Pima Community College chancellor Lee Lambert has released a 25-page report intended to inform the public about the progress and achievements being made at the college.
“Each day, our faculty and staff help students succeed,” Lambert wrote. “Our challenge is to document evidence of that successful teaching and learning.”
The report includes information on different programs at Pima, charts and figures displaying retention rates and other statistics, and student success stories.
“We recognize that the people of Pima County have entrusted us to operate a school that benefits its students and community in numerous ways,” Lambert said in the conclusion of the report. “That is why we are undertaking substantial initiatives that fill the gaps in the education of the community.”
The complete report can be viewed here.
By PABLO ESPINOSA
The culinary arts program at Pima Community College’s Desert Vista Campus offers programs from beginner to advanced levels, at affordable prices, taught by instructors with decades of experience.
“I like it,” culinary student Buck Donovan said. “You get to eat in class. It goes by really fast. It isn’t like other classes where you just sit in a classroom.”
PCC will seek to take the program to a higher level beginning in the fall semester, as the program applies for certification from the American Culinary Federation.
The ACF, founded in 1929, gives accreditation to educational culinary programs through its educational arm, the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation.
The accreditation assures that a program is meeting at least a minimum of standards and competencies set for faculty, curriculum and student services.
Instructor Barry Infuso sees the chance to gain accreditation as a good thing.
“I look at it as helpful because, like the health department, they point out things that you’re missing,” Infuso said.
Elizabeth Mikesell, a chef since 1967 and a PCC instructor for 13 years, also praised the chance to gain accreditation.
“It puts us at a higher level of achievement,” she said.
The culinary program has 85 students enrolled this semester, according to instructor Mario Diaz de Sandy Jr.
When the economy began to pick up during the last two years, the culinary program suffered a 30 percent loss in students, Mikesell said.
Students who have continued in the program, or have recently enrolled, praised the curriculum.
Moses Delgado said he thought the prices were really reasonable. “The prices are good compared to Orbit or Le Cordon Bleu,” he said.
He has also liked all of the instructors he has had so far.
“They are good, it’s a matter of adapting to their teaching style,” he said.
One student has recently distinguished himself. Mateo Cancio won the Chaine des Rotisseurs Far West Region Jeunes Chefs competition in San Diego and qualified for national competition.
Cancio could not be reached for comment, but Mikesell said Cancio is part of PCC’s Hot Food Team extracurricular club.
Teams consisting of five people, with one alternate, go head-to-head with other schools in various competitions around the region.
As a member of the team who is under 27 years old, Cancio qualified for a solo opportunity to compete in San Diego.
“And lo and behold, he won,” Mikesell said with a proud smile on her face.
Cancio will compete June 11-13 in the national championship in Las Vegas. If he wins there, he will head to Budapest, Hungary.
“Even if he doesn’t win, this will help him refine his skills and help him in his future,” Mikesell said.
By JAMIE VERWYS
Pima Community College has been making headlines and drastic changes for the last few years.
With remaining concerns from the Higher Learning Commission, statewide budget cuts and a variety of federal audits, the students and faculty of PCC must be resilient.
That type of resilience only comes after chaos.
When Chancellor Lee Lambert arrived at Pima in 2013, the college was in the wake of the Jared Lee Loughner shootings and the departure of former Chancellor Ray Flores. By all accounts, the former president of Shoreline Community College in Washington had his work cut out for him.
“When I saw what was going on here at the college and community, I said, ‘That’s a place I want to come and be part of,’” Lambert said on May 1 in his first extended interview with the Aztec Press.
“I can contribute and add value. I know things were challenging but that doesn’t scare me.”
He views every challenge as an opportunity and explains Pima’s values with the imagery of a “North Star” concept.
“The college’s North Star in my mind has three facets to it,” he said. “The biggest one is student success, the other two are community engagement and diversity. Getting the internal culture to recalibrate those three things is part of the challenge that’s in front of us. The big opportunity that’s in front of us.”
The culture he seeks to improve was described as one of fear by the HLC and by employees.
Alec Moreno, the student representative to the PCC Board of Governors, has heard faculty, students and community members discuss concerns with customer service at PCC.
Moreno believes the solution to Pima’s problems cannot be solved by the chancellor alone.
“I know that he really wants to see the college grow and everyone work together like they should, but I know it’s not going to happen overnight,” he said.
“The responsibilities are shared with everyone in this community, especially with students and employees.”
Moreno said he has seen in board meetings that students are very concerned about prices, the community is worried about PCC’s budget and faculty are unsatisfied with communication.
Lambert said with the changes to PCC and higher education nationwide, differing opinions and attitudes about what’s best for the college were to be expected.
“As you go through to realign you’re going be disruptive and its going to cause heartburn and so forth,” he said. “You have to keep things in that proper context. Folks stay focused to that and work through it to get on the other end, but it means people’s jobs will change in some parts.”
