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
By PABLO ESPINOSA
Adrianna Figueroa immigrated to the United States nine years ago. She made the move to try to give her children a better life.
“I didn’t have enough for my kids,” she said. “Sometimes, I didn’t have enough money to buy them shoes and food. I want my kids to go to college.”
Figueroa, who is taking the English Level 2 class, wants to work as a caregiver once she learns English better. She hopes to one day attend Pima Community College credit classes, and said she dreams of opening her own day care center.
Figueroa is one of approximately 6,000 students served each year by PCC Adult Education.
The program began in 1969, as Pima County Adult Education. It became part of PCC in 2000.
Today, PCC offers noncredit programs including Adult Basic Education, English Language Acquisition for Adults, Refugee Education, Family Literacy, Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship and Project RAISE, Rehabilitative Adult Independent Skills Education.
Courses are offered at three learning centers. PCC is located at 4355 E. Calle Aurora, north of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. El Rio Learning Center is at 1390 W. Speedway Blvd., and El Pueblo Liberty Learning Center is at 101 W. Irvington Road.
Angel Romero attends El Rio, taking English Level 1 to prepare for his citizenship test. He’s been in the United States for three years, and is married to an American citizen.
Not knowing English has kept him from getting his citizenship, Romero said. He hopes to take the test once he completes his class.
Isabel Bunting, also a student at El Rio, speaks English fluently with a Hispanic accent but says she needs to learn how to properly write in English.
“There are a lot of rules to spelling that I’m learning here,” she said.
Each center offers multiple levels of classes in mathematics, reading/writing and English language acquisition for adults. Classes typically meet face-to-face two days per week.
Antonietta Cook, an immigrant from Cuba, said her teacher is good but sometimes she does not understand. However, it doesn’t stop the teacher from getting the message across.
“The teacher uses her hands so we will understand,” Cook said. “She uses body language to communicate.”
Cook complained about the “change” that older brains go through over the years, which makes returning to school more difficult.
Marlenis Lopez, also an immigrant from Cuba, agreed.
“It’s harder,” Lopez said. “My brain isn’t fresh like it used to be.”
Each adult education student who talked with the Aztec Press said they liked their teacher and the class. Their only complaint was that some classes are too easy.
Lupita Reyes, an immigrant from Mexico, said she wishes they were a little harder.
“The learning process is slow,” she said. “We learn very little in a single class.”
In an effort to learn English faster, Reyes is taking English Level 2 and Level 3 simultaneously.
“I don’t want to depend on other people,” Reyes said. “If I am going to live in this country, I want to learn English.”
Laurie Kierstead-Joseph, an advanced program manager, said PCC is able to provide classes to almost everybody. During certain times of the year, some classes have waiting lists.
An estimated 100,000 adults in Pima County lack a high school diploma or equivalent, according to 2010-12 data from an American Community Survey collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Additionally, about 4 percent of Pima County adults needs English-language instruction.
Lopez, the Cuban immigrant, takes intermediate English as a Second Language classes twice a week, and is trying to find a better job by improving her English.
“I am not in my country anymore, and the language here is English,” Lopez said. “I want to do something better than clean floors.”
Immigrants Adrianna Figueroa, left, and Angel Romero attend noncredit adult education classes at Pima Community College learning centers. (Pablo Espinosa/Aztec Press)
Editor’s note: Part 1 of this three-part series was published on March 26 in Issue 5. It covered issues with information requests.
By JAMIE VERWYS
On Jan. 18, 2013, a female student at Pima Community College’s Downtown Campus was apparently robbed at gunpoint and nearly raped.
The victim told campus police she was in a women’s bathroom when a male emerged from a stall, pointed a gun at her and ordered her into the stall.
The case caught the eye of Aztec Press student reporters. With the law backing them and a commitment to their journalistic responsibilities, they sought more details of the crime.
After numerous requests, the newspaper received report C13-00189, listed as a “sexual assault-attempted rape,” on Feb. 1, 2013.
Details hidden with white-out only raised red flags. Without the redacted text, which included the victim’s account, it was impossible to know exactly what happened. To date, a full report or explanation has not been provided.
Another report that raised flags was case number C14-00419, listed as a “sex offense-other” at West Campus on Feb. 11, 2014.
Despite repeated requests, including a follow-up request through PCC Police Chief Manny Amado on April 7, 2014, the college has never provided a report to Aztec Press in any form.
When told of the delay in August 2014, Amado thanked the editor for informing him and asked Commander Michelle Nieuwenhuis to look into it.
The examples are just two of many case that have frustrated Aztec Press staffers who have requested PCC police reports and answers.
By law, all colleges that receive federal funding must keep an updated crime log
available for public inspection.
A public safety administration specialist sends the Aztec Press daily Clery logs that list every crime reported to campus police.
The logs are a component of the Clery Act, which requires universities and colleges to disclose information about crimes that occur on campuses.
