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Q&A with Palomar Governing Board Candidate Frank Xu

Editor’s Note: The following transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. It is not verbatim.

Frank Xu, software engineer, and committee member for Poway Unified School District is currently running for the Palomar College Governing Board District 1 (Carlsbad, Encinitas, Del Mar, and San Diego). During an interview on September 19th, Xu was interviewed by Palomar Colleges’ independent newspaper, The Telescope. Xu answered a series of student-focused questions generated by reporters from the campus newspaper. Read what they said here.

The Telescope: Tell us about yourself and what was the last book you read?

Frank Xu: So I’m a software engineer and a father of two. I have a 17-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. My son is working on the application process to the constitution right now. He’s a senior in high school. Regarding the last book I read, I’m not reading as many books as you do. I try to spend my time every day reading the San Diego Union-Tribune and Wall Street Journal. So that basically gives me a lot more information in regard to politics and lives. around.

Governing Board Candidate Frank Xu laughs during an interview with The Telescope staff in September 2022.
Governing Board Candidate Frank Xu sat down for an interview with The Telescope staff in September 2022. He is running for an open seat on the five-member Palomar Governing Board. Photo: Ryan Marlowe/The Telescope

The Telescope: Who are your influences?

Frank Xu: So I started my first nonprofit organization in San Diego, Asian Americans for Equality in 2014. I started a statewide campaign, No on Prop 16 in 2020. After we launched that campaign, we started another organization called California for Equal Rights Foundation. So during that process, I am mostly influenced by, I will say, I respect Professor Gail Hariot, Ward Connerly. They’re all Prop 209 veterans. So they are veterans of advocating for equal rights, for equal treatment, regardless of race, sex, whatever, in the public agencies.

The Telescope: Do you know them personally?

Frank Xu: Yes. I personally know them. So right now, in Prop 16 campaign, both of them are the chairs and co-chairs, and I was the statewide finance tutor. Right now, Professor Gail Heriot also serves as executive vice president for California Equal Rights Foundation and I’m the President of the organization.

The Telescope: Why are you running for Palomar Governing Board?

Frank Xu: Well, to me it’s like a calling. So I have been working in public education for eight years since 2014. And I can see that it’s in crisis and is deteriorating. I believe that it’s my calling to serve in the public schools, public colleges and to try to get it back to what it should focus on. So basic education, and giving our next generation of students professional and academic success as much as possible; that’s my goal for Palomar college.

The Telescope: What experiences and skills do you have that will make you a good governing board leader?

Frank Xu: So during the past eight years I’ve served. So first of all, I’ve built experience in public education and my understanding of public education. I have also served on various boards and commissions. So that gives me the capability to manage, to understand how I can manage mass funds for a big organization like Palomar college. Also, I believe the entire process trains me on the heart of serving.

The Telescope: Did you attend a community college as part of your education? If so, where and what did you study?

Frank Xu: So, I actually was born and raised in China. And I got my college education in China. Then I was sent here to Plano, Texas for a job. And then I applied for a job here in San Diego three years later. So I didn’t have education experience here in the United States of America.

The Telescope: Do you have any prior experience at Palomar College?

Frank Xu: No I don’t, except that, when I started to run for this college, I took several pictures here on campus. I had conversations with the Palomar Faculty Federation and some other teachers and students or graduates, to get some understanding of what’s going on in this college.

The Telescope: Please tell us one thing you like about Palomar and one thing you would change.

Frank Xu: I like how the students, you guys, are passionate and full of energy. So I believe that’s the most beautiful part. However, since last June, I have been listening to the college board meetings every month, and I believe that the leadership team right now, they are distracted from true education. From my point of view, they spend too much time on topics and stuff that’s not related to the needs of our students. So I’m quite disappointed.

The Telescope: What are your short-term goals and long-term goals both at Palomar and personally?

Frank Xu: Well I have a long-term goal to stay with Palomar college if voters allow. So I’m pretty much an admirer of trustee Evilsizer. I’m running for his seat, and he has been serving in this seat for decades. So for my prospective voters, I’ll serve here for decades as well as build a relationship and eventually steer this big boat to where education should be. I want to bridge the gap between what this college is providing right now, and what the business community, especially the local business community is looking for so that whoever graduates from this college can be able to find a good position in a local business. That’s my fundamental goal. And also, of course, help ready students for transfer to a four-year university. So yeah, that’s basically my goal.

The Telescope: Where would you like to see Palomar in four years if you’re elected and how will you get us there?