One example he provided of alterations to certain procedures at Pima is the former method of considering all students as out-of-state until they prove otherwise.
“When the vast majority of our students are in state, why do we create a system and process that treats everybody as if they are out-of-state until they prove otherwise? It should be the other way around,” he said.
“Some people, their old job was probably oriented to that and now I’m going to change it to the other way around.”
Looking back to the North Star, Lambert said all of the recent changes in procedure go beyond complying with HLC. They are being implemented to meet the highest point of the star, student success.
A new attendance tracking policy was enacted this semester, requiring that faculty log attendance for each individual student on a weekly basis and outline new attendance requirements in their spring syllabi.
“The issue isn’t attendance taking, the issue is making sure it’s being done,” Lambert said. “Yes, it’s going to be disruptive because it’s depending on the modality of what you’re teaching and having the tools to deal with it. We haven’t always gotten the tools at the college or we’ve not deployed the optimum tools.”
According to Lambert, the changing model of higher education and how it is funded is one of the largest challenges ahead.
“The model itself has to be rethought and then what streams of revenue could feed into that,” he said. “The whole model of education has to be looked at. Is the way were educating today the way the education will unfold into the future?”
One way the college is working towards bettering Pima is through the use of a lobbyist in Phoenix.
“The first piece of the lobbyist we put in place is to start to develop relationships on both sides of the aisle, which also includes the governor’s office.”
State aid is only one way in which government interacts with the college, and expenditure limitation laws impact Pima even more.
“The lion share of our budget is attached to property taxes. So if the law was to be changed or the interpretation of the law was to change to be less favorable to Pima, we would be in a far more world of hurt.”
Lambert said that there is talk of separating financial aid from accreditation, which would mean learning institutions would not need accreditation from organizations like HLC.
He speculated what could happen if this change were to occur.
“We would see a whole new group of organizations vying for a limited pot of money,” he said.
“That means the money our students have been getting for financial aid will be thinned out and that will have massive implications.”
Through community engagement, advisory committees, communication and creating plans to step out ahead of the obstacles still left to overcome, Lambert is hopeful for Pima’s future.
“There’s no reason why Pima could not be a leader,” he said.
“To be a leader means you have to be willing to change and you have to be willing to embrace the new frontier that’s unfolding,” he added.
“We have to redirect Pima to be going the path of the future. That’s some of the heavy lifting that has to happen.”
By KIT B. FASSLER
Young Americans for Liberty at Pima Community College continue their activism for social change.
This semester, club members decided to launch “Incarceration Nation” events at West Campus.
They distributed fliers and invited students to pose for a picture behind a mock prison.
Raymond Johnson, a war veteran who helped out at the information table, was passionate in explaining his views about freedom and liberty.
“Our democracy has been robbed by greedy corporations,” he said. “In fact, private corporations are now running our prisons here in Arizona.”
YAL has more than 600 campus chapters and 204,000 activists nationwide.
Chapter president Brandon Huerta posted an online message to members, saying how important it is to get involved.
“A significant portion of individuals were in prisons for non-violent offenses and served for longer time,” he wrote. “This is the result of a broken criminal justice system. Because of this, YAL wants you to take a stand.”
The U.S. contains 5 percent of the world’s population but has 25 percent of the world’s prison population, according to YAL. Since the 1980s, the federal prison population has increased by 800 percent. Prisoners incarcerated for non-violent offenses total 93 percent.
YAL collaborates with Families Against Mandatory Minimums, which advocates for fair sentencing laws that are fiscally responsible, enhance public safety, protect individual liberty and strengthen families.
FAMM continues to lobby Congress to repeal mandatory minimum sentencing laws that automatically apply to federal drug crimes.
The U.S. spent 30 percent of the federal crime-fighting budget on prisons in 2014, according to FAMM. On average, it costs, $29,000 to keep one person in federal prison for one year.
Students who visited the YAL information table received a small card to help deal with police.
Information printed on the card included suggestions on what to say to the police like I do not consent to any search or I choose to remain silent. I want to see a lawyer.
It also included tips on how to deal with police like always be calm, don’t agree to a search, don’t admit anything, report misconduct later and film the police.
ADVICE FROM CARDS
What to say to the police:
• I do not consent to any search.
• Am I free to go? Or am I being detained?
• I choose to remain silent. I want to see a lawyer.
• I can’t let you in without a warrant.
How to deal with police:
• Always be calm and cool.
• Cops can lie. Don’t get tricked.
• Don’t agree to a search. Ever.
• Don’t just wait. Ask: “Am I free to go?”
• Don’t do shady stuff in public.
• Don’t admit anything. Remain silent.
• Ask for a lawyer.
• Don’t let them in without a warrant.
• Don’t panic. Report misconduct later.
• Film the police.
By DANYELLE KHMARA
Pima Community College’s Financial Aid Office has replaced funding that was pulled from students working through the Federal Work-Study Program.
In the first half of March, the FWS Program suddenly cut awarded funding from students employed in the program.