The logs are made available through email, but gaining acces to the actual police reports is far trickier.
While reviewing Clery logs from January 2013 to March 2014, Aztec Press staffers found approximately 70 cases of larceny on PCC campuses, as well as other crimes including sexual assault.
Four for 20
In May 2014, Aztec Press requested about 20 of the reports from the records department. After a special request was made through Amado, the Aztec Press received four.
The four released reports were for minor crimes, with little relevant or usable information. They were released so late that any newsworthiness had long passed.
Aztec Press sent a follow-up email, asking why multiple requests for police reports went unanswered. The records department did not reply.
Amado made himself available to the Aztec Press after a reporter sent detailed information about requested police reports to Chancellor Lee Lambert.
“Let me first give my personal apologies that you were not getting the reports you were requesting in a timely manner, or not at all,” Amado said. “I’m going to accept full responsibility for that.”
He said the problem did not show a lack of transparency.
“I don’t believe that,” he said. “It is simply me not following up and making sure that the records area and her supervisor are adhering to a timely request.”
Reasons for the delay
Amado attributed recent delays to a lack of designated Clery staff, an old paper method of collecting reports, a backlog and increased analysis for accuracy.
“With Clery, we have really been scrutinizing the reports, which is taking a little bit more time,” he said. “It is causing a little bit of a backlog because of the fact that we need to closely scrutinize police reports to make sure that the Clery reports are being properly captured.”
The police department was backlogged for about five months but is finally caught up, Amado said. He is also rewriting policy to provide more quality control.
Journalistic review of the dozens of larceny, theft and burglary cases reported at Pima annually, or their outcomes, has not been possible with the current system in place.
Downtown Campus student life coordinator Michael Lopez said information such as police reports should be a basic right.
“I don’t see why there are certain things that they would want to keep from the public,” he said. “If you’re talking police reports, that’s general stuff, everyone needs that.”
Lopez believes transparency is extremely important, considering the college’s recent probation from the Higher Learning Commission.
At a recent Board of Governors meeting, Lopez said Pima’s healing process is not over.
“It hurts when we are reminded of some of the wounds we still have,” he told the board. “HLC is definitely one instance where they were not transparent. They tried to cover up a lot of stuff. When it happens now, it’s like, ‘wait a minute, we are still on notice.’”
The last police report received by Aztec Press was on Sept. 12, 2014, for a crime that happened at the end of July.
Recent requests for police records continue to go unreturned. Aztec Press made a request on Jan. 29 that still has not been answered.
Public record laws
University of Arizona School of Journalism Director David Cuillier, a leading expert on public records laws and a chair of the Society for Professional Journalists, said any and all requested police reports must be submitted by a public institution.
Very specific parameters for exemptions apply.
“There is an exemption in Arizona public records law for investigatory materials that would harm an investigation and it’s very limited,” Cuillier said.
“They can’t be overbroad in how they apply that,” he added. “They can’t blot out whole sections. We are talking about very specific pieces of information that would harm the investigation.”
Cuillier sees the withholding of police reports as a disservice to the student population.
“To hide police reports is really just not appropriate and it’s not fair to the students,” he said. “There are federal laws for the college to provide crime information. Students deserve to know what dangers they might find on campus.”
Jeffery Silvyn, PCC’s general legal counsel, said a records request could be denied if it contained confidential student information, such as medical information, social security numbers or addresses.
“There’s a federal law that protects the confidentially of certain student information,” he said. “So we would inform the requester that we were unable to audit the request because of this law.”
Adhering to the law
Attorney Dan Barr of Phoenix provides legal counsel to members of the press on behalf of the First Amendment Coalition. The nonprofit organization strives to protect and nurture freedom of expression and “people’s right to know.”
Barr said public records law violations can be grounds to sue.
“The public records law requires public bodies to produce public records requests in a timely manner, and from what you’re describing, that’s not timely,” he said in a telephone interview.
Cuillier said Pima is in violation of public records laws and the Aztec Press could take action.
“If you want to sue, you can,” he said. “That’s definitely an option for you. They are so used to just blowing off students and then the student graduates, problem over. They can stonewall till you’re gone.”
Persistence is key, Cuillier said. “If you make it clear you’re not just going to walk away, then they may have to re-assess their strategy.”
Interviews in the works
At the request of the Aztec Press, temporary public relations consultant Jodi Horton scheduled a short-notice interview with Lambert in March. She also helped redirect a request for all email correspondence between the Aztec Press and the police records department.
Lambert said he didn’t know why Aztec Press is having issues with police reports, lack of communication and unavailability.
“With some exceptions, depending on what’s going on in the details, it may be a timing issue,” he said. “But I don’t know that for a fact. I will be sure they are being responsive. If they aren’t giving them to you, they should be telling you why instead of not responding at all.”
Lambert offered assistance and requested specific details of incidences so he could address the problems.
