Veterans Center reopens after staff issues resolved

Esteban Ramirez, Sports Editor

After closing its doors at the end of last semester because of two main issues, the Bakersfield College Veterans Center re-opened on Sept. 24 with a couple of new provisions to it.

“It was closed because of two reasons,” said dean of students Joyce Coleman. “Since the game room is next to the Veteran Center, a few veterans were complaining about the noise, so we put in a wall to muffle the noise. We also had a problem that we didn’t have any staff to supervise the Veterans Center over the summer so we had to put in cameras.”

She added that a private vendor put in the wall and the college maintenance staff put in the cameras. Student Government Association paid for it with the $20,000 designated money that students pay every school year toward the Campus Center. She also said that the cameras are connected to her computer, her executive assistant Patti Rapp’s computer and Public Safety.

“We closed it because mandating the place was too hard to do,” said BC history professor and adviser to the Veteran Center Paul Beckworth. “Now the cameras can be on. That goes through Joyce Coleman and that means that a paid employee doesn’t have to be in there all the time. There has been a shuffling of personnel in the departments, and that has not made it possible to have staff in there because if they’re doing work in there, they’re not able to do their job in Financial Aid or wherever they’re working.”

He added that they had to get interim president Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg to sign off on it.

“A few veterans have come and asked when the Veterans Center would re-open, but none of them were worried about if it was ever going to open up again,” said Beckworth. Beckworth is a veteran himself and was enlisted in the Navy from 1981-93 and in the National Guard until 2003. He was also an adviser at College of the Sequoias in Visalia.

“It’s a tough transition for them, to go from being shot at, to going to history class, so part of my mission is to make that transition easier,” he said.

“With the Veteran Center, I just want to make it a place where veterans can just stay and hang out. Also help them return to center. A lot of them come back with PTSD, and they’re going to get anxious and stressed probably more than an actual student would.” PSTD is post-traumatic stress disorder that affects many veterans.

“In the Veteran Center you can just sit and relax. There are other veterans in there and you can share your thoughts in there.”

The Veterans Center is open Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Veteran Kevin Bush, who was enlisted in the Navy from 1977-1981, gave his thoughts on the Veteran Center and the changes.

“I heard that they were opening it up again, and I was very happy,” said Bush. “This is great. It’s quiet time and I can get my work done. It’s perfect when I need to get away. I like the hours, but I wish it were open a little longer because it closes at four. I don’t have to go back all the way across town after my morning class. I can just come here and do my work.

“I think the cameras are a good idea because they won’t need to have staff in here, and that way they can monitor the site remotely.”

Freddie Calonge, a veteran who was enlisted in the Marine Corps in Afghanistan, commented on the Veteran Center.

“I like the fact that the veterans actually have a place to study and feel comfortable. I also like the idea of just being with other veterans and that you can share stories,” he said.  “We might be from different branches, but we understand each other. I like the idea of having a camera in here to help supervise, and there’s nothing for us veterans to hide.”

Beckworth added that the Veterans Club meets every Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. at the Veteran Center.