Many students were left struggling to figure out how they were going to cover their daily expenses.
Executive Director Terra Benson and Student Services Coordinator Gretchen Shaulis re-allocated money from unused need-based grants for those students.
The need-based grants are doled out at the beginning of the fiscal school year as part of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
When Benson and Shaulis reconciled funds, they found there was funding set aside for students who no longer qualified.
They pulled those funds back. Instead of re-allocating to students that had previously received the grant, or others who might be eligible for it, they used it for the FWS students.
“The majority of students who had a reduction had that amount replaced with a need-based grant,” Benson said.
Students received grant money proportionately, based on un-met needs.
If a student had received additional loans, scholarships or significant money from another source, that reflected on what their needs were and how much of the grant was allotted to them.
The grant applies directly toward tuition and fees for students enrolled in summer classes, after any scholarships are awarded.
Any money left over will be sent to students directly after summer classes begin.
“You’ll get cash in hand, just like your paychecks come to you,” Benson said.
The grants are already available to the FWS students who are not enrolled in summer classes.
“I’m really glad that we were able to do something positive,” Benson said.
By ALYSSA RAMER
Software called Read&Write Gold is being offered to Pima Community College students.
The software would cost $645 for an individual but Pima students can access it for free.
It’s provided at Pima through PCC Instructors. The Read&Write web application can be used on both Macs and PCs.
Currently, the software is available for use on all computers in the Pima labs and commons.
Read&Write Gold is a toolbar that can be used in a browser window and other programs like Microsoft Word.
Toolbar buttons include one that converts text to speech so students can hear what they have selected on the screen. The function is meant to help students who struggle with reading.
Another button translates words into Spanish text for those who are not fluent English readers.
It also has options to help find a word in the dictionary.
A feature that highlights selections in different colors can then be used to transfer sections to another window, which can be helpful to students trying to organize quotes or citations.
The desktop toolbar has more options. A “mask” button can change the background color of a document to make it easier to read.
Janet Fukuda, an advanced program coordinator of access technology who works with Pima’s Access and Disability Resources office, has helped students learn to use the program.
“It was originally for students who were struggling with reading and writing, including those with dyslexia, but over time this tool has been shown to benefit all learners,” she said.
Students who would like to install the program on their own computer can have their instructor contact the information technology department, according to Fukuda.
A link with a password will be sent to the student, who can then follow the instructions to log in through MyPima and install it. Students must be currently enrolled at Pima.
The program is available for purchase on Texthelp in a variety of different operating systems and devices.
There are other programs available as well, such as Read&Write Gold ToolMatcher, which helps K-12 students find which part of the toolbar will work best for them.
Those who need help using the program can contact a campus Access and Disability Resources office, or access the Texthelp website, which features “webinars” on the different parts of the program and advice from people who have used it.
Gabe Nyrkkanen, a program specialist at West Campus’ Access and Disability Resources, said once resources like Read&Write Gold are used for disabled students, non-disabled students will also make use of them.
Some components of the program are only available for disabled students through Access and Disability Resources.
Students must be registered through ADR to use them.
By ANDREW PAXTON
Pima Community College West Campus president Lou Albert has announced that he is retiring, effective Sept. 2.
“Lou has been president of West Campus since 2003,” Chancellor Lee Lambert said in an email sent to college employees on May 5.
“His leadership of the college’s largest campus and its many successful programs and services has been exemplary.
“His tenure at PCC caps a 51-year career in higher education that includes faculty and administrative positions at public and private colleges and universities, and almost 16 years as vice president of the American Association for Higher Education.
“Lou’s professionalism and expertise, as well as his compassion for students and colleagues, truly will be missed.”
Aztec Press student reporters received two major awards in Arizona Press Club competition. The awards, announced May 4, were for stories published in 2014.
The Aztec Press competed against statewide community newspapers, rather than in a student category.
David Del Grande won first place in Community education reporting for his September 2014 investigation into Pima Community College’s use of adjunct instructors. Del Grande transferred to the University of Arizona journalism program this spring.
A judge’s comment: “Del Grande did a terrific job highlighting a major issue in higher education that has been widely overlooked by the national media.”
Andrew Paxton won third place in Community public service journalism. Paxton will graduate from PCC in May and plans to transfer to UA.
A judge’s comment: “Paxton’s coverage of Pima Community College is wide-ranging and balanced. By reporting both the good and bad news about the community college, he provided readers with valuable insight into an important community institution.”
For a complete list of Arizona Press Club winners, visit http://azpressclub.org/2014-writingdesign-winners.
By JAMIE VERWYS
Editor’s note: Part 1 of this three-part series, published on March 26, covered issues with information requests. Part 2, published on April 9, explained issues in receiving police reports.
Information creates a powerful ripple effect as it spreads throughout a community.
When knowledge is shared, it is a process of action. It can create change in legislature, the economy, social setting, public safety and at the very least, provide people the tools necessary to make informed decisions in their own lives.
