Remaining in Spain

A few weeks after ending study abroad program in Spain for practical and political reasons, a community collegereverses itself.
March 24, 2005

Less than a month after voting to cancel a study abroad program in Spain, citing a mix of cost and safety concerns with a splash of politics thrown in, the Board of Trustees of the South Orange County Community College District reversed itself Tuesday.

The district's board voted in late February to end the 14-year-old program. Some trustees complained that the program cost too much money, and others said they believed the threat of terrorism made Spain an unsafe destination for students and the trip an insurance risk for the institution.

Supporters of the program disputed those conclusions, noting that at the same meeting the board had approved two other trips with significantly higher per-day costs.

They expressed concern that the real reason for the board's action was summed up by one trustee's comments suggesting that Spain should be punished for its lack of support for the Bush administration's war in Iraq.

"Spain has abandoned our fighting men and women, withdrawing their support," Thomas A. Fuentes, one trustee, said at the meeting last month. "I see no reason to send students of our colleges to Spain at this moment in history."

Fuentes's comments raised an outcry, and the issue was brought back up for a vote at Tuesday's meeting of the board. One of the trustees who voted to kill the program a few weeks ago, William O. Jay, introduced a measure to approve the program. It passed by a 5 to 2 vote.

In reply to a request for an interview Wednesday, Fuentes offered a terse e-mail reply: "The vote was 5 to 2. Trustee [Donald P.] Wagner and I voted no. We remained concerned about cost, safety and liability. Enough said."


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