Over 20 cleaning and grounds employees from Facilities Management (Facilities) met with Vice President of Finance and Planning Amos Himmelstein on Thursday to discuss the termination of the cleaning services supervisor position, currently held by eight-year employee Ruben Campos. Facilities Director Tom Polanski met with Campos personally on Tuesday to inform him that his position would be discontinued at the end of the calendar year.
“Today’s purpose is that jobs are not lost,” one cleaning staff member said via translation by Aaron Vogel (senior). “[Campos] has done a lot for our service. It’s unfair to terminate his job because there is no purpose of doing so.”
After learning of Campos’s termination through the cleaning staff, Vogel posted about Thursday’s meeting in Wednesday’s Root digest. Coalition @ Oxy for Diversity (CODE) also spread the word via Facebook.
“I just wanted the women and other workers to know that students are here to support them,” Vogel said.
The meeting was an open forum, held in the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center (AGC) garden, during which employees could ask questions and voice concerns regarding Campos’s termination. Kevin Duran (senior) and Omar Rodriguez ‘14 acted as translators between Spanish- and English-speaking members of the discussion. A crowd of students and faculty encircled the garden from above, some with signs reading, “Stop discriminating, administration!” and “We deserve answers!”.
Himmelstein wished to clarify that Campos was not directly being fired by the college; rather, his position will be terminated on December 31 and he is open to apply for another position. According to Himmelstein, Campos’s current salary will be reallocated throughout Facilities. His salary may be used to pay for items such as equipment, new supervisor positions or any additional resources for Facilities.
“This isn’t to make the department weaker, by any measure,” Himmelstein said. “When reallocating these positions, we want to make sure the department and new positions still have what they need.”
Himmelstein conveyed to both students and staff that the decision was not made exclusively on the basis of finances, nor on Campos as an individual.
“It’s not just about the money,” Himmelstein said. “It’s about where the resources are being deployed within the department.”
The staff members present disagreed that eliminating Campos’s position would be beneficial to the college. Employees from Facilities expressed fear that they would lose the efficiency and open communication between staff members and officials that existed under Campos’s supervision. Members argued that Campos’s near decade of experience, leadership and concern for his employees should not end in such an abrupt termination.
According to the staff members present, Campos made changes that directly benefited the staff, and his termination was a step in the opposite direction. According to Chief Shop Steward for the Union Bargaining Unit Ed Comell, Campos’s stepped in to supervise both grounds and cleaning when other supervisors retired.
“If you tried finding [Campos] in his office, you would never see him,” one cleaning staff member said. “He is always out of his office helping his staff and making sure everything is running smoothly.”
Comell strongly opposed the decision, saying it would be the first mistake he has seen made by the Finance and Planning Committee during his time at Occidental.
“It is a lousy way to come up with a relatively small amount of money,” Comell said. “In the direction that the school is going—with new projects and other developments—it will take much more money than that. We will need to devote more resources within the department to get those projects done.”
Polanski and Himmelstein met with students after the initial discussion. They announced that the allocation of Campos’s responsibilities and forgone salary will be determined by December 31, pending further discussion.