The reporters of Pima Community College’s student newspaper, the Aztec Press, have made the student body’s well-being one of their top priorities.
While it seems like the students would be top priority to any higher learning institution, the history of getting information for Pima students has been shrouded in inefficiency.
In this report, issues including communication with Pima’s public relations department, difficulties receiving police reports and an untimely protocol of setting up interviews with administrators have been brought to light. The hope is that some sunshine might reflect off these issues and light a fire under the college.
Since the first installment, this series has indeed begun to ignite sparks of change.
The star treatment
Up until March, getting in contact with PCC’s public relations and marketing department proved to be inconsistent. Reporters at the Aztec Press often found themselves watching their deadline come and go without gaining necessary information.
Even follow-up emails and phone calls went unanswered by the media liaisons of Pima.
After interviewing temporary PR consultant Jodi Horton for Part 1 of this report in March, she made herself available and responsive to the Aztec Press.
On March 23, Aztec Press sent a timely request to Horton for an interview with Chancellor Lee Lambert. She contacted the chancellor the same day and set up a phone interview for the following afternoon.
On March 26, another request was made to Horton and Marketing and Public Relations Manager Paul Schwalbach, requesting all email correspondence between the Aztec Press and the PCC police records department from 2013 up to present.
Interviews with Public Safety Administration Specialist Jamie Cole and Police Chief Manny Amado were also requested.
Horton responded promptly, directing our records request to the proper email and contacting Amado on our behalf. An interview with Cole was never facilitated.
Before Part 1 of this series was published, the Aztec Press had received no emails and one phone call from Horton. Since then, not only has she responded quickly to requests in light of these issues, she has also called reporters to check in on the status of their interviews.
Horton is in a temporary consulting position until someone is selected to fulfill the role of executive director for media, community and government relations. With the improvements made by Horton, the editorial team has hopes the efforts will be continued by the new hire.
An open forum to discuss candidates Kenya Johnson, Greg Taylor and Elizabeth Howell was held at the District Office April 8.
Horton wrote in an email that the candidates were all highly qualified in media relations and the forum allowed each of them time to speak.
Video of the forums was available on Pima’s website from April 8-13. Horton said the videos have been removed and she is not sure how to retrieve them.
Schwalbach told the Aztec Press that Howell has been selected and will begin work the first week of May.
She has spent years working in corporate communications for Southwest Gas. The position will bring her a salary of $100,000 per year.
On April 6, the records department submitted all emails concerning police reports from Feb. 19, 2014 to Sept. 12, 2014. According to Horton, the original request for correspondence from 2013 to present was too large to fulfill completely.
Because a different email system was used in the past, Horton said those emails might not be available for recovery.
In a phone call, Horton and an Aztec Press reporter had negotiated the request, asking that 2014, 2015 and hopefully records from Fall 2013 be submitted.
Student Representative to the Board of Governors Alec Moreno says the Aztec Press’s issues are not a surprise to him, considering many of the meetings he attends at the college are rescheduled.
“If a person is not responding to emails, and is also an administrator, that would definitely raise some questions,” he said.
PCC’s cold cases thaw
After reporting specific details about the police reports that were never received by the Aztec Press, Lambert forwarded the information to Amado and Vice Chancellor of Facilities William Ward. The chief made contact immediately, emailing a reporter to set up a time to discuss the reports writing, “this is a concern to me.”
Since his initial email, Amado has been in regular communication, providing interviews and followups, plus working to send the reports the Aztec Press never received.
“Even reports that are not getting released, you deserve, as media, some kind of explanation of why,” he said. “Not communicating, that’s just terrible on so many levels.”
Amado believes that press and law enforcement can improve their relationship, and he will meet with the news team on April 23 to discuss this.
“Even though we don’t always see eye to eye, we agree to disagree” Amado said. “Let’s figure it out. Let’s collaborate on this. I really do believe that’s something we can accomplish. The way to do that is to educate each other.
“In the college setting, all of us are educators, whether you’re a police officer or an instructor. You, as student journalists, deserve some kind of explanation, some kind of education,” he said.
A seemingly collaborative effort made by the records department, Ward, Lambert, Horton and Amado has yielded some of Pima’s enigmatic and shrouded police cases.
On March 31, the Aztec Press received three cases from the record department following the request.
All three reports dealt with minor offenses that were at least a year old.
Our most recent request was made Jan. 29 for case C14-00269, which has been stated as unavailable due to its active status.
Amado said a case could be held if information would comprise an investigation or a victim’s safety.
“That doesn’t mean that you, the media, can’t get some things, some of that info,” he said. “If the investigation is still ongoing, I can still tell you something at this point, or ‘this is what I can’t tell you.’ That at least gives you something, rather than nothing.”
According to Director of the University of Arizona School of Journalism David Cuillier, exemptions do apply in the investigatory state of a case.
