Possibility of keeping majors to be explored in January, vice chancellor says.
By Katherine Garcia
Simon Sanchez, Palo Alto College computer science sophomore, explained the attitude of the more than 100 students and faculty members who spoke Tuesday during the citizens-to-be-heard portion of the regular board meeting of the board of trustees.
The nearly an-hour-and-a-half long session featured 17 speakers, including 14 people discussing reinstating majors, two people discussing the cost-of-living wages and one person suggesting the colleges hire more tenured professors.
“We are pleasantly surprised that Leslie reinstated majors, but we remain cautiously optimistic,” Sanchez said.
He referred to the email Chancellor Bruce Leslie sent Monday stating majors would be reinstated on degrees and in college catalogs.
The chancellor and this Faculty Super Senate, which is composed of Faculty Senate presidents from each of the five colleges, came to the decision during the Faculty Super Senate meeting Friday.
The email said the two parties arrived at an agreement to “develop an inclusive process to promote student success specifically relating to degree completion, transfer, and majors.”
Students entering any of the five Alamo Colleges starting this year would not have their major printed on their degree. For example, students seeking an Associate of Arts in theater would only see “Associate of Arts” printed on their degree plan.
After months of protest, discussion and some confusion over the subject by students, staff, faculty and trustees, the Super Senate and Chancellor met Friday to discuss the issue and decided to reinstate majors in the course catalog and on the degree.
This was not communicated to the public until Leslie sent out an email Monday, and Dawn Elmore, president of this college’s faculty senate, sent out an email Tuesday requesting students, staff, faculty and the community attend the citizens-to-be-heard session of Tuesday’s regular board meeting.
Board Chair Anna Bustamante, District 3 trustee, explained the rules before the session: Single speakers had three minutes to address the board, and groups had five minutes.
Students were asked to present their names and organizations they were representing.
State law does not allow trustees to respond to public comments or questions unless the topic is on the agenda.
“If there is a posted agenda item for the matter that you wish to address, then your comments may be heard at that time that the agenda item comes before the board,” she said.
Sanchez, a representative of the Student Leadership Coalition at PAC, said, “The policy, just was, in fact, one more in a series of unilateral decisions by Dr. Leslie seemingly determined to disregard the perspective of students. But we are not victims.”
Sanchez said with the help of the Communities Organized for Public Service (COPS) and Metro Alliance, the organization reached hundreds of students and 595 students signed a petition against the policy.
Madelyn Martinez, PAC psychology sophomore, continued saying it’s easier said than done to write about participatory leadership with an inclusive process and collaborative plan and engage in student leadership.
“On several occasions, members of the administration shut down any opportunities for dialogue, stating experts have decided what’s best for us,” Martinez said.
She said the word “student” came up in Leslie’s email 12 times in five paragraphs.
“Let me assure you nobody cares about the students’ success, or knows more about students’ needs, concerns, or goals or dreams like the students themselves,” Martinez said.
Olivia Zuniga, criminal justice freshman at Northwest Vista College, said she was unhappy to hear about the generic degree change halfway through her first semester of college.
“I can see the possible benefits for generic degrees,” she said. “However, my classmates and I shouldn’t have to suffer if we know what we want — which is a degree with a title. I am not a generic student, and neither are students at Northwest Vista; therefore, we are not for generic degrees.”
Lang Coleman, behavioral sciences professor at St. Philip’s College, said Jo-Carol Fabianke, vice chancellor of academic success, “jumped the gun” when she published a document establishing a timeline beginning in December.
“What we agreed to was only to discuss how we were going to discuss the issue of the majors,” he said. “We were always willing to talk with anyone openly and transparently. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do that.”
He said the email Leslie and the Super Senate sent out was to stop the dialogue for now until the process of resetting majors begins in January.
“It’s unfortunate the district administration doesn’t remember that we must consult with the faculty,” he said.
The Faculty Senate of this college stood behind Dr. Amy Whitworth, language, philosophy and culture chair, as she offered a solution of enhancing the current degree plans.
She said it’s understandable generic degrees offer flexibility within the degree plan.
To comply with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools-Commission on Colleges(SACS-COC) requirement 2.7.2, degree plans must offer a coherent course of study and an appropriate sequence to show a progressive advancement in study to avoid “a mere bundling of credits.”
She said a discipline-specific program-level assessment could enhance majors by keeping current classification of instructional program codes (CIP) the same, so the Alamo Colleges could compare their programs to those around the nation and with other colleges within the district.
Whitworth also said programs or disciplines are better suited to “fine-tuning” to match up with articulation agreements with other colleges.
She also noted several programs operate on grants, which require students to report a discipline-specific degree.
Dr. Mike Settles, history professor at this college, commented on the low morale at this college.
“I have never seen faculty morale so low, and I’ve never seen student and parent dissatisfaction so high.”
He cited a letter sent to the San Antonio Express-News Dec. 7 by Brenda Oriales, a parent of an Alamo Colleges student.
She ended the letter by calling for an investigation into the ACCD’s administrative policies.
Several faculty and students clapped.
“Seriously, that should be a wake-up call to everybody,” he said, adding that it’s important several speakers that evening pointed out it’s good Leslie rescinded taking out majors, but to remember the student and faculty dissatisfaction within the classrooms.
He then referenced “Put First Things First,” one of the seven habits from “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” the training sessions based on the book of the same name by Stephen R. Covey, which all faculty and staff must take.
He then reminded the board that the Alamo Colleges nurses were all terminated because Leslie said, “None of the schools had nurses anymore. Nurses in school are a thing of the past.”
He then said 11 of 13 nearby colleges have nurses for their students.
He said nurses were done away with based on meaningless facts.
“I want to know where the ACCD’s priority is,” he said, adding to find the priority, one must look in the budget.
“Ten years ago, 42 percent of the budget went to instruction, 10 percent went to student services, 11 percent went to administration, but in 2013, according to your own figures, just 30 percent went to instruction, 8 percent to student services and, according to The Ranger, 34 percent of our budgetary outlay went to administration.
“Our students are getting short-changed, and it’s happening on your watch,” he said.
Antonio “Tony” Villanueva, assistant professor of behavioral sciences and president of PAC’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said the restoration of majors was what students wanted.
He commended District 1 trustee Joe Alderete for insisting on majors being reinstated at last week’s Student Success Committee. And he explained Bustamante’s saying the issue was procedure not being as important because following procedure creates trust.
“We call that (trust) shared governance, by the way,” he said.
As a former occupational analyst at Project Quest, he said adding most employers immediately look at the major students took without having to review each course in detail.
After the meeting, Leslie told The Ranger he had an hour-and-a-half discussion with the Super Senate Friday before they all agreed to “reset” the process.
Fabianke said, “I think it’s a really complicated and complex issue, so to just say it’s good to do away with majors and not do anything, or to have majors and not do anything — neither one of those are going to be good for you — for students.”
She said in January the possibility of keeping majors and other possibilities will be explored.
Fabianke said the change does not affect the accreditation process this college, Northeast Lakeview College and St. Philip’s are going through because they have complied with SACS-COC before the 2014-15 course catalog, and the issue would be going forward from here.
“Their reports are due in March, and they’re going to have to do it around our having gone back to having majors,” she said.