Budget cuts cause relocation of longtime Foothill College employee, students protest


Devaki Dikshit

Al Guzman has left the Teaching and Learning Center on the main campus due to budget cuts.

Budget cuts that have been impacting the Foothill De – Anza district since the beginning of 2018 have halved the budgets of the Teaching and Learning Center and the STEM center for winter quarter, leading to significant hour reductions and position cuts. Al Guzman, who has worked at Foothill College for over twenty years, and currently serves as an administrative assistant at the TLC, has begun work at the Sunnyvale campus this winter quarter due to a position elimination.

Always seated at the front desk, Guzman is often the first person students and staff see upon entering the TLC. He is known to greet everyone who passes by with a smile or a nod, a gesture he explains as his way of welcoming those who may be nervous about asking for help. Through his career, he has gotten to know the Foothill community very well.

“I saw people literally grow up…from being teenagers, to parents, and having their own kids and bringing those kids over,” Guzman reflected. “It makes me feel fulfilled.”

Kathy Honcharuk and Jharna Sutaria

Several students felt blindsided upon learning of his projected position cut — many considered Guzman an important part of Foothill. A student-led initiative spread the word of his move a week before finals, petitioning the college to keep Guzman at the main campus. Within two weeks, it gained nearly 300 signatures.

Gulya Mamedova, a second-year student at Foothill, began collecting signatures with a couple of her friends as soon as she heard of Guzman’s position cut. “When I first heard the news, I was frustrated,” she said. “I can’t imagine the TLC without Al.” Mamedova described the welcoming atmosphere Guzman created for her, and stressed its importance; especially for students new to the school, the area, or the country.

“Since I’m an international student, I don’t see my family much, and it’s hard…people like Al, they make you feel much better,” she said.

Mamedova, along with a team of students including Ryan Saadat and Nelli Mikhitarian, collected their first set of signatures the Friday before finals week. “We really tried to get every single person who passed by to sign,” Saadat said. Many had recognized who Guzman was, he added. And even if they had not, they’d been happy to support a good cause.

“No one was indifferent,” Mamedova said.

The protest didn’t stop at the petition. Mamedova worked with Sam Muscatine to address the Board of Directors on Wednesday evening. In a packed room, Muscatine delivered an emotional story about Guzman lending him his personal laptop — technology he wouldn’t have otherwise had access to due to the campus closures earlier in the quarter. In his experience, no other faculty member at Foothill had been so willing to meet their students’ every need.

“He needs to be somewhere he can serve the most possible students,” Muscatine said. “The vast majority of Foothill students are right here, every day.”

The students hope their work will prompt Foothill College to reconsider, and keep Guzman’s position at the TLC. At the very least, though, they hope it will show the administrative assistant how important he is to the student body.

“Because of my seniority, I knew I would have a job somewhere in the district, I just didn’t know where it was going to be,” Guzman said, describing his reaction to the news of his removal. When presented with his options, he indicated interest in working at the Sunnyvale campus.

“If I had known it would get to the point of a petition, I would have just said…” Guzman shook his head and smiled. “I was really touched, that was just so amazing.”