“There is an exemption in Arizona public records law for investigatory materials information that would harm an investigation, and it’s very limited.”
He said the highest penalties for not supplying records that are free from exemption could be legal recourse.
“The college is breaking the state law, and they are putting the college in a liability,” he said
“Someone sues, it can cost $50,000 to legate that. We are talking about your tuition dollars being wasted and the leadership not being responsible to who it’s serving, and that’s just wrong. “
Despite receiving three cases that are now over a year old and no longer news worthy, some cases had yet to be provided. C14-00419, first requested Feb. 19, 2014 was requested again April 22, in a last attempt to get closure on the unrecieved report.
The cause for the delay in the report was because it contained details about events relating to a Tucson Police Department narcotics officer.
While no one was charged for this crime the alleged victim was later arrested by TPD for false reporting.
Despite the explanation provided for the delay, withholding this report due to containing information about police officers is still a violation of public record laws.
Because of the record department’s inability to access email requests made in 2013, the cases from that year may never be reported on, lost forever to the student body of Pima.
Call for improvement
The Clery Act, which requires colleges to make police reports and statistics available to the public, is a key component of the Aztec Press’s ability to report crimes. Pima contracted with D. Stafford & Associates to review last year’s report.
The executive summary of the audit explains, “There were some errors and omissions, but none of them appeared to be intentional, and most of them were caused by a lack of understanding of some of the nuances of this complex law.”
Amado mentioned confusion and the complexities of the Clery Act in an Aztec Press interview last semester. In an email on Oct. 13, 2014 he said that, “All kidding aside, it can be very confusing, as the stats that are actually collected for the Department of Education under the Clery Act is not always reflective of the incidents that occur due to their criteria.”
The audit also states minor violations are treated in the same manner as major ones and each noncompliance could cost the college $35,000 each if not corrected.
In total, 11 recommendations were made for improvement, including revisions to crime statistics, training and correcting Clery policy in the student handbook.
The most emphasized note was the lack of a designated Clery compliance coordinator. The review found that “less than one full-time employee is currently working on Clery compliance at PCC.”
“In order to maintain compliance with the Clery Act, it takes approximately one to two full-time equivalents to manage all aspects of compliance,” the report stated.
Amado cited the lack of proper staffing as one of the main reasons for backlogs in the police and records departments.
“We don’t have a full-time Clery compliance officer, which really bogs us down. Most institutions do. We are kind of sharing that responsibility now.”
Currently, Amado has plans in place to hire someone for Clery compliance and is working with Ward to do this without adding to the budget.
Amado explained that he is currently transferring some of the records custodian’s responsibilities and Clery duties to the administrative sergeant and an assistant for the time being.
Will the sunshine last?
As the phones begin to ring and answers start to trickle in, the Aztec Press is still left with some big unknowns. With a new PR director in the works, will this forward momentum continue or grind to a halt under new leadership? Will the changes we are glimpsing now be permanent ones?
Dan Shearer, editor of the Green Valley News, said that question depends on why PCC is “easing up.”
“Fact is, you shamed them in the public spotlight, and that tends to put just about anybody on the straight and narrow. But most fall back to their old ways very quickly.”
He has learned that promises to do better are far less likely to yield permanent results as actual progress will.
“This is especially true because you’re a two-year school and they know they won’t have you in their face much longer. That’s why you need to train up the next generation of bulldogs.”
When it comes to the relevance of the new information the Aztec Press received on reports requested months ago, Shearer says it depends on the news value.
“When it comes to fighting crime, information is a wonderful tool. Information delayed is pretty much worthless.”
For Downtown Campus student life coordinator Michael Lopez, improvements to transparency must be made if Pima wants to heal from all its recent hardships.
“Transparency doesn’t mean sole devolution, but it does mean that the things that are important for the public to know, for the community to know, the stakeholders involved at Pima, they should be able to ask those questions at some point,” he said.
“We are already in trouble, we have already had problems, and we have been down this road before. I don’t want to go down it again,” he added.
“The administration or those in power need to not just listen but react to some of the concerns and issues that are being brought up now. Some of them have to do with the same stuff that got us in trouble.”
Amado expressed commitment to keeping the progress going.
“I do my best to keep things in perspective, and in context,” he said. “Me and my staff of public safety professionals have a responsibility to make sure our students have a safe and secure environment and positive experience when they attend any of our campuses.”
Along with the goal to hire a Clery complicance coordinator, Amado is working to improve on the outdated paper method used in the reports.
“This process is not efficient and takes too much time, which then holds up the timely processing of providing reports to the public,” he said.
Lambert made good on his promise to facilitate responses and has agreed to the one-on-one interview the Aztec Press has been looking for since he first arrived at Pima.
He also gave examples about how he has tried to increase openness at the college.
