Students react to RCC’s decision

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By Araceli Diaz / Staff Writer

At a glance (Allison Perez / Interim Photo Editor )

By Araceli Diaz / Staff Writer

As the Riverside Community College District prepares for the 2011-12 academic year they have assurance that Chancellor Gregory Gray is likely to stay onboard.

According to The Press-Enterprise, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to extend Chancellor Gray’s contract to June 2015. The original contract was set to expire in June 2014.

The Chancellor agreed to the one year extension and will receive a $20,000 bonus in June 2014.

As of today Chancellor Gray receives $260,000 a year and is given a $4,000 allowance for housing, auto expenses and any other business expenses according to The Press-Enterprise article.

The Board of Trustees decision  to grant the bonus did not come without some division between the five member group, passing with a 3-2 split.

Board President Janet Green and trustee members Virginia Blumenthal and Samuel Davis voted in favor of the bonus mainly for the sake of stability and Gray’s performance as chancellor over the course of the past four years.

Notable acts include his securing the largest private gift in the history of RCCD, the creation of the leadership academy, and most notably the development of the Chancellor’s Circle of Innovation which consists of fifty members who provide leadership and insight to RCCD.

Trustee members Mark Takano and Mary Figueroa opposed the bonus, saying that perhaps it is not the correct economic climate to be giving a generous bonus due to recent budget cuts, class cuts and impending furlough days.

Many Riverside City College students have become aware of the current situation and have varying opinions on the issue.

Nick Bygon is the current student trustee and represents the student body to the Board of Trustees during their meetings.

Bygon said that he thinks that people who are only reading The Press-Enterprise article are merely making unwarranted assumptions about Chancellor Gray.

“The article does not provide a context sufficient enough to make a judgment as to whether Chancellor Gray does or does not deserve that pay raise,” Bygon said.

“There is a lot of confusion going and people are making judgments without researching them and fully understanding the situation,” he said.

Bygon also recalled the period where RCC went without a chancellor. Gray was hired in June 2009 after a grueling process that took two years and approximately $258,000 according to The Press-Enterprise article.

“He obviously took a position that other people rejected and refused to take, it could not have been that lucrative or that great of a position for someone to walk into,” Bygon said.

Bygon, who knows Chancellor Gray personally, shared a story that he said illustrates Gray’s character.

“On a personal flight back, we happened to share the same flight home and we spoke nonstop on about how to address the issues facing the college,” he said.

“I believe that is something to be admired. He was willing to sit down and talk about the issues and set up monthly meetings up during his personal time. I believe he takes his job seriously as a 24 hour activity and I think that it validates him and his sincerity,” he said.

Overall Bygon favors the decision made by the Board of Trustees.

“From my personal experiences with him, he is a great chancellor and I think he really deserves whatever bonus he is getting,” Bygon said.

Jonathan Flike, the associated students of Riverside Community College District president, is in the middle ground of this issue.

“Although everyone can agree that Chancellor Gray has done a good job so far representing the school, it may not be the best time for him to receive a bonus,” Flike said.

“I feel he does deserve to be rewarded for his hard work, but given the economic climate it may not be the best time,” he said.

Flike said that he wanted to emphasize that there are other, more important and pressing issues to deal with at the moment than just the chancellor’s bonus.

“At the same time, I don’t want students to be distracted from the core issues,” Flike said.  “If we eliminated his position altogether it’s still not going to solve the $8 million shortfall that we just had or the tier one shortfall that is predicted for the winter and spring.”

Flike said that instead of focusing on a $20,000 bonus that he thinks there are other areas where millions of dollars are at stake and perhaps those issues should be dealt with first.

“What we really need is not necessarily to focus on the wages of the administration, but how can we bring these large amounts of funds to the school and keep the school operating the way it needs to,” Flike said.

William Nash, a student at Riverside City College weighed in on the issue as well.

“I initially thought it was a little excessive, considering how much he is paid yearly,” Nash said.

“However, if he does deserve it he has every right to the bonus,” he said.

Nash also said that no one should really pass judgment on the issue unless they are really informed about what Gray has done as chancellor and what his stances on various issues are.

“It is impossible for me to make a firm stand since I’m not really familiar with his body of work and what he has done for the school,” Nash said. “Either way I feel it may be a bit excessive considering the current economic climate.”

“Once I become more informed over what he really does and what he has done for RCCD then I can make a more informed decision on whether he deserves the bonus or even his salary,” he said.

This is generally the consensus that fellow RCC student Ryan Sousa shared.

“Chancellor Gray’s reach is widespread and his job does affect a lot of people. I can see why he gets paid well,” Sousa said. “However, it is a rather large bonus and considering recent budget cuts it may not be the best time.”

Sousa does however bring up the issues of stability. Gray has the ability to implement things that will have long term affects upon RCCD.

“For the sake of stability and to prevent another extended search for a chancellor the bonus may be necessary to keep him as long as he does his job and genuinely cares about the well being of the school,” Souza said.

Sonia Unzueta, a first year student who attends the Norco campus f
eels torn on the issue as well.

“It does bother me a bit to have to be fighting to attain any classes all the while the Chancellor receives a $20,000 bonus,” Unzueta said.

“I transferred here from another college and I was able to attain classes here so things are slightly better off here. So if he is responsible for that in any way than he may deserve the bonus,” she said.

“I’m not really familiar with what he has implemented toward making RCCD a better college,” Unzueta said.

“However, if he is aware to students needs and is willing to have an open dialogue with students and is actually attempting to bring funds to the school than maybe he does deserve the bonus.”

Terrell Davis, an RCC student who is on his last semester takes a more opposed stand on the situation.

“Right now, RCCD cannot afford it. No school in California can really afford it. For us to willingly pay someone this bonus, but also being unable to provide enough classes for its students is kind of ridiculous,” Davis said.

Davis said that it may not be the right time for excessive bonuses due to the school’s poor economic state.

“Given recent budget cuts it is not the right time for large bonuses, even if he does deserve it,” he said.

Davis does however acknowledge that Gray has accomplished some things as chancellor.

“It is good that some of the plans he set in motion are positive,” he said.

“But what do we need right now? A person with a higher pay grade or hundreds of students in a class or even teachers. I think the well benefit of the majority outweighs the benefit of a single person. If keeping him benefits the most students than perhaps we should rethink the situation,” he said.

Ultimately, the issue is out of the hands of the students since the Board of Trustees has already agreed to the $20,000 bonus that is to be given in June 2014.

Chancellor Gray is an employee of the Board and will see out his contract to June 2014 to receive the bonus.

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