On March 26, the Aztec Press emailed the chancellor a list of requested police reports that were never received and outlined communication problems. Lambert responded the same day and alerted Amado and Vice Chancellor for Facilities Bill Ward.
“We are both truth-seekers”
Amado has since been in close contact with an Aztec Press reporter to help resolve the issues with police reports. He has requested that all requests for police reports be forwarded to him so he can ensure they receive a response.
Journalists and law enforcement can work together and are fighting for the same cause, he said.
“Sometimes there is this perception that this is an adverse relationship, and in some cases there are, but there does not have to be,” he said.
In reality, Amado added, both groups share much in common.
“We are both truth seekers, we are fact finders, that’s what we want,” he said.
Amado offered to visit with students enrolled in the Aztec Press classes, for an open discussion about the relationship between the two.
“You deserve it, not only because you are the Aztec Press but also because you are students,” he said. “I am a firm believer that you’re not just the media, you are budding journalists who are learning, you are being educated.”
Part 3 of this series will publish on April 23 in Issue 7. It will cover changes being made in response to this report.
* * *
Correction: Jodi Horton works at Pima 33 hours a month. Part 1 incorrectly listed her hours as 30 hours a week. The error has been corrected.
By NICK MEYERS
Chancellor Lee Lambert pitched his plan to get Pima Community College back into top shape during an in-service All College Day on March 27.
Approximately 1,200 college employees attended the “Conversation with the Chancellor” as Lambert voiced his ideas on how PCC can reach the status of being a “premiere” community college.
“We are making history here, today,” governing board president Sylvia Lee said as she introduced the session. “The hard work that must follow will determine the future path that we take here at Pima.”
Lambert’s initiative is focused on bringing an engaging experience back to students.
David Bishop, an instructional faculty member and emcee for the event, compared the college to a business, and said a business must appeal to its investors, or at Pima, the students.
Lambert called upon college employees to adopt a “solution-oriented mind set” to combat budget cuts and decreased enrollment. He proposed a marketing approach to strengthen Pima’s image as an organization that is involved in the community and promotes the education of its students to achieve their goals.
“It is about the choices we’re going to make from this day forward that will make the difference of whether we go in the right direction or not,” Lambert said.
Lambert focused on three main points to elevate the quality of education and experience at Pima.
First, bringing value and quality to students through commitment and responsible management of the budget.
Though his forecast predicts a decrease in the budget through 2018, he hopes that by increasing enrollment the college can increase its spending capabilities beyond what they are today by 2020.
Lambert intends for the college’s new policy to increase enrollment by 1,000 full-time students each year for the next four years.
Second, by seeking improvement in all facets of the college, but especially those declared “met with concerns” in the Higher Learning Commission’s final audit.
Administrators have been chosen to spearhead efforts to address 11 areas which barely passed HLC accreditation standards. If these areas do not improve, the chancellor warns that PCC could be shut down.
Third, Lambert wants to focus on generating a culture surrounding inclusion and success.
But Pima has a gauntlet to run before achieving this goal. In 2013, Pima achieved just a 61 percent retention rate among students and only 10 percent of students were earning a degree or certificate.
“The data tells us we’re mediocre,” Lambert said. “I know we’re better than that.”
Key components to increasing student enrollment are marketing and customer service.
PCC will increase attention to advertising and public relations in order to attract new students. The intent is to lead students who are considering community college to enrolling at Pima by emphasizing the opportunities and personalization of the Pima experience.
Paraphrasing John Kennedy, the chancellor told employees, “Ask not what Pima can do for you, but what you can do for Pima.”
In line with the college’s new prerogative, this meeting also allowed students to voice their concerns on a college-wide level.
Students Alec Moreno, Jeremiah Palicka, Johanna Jimenez, Esdras Cabezola and myself had the opportunity to tell employees about the good experiences we’ve had at Pima, as well as areas that many students have identified as problematic.
The students expressed their concerns with advising, orientation, food services and employee support for student initiatives while expressing an abundance of gratitude for the resources and opportunities provided at Pima.
The student panel marked a shift in Pima’s philosophy to encourage student involvement.
“In the words of Margaret Mead, we are pioneers in the present,” Bishop said.
By NICK MEYERS
For those who may have been out of the loop, Pima Community College has experienced a series of tribulations for the past several years but things are beginning to turn around.
Problems persisted leading up to the resignation of Pima’s former chancellor, Roy Flores, in 2012. That event served as an impetus for the college’s current situation.
PCC’s accrediting organization, the Higher Learning Commission, placed Pima on probation in 2013 after an audit. The move placed the college at potential risk of shutting down.
The entire college community rallied around a goal of getting Pima off probation. Earlier this year, we succeeded.
But the story isn’t over. The college has lots of work ahead of it, and Pima can’t do it alone.
On March 27, hundreds of college employees met to discuss Pima’s focus for the next several years in an unprecedented “Conversation with the Chancellor.” There was one undeniable necessity: students.
