Note: Abdullah Yahya was the webmaster for Chabot College, but in March when the district announced numerous layoffs, Yahya was one of them. To read about the layoffs click here. Below is a final letter and good bye from Yahya.
I have recently accepted an offer to work for a web-based internet security company in Redwood Shores (next to Oracle). My last day at Chabot is today. Though I wasn’t planning on leaving Chabot at this time, especially in a down economy, I am fortunate that my new assignment comes with greener grass and greater opportunities. I hope others affected by the layoffs will be just as fortunate.
Many of you have asked me what the plan was for the website. A while ago, the Classified Union and several laid-off members met with HR to get answers. Though HR hired an outside lawyer to talk to us, neither HR nor their lawyer had any answers and said that “some things will simply just not get done.” The lawyer, representing CLPCCD and not classified staff, admitted that they had not had a chance to plan when they made the decision to lay off employees during the mass-layoffs in March. The impression I’ve had over the last few years and more so over the last 3 months, both from personal experiences and from what others have told me, is that there is a disconnect between the district and the colleges as if we are not part of the same organization. That seemed even more true seeing that the district had to hire a lawyer (paid for by tax dollars / employees) just to talk to its own employees. Many of you have repeatedly asked upper management what the plan was for the website. It’s disturbing that in a public organization, important questions from the community can simply be ignored. Some of you have asked me to teach you how to do parts of my job because you’ve been asked to do so by your supervisor. Hopefully you’ll realize that doing work outside your job description doesn’t benefit you nor other members of your union and is a violation of your union contract, unless, of course, the alternative is to get fired (laid off). Since it’s likely to happen, you may want to contact your union reps before you find yourself working out of class.
Although the economic collapse that led to budget cuts to education was not our fault (see the documentary “Inside Job” for who to blame for that), smart organizations would be creative in how they handle tough situations. Many companies have turned to the web and technology to automate many business processes and provide their customers with self-serve solutions, e.g. online check-in for flights, mobile banking, etc. Unfortunately, this usually only happens at organizations where the CTO understands today’s technologies and promotes a culture of innovation rather than repression.
As the webmaster, I hope I have left you and the community with a much-improved website that you can be proud of. Of course, unless managed, the website will surely disappoint students as it has been proven to be their primary source of information.
As a community member and taxpayer, I hope the college / district will not continue to waste public money, e.g. for expensive lawyers on internal issues, overpriced outsourced software that shouldn’t take over a year to develop (CurricuNET), outdated redundant software (The Zone), outdated hard-to-support software (Novell Groupwise), overpriced software (Blackboard), and iPads for a select group of people who probably don’t even need them.
Last but not least, I hope the college / district will seriously consider what students want before making decisions that will affect them. You can easily accomplish this by using web-based surveys, unless you’re concerned that what students want will differ from your personal desires.
Since mentioning problems without offering solutions doesn’t help much, I shall leave you with one last suggestion … and that is to form an Oversight / WatchDog Committee consisting of faculty and staff but preferably tenured faculty with high seniority since they are the most protected. The committee would be charged with enforcing shared governance and finding and disseminating facts on controversial issues such as the Chabot 3.0 Website Incident of 2010 and the outsourcing of the Chabot Bookstore. After all, this is a public organization where transparency and shared governance is required by law. When a district regime threatens to shut down an entire college website just because there’s no “Register to Vote” link on the home page, you know you’ve got a problem. Don’t hesitate to do a vote of no confidence where necessary. Without serious reform, abuses of authority, lies and biased information will continue to exist …. and the consequences will be at your (the taxpayers’) expense.
I have truly enjoyed working with 99% of you. Being surrounded by and working with specialists in such a wide variety of fields made for a very interesting and enlightening work environment. It’s as if Chabot was a city of its own.
Thank you and I wish you luck in how you handle future budget cuts. Considering the circumstances, it seems like you’re going to need a lot of it.