The President is on leave, facing a backlash

When Oxnard College president Luis Sanchez was placed on paid administrative leave earlier this month, the move sparked surprise and outrage from some staff and alumni. Ventura County Community College District officials, who launched an independent investigation into allegations of harassment and misconduct against Sanchez, are not discussing the case. But his supporters, who see him as a student protector, have much to say about it — and they point to tensions between Sanchez and the Oxnard College Foundation, the organization’s unique fundraising arm, as a reason to keep him on vacation.

District leaders said in a statement that independent attorneys were investigating two allegations of “unlawful harassment on the basis of gender and sex” and that Sanchez was “involved in misconduct related to the Oxnard College Foundation.”

“The district will not make a decision on the allegations until an investigation report is received,” the statement said. “The district will conduct a fair, thorough and impartial investigation. The district is unable to provide further information at this time due to the confidentiality of the investigation. “

Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online. Proponents of her case have been working to make the actual transcript of this statement available online.

Sanchez said he had been snatched from his work email and no specific allegations had been made against him. However, he said in an email to former colleagues at Moorepark College, where he had previously served as president, that he believed the allegations were made by people associated with the foundation after repeatedly telling foundation leaders that the foundation was “not fulfilling its purpose.” “Because of its unreasonableness to spend money and if the foundation does not” change course “, the college will need to raise a new fund.

“In this case, I plead guilty as a defendant,” he said in an email.

A ‘difficult’ scholarship process

The foundation, which has more than 10 million in assets, raised about $ 750,000 unlimited in 2019 through weekend campus exchange meetings alone, where fresh products, furniture and other items are sold, but it spent only one-third of that amount on student scholarships that year. .

Sanchez cited this as an example of how the foundation “the board’s approach was not closely linked to the needs or priorities of the college and therefore not to the needs and priorities of our students.”

He added that the scholarship application and award process was “very difficult” and as a result, many funds became unclaimed. The foundation provides scholarships to cover expenses such as tuition and fees or to help students buy laptops and other school supplies. Students must complete an application, provide the names of two references, and answer multiple essay questions. Once approved to receive funding, students must purchase the items and then request a refund and provide a receipt.

“For our students, it’s a challenge,” Sanchez said. “They don’t have 1,000 1,000 to read a book.”

Oxnard College is a Hispanic-saving institution where Latino students make up about 70 percent of the students. Located in a rural agricultural area, the institution is known for serving low-income and first-generation students whose families are immigrant farmers.

“Students do not have access to those funds because restrictions have been imposed,” said one employee, who was not identified due to concerns about job security.

Daisy Contraras, who was a student at Oxnard College from 2019 to 2021, applied for two $ 500 scholarships while in college. She thought the money would be a “blessing” because she was a first-generation student and single mother of two. But “technically that money was not available to me when I needed it most,” he said.

Contraras had to borrow money from multiple people to pay for her school supplies, which was “embarrassing” and she felt the foundation did not trust her to spend the money she needed. When he was working in the student government, he told campus leaders about the extremely complex scholarship process.

“We’re trying to stop it,” he said. “It’s been happening for many, many years.”

Geoff Green, president of the California Community College Foundation’s network’s board of directors and CEO of the Santa Barbara City College Foundation, described the reciprocity model as an “ancient” practice that he would not recommend to any other foundation.

“It’s not a best practice,” he said. “I do not think anyone will defend it. I’m not blaming anyone there. This is just an older model that needs to be upgraded. It’s not a secret. “

Pete Parker, who became the foundation’s executive director in December, wrote in an email that the foundation had donated a total of 6 536,851 to Oxnard College, including $ 358,694 student scholarships and grants, in fiscal year 2020-21, according to a routine audit of the foundation’s financial statements. The foundation provided কলেজ 1,013,867 to the college in 2019-20.

He declined to discuss Sanchez but said faculty members and students shared their concerns and frustrations about the scholarship application process early in his time in college. As a new executive director, he said he was “still learning” and wanted to take the time to get a “complete picture” of the problem.

“I’m working with the board to see what’s going on, well, strictly,” he said. “It was brought to my attention by many, and I patiently said that it would not be able to change for this scholarship round, because it is very fast and they are already in place. But I am working with the board to identify all the problems and see what our The type needs to change.I fully understand both sides.Now I am working with the board what needs to change.