PCC needs help and not just any help, your help. Students, I’m talking to you.
It is time for the largest population at Pima to speak up and get involved.
The administration is already putting in motion ways for students to share their perspectives and ideas on the many decisions the college faces in the near future.
Five students spoke during the “Conversation” event to express concerns felt by students at every campus.
Last semester, students formed the LaPima club to aggressively advocate to local officials for policies that will benefit PCC. On March 23, the Advocates for PCC club met with Tucson City Council members to discuss the state’s $6 million cut from Pima’s budget.
The Aztec Press has covered many issues this semester, from delays for student veteran benefits to a pervasive lack of transparency in providing public documents to the questionable handling of work-study finances. We hope our coverage ignites change.
There are many ways that you can also institute change, whether you’re taking three credits or 20.
Sign up for student government or the Advocates for PCC group. Stop by your campus’s Student Life office and ask about upcoming opportunities.
Talk to your advisers and instructors, and ask how you can get involved. And, of course, read the paper.
Not only do we owe it to the college for the opportunities it has provided us, but we owe it to ourselves.
We all have the ability, right now, to influence the still-foggy future of this institution.
Many of us are grateful for the role Pima has played in our lives. Now it’s our turn to have a role in Pima’s life.
College hosts scholarship race April 11
Pima Community College will host a 5K and 1-mile Fun Run/Walk on April 11 to help fund the Art Alberding Math Scholar award.
The Alberding Amble will start at the East Campus Multi-Use Recreational Field, 8181 E. Irvington Road. The 5K begins at 8 a.m. and the Fun Run/Walk at 8:45 a.m.
Registration for the 5K costs $20. The Fun Run/Walk is $10. Donations to the scholarship fund are also accepted.
Medals will be awarded to the top three male and top three female winners in each 10-year age bracket.
The Art Alberding Math Scholar award is presented each year to qualified PCC students.
For more information, call 206-7667.
-By Pablo Espinosa
PCC4Me to provide college information
PCC4Me, a free event for prospective and current students, will take place April 11 from 9 a.m.-noon at the West Campus.
Participants can speak with faculty, advisors and current students, explore career options and new courses, discuss costs and financial aid, and visit facilities and booths.
Special sessions will include creative writing workshops and presentations on transferring from PCC to universities.
Department tours will take visitors inside the fitness center at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. and to the Aztec Press newsroom at 9:30 a.m. and at 10:30 a.m. Multiple departments will host demonstrations from 9 a.m.-noon on topics including 3D printing, pottery wheel throwing and fashion design.
For more information, call 206-6742.
-By Katie Vacio
Fundraiser supports adult education
East Campus organizers will hold a fundraiser April 17-18 to raise money for scholarships that help students cover fees for high school equivalency certificate testing.
Activities including a rummage sale, bake sale and barbecue will take place from 8 a.m-4 p.m. in the community room and on the student mall.
Volunteers from the Student Services Center and Adult Education program organize spring and fall fundraisers for the scholarships.
For additional information, call 206-7424.
-By Kit B.
Fassler Northwest Campus to celebrate Earth Day
PCC Northwest Campus will be holding it’s Earth Day event on April 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Vendors will include Tucson Electric Power and a food truck among others, with the type of cuisine still being determined. Other vendors will talk about ways to conserve.
The event will be located on the 2nd floor Promenade of Northwest Campus.
For more information, contact Student Life at 206-2131.
-By Alyssa Ramer
By MICKEY RAY LAMB
Pima Community College’s East Campus welcomed astrophysicist Cameron Hummels for the second installment of its “Astronomy for All” series on March 26.
Hummels, who received his doctorate from the University of Arizona in astronomy, gave a lecture, “The Moon: Formation, Exploration and Habitation.”
His talk covered manned journeys to the celestial satellite, the space race against the former Soviet Union and the possibility of humans taking yet another giant leap within the next decade.
“The moon used to be a source of national pride,” Hummels said. “Then one day the president, the congressmen and the taxpayer decided it was too expensive.”
Those in attendance had a chance to ask Hummels questions, and were invited to the campus observatory for a closer look at the moon and at Jupiter.
Jupitor’s moon, Io, caused an occultation, an event that occurs when a celestial object is hidden by another object.
The “Astronomy for All” series concludes April 29 with a presentation by Karin Sandstrom, Ph.D, from the UA Department of Astronomy and Steward Observatory. She will discuss interstellar dust in a lecture titled “Our Dusty Universe.
By JAMIE VERWYS
On the greener side of Pima Community College’s probationary status with the Higher Learning Commission, the need to inform is more important than ever. With the commitment to change made by the administration at Pima, there is simply more critical news to be relayed.
The Aztec Press has faced issues when dealing with Pima employees including behaviors explicitly prohibited by Freedom of Information Act and Arizona’s Public Record laws. Lack or denial of responses to information, internal investigations and police report requests, changes in department staff and failures to facilitate interviews raise the most important questions.
