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OCC faculty senate asks for 60-day delay before Rabbit Island decision

November 16, 2006|By Michael Miller

Orange Coast College’s faculty senate voted unanimously Tuesday to ask the school’s foundation to delay a decision regarding the sale of Rabbit Island, a property in British Columbia that some on campus are calling a drain on resources.

On Thursday, the OCC Foundation plans to consider putting the island up for sale to raise money for its School of Sailing and Seamanship. Earlier this week, the student board of trustees voted to ask that the foundation wait 60 days before ruling on Rabbit Island, so that others in the community could seek alternative ways of paying for its maintenance. Now, a second powerful group on campus has made the same request.

“I think there are a lot better odds [of postponing the decision] than there were last week at this time,” said Dennis Kelly, a biology professor who has led classes on Rabbit Island. “Now we have two constituents showing up asking not to go ahead with the sale right now. If they also hear from citizens out there, that could make an even bigger difference.”

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Foundation President Doug Bennett, who expected both the students and faculty to present their cases on Thursday, said he could envision his group postponing a decision on Rabbit Island.

“I think there’d be some willingness to spend some time taking a look at it,” he said.

OCC has led courses on Rabbit Island since 2003, shortly after entrepreneur and yachtsman Henry Wheeler donated it to the school. Professors have led classes in biology, kayaking, photography and more, while the sailing school had paid as much as $75,000 a year to maintain facilities and cover operating costs.

Bennett and sailing school director Brad Avery have said they want to hold onto Rabbit Island but would need to find another way of paying the expenses. One of Kelly’s ideas was to bring a team of experts from the Organization of Biological Field Stations, a nonprofit advisory group, to evaluate OCC’s handling of the property.

Other instructors have criticized the foundation for not seeking enough faculty input in making a decision to sell Rabbit Island.

“It’s disheartening,” said biology professor Marc Perkins. “We’ve put a tremendous amount of work into the island, into developing its programs in the last few years — and to have that sold, all our future plans destroyed, is very disheartening.”

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