A firm hold on the funds

Sanchez noted that the Foundation has made some significant investments in the college, including funding a new science lab, and has made some changes to improve support for students to provide more forward grants that students do not need to pay first. Pocket like process for scholarship.

“They’re changing,” he said.

Sanchez’s problem with the foundation extends beyond scholarship. He said members of the foundation board hired a consultant to help create a strategic plan after pressuring them for a development in 2020, but no plan was implemented.

Parker said the foundation stuck to the plan until it had a new executive director.

“I am in contact with the consultant, discussing the steps needed to move the plan forward,” he said.

The Sanchez Foundation also offered the fund the position of director of progress, but the request was eventually rejected. Members of the foundation board approved the request, then told him two hours later that there had been a “mistake” in the vote to approve it. He wanted to use the donated funds, which were limited to a period of 20 years, which he donated to the College Foundation until the money could be used. Sanchez said the foundation would not allow the college to access the funds even if the time limit had passed. This interaction led him to question whether the foundation should continue to meet the exchange rate and control its revenue.

“I’m determined that if we can’t trust the foundation to return the funds we have for their care, then we have a fundamental problem in aligning our relationship,” he said. “I was very clear about what the bet was.”

Green says it’s worth saving millions of dollars for the Community College Foundation. While the $ 10 million savings may be a “significant amount” for a community college, it is a small amount compared to the public interest dollars poured into many four-year universities – and is often limited by donors to the specific use of most of the foundation’s funds. (According to Parker, 61.3 percent of the Foundation’s assets were donor-limited in 2020-21, and most of the funds were donated with the limitation that they would not be used for 20 years.)

“Community colleges are fairly new to public welfare work compared to their four-year counterparts,” he said. And it brings with it “growing pains” or “evolutionary challenges.”

Disputes between college administrators and foundation boards এবং and internal divisions within foundations সব are all too common, especially in community colleges that are unused to work on a strong foundation, he said. Campus and foundation leaders often focus on funding priorities and may have different ideas about the foundation’s purpose.

“That communication and political connection must be maintained consciously and consistently, and if it doesn’t, one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing and it could be problematic,” he said. The foundation board may say, ‘Where are we going,’ and college presidents and elected trustees may say, ‘Well, that’s where we’re going,’ and if they don’t talk through it, it can be really challenging. And maybe the community college world. Almost every college has gone through some version of the foundation. “

Parker said there is diversity of opinion on Oxnard’s foundation board and he thinks it’s a positive thing.

“The most beautiful thing about this board is that it is diverse in thought, background, passion, skill set, industry,” he said. “I love this board. But with that emotion we need thoughtful, open discussion. “

Alumni, staff and two foundation board members came to Sanchez’s defense at a district board meeting of trustees last Wednesday and called for a change in foundation policy and procedures. Some students stood with handwritten signs reading “OC Foundation disconnected from students” and “We need a foundation for students to invest.”

Gabriela Rodriguez, who runs a federal grant program at Oxnard, told district board members that the last three presidents of Oxnard College ignored student complaints about struggling with foundation scholarships, but Sanchez eventually listened.

“President Sanchez was a student-centered, very calm, quiet and collected, inviting, attractive person,” he said. “He had an open door. I saw, I saw, he spoke for the students and their concerns. “

The foundation’s board member, Yolanda Benitez, confirmed during the meeting that “a very limited amount of money” from the foundation goes to student scholarships, which is considered the “main purpose” of the foundation’s funding. He described the foundation as “ineffective” and called for an audit of the foundation before continuing to control community markets.

Sanchez said it was “disgraceful” to be on leave after 31 years at the California Community College system. He came to Oxnard College temporarily to fill the leadership vacuum towards the “tail end” of his career when his predecessor at Oxnard abruptly left before his planned retirement. Sanchez stayed there because he “fell in love” with students, faculty and staff and felt he had got to work with a community of his calling peasant family.

“Having this allegation, and the way it is being handled, tarnishes my reputation,” he said. “It hurts me deeply. Don’t know well enough. It’s just exciting and I think my record and people deny what they know about me. “

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