Student District Council discusses alternatives and survey with trustees.
By Katherine Garcia
Two students from Student District Council recommended alternatives to the Academic Accountability and Success Committee Tuesday.
The recommendations came from an email survey from Alamo Colleges District Student Council that was intended for the district’s 60,000 students and sought feedback on the instructional materials strategy. The council, composed of student government presidents from all five colleges, decided about a month ago to develop the survey to learn students’ opinions, which the group could relay to trustees.
More than 300 students — or 0.5 percent out of 60,000 students — filled out the survey, with some students answering more questions than others.
Brittany Trub, political science sophomore, SGA vice president and Student District Council secretary, presented the results.
The first question: “If voting were held today, would you vote for or vote against the proposed instructional materials strategy?” Two hundred and sixty four students voted against it, 24 voted for it and 23 were unsure.
Question 2 — an open-ended question asking how the strategy would benefit the colleges — yielded various results. Some students said the strategy is good because students would have their books before class starts, while others suggested the instructional materials be $20 or less to be beneficial.
The lack of choices and how district plans to reimburse the students when a class is canceled for low enrollment were possible challenges the strategy could pose for colleges.
Students ages 18-24 — or 52 percent of students — were the largest surveyed demographic and 66 percent of responses came from women and 34 percent from males. Seventy percent of responders were Hispanic, and 69 percent of responders attended college full-time. Fifty-five percent of responders attended Palo Alto.
Question 9 found that 59 percent of students have an electronic device for reading e-books. Students with e-books had good and bad experiences with accessing these devices at school; some said they couldn’t access Canvas or Wi-Fi while others like using the devices for research.
Seventy-three percent of students have Internet access outside of school, and 67 percent of students take face-to-face courses, 21 percent take online courses and 26 percent take both.
Trub said it’s possible the 31 percent of students who do not have an electronic device for reading e-books are the same 27 percent of students who do not have Internet access outside of school.
Sandra Piñeda, Palo Alto Student Government Association president, made recommendations such as refining the process used to gauge students’ opinion guaranteeing equal participation from all colleges and having an adviser for district council.
She said if the board considers moving forward with the instructional materials strategy, they should “begin it with the student voice in mind in the beginning and throughout this process and faculty as well.”
Trub presented three potential solutions to the strategy: one being able to opt out of including the fee in students’ tuition if they are sure they can pay for the instructional materials themselves, but will be held accountable if they cannot pay.
Another solution is having a down payment of 50 percent of the total cost of the book that would be paid at the time of registration was also suggested. If a student purchases the book somewhere else and then shows proof of purchase on the first day of class, the 50 percent could be refunded.
Without the down payment, they will pay 100 percent at registration.
A third method puts a hold on a student’s account if they do not have instructional materials the first day.
True requested student dialogue to be improved between the board and students and that the board consider the three options.
“As a leader, if you move forward but with half of your team behind, are you really moving forward or are you going to have to catch up with everyone?” asked Sandra Piñeda, Palo Alto Student Government Association president.
Prior to the survey presentation, the board discussed the chancellor’s decision to halt progress on the instructional materials strategy and EDUC 1300, Learning Framework, for now.
Piñeda said an unidentified technical difficulty occurred in sending out the email, resulting in not all students receiving it.
She said she had the PAC public relations office resend the email to all PAC students, which is also why PAC had the majority of responses to the survey.
Piñeda told trustees the survey could have been sent out earlier, and suggested a longer response period for the next survey. She said after the meeting, PAC’s student government collected questions for the surveys more than a month ago.
Piñeda said Student District Council came up with recommendations April 2 to not only present the problems, but solutions also.
After the meeting Chancellor Bruce Leslie said despite sending a letter to trustees a week ago stating students were persuaded by faculty to oppose the instructional materials strategy, he listened to the student’s needs and deciding to stop progress on the strategy and EDUC 1300.