“Everywhere else I’ve worked, no one has televised or streamed their board meetings. That’s an example of transparency,” he said. “That doesn’t mean you’re not transparent if you’re not doing that. It’s always about degrees. My understanding is the college didn’t do that very much before I’ve arrived, so I’ve been sharing the budget with different groups of employees. Does that mean they weren’t transparent before? No, it doesn’t mean that. We are just taking a different approach to the transparency.”
Moreno said issues surrounding records requests are being discussed internally. He believes the students of PCC are entitled to certain information at the college.
“We support the institution financially and I would like to see that that money is being spent responsibly,” he said.
The reporters of the Aztec Press have seen change grow from this exercise in our rights as the media, students and the public.
Receiving police reports quickly is the only way the news team can relay accurate crime news to the student’s of PCC.
Shearer believes the role of journalists is more important than ever.
“Sometimes journalists are among the few who see what needs to change and have the tenacity to pursue it,” he said.
“The public, unfortunately, is becoming increasingly willing to let go of their rights and responsibilities to have a front-row seat as public decisions are being made,” he added. “That’s as sad as it is dangerous.”
By WILL WILLCOXSON
When you check your student email, chances are you see questionable offers. They tend to be job offers, but sometimes you find scholarship, internship or housing offers.
College students across the United States, including a few students from Pima Community College, have been targeted to participate in work-from-home scams.
The students receive emails to their school accounts recruiting them for payroll and/or human resource positions with fictitious companies, according to the FBI.
The “position” requires the student to provide his/her bank account number to receive a deposit, then transfer a portion of the funds to another bank account.
Funds the student receives and directs elsewhere have been stolen by cyber criminals. Participating in the scam is a crime and could lead to the student’s bank account being closed due to fraudulent activity or federal charges.
If you’ve been a victim of the scam, you can file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov. Reference PSA number 01132015a-PSA in your complaint.
The FBI urged students to be aware of warning signs and to never be too comfortable with what they see on the Internet.
The agency offered these tips to protect yourself from any form of Internet scam:
• If a job offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
• Never accept a job that requires depositing funds into your account, then wiring money to different accounts.
• Look at poor use of English in emails, such as incorrect grammar, capitalization and tenses. Many scammers are not native English speakers.
• Never provide details of any kind, such as bank account information, login names, passwords or any other identifying information in response to a recruitment email.
• Forward the emails to the college’s IT department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Tell your friends to be on the lookout for the scam.
Students searching for jobs have legitimate Tucson sources to consult.
PCC students can use the MyCareerLink provided under the Student Resources tab in their MyPima account to craft a resume and search through 950 potential employers. For more information, email email@example.com or call 206-4768.
Another online option is the Arizona Career Information System at azcis.intocareers.org.
By MICKEY RAY LAMB
The Pima Community College Department of Public Safety has issued a college-wide “Timely Warning” encouraging students to practice good safety measures.
The warning came after an assault was reported at the Downtown Campus on April 8.
PCC police gave this account:
A Downtown Campus police officer patrolling the east-side parking lot at about 9 a.m. heard screaming coming from the campus marquee area near Speedway Boulevard and Stone Avenue.
The officer witnessed a female Pima student being knocked to the ground by a male suspect. The male then ran northbound on Stone Avenue in front of the campus.
The officer and a male Pima student apprehended the suspect, Paul Joseph Lilly of Tucson.
The victim told police the suspect grabbed her cell phone and knocked her to the ground. Medical personnel treated the student at the scene for minor injuries.
Police said Lilly, 34, admitted to being under the influence of methadone and morphine.
Lilly was treated at the scene for minor injuries and for a possible drug overdose. After being cleared by medical personnel, he was booked into the county jail.
Campus police urged students to be aware of their surroundings at all times, and to limit distractions such as music and cell phone use.
They also reminded students that campus emergency blue phones give students direct access to the PCC police department at all times.
The phones can be found in varied locations at each of Pima’s six campuses.
By NICK MEYERS
The students have spoken and Pima Community College has listened. Amid the hallway chatter between students frustrated over financial aid, on-time registration and mixed messages from advisors, Pima is laying the framework for a new student government structure.
At the end of April, students will cast their vote online at MyPima to elect 12 members for a new Inter Campus Council, a body of students who will have regular opportunities to address the administration and board of governors with any grievances their peers may be facing.
The 12-member council will be composed of two students representing each of PCC’s six campuses for one academic year.
Although similar to the current student government structure, the new framework contains key differences focused on inter-campus collaboration and consistent contact with administrators at the district office.
“They’ll be working with administrators instead of discussing issues amongst themselves,” Alec Moreno, the current student board representative, said.
Moreno said the current process for implementing student change is time-consuming, requiring students to track down various employees. In the new structure, the ICC will meet once a month with Karrie Mitchell, the assistant vice chancellor for student development.
“The new structure will allow the student voice to be front and center in decision making by providing the perspective as to how changes will impact students,” Mitchell said. “This has been missing for many years.”
A closer relationship benefits both student representation and helps administrators gain student insight.
