Campus solicitors raise concerns

In Campus News, News

The legitimacy of groups and organizations soliciting on campus is becoming increasingly questionable, as reports from students and faculty have raised concerns about unauthorized activities such as job recruiting.

Deceptive means, such as vagueness of job description and the claim of having the authorization of the Career Center or the Dean of Students office have been used to recruit students said Dr. Esiquio Uballe, associate dean of students at Cal State Fullerton.

Students have reportedly gone to the Career Center and to the Dean of Students office with complaints. After having gone through hiring and work processes, they find that misleading and manipulative means were used in recruitment and on the job.

College Works Painting, a business which offers students the opportunity to manage residential house-painting operations, has been one such operation in question with regard to its recruiting ethics.

Typical methods of operation involve making presentations in classrooms before faculty members begin instruction, passing out clipboards for students to provide contact and sometimes personal information. Oftentimes, to loosely comply with campus policies on campus solicitation, representatives from organizations unauthorized by the Career Center will ask faculty members for permission to present in classrooms.

While the activities performed by College Works were considered unethical by the Career Center and by the Dean of Students office, and are generally against campus policies, they were not illegal.

“It becomes a game of cat and mouse,” said Sean Gil, associate director at the Career Center.

The Dean of Students office confronted representatives from College Works as early as spring 2009, informing them that their practices were against campus policy.

Though it appeared that the representatives were willing to comply with campus policies, reports of their recruiting appeared again in fall 2009, Uballe said.

Minor variations of College Works’ tactics were discovered. Instead of finding vacant rooms on campus for meetings, College Works recruiters migrated to venues such as the Marriott Hotel and Hope University.

While CSUF has had an uneasy relationship with College Works, the company is registered with the Better Business Bureau and has a B+ rating.

“The problem with this outfit is that they have not been transparent,” Uballe said.

Misunderstandings between College Works management and its recruiters may have been responsible for sour relations with the Career Center, said Matt Stewart, co-founder of College Works Painting.

Brian Moaddeli, vice president of College Works’ Southern California region, said College Works has ceased recruiting at CSUF since last year, when the company discovered that an individual recruiter had broken both campus and College Works’ recruiting policies.

College Works later attempted to establish itself on campus by abiding by the Career Center’s policies, but was denied access.

“I would love to work on our relationship,” Moaddeli said, regarding College Works’ prior conflicts with the Career Center.

Last year, a 94 percent satisfaction rate was achieved by College Works with 8,000 houses painted, according to Moaddeli.

Moaddeli’s concern was that one or two incidents may have been blown out of proportion, causing a long-lasting misunderstanding between College Works and campus officials.

College Works claims to have knowledge of only two occurrences at CSUF. The first involved a CSUF student, who no longer works for the company, recruiting by giving presentations in front of classrooms. After learning that making the presentations was against campus policy, students resorted to passing clipboards around classrooms, before learning that their new methods were also unwelcome.

“We are one of the largest residential painting companies in the country,” Moaddeli said, noting that College Works has had a positive relationship with campuses such as University of California, San Diego.

Stewart said he felt College Works didn’t get the support and understanding from the Career Center that they are trying to foster with campuses nationwide, even after prior incidents were explained.

Most reports of classroom solicitation involve lower-division, general classes, where there are likely to be more new students, Gil said.

Other solicitors are also known to stop students who are walking through campus. Recently, a group posing as CSUF students was attempting to sell “magazine subscriptions.” The group’s legitimacy or identity could not be verified.

Students and faculty have filed complaints about various organizations, many nameless and claiming to be affiliated with the Career Center, which give presentations in classrooms promising appealing career and internship opportunities, said Jim Case, director of the Career Center.

“Any group that says they have been authorized by the career center to solicit on campus is absolutely lying,” Gil said.

The presence of unauthorized solicitors is one of the reasons that the Career Fair will be moved from the campus quad into the Titan Student Union. College Works representatives have been escorted off campus for attempting to participate in past Career Fairs without registering, Gil said.

While the university protects and promotes free speech, commercial activities are more heavily regulated and enforceable by campus policies and authorities, Uballe said.

Lieutenant John Brockie, from the CSUF Police Department, said he has known of unauthorized solicitors as a problem since he joined the department 12 years ago.

Though unauthorized solicitors are not a new problem, recent economic hardship may be a factor in the higher profile activities performed by organizations such as College Works in the past two years, Case and Gil said.

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