LETTER TO THE EDITOR
By Luis P. Sanchez
Dear friends and colleagues,
This morning I was placed on paid administrative leave by the Chancellor, based on a claim that was filed against me with Human Resources by one or more people affiliated with the Oxnard College Foundation, alleging that I harassed them. Although I have not seen the claim, it is my understanding that there is NO allegation of sexual harassment. Rather, the allegation is that I told these individuals—in very clear and repeated terms—that the Foundation is not fulfilling its purpose acceptably, and that if it does not change course, the college would need to find a new structure for its fund-raising arm. To that allegation, I plead guilty as charged.
Here are the specific deficiencies that I pointed out to the Foundation:
- Scholarships: Before Covid, our Foundation’s weekend swap meet generated a net profit of approximately $750,000 per year, but awarded, on average, less than one-third of that amount for student scholarships. Moreover, those scholarships were—and still are—extremely difficult for our students to access, so many of the amounts “awarded” went unclaimed;
- What, exactly, did the Foundation DO with the rest of the money each year? They mostly put it into a large savings account which currently holds more than ten million dollars;
- The Foundation occasionally awarded small amounts to individuals or departments requesting them, and they have occasionally made larger gifts (new art building and science lab, for example), but these large gifts reflected the personal preferences of the Foundation Director or Board more than they reflected the college’s prioritized planning processes;
- Our students and our programs could use far greater support than the small amounts received from the Foundation, but after I pressed the Foundation in 2020 for a strategic plan to guide the allocation of those ample resources, the Foundation hired a consultant who has yet to interview me or most of the Board members, hold a strategic planning retreat, or draft even a skeletal plan to begin a process;
- Most recently, I asked the Foundation to financially underwrite the position of our college’s Director of Advancement. The funds that I requested and which are held by the Foundation derive from a grant which the college secured twenty-two years ago. Before asking for these funds, I made sure that the grant authorized the use of those funds for this purpose, and that the fund had matured to allow them to be accessed. The Board initially supported our proposal at their March Board meeting. Two hours later, we received an email that there had been a “miscount” and that our request was, therefore, denied. Let me be clear that these were funds placed with the Foundation by the college from a grant procured by the college for the benefit of the college;
- In fact, the Foundation’s principal sources of revenue are endowment funds placed by our college in the Foundation for the college’s eventual use, and swap meet profits. They raise very little money other than from these two sources.
- For all of those reasons, I indicated to the Foundation that the college was prepared—if necessary—to run the swap meet directly (the lease with the Foundation has expired and I asked Vice President Renbarger to NOT renew it until and unless we could negotiate a better relationship with the Foundation).
All of this is deemed “harassment” by a few people affiliated with the Foundation, who have, thus, orchestrated a strategy to perpetuate their autonomy. This has led to my being placed on administrative leave. Needless to say, I have grave concerns about WHY some people affiliated with the Foundation seem extraordinarily protective of the status quo—when their sole legal purpose is to support our college. I am also extremely disappointed to be placed on leave without receiving a copy of the claim submitted or even being told the names of the complainants, and without a shred of evidence to support those claims.
Against all of that, I think you know that I have given my heart and soul to the work of Oxnard College and our students. I have a thirty-one year unblemished history of working in the California Community College system, and am the most senior college president in our District. I regret that my advocacy for the Oxnard College funding proposal seems to have eroded some of my political capital in the District, as I cannot imagine that this is how we would treat any other executive faced with a legally baseless complaint.
Although being placed on administrative leave may seem like a paid vacation to some, it is humiliating to me, tarnishes my reputation, and dilutes potential career options. To say that I am disappointed in our District’s decision-making here is a grotesque understatement.
Because my email access—as well as all other courtesies—were revoked immediately, I am unable to reach many of you directly, so I am hoping that you will share this among our colleagues and friends.
I will, of course, be exploring my legal and career options, but my heart will be with all of you for a long time to come.
Luis P. Sanchez, JD, LLM