“Student input is key to running the college, from the types of academic programs we offer to the affordability of the bookstore,“ Mitchell said.
One of the ICC responsibilities is to communicate with and facilitate collaboration between the student advisory boards at each campus.
“That will be amazing in bringing us together as one Pima,” Mitchell said. “Each campus has a very different culture and personality, and the students often function in silos because there is no connection for them as to what’s happening across the college.”
The ICC will collaborate goals across the six campuses and focus on issues that exist across the district to help Pima reach solutions for the biggest problems expressed by students.
Moreno said one of the coolest things about the ICC positions is that students will be provided a mentor from the college to assist in preparing for students’ lives after Pima, whether it be a job or continuing school.
In addition to serving on the ICC, students will have an opportunity to engage in the College Governance Council established by the Board of Governors to foster open communication amongst all college groups.
The governance council will be composed of three ICC members and has the responsibility of relaying recommendations and concerns directly to the chancellor.
Students who are elected to the ICC will also have the opportunity to apply for scholarships contributing towards tuition or book expenses up to $1,000.
Additional scholarships will be made available to students who are selected for the governance council and the student representative to the board of governors, for a potential award of more than $2,000.
Congressmen Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., and Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., held a forum on the topic of immigration at Pima Community College’s Proscenium Theathre on April 17. The forum turned contentious when several audience members began to shout during Grijalva’s and Gutierrez’s speeches. Grijalva and Gutierrez stressed the importance of becoming a documented citizen and using immigration law not to pursue families, but criminals. As attendees began to leave the auditorium, protesters gathered outside displaying signs supporting strict enforcement of immigration laws.
Convocation RSVP due by April 24
Pima Community College students graduating this semester are encouraged to participate in a pre-graduation celebration on May 1 at 6 p.m. in the PCC West Campus gymnasium.
The convocation will highlight academic achievement, student testimonials and music entertainment. International food will be served immediately after the program at the Palm Courtyard.
Participating graduates receive a diversity sash as a symbol of multiculturalism that they may wear during the May 21 ceremony.
The RSVP deadline is April 24. To reserve your place, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
-By Kit B. Fassler
Dress for success at Job Fair Day
A free Job Fair Day, partially sponsored by the Department of Economic Security, will take place April 24 from 9 a.m.-noon at Downtown Campus inside the Center Atrium, and will feature 30 employers.
Students are encouraged to wear business professional attire, as interviews may be conducted on site.
For additional details, call Pima at 206-4768.
-By Alyssa Ramer
Campus police host bicycle safety fair
Campus police will hold a free bicycle safety fair April 25 at the Downtown Campus, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., featuring presentations by bike vendors, cycling clubs and other organizations.
Officers will share bike-maintenance and theft-prevention tips, and provide information on bicycle traffic laws. They will also distribute a limited number of free bicycle helmets for children attending.
For more information, call 206-2692.
-By Bryn Bailer
‘Meet Yourself’ at Northwest Campus
Northwest Campus Student Life will host a “Meet Yourself: Festival of Learning” on May 1 from 3-7 p.m. throughout the campus.
Food trucks and representatives from universities will be available. A Phoenix band known as “Weslynn” will performing from 4 to 6 p.m. There will be new student orientations available, a career fair and children’s activities.
For more information, call Student Life at 206-2131.
-By Alyssa Ramer
Students seek to create second chances
Students from the SSE 210 Community Organization class will hold a “Creating 2nd Chances” event on May 2 from 9 a.m.-noon at Armory Park, 220 S. Sixth Ave.
The event will assist people who need a second chance to re-enter society by providing information on resources available.
The planners are seeking donations, which are tax deductible. For questions about donations, contact Darrin Ambrosino at 609-1231 or Erma Garcia at 664-7830.
For more information, contact Rosa Morales at 206-6958.
-By Katie Vicio
By DANYELLE KHMARA
Josette Abrigada and Leandra Bailey work through Pima Community College’s Federal Work-Study program and were among the many students affected by sudden cuts to individual FWS funding.
Abrigada, who has worked in the West Campus Student Life Center since September 2014, said she now needs to find a second job. As a full-time student, she worries that will affect her studies.
“Obviously, the money that I was relying on was the money that I was using to buy food, to pay rent and to live,” Abrigada said. “I was working here, part time, so that I could focus on school, but getting a new job is definitely going to make that harder.”
The U.S. Department of Education funds the FWS program. When students are hired, they are awarded a certain amount of money for the entire year, beginning at the end of August. They have the opportunity to earn that money through hours worked.
Gretchen Shaulis, Pima’s FWS coordinator, said the program employs a certain number of students every year with the idea that, most of the time, the students won’t work enough hours to earn their entire award.
“We will award as many students as we can and then typically, in the end, we come out pretty close to even,” she said.
This year, students continued to work after they had already earned their award amount. To avoid over-spending, the FWS program decided to stop hiring and to implement cuts to awards already allotted.
