Opinion: Broken promises sparks controversy regarding COD


Marcela Carrillo

Photo courtesy of The Chaparral/Marcela Carrillo. College of the Desert’s water fountain located on their main campus in Palm Desert, Calif.

College of the Desert has been under fire as local ads, city council announcements, and possibly violated laws surfaced due to broken promises made by the College. Since 2004, College of the Desert announced the constructional upbringing of acquiring and fulfilling West Valley campuses for residing students, aiding commute issues. While introducing flexibility, inclusivity and expandability throughout Riverside County, these plans have since created hardships for College of the Desert as their liability hinders the new construction work placed on pause.

Residents in the Western Valley voice their concerns after eighteen consecutive years have gone by without the promised campuses being constructed. On Jan. 21, 2022, a local ad produced by ‘Promises Made – Promises Broken’ arose on social media, reaching their targeted audience: College of the Desert students. With ten-thousand views thus far and titled “College of the Desert Leadership Caught Dealing in Deceit,” this 31-second video questions the leadership of COD and the handling of state-given and residential tax money needed to build newly western campuses.

The ad begins with the promises made by College of the Desert, showcasing COD’s facilities’ master plans. These master plans include the construction work of the Cathedral City and Palm Springs campuses and the expansion plans for Indio’s campus. They go on to dispute that these plans have now been “canceled.” They then end the ad by calling out Superintendent/President Dr. Martha Garcia, and COD Trustees Bea Gonzalez, Aurora Wilson and Rubén AríAztlán Pérez, as they stamp the word “resign” over their names. Promises Made – Promises Broken’s question is yet pending: “Where is the money?” A flyer created by the local group breaks down the money supplied to College of the Desert and how these “campuses” are doing so far.

Where is the money?

— Promises Made - Promises Broken

Meanwhile, as the ad progresses, Promises Made – Promises Broken launched an official website to encourage Coachella Valley students, residents, and tax-payers to join the fight against College of the Desert. After reviewing their website, they aim to help future students steer clear from the College, as they believe it takes students four years to graduate from COD. They installed a contact page, an informational slide about why they believe COD is wasting students’ money and they inserted several hyperlinks directing to The Desert Sun, as they further break down College of the Desert’s situation.

Although this website contains grammatical errors and seems rushed, they are allowed to voice their opinions and concerns. Nonetheless, this can also be targeted and seen as false news. Their commentary has integrity and honesty, and I believe they are angry and disappointed with the local community college. It is, however, feasible to graduate within two years.

As a second-year College of the Desert student, I am preparing to transfer into the fall semester at a four-year university in California. COD has been a tremendous help, for instance its EDGE/plEDGE program, which helps Coachella Valley graduates pursue higher education. After completing their summer bridge program, participating in their 10-hour community service acts and attending their workshops, my first two years were guaranteed to be free. My journey throughout higher education has so far been affordable and achievable.

The advertisement has been spreading like wildfire, but the Palm Springs City Council has also spoken out about their disappointment in College of the Desert and their ongoing promises of building new campuses in the Western Valley. They emphasized their dissatisfaction with the College as news traveled that Superintendent/President Garcia would not be attending a board meeting hosted on Feb. 10, 2022.

Instead, Garcia intended on sending staff to that distinct meeting. However, the board meeting has been placed on halt due to the Palm Springs City Council waiting for the College to be 100% on board with attending future meetings. With this in mind and Garcia opting out of the board meeting – according to The Desert Sun, The City of Palm Springs declared that College of the Desert is violating a California Transparency Law, The Brown Act. Also known as the Sunshine Law, The Brown Act establishes that meetings surrounding public bodies can not withhold secret information but must be open to the public. COD was ultimately caught sharing issues surrounding land and campus facilities privately during board meetings and were not executing these same comments publically, resulting in a possible violated law.

According to The Desert Sun, COD Trustee Bea Gonzalez defended Superintendent/President Garcia. In light of these situations, Gonzalez stated that the blame should not be shifted on Garcia, but on the previous Superintendent/President who promised to build West Valley campuses before her, as Garcia will be entering her first year as Superintendent at College of the Desert in July of 2022.

With ads, announcements and lawyer inputs, College of the Desert handles their situation privately. It is always easier to note the wrongs and mistakes of an institution rather than the good. Nevertheless, College of the Desert still owes their students and their community an explanation. And the community is making sure they’re being held accountable.