If transparency was an approved remedy in resolving the college’s discrepancies and reputation, why is anyone facing red tape?
This semester began with difficulties in receiving prompt responses from college administrators.
On Jan. 20, there was a sudden change in the procedure to speak with Chancellor Lee Lambert. Last semester, reporters found that email was a responsive, open and efficient channel.
When the chancellor was asked to speak about Gov. Ducey’s budget plan, he responded by email, “Yes, of course.”
The next email response was from Gabriela Echávarri, administrative assistant to the chancellor, asking all interview requests for the chancellor be directed to Paul Schwalbach.
The change came after receiving written consent from Lambert. After emailing Schwalbach, the marketing and public relations manager of PCC, he did arrange a phone interview for Aztec Press with the chancellor two days later.
While this request was fulfilled, subsequent ones were not even met acknowledged.
On Feb. 11, an email was sent to Schwalbach asking to quote Lambert about the hiring of new Registrar Yolanda Espinoza. Again, he asked for a deadline, which was five days later, Feb. 16. After no response, an update was requested on Feb. 17. No response or interview for a profile piece about a Pima administrator was ever received.
Another reporter experienced no response to a formal request regarding veterans at Pima. His email to Schwalbach on Feb. 20 asked that documentation of the number of veterans receiving GI Bills at Pima be provided.
Though a deadline was provided, communication never came. The reporter did receive an immediate response from the veterans’ director, Daniel Kester.
When Schwalbach was called to answer questions about transparency in public institutions on March 20, he directed the Aztec Press to PCC’s general legal counsel Jeff Silvyn.
Silvyn is responsible for “providing and managing legal services to meet the needs of the college.”
He said the best protocol for information and interview requests is to contact Jodi Horton with a topic.
Horton was hired Feb. 13 as a “temporary public relations consultant.” One of her duties is to provide outreach to local media outlets.
Her phone number is not listed in Pima’s employee directory, no contact information was released in a Feb. 13 press release and the Aztec Press had only received one phone call from her prior to this article.
When called for comment on March 23, Horton’s voicemail box had not been activated yet due to technical issues. After an email was sent, she called the Aztec Press promptly.
“I respond to media inquiries and make connections with interviewees, that’s important,” she said. “I counsel the chancellor in regard to public relations opportunities that might come his way.”
Horton is at Pima no more than 30 hours a month. When she heard about our issues in communication, she was not aware of the specific events. She provided reasons why requests might not have gotten responses.
“The chancellor has made it a policy to be really responsive to the press. He’s very well intentioned about this but very honestly as a lifelong public relations official, if he had asked me it would be my counsel not to be quite so available because it is very difficult in the amount of time he has to prioritize requests and answer every one as it comes in.”
As far as emails that were unanswered, she was not aware of them.
“I don’t know, but it is entirely possible that one of us chased the people down that you wanted to talk to and were not successful ourselves at making that connection in a timely manner. That’s not to say that one of us shouldn’t have gotten back to you, we should have, but I don’t know what specifically happened with this.”
After the phone interview with Horton, she very quickly responded to a request to interview the chancellor. Within an hour of the request, she procured an interview with him for the next day.
Lambert has made transparency one of Pima’s strongest platforms and repeatedly speaks about it in emails and meetings.
“For those of us who work in the public sector, transparency is always an element of what we do,” Lambert said in a phone interview.
When informed of communication issues and unfulfilled records requests, Lambert did not know what the reason was, but agreed that Aztec Press should receive responses.
“I want to make sure we are being supportative of your learning experience and if you are reaching out to get certain information, as long as there is no reason we can’t, we should provide it,” he said.
Silvyn explained the protocol in place for sourcing requests to the right places.
“It provides kind of a central point of contact for information requests to enter the college system,” he said. “It allows us to hopefully do a better job of tracking requests and how and when they are being fulfilled.”
University of Arizona School of Journalism Director David Cuillier doesn’t approve of what he heard from Aztec Press about Pima’s interview process.
“That’s the kind of tactics they are going to use to control information,” Cuillier said.
“These tactics are being applied all around the country in the federal level down to local. Stand your ground and do your reporting and don’t play by their rules,” he said.
“Citizens and the press should not have to play by these restrictive rules to find out what the government is doing.”
Under laws such as the Sunshine Act and the Freedom of Information Act, public institutions have legal obligations. Withholding police reports, failing to respond to requests or holding undisclosed meetings is illegal.
The Arizona Public Records Law requires that “all public records be open to inspection by any person at all times during office hours.”
First Amendment Coalition attorney Dan Barr calls the laws fundamental protections that democracy was designed to give.
“For the people to effectively govern themselves, they need as much information about the operation so they can evaluate what government officials are doing and they can participate to the full extent possible in their government,” he said.
