Recently there has been a steady drumbeat of criticism of Southwestern College and its District Superintendent/President Dr. Serafin Zasueta, who was selected to that position on July 16, 1997 by the then existing Governing Board. In spite of the fact that the college, under the guidance of Dr. Zasueta, has shown tremendous improvements in the last five years, there is a small defiant cadre of individuals who are bent on discrediting Dr. Zasueta and degrade the obvious achievements at Southwestern College.
Southwestern College ranks among the top community colleges in the state in academic performance. Nevertheless, a vicious attack has been launched against Superintendent Zasueta. By implication, the attacks diminish the outstanding accomplishments of the professional staff that he has selected and employed with the approval the Governing Board, during his tenure.
For the record, under the leadership of Dr. Zasueta and the Governing Board of Trustees, Southwestern College has placed in the top 10 percent of the 1,110 community colleges nationwide in the number of Associate degrees conferred on all students. It is impressive to note that Southwestern College ranks as the 12th highest Associate Degree producer in the nation for minority students! A singular accomplishment where the student body is recruited from within those communities that are traditionally low income, where their schools, K-12, are inferior, and their homes are located in the blighted areas that are ignored by their elected representatives.
The profile of the student body reflects the importance of Southwestern College to the minority communities. The student body to date is 56.6 percent Mexican American (10,702 students), 16.7% are White (3,154), 12.8% are Filipino (2,421), 4.9% are Black Americans (924), 3.7 % are Asian (703), 0.1% are American Indian (97), and 4.8% are Others/Undeclared (898). These are the students that have earned an AA degree through the efforts of Southwestern College and its professional staff. Not bad for a Community College that has consistently received less funding than all other Community Colleges in the State of California!
The South Bay area has been the recipient of the hard work of Dr. Zasueta and the professional staff who conceptualized and developed two-satellite campus, one is in National City and the other is in SanYsidro/Otay Mesa area. Dr. Zasueta and his team of professionals managed to convince the voters to pass Proposition AA to finance the forward looking concept of bringing education to those who otherwise would not have been able to attend college. Walk the halls and peek into the classrooms and what do you see? Classrooms of Mexican American, Asian, Filipinos, Black, and White students all sharing one thing in common: They are of the generation that American society was too quick too write-off. But they refused to give up on themselves. At Southwestern Community College, they also found and educational system that believed in them.
Knowing full well that not all their students could afford or would want to attend a 4 year college, Dr Zasueta was instrumental in seeing that a Dental Hygiene Program was created, the only such program in San Diego County. These students would be able to find employment in the professional field of Dental Hygiene and not be just another throwaway underpaid laborer.
The expansions of the school of Health, Professional Bilingual Business courses, the creation of the new Baja Studies Certificate program to address the growing need for creative program that would open more and more opportunities for the students.
Yet, there are malcontents off and on campus that are actively attempting to undermine Southwestern College. A campaign of vilification, lies and falsehoods has been surfacing. Sadly, the perpetrators appear to be Latinos and Mexican Americans who want to take over the Board of Trustees and are attempting to undermine Dr. Zasueta. It is reprehensible that the college employs some of these malcontents. It isn’t that their salaries are low. Southwestern College pays its top Professors (3/4 of them) from $91,000 to $60,000 dollars per school year! The top salary is $91,210. Median salary is $73,285. The average salary is $70,975. The lowest salary is $39,464 (1 employee). There are 237 members of the faculty. It is difficult to understand why one highly paid professor and a member of the Board would lead the vilification.
The elections coming up for the Board of Trustees may become contentious. Maria Permian is not running for re-election (health reasons), Terri Valladolid is unopposed. Our community cannot afford to have a few malcontents manipulate the voters. Our children’s education depends on the voters being alert and voting on behalf of the interests of the students this coming November 5th.