Staff photo of C.M. Brahmbhatt when he worked for Coast Colleges — also the former employer of Southwestern College superintendent Melinda Nish
Members of Southwestern College's faculty are concerned that the college’s master education plan is based on inaccurate data that may inform the administration’s pink-slip plan or presage the closing of programs integral to student needs.
In July of 2012, the Reader reported that Southwestern’s interim vice president of financial affairs, C.M. Brahmbhatt, slid from his VP position to district consultant without missing a paycheck. The college hired Cambridge West Partnership, LLC — with Brahmbhatt as the managing director — to prepare an “Educational Master Plan” and a “Facilities Master Plan” for $425,000.
The data collected for the education plan will drive the facilities plan that will be used for Proposition R bond expenditures. In a July statement, Southwestern College superintendent Melinda Nish called the hiring of the company “a key component” in moving forward with proposition R.
Cambridge West partner Fred Trapp collected data that resulted in a December 2012 draft Educational Master Plan. The plan contains an extensive list of “Instructional Programs That Might Be Reconsidered.” This list of programs, possibly headed for elimination, includes: web design, nursing, administration of justice, accounting, real estate, English as a second language, and so on.
A February 20, 2013, Reader article regarding potential layoffs drew a number of faculty responses about problems concerning the data collected for the Educational Master Plan.
One faculty member responded: “I have very serious concerns about the Ed Master Plan process. The Ed Master Plan was full of errors because of the method for gathering information. Grossmont/Cuyamaca are in their Self-Evaluation Accreditation period. They had to update their Ed Master Plan, but did it in house without expending $400,000+ and hiring consultants as we did….
“I am told that of the consultant firms interviewed, Cambridge was the best; however, my strong issue is that this company was brought in for the sole purpose of rushing through simultaneously an [educational master plan] and a Fiscal Master Plan…. I believe that Nish wants to move on spending Prop R $ as a priority.”
Gail Stockin, a professor in the school of sciences, humanities, and business, expressed concern that the data collected do not accurately reflect the number of students who have received certificates from programs that are “being reconsidered.” Nor does she feel that the data reflect the fact that students have not been able to complete certificate programs because course offerings have been severely cut in the past few years.
Angela Stuart, professor of Spanish and ESL, is concerned about the future of the ESL program. “We are a Hispanic-serving institution. Many of our students have difficulty affording the co-requisite units required to earn a certificate. These are hard economic times, and we have to remember that we are here to serve student needs. We are taking a look at how to address this problem.”
Stuart said she attended an Academic Senate meeting on February 26 where the incorrect data was a common concern.
An early call to Cambridge West on February 26 was not returned.