Sophomore questions whether student trustee represents all colleges.
More than 50 people attended a forum Thursday at Palo Alto College and listened to President Ruben “Mike” Flores explain why students weren’t told about district colleges now offering generic Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees.
In April, district officials decided it would benefit students and the reaffirmation process of three Alamo Community Colleges to remove concentrations from A.A. and A.S. degrees.
Employees were informed Sept. 19 and students were informed Tuesday in emails from Jo-Carol Fabianke, vice chancellor of academic success.
The Palo Alto event was sponsored by the Student Leadership Coalition, which was formed in the spring to help students fight for student issues.
“The administration chose to eliminate (concentrations) without any student consultation,” Simon Sanchez, computer science sophomore and member of the coalition, said.
Flores explained why the change was made, first bringing up the reaffirmation of this college, Northwest Vista College and St Philip’s College. He referred to a report required by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which accredits the district’s five colleges.
In the Sept. 22 article of The Ranger headlined “Generic Degrees expected to happen,” Dr. Robert Vela, president of this college, said the three colleges’ reaffirmation would be at stake because each college doesn’t have the policies and outcomes necessary to offer concentrations, according to the accrediting agencies guidelines.
Vela also said the agency’s checklist changes visit to visit.
Flores mentioned that Palo Alto when through reaccreditation in 2012 and did not have specified degrees come up.
Eugenio Flores received an Associate of Arts from this college in 1978, and is a member of Communities Organized for Public Service that pushed the Alamo Community College District to build a college on the South Side.
The insistence of the organization resulted in Palo Alto in 1974. He came back to Palo Alto to pursue a degree in social work, but with the degree change was told he could not specialize.
President Mike Flores responded that students enrolled before spring 2014 will see their specialization on their diploma and transcripts.
Fabianke’s email to students confirms that students who are eligible to graduate under a catalog no later than 2013-14 will still be able to get a degree indicating their major course of study.
Her email said the change “yields such positive benefits” to students because they will name a major only at the transfer institution and will take only classes at Alamo Colleges that are required for the bachelor’s degree.
Members of the coalition are not only worried about current students but future students coming to any of the Alamo Colleges.
Kinesiology sophomore Melissa Marie Esparza said last year her aunt graduated from Palo Alto with an Associate of Arts in business hoping to earn a promotion at the local bank where she works.
Esparza said her aunt might not have been able to compete for the position without a specialization, and she worries others might have the same difficulty.
Flores said 80 percent of the students at Palo Alto said they intend to transfer.
Sanchez said, “If (students) are opposed to the decision, we want to work with you to do something about it. We believe a better decision can be made at a later date.”
“I agree with you,” Flores said.
Flores and the five Alamo College presidents are working together to find options.
Jacob Wong, a student trustee on the Alamo Colleges board, joined Flores to ease students’ mind; however, some students questioned whether he represented concerns of students districtwide.
Jose Yznaga, Mexican-American studies sophomore, said he thinks Wong represents only this college and not Palo Alto.
Wong said he’s doing his best to look into the situation and past board decisions.
“I don’t agree with it,” Wong said.
Wong acknowledged there has been a lot of confusion.
“I guarantee nobody is here to make sure you fail. Everybody thinks they’re doing the right thing.”
He continued, saying every avenue should be explored before a decision is made.
“I guarantee, you are being looked after,” Wong said.