With the May 17 election just two days away, Tea Party-esque rage over spending and public-employee salaries is heating up what would otherwise be a sleepy race for a seat on the board of Clackamas Community College (CCC).
A small group of students from the school’s political science department has stirred up recent meetings by accusing members of the board of incompetence and financial negligence. The students’ ire—when not directed at the board itself—has been focused on a proposed $130 million bond measure on Tuesday’s ballot.
Those students say the bond, pitched as an effort to modernize CCC buildings, would add needless costs to the college’s budget.
“I want there to be financial responsibility,” says Marlo Smith, a political science student who's also running for a seat on the board. “A new building would increase the operating budget, not helping us in the long run.”
Smith, a junior, is also running against longtime board member Chuck Clemans. Smith is a student of CCC political science professor Dean Darris, a popular teacher also known as a thorn in the administration's side.
Darris has been writing letters to local papers and posting comments online opposing the bond and endorsing Smith. Board member Ron Adams says he isn’t sure if Darris is behind the students’ outrage.
“They [the students] are occasionally saying the same things in the board meetings that he [Darris] is saying to the editor,” Adams notes.
“It's not Dr. Darris putting us up to anything,” says Smith. “He teaches us things that make us think. And then we take those ideas that are presented in class, and we act on them.”
“I think I teach them too well, and they act on that," says Darris, who has not attended the contentious recent board meetings.
Darris on occasion has echoed Tea Party rhetoric. In comments at OregonLive.com, he says CCC should “cut the fat,” adding the school has had “too many over-paid [sic] and under-worked ‘employees.’ ”
If elected, Smith says, she'll look closely at employee salaries.
Not all students are opposed to the bond. At the last board meeting, says Adams, several students from the manufacturing and engineering department showed up to speak in favor of the measure.
If passed, the bond is expected to fund a new building for their department.