Students, public protest against transfer degrees

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Palo Alto students Simon Sanchez and Melissa Esparza speak Tuesday at citizens to be heard against transfer degrees at the Killen center. Palo Alto and SAC students and their parents stood to support Sanchez and Esparza. Photo by Ian Coleman

Palo Alto students Simon Sanchez and Melissa Esparza speak Tuesday at citizens to be heard against transfer degrees at the Killen center. Palo Alto and SAC students and their parents stood to support Sanchez and Esparza. Photo by Ian Coleman

Parents tell trustees and administrators to try students’ perspective Tuesday.

Bleah B. Patterson 

Students from Palo Alto College and this college spoke, cried, yelled and presented facts to the board of trustees in opposition of transfer degrees Tuesday at the district board of trustees’ regular board meeting.

Eighteen citizens to be heard argued against transfer degrees, which would remove concentrations from diplomas for first-time-in-college students this semester.

Monica Cruz, an administrator for the University of the Incarnate Word, asked the board three questions.

“I want you to ask yourselves these questions and answer yes or no: Am I confident the process of this decision was inclusive to the 60,000 students I represent? Yes or no?”

She continued.

“Am I confident the process was inclusive of faculty and advisers, yes or no?” and “Although this does not matter to me, have I truthfully asked students what matters to them? Am I putting myself in their shoes, yes or no? If you have answered no to any of these questions, can you really push this through?”

Ryan Lamb, art sophomore at this college, quoted Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” saying “Strength lies in differences.”

Lamb urged the trustees not to take away the diversity and independence of students. “Please accept my request not to change the degrees,” he said.

Amber Gonzalas freshman at this college, said her degree was “taken from her before she even earned it.”

“You will not stay if you continue with this,” she said. “I got here this semester and didn’t know until two months later that I wouldn’t be recognized for my accomplishments. I don’t want a liberal arts degree. That’s why I’m not getting a liberal arts degree.”

Adam White, biology sophomore at PAC said, “I don’t need you to tell me what I want. I’m smart enough to know that microbiology won’t transfer and ask my adviser to substitute it with another class. Students don’t need you to make the decisions for us; we can do that.”

White said he thought it would be a better use of trustees’ and administrators’ time to lobby for students in the Legislature so four-year schools are not able to deny courses.

Laura Sosa, 69, said she attended this college in the 1980s.

“I’m what you’d call an ‘old SAC student,’” she said. “My son and my daughter both came here and got their degrees and are on to bigger and better things. When they were here and when I was here, there were tutors, advisers and guidance counselors. That’s what we’re missing; that’s the answer – having people available to help the students. Those aren’t around anymore. There isn’t even a school nurse anymore.”

Sosa said district officials need to stop taking away from the bottom and piling more at the top. “We get more and more vice chancellors and we start regressing. I don’t want to see that. Don’t take away those things so that your jobs are easier.”

English Professor Alex Bernal said he wanted to represent faculty.

“I gave up my Spurs tickets to be here tonight,” he said. “That’s how much it matters to me.

“You keep saying these things aren’t important, yet the consequences for your actions have been huge, and they’re having a huge effect on students. I’m just worried. This could have unintended consequences and tip a delicate balance, hurting students in the process. Be careful.”

Speech sophomore Anzly Lowak said she was “shocked to find out about this change. There was no communication; no one had ever heard of it before. I just want you to know that if you don’t start taking steps to fix this, my fellow students and I will take our money and our classes somewhere else.”

Enedina Exon-Kikuyu is the parent of an education sophomore at this college. Her voice rose in volume and pitch as she expressed her “disgust” with the news concentrations would be left off of her younger children’s degrees.

“You don’t want me here,” she said. “Next time you have a meeting to discuss students behind closed doors, I’ll be there pounding that door down. I’m going to bring more students and more parents than you could ever imagine.”

She turned to the college presidents and vice chancellors.

“We’re the ones who pay your salary,” she said. “I’m the voice you’re going to get tired of hearing. Last time I was here and I said I was angry about textbooks, you scoffed at me, you laughed. That won’t happen again. You won’t forget.

“When have you ever known someone from San Antonio who wasn’t proud of their education? It’s education that you’re taking away from our children when you start taking away their pride.”

Stephanie Vacjanna a former student of this college, is an emergency room registered nurse. “This doesn’t affect me at all,” she said. “I’m fighting for upcoming students. What is gained by changing this? Nothing. What are you gaining by taking this away from us?”

“I have children,” she said, pushing back tears. “Do you think I want them to come here? No. Because you guys are doing underhanded stuff, and I don’t want them around that. I will continue to come and bring this in front of you. I have friends. I know more students. We won’t let this be.”

Angie Garcia’s children and grandchildren have attended the Alamo Colleges. She said what’s needed is communication. “You represent us, the community. I don’t think you want to ignore us.”

PAC psychology sophomore Christopher Giddons said district made a mistake when it left faculty out of the decision.

“They’re the ones who sit with us on a daily basis, who mentor us and help us through,” he sad. “I think they know what’s best, and for you to leave them out of this conversation just doesn’t make any sense. And trust me, they’re against it. Before you go and make policies, please just realize what it is you’re talking about, and what you’re taking away.”

PAC student Beto Perez addressed President Mike Flores. “You’ve seen us protest; you’ve heard how much we don’t want this. Yet, you just watched last week as they talked about it and didn’t say anything. You didn’t look out for our interests; you didn’t do your job, and you’ve let us down.”


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