Barr said Pima was trying to wait out the student journalists.
“It’s what a lot of governmental bodies do,” he said. “They string you along with the hope that you go away. They have learned the lesson that the delay of information can be the denial of information.”
Barr advised that legal repercussions could be taken against a public institution that failed to supply public records in a timely manner.
The call for sunshine at PCC reached a high point in 2011 when the college gained nationwide attention for former student Jared Loughner.
Suspended from PCC in 2010 for erratic behavior, Laughner was responsible for a mass shooting on Jan. 8 that killed six and wounded 14 others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Downtown Campus employee Michael Lopez thinks Pima’s handling of the Loughner situation is where problems really began.
“Pima didn’t want to give out any information,” he said. “Then people started digging into more stuff and stuff that didn’t even have to do with Loughner. I’m pretty sure it was like, ‘is this place that dysfunctional?’”
Media outlets from across the country looked to Pima for answers and many were met with “stonewalling.” Former Aztec Press news editor Debbie Hadley wrote an editorial in March 2011, expressing a need for Pima to shed a little light.
“PCC provides documents as mandated by law, but keeps a tight noose around release of information,” she wrote. “PCC’s attempts to control information are misguided and counterproductive.”
Cuillier said PCC’s transparency has been hazy for a long time.
“Pima has had a long tradition of secrecy in this community,” he said. “The community college has been controlling over information with student media and withholding information from commercial media.”
Patterns of PCC to refuse interviews and public records have been felt by several local newspapers, including the Green Valley News.
Dan Shearer, editor of the Green Valley News, said his newspaper’s biggest issue with Pima is a lack of clarity on the future of the small PCC learning center in the area.
He believes the college could work in harmony with media.
“Pima has a terrific story to tell,” he said. “Media can help get that story out. Pima can build trust with the media by being as responsive during the tough requests as they are with the pleasant.”
PCC regularly supplies press releases and event information to the Aztec Press, but Shearer has ideas for improvement to the college’s technique.
“Pima needs to dump its current method of sending out press releases and hoping they make it to local media, and instead adopt an aggressive online campaign that frames a simple message for the community: ‘We help people get to where they want to be.’”
“Pima has had a problem over the past few years of reacting to the story of the day rather than getting in front of it, framing it and rolling it out,” he added.
There are reasons the freedom of information is protected and public institutions are expected to commit to the highest level of honesty available.
Cuillier says transparency is a tool against corruption and a major component of democracy. “Without it we would just end up being a police state or a dictatorship,” he said.
Horton, the temporary public relation employee, believes the process currently in place will improve once a permanent person is hired.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the staff or personnel in the advancement office to run a news bureau in the same way that the U of A can,” she said.
“This is an unusual situation, but soon you should have an executive director of public relations in place and things should go more smoothly.”
For Lopez, transparency at Pima is all related to the challenges created by HLC. He said administrators must remember to place focus back on where it belongs, the students.
“One thing that the chancellor said that I agree with and I will hold him to was, ‘if it’s good for the students, it’s good for Pima.’ Let’s do what’s right for the students,” he said.
Silvyn said public institutions are legally bound to transparency on certain levels.
“Some degree of transparency is required or at least implied by some applicable laws and since Pima is a public institution there’s a value in the public being able to have access to information about what’s going on at the college and important decisions that are made here,” he said.
Lambert has asked the Aztec Press to email him all failed correspondence so that he can talk to the individuals responsible for communication.
“I will make sure you get a response,” he said.
The majority of incidents included in that email are requested PCC police reports.When Pima does not supply requested reports, free of redactions, it is illegal.
As far as what will happen next, one editor’s advice echoes the Aztec Press’s dedication.
“Do not back down, know the law and quote it, bang on the door till it’s falling off its hinges,” Shearer said.
Part 2 of this series will publish in Issue 6 on April 9. It will cover police records and provide an update on issues the student newspaper has experienced with transparency.
Editor’s Note: Jodi Horton is at Pima no more then 30 hours a month. This was incorrectly stated as Horton is at Pima no more then 30 hours a week. The correction has been made. Horton stated in an email she is at Pima 33 hours a month.
Amy Copler, 20
“I would like two things: more social events that take place on campus, and more tutors available to assist students.”
Eduardo Lujan, 21
Major: Administration of Justice
“I’d like to see more diverse student clubs, like a political science club or a criminal justice debate club.”
Joshua McLean, 19
“I’d like to see better customer service in the bookstore and in the new cafeteria.”
Kari Mattias, 20
“I would like to see the tutoring center more accessible on Saturdays. Basically, more tutors, longer hours.”
Monique Carillo, 26
Major: Computer Science
“I would like better communication between students and advisors. I’d also like to see better communication between advisors and between advisors and administration. Sometimes you get totally different information from each one.”
Photos and interviews by Emery Nicoletti on East Campus.
