Ricasa demoted, but remains employed

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EOPS Director Arlie Ricasa has been demoted to staff counselor following her admission of guilt in the South Bay Corruption case, but for the time being, remains an employee of the college. Governing board members voted 5-0 in support of an administrative recommendation to demote Ricasa, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of filing a false instrument in the sweeping corruption case that rocked the South County in December 2011 when armed officers raided the homes of 15 Southwestern College and Sweetwater Union High School District officials.  Ricasa was charged with 33 counts – 16 felonies – by the San Diego County District Attorney.  Her guilty plea helped her to avoid prison time, but forced her to resign her…

Sayaka Ridley elected new ASO president

Sayaka Ridley was elected ASO president in a close race with Steve Whiting, winning the college’s top elective student office by just 65 votes. “I was so shocked,” said Ridley….

New 16-week SWC semester calendar gains faculty support

A campus movement to compress the traditional semester calendar from 17.5 weeks to 16 is picking up support among students and college employees. Implementation, however, still may be years away. Academic Senate surveys show 81.5 percent of students, 87.7 percent of faculty and 81.4 percent of classified employees and administrators prefer a 16-week semester. These numbers are much higher than previous surveys and it shows more people are warming up to the idea of a shorter semester. Instructional time will not change. Classes will be a few minutes longer each day and will continue to meet state requirements. Many universities are on 16-week calendars or even shorter schedules. “The compressed schedule will help SWC align with other colleges and have …

Faculty debates removal of extra degree requirements

A lively debate in the Academic Senate did not produce a position on one of the touchiest topics on campus, the proposed elimination of local requirements for Associate’s degrees at Southwestern College. Some faculty said the point is moot and the decision would likely be made for the college. Other faculty senators said there was not enough relevant data to make a decision, so the vote was postponed until Oct.14. Title V of the California Education Code allows colleges to require additional courses for an Associate’s degree. SWC students are currently required to take three extra courses, one each in health, computer literacy and exercise science. “This is an incredibly contentious issue for this campus,” said Academic Senate President Randy …

Construction firms return prop. R funds

An architect and two construction companies that pleaded guilty to crimes in the South Bay Corruption Case will return some of the Proposition R money they were paid by former college officials who also admitted to crimes. BCA Architects, Echo Pacific Construction and Seville Construction Services agreed to refund $642, 000 of taxpayer-supported Proposition R funds to the Southwestern Community College District, although it is unclear how much each company will pay. The settlement is a small fraction of the Prop R funds already paid to the firms during the administration of Raj Kumar Chopra. The firms won lucrative contracts after providing tens of thousands of dollars of cash and gifts to former college officials. BCA Architects was given a …

Parking in neighborhoods draw fire

Southwestern College has several official parking lots on campus and a large ad hoc lot across the street in the middle of the College Estates neighborhood. Therein lies the rub. Hundreds of SWC students admit that they park in residential areas and walk to campus to save $20-$40 per semester for a parking permit. Homeowners have said they support the college, but are frustrated with speeding, parking violations, trash, congestion and in some cases mean and disrespectful students. Resolution seems to be far down the road. Pilar Anaya has lived on Gotham Street since 1993. An otherwise friendly, soft-spoken woman, she said she hates students parking in front of her house. “They’re annoying,” she said. “They block my driveway, they …

Financial Aid TV helps make applying easier

Patti Larkin is already in charge of financial aid, veterans services and evaluations. Now the busy administrator is also the producer of Financial Aid TV. A web-based program, Financial Aid TV was designed to provide a better understanding of the process through short, informative videos. Larkin said she hoped this new series of clips could prove to be useful and potentially cut back the time students spend waiting in line on campus. “We have really been looking at how to do this in the fastest, most efficient, student-centered way,” she said. “We don’t want people waiting. Students need to know what they need to know as quickly as possible because you guys have to make decisions quickly.” Larkin said she …

NO PRISON, NO DEMOTION — Arlie Ricasa and attorney Allen Bloom arrive for Ricasa's sentencing. He argued for leniency and said the college had "demoted" her. College officials deny Ricasa has been demoted.

Jaime Pronoble/Staff

Ricasa sentenced

Southwestern College EOPS Director Arlie Ricasa officially avoided a prison term this week when Judge Ana España sentenced her to 33 months of probation, a $4,589 fine and 80 hours of community service. Ricasa originally faced 33 criminal charges, including 16 felonies in the South Bay Corruption Case. Ricasa’s attorney, Allen Bloom, told the judge in open court that SWC Interim Vice President of Human Resources Lynn Solomita wrote a letter addressing the impact the case has had on Ricasa. …

STILL ON THE HOT SEAT —  Greg Sandoval still faces sentencing. Though prison is a possibility, a district attorney said he doubted Sandoval would be incarcerated.

Kristina Saunders/Staff

Sandoval pleads guilty

Greg Sandoval, former interim president of Southwestern College and a former Sweetwater Union High School District trustee, pleaded guilty to one felony count and one misdemeanor for his role in the South Bay Corruption Case. He was originally indicted on 34 counts, including perjury, filing false instrument, accepting bribes and wrongful influence by public official. Sandoval accepted gifts for dinners, sporting events tickets and hotel rooms, according to a thick San Diego County District Attorney affidavit. He appeared in court …

Transfers to UCSD down sharply

Correction: A previous version of this story referred to UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla as “Prapeet” Khosla. The Sun editorial board apologizes for this error. … A vocal group of Southwestern College educators have said applications to UCSD should come with a disclaimer—local students need not apply. Fewer students from SWC and other community colleges in San Diego County were accepted by UCSD this year.  SWC acceptances are down by nearly half. This marks another year of a decade-long trend of fewer transfers. UCSD Chancellor Dr. Pradeep Khosla attended a town hall meeting with SWC administrators and faculty recently and offered no viable reason for the low numbers. When questioned about the declining number of students from SWC transferring to UCSD, Khosla

Self-evalution report is due next summer

It was only three years ago that a federal accreditation agency had its hands around the throat of Southwestern College, threatening to close it down. SWC received a stay of execution after a reformist board majority took control in 2010 and swept out the corrupt Raj K. Chopra administration. Today, like a hard-to-kill zombie, the accreditation agency is back. SWC Accreditation Oversight Committee Co-Chair Dr. Rebecca Wolniewicz said the college should be in good shape this time around. “It’s quality assurance,” she said. “It just says that the programs we offer here are valuable, worthwhile programs that have been approved by the federal government and our accreditors.” The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) is looking at that …

GROUND TROOPS - Southwestern College ASO Senator Priscella Jimenez prepared her message.

Rick Flores/Staff

Students march for access

SACRAMENTO — “No cuts! No fees! Education should be free!” Voices of thousands of community college students thundered throughout the streets of Sacramento as they marched on the State Capitol to advocate for affordable higher education. Local Assembly Members Lorena Gonzalez, Marty Block and Ben Hueso heard the message. Michael Greenberg, a student at Santa Monica Community College, said students should not be shut out of the college by the costs. “Access to education should be equal,” he said. “Education …