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Campus of Many Personalities

Demands for nonstudent and nonacademic activities at the school will not undermine students' needs.

September 22, 1996|BING INOCENCIO | Bing Inocencio is the new president of Pierce College

The students, faculty and staff of Pierce College are clear about our identity as a college. We clearly see ourselves as a public, open-admission college, whose primary reason for existence is the education of students. Everything we try to do is calculated to develop and advance the interests of students. All other activities play a secondary role.

However, years of well-intentioned accommodation of nonstudent and nonacademic events and activities, not to mention private designs on the college, have created a multiple personality for Pierce College.

Some people think, and they behave accordingly, that Pierce is a public park. As such, the college suffers the fate that all public parks are subjected to, including graffiti, vandalism, violation of posted speed limits and consumption of illegal substances.

This part of our personality exacts a cost for which the college is not normally funded. Thus, when the financial resources given to support our educational enterprise become highly inadequate--as evidenced by the last academic year's deficit and the big deficit we are currently facing, it is very important not to allow situations where our meager resources are forced into use to cover or remedy the costly side- and after-effects of nonstudent or nonacademic events or activities.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday September 29, 1996 Valley Edition Metro Part B Page 17 No Desk 2 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Headline correction--A column by Pierce College President Bing Inocencio (Valley Perspective, Sept. 22) contained an incorrect headline. It should have read: "Demands for nonstudent and nonacademic activities at the school will undermine students' needs."

Some people think that Pierce College is a farm. This is due to the historical roots of the college as well as to its oldest academic program, agricultural science. A variation of this part of Pierce College's personality is the perception that it is a farm museum--a place where those who have never seen how farms operated "in the old days" may see such a farm. Perhaps this is a legitimate part (but only a part) of Pierce College.

This, too, exacts a price on the academic or collegiate operations of the college. When the enrollment of ag science students was robust, the cost of maintaining the farm was not a problem.

Now that the number of ag science students has decreased significantly, the farm is, in effect, subsidized by other academic programs that are in much greater demand. The extent to which we are forced to overspend on ag science and the farm is the extent to which we underspend for programs that are in greater student demand. It costs the college about a million dollars a year to maintain the declining ag science program and the farm. We are still firm in our intentions of maintaining the ag science program and the farm, but our funding is not as firm; in fact, it is quite shaky.

The third part of Pierce College's personality is that of a college, which some people tend to forget. As someone very new to the college, I am conscious of Pierce's image--that it used to be the flagship of the L.A. Community College District and that it used to be the "gem" of the system.

After a bit less than three months at Pierce, I can say that academically it has not really lost its luster.

We are still in the top 10 community colleges in California in turning our successful transfers to four-year institutions. We continue to be blessed with a top-notch faculty that can be favorably compared to any faculty in the state, including the faculty of four-year institutions. I yield to no one in my admiration of the teaching prowess of our faculty.

Pierce is also blessed with a student-friendly corps of support people, buildings and grounds workers, cafeteria personnel as well as security force--despite their diminished ranks.

One former reporter I know loved to describe Pierce College as "troubled" and "beleaguered." True, we have our fiscal problems. We have had deficits, and we are still facing one this academic year. But we have not lost our sense of mission. We are clearly focused on our students. We believe that unless our students succeed, we do not succeed.

This is why when our other personalities happen to conflict with our identity as a college, and when our good secondary purposes undermine our service to students, we know whose interests we will protect at all costs--our students'.

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