By SHANA ROSE
Don’t have a built-in calculator on your phone? There’s an app for that. Need a flashlight? There’s an app for that, too.
You have probably downloaded apps for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, games and utilities to make your daily life easier.
As easy as it is to download and use these convenient apps, it’s just as easy for viruses, worms and Trojan horses to take over your phone. These malicious codes are known as malware.
The malware that unsuspecting phone users should be worried about is called creepware. This type of malware spies on your online behavior and tracks your exact location, then passes on that information to third parties like advertising networks.
“Most free flashlight apps are creepware,” said Gary S. Miliefsky, CEO of Snoopwall, a company that specializes in cybersecurity.
In 2013, Goldenshores Technology agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges against the company’s “Brightest Flashlight Free” app for secretly supplying cellphone locations to third parties.
The FTC complaint alleged the company failed to tell consumers that their precise location would be passed on to third parties and advertising networks.
Even when consumers were given the option to “accept” or “refuse” terms and conditions, private information was still passed on no matter which option they chose.
“Consumers trust first and verify never,” Miliefsky said. “As a result, most of their smartphones are infected with malware that they trust in the form of some useful app or game.”
Pima Community College student Kyle Fruechtenicht has only downloaded the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram apps. His calculator and flashlight were built into his phone.
He believes the built-in apps were an intentional precaution.
“I think developers did it to protect themselves and to protect the customer,” Fruechtenicht said.
Miliefsky and Rob Shimonski, author of “Cyber Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Defense” have outlined tips on protecting your phone and privacy:
• Assume you’ve already been compromised. One red flag is seeing multiple advertisements pop up while using an app, then seeing the same advertisements in your spam inbox.
• Verify the behavior and privacy risks for apps before installing them. Is an app that requires access to your GPS pinpoints, microphone, webcam and contacts a necessity?
• Do a smartphone version of spring cleaning. Delete all apps that you don’t use often or find alternatives that don’t demand so much access to your personal information.
• Turn off Wifi, Bluetooth, Near Field Communication and GPS except when you need them. If you check in on Facebook while sitting at a coffee shop or shopping at the mall, you are leaving yourself vulnerable to an attack from hackers.
• Control the amount of information you share on sites that use geomapping and geolocation, such as social media sites.
• Check to see if your email has put a tracer on you and your phone. Even when your GPS is off, your every move is still being tracked. Simply go to “settings” > “location” > “Google location reporting.” Set “location history” to turn off the tracking feature.
• Limit your personal information, such as your home address and full name, when you sign up for accounts.
Fortunately, Fruechtenicht can say he’s yet to experience being hacked, but he is still cautious.
“It’s an invasion of privacy because you’re not giving consent to that person,” Fruechtenicht said. “But at the same time, if you downloaded an app and you agreed to whatever terms, then you kind of gave away your privacy, because you accepted it.”
By ALYSSA RAMER
Pima Community College will host a talk on “Japanese Wood Sculptors” April 7.
Barbara McLaughlin, an art instructor at Desert Vista Campus, studied seven contemporary wood sculptors in Tokyo, researching the source of their materials and visiting museums and temples to view their artwork.
She will discuss the artists’ working methods and unique tools, and share her experiences in Japan, during the final Speakers’ Series of the spring semester.
The free session will begin at 6 p.m. at the PCC District Office, 4905 E. Broadway Blvd., in the Building C community board room.
McLaughlin, a wood sculptor herself, earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts in sculpture from the Art Institute of Chicago and Northern Illinois University. She has taught at Pima since 1994.
There will be more Speakers Series events in the fall at the same location.
For more information, call 206-4500
Compiled by Nick Meyers
Ex-chancellor remains silent after demand
Former Chancellor Roy Flores has yet to respond to Pima Community College’s refusal to apologize for statements made by current Chancellor Lee Lambert in an online video released Aug. 15, 2014.
“A critical chapter of the college’s past occurred when eight women employed at the college had the courage to come forward and report sexual harassment and retaliation by the former chancellor,” Lambert said in the video.
“These women were willing to face him directly with an independent investigator. Rather than do so, he resigned more than a year before the end date of his contract,” he said.
On Aug. 20, Flores’s attorney, Benson Hufford, sent a letter to the chancellor and the board of governors threatening legal action unless they made a public apology for the allegations.
The letter claims no evidence of sexual harassment was ever established.
“The video and that article contain serious misstatements by Chancellor Lambert,” Hufford wrote.
Hufford described the statements as “malicious” and made with a “reckless disregard for the truth.”
Pima has yet to remove the video or rescind the statements.
“You should know that this college under my leadership will not tolerate sexual harassment or abusive behavior by any employee,” Lambert said in an email to Pima employees on Sept. 3, 2014.
Hufford has not replied to attempts for comment about whether Flores intends to pursue the lawsuit.
Provost seeks midwest job
Pima Community College Provost Erica Holmes was named as a finalist for a position as president of a community college in the Midwest.
PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert did not name the college when he sent college employees an email supporting Holmes.
“I certainly understand Erica’s desire to serve as president in a community college setting,” he said. “Opportunities to serve in this capacity don’t come along every day, and I wish her success as she moves through the process.”
The application marked the second time Holmes has searched for a job since being hired as provost six months ago.
In January, she was one of more than 20 applicants for a position as president of a state college in Florida.
She is the second provost PCC has hired in two years who has sought other work soon after accepting the position.
By ANDREW PAXTON
Arizona Stands UP is holding a rally and march to protest state budget cuts to education funding.
The rally begins at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 14 at Tucson High Magnet School. From there, protestors will march to the UA Mall and pass out literature to Tucson Festival of Book attendees.
PCC students and organizers taking part in the march will begin meeting at the Sun Tran bus station on Sixth St. in front of the school at 9 a.m.
Visit here for more information.
BY KIT B. FASSLER and JACK KEERS
Host families assembled at Pima Community College’s Downtown Campus on March 2, eager to welcome an Up With People cast of 100 students from 20 countries. Rain that day surprised visitors expecting dry, warm weather in the desert.
The group came to perform, do community service and hold workshops for a week. One group volunteered at the Community Food Bank while others visited schools and conducted cultural workshops. The highlight of their visit was performing at the Fox Theatre downtown.
Up With People returned to Tucson to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its formation in the Old Pueblo. J. Blanton Belk founded the organization in 1965.
“I had a vision that it would be really good to harness the vibrancy of young students from all over the world,” Belk said. “Young people from different cultural background could bring the message of peace.”
Belk turned 90 this year and still lives in Tucson with his wife. He could hardly imagine that the group still performs around the world, including in Cuba in 2014.
“The show goes on,” he said. “As long as young people are there, there is hope for peace in this world.”
During the group’s Downtown Campus visit, a young, tall woman named Fia Binford chatted with peers while placing balloons on stage.
When approached by a reporter, she sat down and started telling stories about why she decided to join UWP.
“My parents met in the program 33 years ago,” Binford said. “At that time, the training center was still based in Tucson. The group traveled to Puerto Rico.”
Binford, who was born in Detroit but has a strong Irish heritage, holds dual citizenship in the United Kingdom and United States. She usually spends summers in Belfast.
This semester she is taking 12 credit hours on the road through Florida Southern College. Binford is studying a degree in music business with a minor in communication.
Her focus is on international communication and small group community service, including leadership and management skills.
“I learned to say ‘I love you’ in seven languages,” she said. “You always feel being a part of something greater than yourself.”
Binford likes to sing, and enjoys jazz music and rhythm.
“When you work with the group, you don’t think as an individual,” she said. “It’s about the cast, the message as a cast.”
Binford and other cast members said there are many stereotypes involving different countries and cultures.
Binford likes to talk about her joyful experiences with host families, and said the families are most welcoming.
“Being able to stay with host families in the local community is the most emotional and personal impact for me,” she said. The bonding that develops during the stay is incredible, she added, while the departure is sad.
On March 4, half of the cast returned to Downtown Campus for a cultural fair. They set up information tables and talked to students interested in joining UWP.
Cast member Rafael Schneider strummed a Brazilian tune on his ukulele with a welcoming smile while staffing a table. People couldn’t resist stopping by, and he happily posed for photos with the ukulele.
Schneider didn’t hesitate to talk about his country and his life while growing up in Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil. He was 13 and his youngest sister was only 1 when his parents were separated. At that time, he was more worried about his baby sister than himself.
Eventually, he realized he had to do something better for his own life.
“The lessons learned made me become stronger,” he said. “I chose to be positive to get ahead of my life.”
Schneider decided to learn English in the U.S., and attended Maclay High School in Tallahassee, Fla. After he graduated, he returned to Brazil to attend college.
“When I heard about UWP I decided to join,” he said. “I like its mission and was also eager to meet students from all over the world.”
UWP taught him the importance of team building and how to appreciate other people’s cultures. In his spare time, he likes to sing and play ukulele, Brazilian style.
In the afternoon, the staff conducted a two-hour workshop on leadership, culture and understanding differences.
The activities led to discussion about interpersonal communication, cultural differences and how those differences affect interaction among individuals.
Yira Brimage, vice president of student development for Downtown Campus, said PCC is positioning itself for globalization and the visit by international students could build bridges of global friendship.
“The UWP cast doesn’t only perform,” she said. “The component part of it is community service that brings the message of peace. These international students visit our community full of vibrancy, enthusiasm and energy. I hosted a student from Switzerland who speaks five languages.”
UWP’s theme for its March 6 performance integrated music and dance from the ‘60s to the present. It featured colorful dances from South Africa, Hawaii, Japan, Cuba and the U.S.
During the emotional finale, the audience joined in singing the group’s theme song, “Up Up with People.”