“When we started to reconcile at the end of fall, that’s where we saw that trend,” Shaulis said. “They were spending way more than what they were allotted for. And if that trend continued, then we were going to be in some serious trouble.”
Abrigada didn’t know why the cuts were made and said she might not have taken the job if she had known the funding would get reduced. Rather, she would have looked for a job before the middle of the semester that could have afforded her necessities.
“My coordinators didn’t really have an explanation given to them, so they couldn’t really give us an explanation,” she said.
Jennifer Wellborn, the FWS supervisor for West Campus Student Life, said she had to go back and forth with financial aid to understand the reason for the cuts.
“We didn’t necessarily understand right away what we needed to explain to them because it wasn’t explained to us very well,” Wellborn said about conveying the news to students.
After she got an explanation, Wellborn understood why the FWS program had to make the cuts, but she was surprised administrators didn’t anticipate the overspending before the middle of the spring semester.
“Obviously, it affects our student workers because it means they can’t work as many hours,” she said. “And they rely on that money for rent and food.”
The FWS program originally told Wellborn that the four students working in her department had to take a mandatory two weeks off.
“We told them, ‘That’s not really OK,’ because there wasn’t a lot of notice,” Wellborn said.
The FWS program was willing to work with the supervisors and amended the decision, Wellborn said. FWS decided that each student would cut 24 work hours over the duration of the semester.
“For us advocating for our student employees, it can have a big impact to just say, ‘You can’t work for two weeks,’” Wellborn said “That’s a whole paycheck. So instead, allow them to stretch it out over a few pay periods.”
Bailey works in the West Campus Student Life Center and had a similar experience as Abrigada.
“There wasn’t really a warning,” she said. “It just kind of happened. There was a great lack of communication from whoever is in charge of those budget cuts.”
Bailey even questioned the legality of retracting the awarded money.
“They told us at the beginning, ‘This is the amount of money you’re going to receive if you work the necessary amount of hours,’” she said. “Now all of a sudden it’s changing, three-fourths through the year. I didn’t think that was allowed.”
Jeffery Silvyn, general council on legal issues for PCC, said he knew nothing about the issue.
Bailey no longer has enough money to pay her bills and necessities and is starting to job hunt.
“I’m going to have to look for something else in addition to this or instead of this position,” she said.
She originally took on the position at Student Life because of the convenience of working at the school and the flexible hours.
“Now things are going to have to change for me,” she said.
Full-time student Autumn DeMoss interviewed in February to help staff the West Campus Creative Writing Center and was told she had the job. The interview was on a Friday, but she got a call the following Monday telling her there was no more funding.
“I needed the job to pay for food and gas,” she said.
She wasn’t given any explanation.
“All anyone knew is that they ran out of funding for some reason,” DeMoss said. “I kind of want to know what happened.”
When students earn more than the money they were awarded, labor laws still require that they be paid. Many students whose overages led to the pay cuts continue to work through the FWS program.
“There are no penalties in the FWS program,” Shaulis said. “All FWS students were reduced by the same amount to prevent the program as a whole from overspending.”
Shaulis wouldn’t specify exactly how many students are in the program this year or which departments overspent, only that they saw widespread overspending among many departments.
FWS supervisors in each department, in collaboration with the students, are responsible for keeping track of the funds, Shaulis said.
“We also typically try to stay on top of them,” she said. “But there’s only so much I can do. It’s got to be an effort from both sides.”
Shaulis and the financial aid executive director, Terra Benson, plan to start conducting workshops with the supervisors to ensure better tracking of students’ awards and balances in the future.
“Let’s train better,” Shaulis said. “And let’s go out there and have that better understanding from the get-go, so they see the bigger picture, so that we don’t have to have these conversations halfway through. Let’s have them upfront.”
Pima has tentative FWS funding for the 2015-16 school year, but the Department of Education has made cuts to the program over the last few years.
“We will award and hire as many students as we can,” Shaulis said. “We still have a very popular, progressing-forward program.”
PCC typically hires more than 250 students per year, throughout all six campuses.
The college will host a National Student Employment Week during the second full week of April. FWS representatives will be at the campuses.
Shaulis encouraged students to talk with the FWS representatives and give feedback.
“We know how important this program is to the students and the college,” she said. “We went through this bump and we’ll make sure that we can try to prevent it going forward.”
Reporter also felt cuts
I work at the West Campus through the Federal Work-Study program. Last August, I divided my hours evenly over the entire school year to make sure I would have a set amount of money in each bimonthly check. I then planned my classes and other jobs accordingly.
I was told by my supervisor about the cuts on March 9. In disbelief, I went online to look at my financial aid awards.
The numbers had been changed. My spring award had been reduced by $367, and my award for Fall 2014 had been retroactively reduced by $76. In other words, $443 was cut during the last eight weeks of the fiscal school year, from a fund I had been told was already mine.
The only email I received about it from Pima’s financial aid office came on March 17.
-By Danyelle Khmara