Friday, December 14, 2018

College wrests control of growing flea market away from students

The president of San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, Calif., has seized control of a flea market from the student government that ran it successfully for 30 years. Since its founding in 1981, the Delta College ASBG Flea Market has been growing, and income from booth rentals now tops $500,000 annually. The weekly flea market is held year-round, even when the school is in recess, and supports a hundred or more vendors.

There have been problems with embezzlement in recent years, but the president of the student government accuses the administration of taking control because the college needs the income to meet announced funding of a scholarship project.

“This is clearly a case of the administration doing whatever they want, because the market makes more than $500,000 a year,” said ASBG president Nicholas Aguirre to the Lodi News-Sentinel.

“They do not have the funds themselves to fund the Passport to College program,” Aguirre told the Record, another Stockton newspaper. “It is an affront to say the difficulty of running a $500,000-a-year operation has become too complex for a student group,” he said. “The student group is what got it to $500,000. I’m pretty sure they can maintain it.”

Michael Kerns

San Joaquin Delta College vice president of student services Michael Kerns.

The decision was made last week by San Joaquin Delta College president Jeff Marsee and vice president of student services Michael Kerns. Kerns tells that although the recent embezzlement was a factor, the primary drive behind the swap meet takeover was to move the fund-raising capability of the flea market away from the students and to put it under the wing of a fund-raising division of the college, the Auxiliary Foundation.

“The college made a decision to move the market, which is a fund-raising activity, to the college Auxiliary Foundation,” says Kerns, “because the foundation is responsible for fund-raising activities within the district.” He added that the main goal was “having organized, centralized fund-raising activities under the appropriate arm of the college, that being the Auxiliary Foundation.”

Kerns added that the lease rights to the market were informal. “There is no contract with the Associated Student Body Government for the use of those facilities,” he says. The profits from the flea market are about $250,000 to $300,000 per year, he explains. Of that, about $35,000 has been going to scholarships, and the rest funds college clubs. Now, the college administration will use a much larger amount for scholarships, and the clubs will have to find alternative sources of funding.

“My goal is to see scholarships increase considerably. That would have a greater benefit for the majority of our students,” says Kerns. “They do have other sources of income, including the sale of student ID cards. They’re a great group of student leaders, and I’m sure they’ll continue to develop other sources of income.”

Delta College ASBG Flea Market

A scene from the Delta College ASBG Flea Market in 2008.

In response to student accusations that the college was “robbing” students, Kerns says, “My response to our students is that I respect the work that they do to provide leadership to our campus clubs, and that I made the decision to transfer this from the Associated Student Body Government to the Foundation because fund-raising activities need to be set appropriately to right area on campus, and that is the Foundation.”

According to news reports, student leaders are contacting lawyers and plan to sue.

Sept. 6 update: Student government leaders are preparing to fight the takeover in court.

Photo credits, with thanks: Delta College Collegian student newspaper and the Stockton Record.

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