Frank Xu: So first of all, we need to see what our challenge is. So from my point of view, the first challenge is, besides the national line of enrollment declining for years, we’re probably gonna see more because we’re seeing much less international students entering our country in the following years. Especially from China, you know? For in our country, when I was in the COVID lockdown, I don’t see it’s going to change in a short period of time. So we are facing challenges.

We also have good opportunities. We have a very low unemployment rate here. I’ve talked to some business owners here. They are looking for talented new graduates to help with their business. However, right now they just don’t see a fit. So not all undergrads, but some of them. So I’ll pick one example, for example, firefighters, right? To be a firefighter, you not only just have to go through the fire academy, you still have to go through the paramedic classes. And right now, I think we don’t have a streamlined process to help students go through the process. So that’s just one example. So for me, I’m going to look into those different career possibilities to help our students to achieve success and connect them with local businesses.

The Telescope: What resources are students lacking that you would make available or improve?

Frank Xu: So for the research I did, what I did is I listened through all the board meetings and I can see how they spent their time. In one meeting, I went to one 3.5-hour meeting, they spent 2.5 hours on diversity and inclusion. And they talked about how to improve the employment rate, instead of trying to do real research on why we are having problems with enrollment rates. You know they made a decision on just a ‘signal’ to say “Okay, I will try to approach more students or more families by more than just websites, text messages, or whatever, or newspapers.” But that’s not going to work. Nowadays, especially for older than your age, who do not have internet access. So it’s not going to help. It’s just the leadership team thinking “Ok, I will do something to help you guys,” but who is going to evaluate it?

The Telescope: How often do you visit campus and interact directly with staff and students?

Frank Xu: So far, not quite often. Even for the Board meetings, I take advantage of the technology, and just listen online. But if I were elected, I would say I will come here frequently and put my priorities here. Right now I have a full-time job that I will gradually leave my current post based on how I can help. So that’s my intention in the future.

The Telescope: How do you plan on boosting enrollment?

Frank Xu: I believe that it has a challenge. But I see a lot of opportunities, especially if we connect with the local business communities and also build some career paths for our students.

The Telescope: Do you see any other opportunities and boosting enrollment?

Frank Xu: Well it will be a little bit political. So from my point of view right now, the public trust in our colleges is declining. So that may make many families have concerns. So if you look at the recent survey, I forgot what company did the survey; many American families don’t believe that attending public colleges will bring them value, and just have a high-school diploma. So that perception comes from a lot of reasons.

One of the reasons I want to emphasize is in many colleges including Palomar college right now, is being single-minded. In many scenarios, many of our debates or discussions are shut out and shut down. Especially sensitive topics like diversity, equity, inclusion, anti-racism, all these kinds of topics for many colleges including Palomar college only allow, well one voice and I’m very concerned about that. Because I come from China, a country that does not allow dissenting voices, and I can see how that will be destructive to academic freedom, critical thinking, and to everything. So that’s one thing that I want to improve at Palomar College as well.

The Telescope: What do you see as a solution to the issue?

Frank Xu: So to me, the solution is we just bring back the debate. So whenever they propose a policy with a scientific method, we need to just ask the questions, “what kind of research do we have? What kind of data do we have? Why do you think this policy with address this issue? How do we evaluate, evaluate the policy after one year, two years, or three years?” And that way, we will be able to have meaningful discussions instead of throwing out… words.

The Telescope: Do you think Palomar should provide affordable on-campus student housing? If so, how would you help with that?

Frank Xu: So far, when I look at the data, the finance data, I don’t believe that the college has the resources to do that. But I do know that at the state level, the state legislators are discussing bills about the possibility, so I will closely monitor that. And once I believe the state of California provides funds, if I were on the board, I definitely would ask the administrative team to put it on the plate.

The Telescope: Anything else we should know about you?

Frank Xu: Yeah, I think for the voters, it’s very important to understand my background. So I came from a country where no dissenting voices are allowed. And you even have life-threatening risks, if you express different opinions, and that’s why I moved to this great country. And I still believe that this country is a great country with opportunities, and I don’t believe that this country is a racist country. Because I know what a bad country looks like. So I encourage our students to be highly open to the international society and understand why immigrants like me, still like to and are willing to come to this country and contribute back to this country. So that’s the background I really want our voters to understand.

Image Sources

  • Frank Xu: Ryan Marlowe/The Telescope | All Rights Reserved
  • Frank Xu: Ryan Marlowe/The Telescope | All Rights Reserved

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