Jeff Jardine

MJC veterans support ousted certification specialist in letters, calls

Jeff Jardine
Jeff Jardine

There often seems to be a disconnect between the government bureaucrats who administer services and the people who use or rely on them.

An example is the ongoing problem involving Modesto Junior College’s Veterans Service Office, which I wrote about on May 14. The office’s certification specialist, 27-year-old Alberto Aranda, was fired just six months into his job. He was one of four people who work in the office, and as the certification specialist was responsible for making sure the veterans qualify for the services and receive them in a timely manner.

Aranda claims that he was fired for demanding that Bryan Justin Marks, the associate dean of Campus Life & Student Learning, and Marks’ boss, Dean of Special Programs Francisco Banuelos, failed to act in time to fill three positions funded by a Veterans Success Grant that will run out in 2018.

Firing Aranda at that time causes problems for veterans enrolling in summer and possibly fall classes because they likely won’t receive their book stipends on time. Paying out of pocket forces them to wait three or more months for reimbursement, and many cannot afford that, said one vet who called me after the column appeared. And he said he also couldn’t get the classes he needed and then was pushed onto wait lists.

One wrote a letter to the opinions page, while others didn’t want their names used because they still need to do business with the Veterans Office.

The school, for my first column, provided a list of services it offers to veterans, along with office hours. It also claimed it had a backup for Aranda, trained to certify veterans, and that it would go through the process of finding his replacement.

MJC President Jill Stearns assured the veteran students their needs will be met and that there will “no disruption of certification.”

But the veteran students who contacted me aren’t buying it. I received calls from more than a half-dozen veterans, some of whom were downright angry about Aranda’s dismissal. To a person, they lauded his attention to detail and questioned the motives that led to his firing.

One veteran called his dismissal “an atrocity” and said the veterans are “at war” with MJC.

Another accused the school of trying to “sweep Alberto under the rug as someone who is upset they didn’t pass probation ... ”

A veteran called him the most competent, dedicated certifying official he’d ever dealt with. Another said the problems result from school officials who don’t understand the very processes they oversee and certainly not the people they oversee.

Among Aranda’s criticisms was that Marks delayed or denied requests for items needed for the center, and that might be what the school officials don’t get.

Said a frustrated veteran student: “Never promise any Marine or any member of the service anything and not come through with it. They (school officials) need to be held accountable.”