SOCCCD’s Trustees hide from media behind AR1600 policy

The SOCCCD's front office waiting room sits quiet and empty on the third floor of the Health Sciences and Human Services Building. (Photographer/Anibal Santos)

The SOCCCD’s front office waiting room sits quiet and empty on the third floor of the Health Sciences and Human Services Building. (Photographer/Anibal Santos)

By ANIBAL SANTOS – with contributions by Amarah Hernandez and Sharon Tayler

Have you ever tried to talk to a service representative on the phone, only to end up talking to an audio recording on a  machine telling you to please leave a message for a customer service representative?

What if you needed a particular service done urgently from that company? Or simply needed an answer to a question? Chances are you have had this frustrating experience before, which is why the South Orange County Community College District’s AR 1600 policy needs to be reviewed.

According to SOCCCD’s recent Administrative Regulation brief 1600, the following procedure is mandatory:

“Communications produced by dissemination to the general public and students must comply with relevant laws and regulations and shall be reviewed for accuracy by the responsible administrator. Communications subject to review include, but are not limited to, district and college mass communications, class schedules and catalogs, external and promotional newsletters, recruitment/marketing materials, websites, social media sites and other forms of electronic media. Exceptions include routine email messages, memoranda, correspondence, voicemail, and department/school reports.”

If a student wished to contact a member of the board to obtain information affecting the student body or their college campus, whether for an article or personal knowledge, they would be made to feel as if they were trying to contact the Pope.

The problem with AR 1600 is that it prohibits the press from efficiently informing the student body of the board’s decisions that will affect them and their education.

In other words, one must go through a maze of bureaucracy, a river of red tape, and a human obstacle course to actually talk to someone on the board, or at least someone who has the answers to questions being asked.

Representatives at the district have told the Lariat that the board is very busy, and that they will submit our questions for review as soon as possible. However, there is no guarantee that the questions will ever reach the eyes and ears of the board members. Further, there is no guarantee that our questions will remain intact or untampered.

The other small dilemma in AR 1600 is timeliness. Will we even get those answers back by deadline? Journalism is a deadline-based job. Will the answers to our questions even matter by the time we get them back? Is the dilemma obvious?

As a reminder, here are the goals of the SOCCC district and its strategic plan for 2011-2014:

+ District-wide Goal 1. SOCCCD will create a district-wide culture which is characterized by mutual respect and collaboration and which celebrates the uniqueness of each institution.

+ District-wide Goal 2. SOCCCD will support innovations that result in quantifiable improvement in student preparedness and success and will facilitate the institutionalization of those innovations across the district.

+ District-wide Goal 3. SOCCCD will maintain its technological leadership and will make future advancements which enhance student access and success.

+ District-wide Goal 4. SOCCCD will increase the effective use of all resources by developing and implementing a cycle of integrated district-wide planning.

+ District-wide Goal 5. SOCCCD will develop, document and implement data-driven district-wide decision-making processes that are collaborative, transparent, efficient and effective.

+ District-wide Goal 6. SOCCCD will assess the educational needs of the communities within the district boundaries and will pursue joint venture partnerships with educational institutions and business/industry.

“Collaborative, transparent, efficient and effective” are adjectives the district uses to describe their goals.

If the board of trustees truly honors these guiding principles, then AR 1600 should be reviewed to help bridge the gap between itself and the students it serves.

As it stands, the present method with which we are required to communicate with our elected board of trustees, clearly explains to us that they are anything but collaborative or transparent.