Q&As with the Board candidates: Rodrigo Santos

Rodrigo Santos is currently serving the remaining term of the late Trustee Milton Marks, and is campaigning to retain his seat on the City College Board of Governors in the upcoming November Election. Photo by James Fanucchi/The Guardsman
By Marilyn Fernando
The Guardsman
Why do you want to be a trustee right now in the middle of this accreditation crisis?I’ve always been passionate about education. Ever since I’ve met my business partner, who is a graduate of City College, I felt that an institution that offers such great opportunity, such as affordable education to all, should have high importance. I’m in a position in my life where I want to give something back and there would be no more of a rewarding experience than to be recognized as someone who helped Community College succeed, particularly in a time of challenges such as accreditation and the financial crisis that we’re facing.

What does your experience bring to the table?

As someone who’s been in the private sector for the last 26 years, I bring financial know-how, financial responsibility and discipline to the table.  That teaches you a significant amount about the realities of spending within your means.

Day 1, you’re a trustee. What’s at the top of your to-do list?

My goal (after being appointed by Mayor Ed Lee in August 2012 to the City College trustees board) was to ensure there was a consensus among the trustees. I’ve always been a consensus builder. It’s important especially in a time of crisis that the trustees speak with a unified voice, so my first step was to be helpful in creating that unified voice. We’ve all shared the same sense of urgency and I’ve noticed these meetings have been met with full attendance, great participation and full engagement.

What’s your connection to City College?

Primarily through employees I’ve hired in the last 25 years and my relationship with my business partner, who is a product of City College. I’ve been exposed to employees who have had great backgrounds (from City College) that have not only taught them the basics in engineering but has also given them a sense of purpose and responsibility. I’ve been amazed by the level of maturity of the students who have come from City College.

On your website, you mention “building cutting edge curriculum” as one of your priorities but trustees don’t have a say in setting the curriculum, instructors do.  Why is that part of your platform?

My goal is to ensure San Francisco, the innovation capital of the world, is recognized through City College. I want to make sure we capitalize on that. I want us to use our technical know-how to save this great educational institution. By no means am I suggesting trustee Santos will interfere in setting up the curriculum.

To date, you have $147,388 funding your campaign.  That’s miles above any of the other nominees. Why is it necessary to have that much money?

When I decided to run for this post, I was facing four incumbents. This is my first time running for public office and the only way I’d be able to get elected was to increase my name and canvass the city. The only way for me to do that was to have a well funded program.

Do you plan on running for political office sometime in the next 5-10 years?

No. As a good naturalized US citizen, I have a sense of commitment and purpose. This country has embraced me, I’ve raised a family here in San Francisco and they’re productive members of society. It’s time to give something back to this community. I cannot think of a more worthy institution than City College. If in the future, there may be other things I can contribute, I will be more than happy to do so.

Is it daunting to represent a school of about 90,000 students?

Absolutely. It’s not a scary task, but it is a big responsibility to preserve this institution and the mission statement. I want to ensure that programs, both credit and noncredit stay in place. There would be nothing more rewarding than providing that.

What happens if Proposition 30 and/or Proposition A don’t pass?

If they don’t pass, we plan on going back to our contractual obligations.  We would need to re-evaluate things and plan new solutions.  There is no magic wand solution for all of this.

If you had the chance to have dinner with one historical figure, one musician or one movie star, who would they be and why?

Ulysses S. Grant. He overcame tremendous obstacles and not only was a great general, but became president. He was faced with financial bankruptcy at the end of his life and wrote an incredible memoir purely for the sake of of preserving the financial stake of his family. I admire someone who had sustained so many obstacles and still succeeded in life.

What’s on your Ipod right now?

I don’t listen to music. I read a lot, mostly historical books.  Currently I’m reading “TR,” which is about the second term of Theodore Roosevelt. “Team of Rivals” is my favorite book, it’s about Abraham Lincoln and his conflict with his cabinet members.

What part of Ecuador are you from? If I visit there, do you have a favorite dish I should sample and a favorite monument I should visit?

I was born in Guayaquil, left when I was 13 and moved to Mexico City. My favorite dish is empanadas. You should visit the Galapagos Islands and visit a monument found along the equator. It’s called “El Centro del Mundo,” the Center of the World.

Do you read The Guardsman?

I have. They are very well written and I get a lot of information from the student’s viewpoint. I’m a 54-year-old man that wasn’t particularly in tune with reading how students see things like the accreditation crisis. I enjoy reading the perspective that students bring to issues related to accreditation and financial crises of the like.

Follow Fernando on Twitter: @esornyliram
The Guardsman