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College Spain Abroad Program Canceled

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Tom Fuentes, former chair of Orange County’s Republican Party for 20 years and currently a trustee for the South Orange County Community College District, decided to end study-abroad programs to Spain last week, citing the country’s troop withdrawal from Iraq.

“Many of our students in this college, and of its sister college […] fight on the battlefield of Iraq under the flag that is behind us. Spain has abandoned our fighting men and women, withdrawing their support. I see no reason to send the students of our colleges to Spain at this moment in history.”

In addition to his demands regarding the program, which had afforded community college students the opportunity to study Spanish language and culture for fifteen summers, Fuentes also mentioned (off the record) several other activities in which the colleges should discontinue their participation: The screening of any films starring Canadian actors (as their nation didn’t join the coalition), the academic study of Catholicism (due to the Pope’s stance on war in general), and of course the traditional ‘Belgian Waffle Fridays’ in the cafeteria (because most Belgians know French).

Fuentes’ actions were a boon for upstanding Americans everywhere who agree wholeheartedly that knowledge of other cultures — specifically ones that dare to disagree with ours on occasion — is of little importance compared to the unifying force of petty political gestures.

Fuentes did not comment on whether or not he would be changing his name to Tom Sources in the near future.

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“Yes, this is Mr. ‘Sources’. I’m going to need some more flags. The six up here just don’t convey the amount of patriotism it requires to withhold life experience from students.”

Orange County Weekly


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About Travis Marshall

  • Find Fuentes’ email and send it to me.

  • Of course he could just change the exchange program to Spain to another Spanish speaking country with some culture – like Mexico or Argentina or the Philippines. If it’s a choice between two countries and one has proven that it’s willing to cater to terrorists it seems only wise to pick the other country. Hypothetically what if terrorists kidnapped the American exchange students in Spain? Can we trust their current government to make every effort to get them back?

    Not that I agree with Fuentes or believe that he’s doing anything but grandstanding, but what I present above is some semi-reasonable thinking that could lead to his actions.


  • tfuentes@socccd.org appears to be the email to use. Time to express your opinions.


    If anything, more Americans need to get out and see more of the world, and exchange programs are a good way to do that. I think Fuentes is making a statement in the wrong way with this one.
    Dave does bring up a good point, though I’d have to check the State Department’s website to see what their recommendations are for travel to Spain to see what their assessment is.
    I imagine part of this programs focus was on Spanish language, so why not send the students to South America? Surely there are some good, safe places of historical and cultural significance. I regret that I have never been further south than Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, but I really would like to someday get to South America.

  • Obviously, Fuentes is grandstanding. Since most people seem to believe in the representative democracy, though, I’ll fall back on these questions:

    As a trustee of a local college should Fuentes’ views match and represent the majority of the people in the area the college serves?

    If so, and it is a majority view of the area served, wouldn’t rather be appropriate to make this move? Will of the people, and all.

    It’s a community college, so it’s an easy call to say that public money is supporting the institution.

  • Since it’s a community college, if people are pissed by his statements it ought to be relatively easy to get him out of there. The CC board will be full of offended liberals and they can yank him in a heartbeat.

    I must say that appearing infront of so many American flags makes it look – literally – like grandstanding, even if he has a point that maybe should be made in some slightly less ham-handed way.

    Personally if I were in his position I’d just send them to some place more interesting than Spain – like Poland. But if the Spanish language is the focus of the exchange, there’s always Cuba to consider. It’s very historical and they coudl use the revenue from some American students to bolster their economy.


  • A few things:

    Fuentes barely mentioned fears about students’ safety in Spain. Indeed, the summer program went on without a hitch just months after the Madrid train bombings last March.

    As long as we’re talking about representative democracy, it should be noted that Spain ushered in an anti-war government in democratic elections. We love to talk about democracy, but not when democracy works against our country’s policy.

    I should have been more specific. Due to Fuentes’ political clout, the board of trustees voted as a whole, 5-2 in favor of stopping the program that he claimed catered to the elite. How community college programs cater to the elite, however, I don’t know.

    From reading local publications, it seems that the action was less a step on behalf of the public Fuentes’ represents and more one of political bullying and grandstanding.

  • Ah, sweet accord on this one. Whew.

    Petty and misguided.

    With due respect to all other Spanish-speaking countries – they ain’t Spain and don’t have the history (good and bad).

    i think I may indeed e-mail this man.

  • I agree. Why stop with Spain? Add Canada and every other country that didn’t join in the coalition.

    Add every country that has human rights abuses against it (unfortunately, I think that would include the US).

    If they are afraid for the safety of the students, then also take England and Ireland off their list of acceptable destinations for studies abroad–both have a long history of terrorism, unjust incarceration and prisoner abuse. I think considering the political stability of Argentina, that would be out as well. Probably the Philippines, most of Latin America and Africa.

    If safety is of great concern, how about all the countries where there are earthquakes and all the countries that were affected by the tsunami disaster?

    Actually, I think they should try and move the college out of California and find some place much, much safer.

    Maybe he’s going to build a bunker?

  • I heard that Delaware is fairly safe nowadays, though I’m waiting for independent confirmation.

  • >>Maybe he’s going to build a bunker?<< Why not. Seems to be working for the Iranians, North Koreans and Syrians. Dave

  • Hi Blogcritics,

    I had the opportunity to write to Tom Fuentes and he wrote back to me. As he is the prime subject of this blogcritics post, it is only fair that he be given the chance to explain and defend his position. Can’t hurt in asking…

  • Great, thanks! I’ll keep watching for any further news…

  • Purple. 🙂

    So Collin, what did he say? It’s only fair so …. ?

  • TNYC

    I’m waiting for them to ban St. Patrick’s day because the Irish didn’t support the Iraq invaison. Maybe they can replace it with a day celebrating the El Mozote massacre, after all El Salvador is part of the coalition.

  • Hi Blogcritics,

    Tom Fuentes is willing to consider statistics related to terrorism if anyone knows where to get them. As for me, I have always believed that traffic in America was always more dangerous to the public than any political violence in Spain. If anyone has stats on the risk of terrorist injury in Spain and other countries where the exchange programs are taking place it would be greatly apreciated.

  • Actually, if you want to consider the dangers of traffic, not only is the traffic in the US more dangerous than terrorists in Spain – or even in Iraq – but the traffic in Spain is a hell of a lot more dangerous than traffic here in the US – have you SEEN the way they drive there? Of all the countries I’ve been in only Turkey has worse drivers.


  • For what it’s worth, here are the numbers for Señor Fuentes:

    US: 2.2 million (7.7 per 1000 population)
    Spain: 90,000 (2.24 per 1000 pop.)

    US: 12,658 (0.04 per 1000 pop.)
    Spain: 494 (0.01 per 1000 pop.)

    Adults Prosecuted for all crimes
    US: 14.2 million
    Spain: Not available, but you get the picture.
    (1999 US statistics, 2000 Spain stats. source http://www.nationmaster.com)

    Traffic accident fatalities
    US: 41,967 in 1997
    Spain: 5,790 in 1997
    Source http://www.safecarguide.com

    Life Expectancy at Birth:
    US: 77.14 years (48th in World)
    Spain: 79.23 years (19th in world)
    Source CIA 2003 World Fact Book

    I don’t have time to delve into this now, but I would not be surprised if the crime numbers for Spain are lower than those for Texas or Los Angeles alone.

    Those kids would have an experience of a lifetime if they went to Spain and they would be safer over there!

  • Excellent stats, I wonder what the stats are like in other places Saddleback permits students to go on exchange..