By Jose Servin
Over the summer, the RSCCD Foundation approved a scaled-back version of its controversial deal with a company based in Saudi Arabia that earlier this year sparked legal action from faculty members and raised questions regarding the legality and purpose of the foundation.
The revised contract includes an escape clause, meaning the foundation can terminate the agreement if at anytime they are required to violate any U.S law.
The potential profit from the deal has also been reduced from $8 million to $2 million after negotiations with Saudi Arabian officials finished, RSCCD Chancellor said.
A joint venture agreement was created between the district foundation and two technical schools in Saudi Arabia to carry out the contract.
The joint venture was created to represent the interests of the foundation in Saudi Arabia without involving the school district, Rodriguez said. Contractors or faculty employed to work in Saudi Arabia will report only to the joint venture, not directly to foundation officials.
Santiago Canyon College’s Academic Senate passed a resolution opposing the agreement earlier this year. Santa Ana College’s Academic Senate passed a resolution agreeing with SCC.
Rodriguez and Vice Chancellor Enrique Perez have been the most vocal defenders of the Saudi deal. Both are on the board of directors for the International Consortium for Educational and Economic Development, a group of leaders from Canada, the United States and Mexico focused on international education and economic development.
ICEED’s website lists its offices as being on the fourth floor of the RSCCD Building.
Centennial College in Toronto has served as a role model for the foundation, Rodriguez said.
“We had them come in and do a training with our staff in how to work with international students and how to recruit them,” Rodriguez said.
Virginia Macchiavello serves as the president of ICEED and is also the executive director of international education for Centennial College.
“This Saudi thing opened a big can of worms and it’s the worms that are almost as bad as the can,” criminal justice professor George Wright said at a SAC Academic Senate meeting.
Similar deals between Canadian community colleges and Saudi Arabia have all failed.
In its deal with Saudi Arabia, Algonquin College of Ottawa, Ontario, faces an investment loss of $730,000 according to their 2014 consolidated spending report. The foundation had applied for this same deal in 2013.
The district has been involved in other international agreements with China and Mexico. Like Saudi Arabia, China has been criticized for its track record on human rights, according to the U.S. State Department.