson remarked.
Rodriguez continued the meeting by telling the attendees about his responsibilities as chancellor, his pathway to becoming one and motivating the students to apply themselves harder in the classroom.
“Be relentless in your pursuit in development of yourself … and be fearless,” Rodriguez said. “What I mean by that is trust your instincts. Take the challenge. To grow means to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation.”
Towards the end of the hour-long meeting, Rodriguez answered questions from several faculty members and students. One student asked what the chancellor was doing about the adjunct professor crisis — the decline of tenured-track positions and the rise of the lower-paying adjuncts that make up an estimated 40 percent of all professors in U.S. colleges and universities, according to the New Yorker. Rodriguez replied by stating the district had hired nearly 600 full-time tenured-track faculty over the past five years.
“That group that we hired, two-thirds came from our adjunct faculty,” he said. “Not every discipline, because [Interim President Denise] Noldon and her team determine which position gets filled based on the program you use and student enrollment. It’s a whole process to develop a list.”
Jim Ridosh, an engineering professor, brought up that the school has 22 engineering classes compared to 143 gym classes (including frisbee and badminton) and asked why there was a large discrepancy. The chancellor responded that some of those classes are non-credit and are used to round out the curriculum. The engineering classes, on the other hand, are determined by enrollment, and an average of 34 students is needed to maintain the cost of each class in Valley; classes with less than that causes the district to lose money.
Rodriguez went on and stated LACCD is a chronically underfunded institution. He said that the state provides $5,400 per full-time student while providing $54,000 to the Department of Corrections per person.
Adjunct Counselor Angie Aguilar asked if the district is dealing with students who are experiencing food insecurity and homelessness. Rodriguez mentioned that the district provides immediate support to students, but recognizes that it does not have the resources to provide long-term aid.
The chancellor brought up Assembly Bill 302 which would allow homeless students to sleep in their cars on college parking lots. He also mentioned that 60 percent of LACCD students are food insecure and 19 percent experienced homelessness in the past year.
The meeting ended with Rodriguez by addressing an undocumented student’s question on getting the right counselors by stating the district has more undocumented students — about 11,500 in fall 2016 according to a 2018 District Strategic Plan — than the entirety of the Cal State system, and treats the issue seriously.
“The hiring process is a pretty big committee, a Noah’s Ark committee. I have strong assurance that the process and that the people on the committee will provide their due diligence.”