PAC students: Resign, chancellor

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Debra Garner, Palo Alto psychology sophomore, passes her student loan and financial aid statement to District 1 trustee Joe Alderete Tuesday during the citizens-to-be-heard session of the board meeting in Killen. Garner is showing the trustees proof she had trouble signing up for classes three years ago because the financial aid was not disbursed properly.  Photo by Jon Hernandez

Debra Garner, Palo Alto psychology sophomore, passes her student loan and financial aid statement to District 1 trustee Joe Alderete Tuesday during the citizens-to-be-heard session of the board meeting in Killen. Garner is showing the trustees proof she had trouble signing up for classes three years ago because the financial aid was not disbursed properly. Photo by Jon Hernandez

By Katherine Garcia

kgarcia203@student.alamo.edu

Several students from Palo Alto College’s chapter of the Student Leadership Coalition expressed discontent with Chancellor Bruce Leslie and his stance on transfer degrees listing no specific major during the citizens-to-be-heard portion of the regular board meeting Tuesday in Killen Center.

Gilbert Perez, business management graduate of Palo Alto, began by ripping his degree in half. “That’s how I feel. You want to take them away? There you go,” he said

Perez said faculty at Palo Alto are “working together to take other options to possibly replace the chancellor.”

He said more Palo Alto students would attend the next board meeting to express their discontent with Leslie, and “we should have this room packed and outside.”

“You’ve failed at three other colleges. … You’re failing us,” he said, referring to Leslie’s employment before joining the district in 2006.

Leslie was chancellor of Connecticut Community-Technical College System 1996-99, overseeing a $200 million budget, 12 colleges and 2,000 employees. He resigned in 1999 after college presidents didn’t support his attempts to standardize academics, according to an article in the San Antonio Express-News.

He was chancellor of the Houston Community College System from October 2000 to June 2006, and oversaw a $200 million budget for six colleges, 5,000 employees and 55,000 students per semester. The article said Leslie resigned from in 2006 after disagreements with trustees.

Leslie has a doctorate in higher education administration from the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor of arts from Baldwin-Wallace College in Berea, Ohio.

“You’re playing games, and we are tired of this,” Perez said of the chancellor’s current performance.

“We want lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers to come out of Palo Alto. So cosmetology, agricultural, gas and oil, and apparently brewery is coming next.” Palo Alto offers degrees in cosmetology and oil and gas process technology.

Simon Sanchez, computer science sophomore at Palo Alto, referenced Dec. 25 commentary Leslie wrote for the Express-News, in which the chancellor said transfer majors were still the best practice.

The newspaper published the commentary after the chancellor emailed all Alamo Colleges faculty and staff Dec. 22 to say the district would rescind transfer degrees for now but continue the conversation with faculty and employees.

The chancellor came to this agreement in a meeting with the Super Senate, the Faculty Senate presidents of all five Alamo Colleges, Dec. 19.

He said the purpose of replacing majors with transfer majors was allowing students to “customize” the courses needed to transfer to the desired university or college while saving money.

He wrote, “The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board’s recent report that the average student requires six years to attain a baccalaureate degree – taking 147 hours for the 120-hour degree – costs the student over $68,000 in expenses and deferred compensation. Our intent has been to change this trend.”

Sanchez said the committee re-evaluating majors should be at a college-level instead of Leslie leading the process.

He referenced a Jan. 29 meeting with the Super Senate. According to a timeline emailed to all faculty at this college by English Professor Dawn Elmore, president of this college’s Faculty Senate and the Super Senate, there were discussions at four of the five colleges.

But the chancellor did not accept ideas “because they are solution-oriented rather than open-ended and are college-based rather than district-oriented.”

According to the email, the chancellor then sent out his own timeline for a district process of evaluating majors, but the Super Senate came up with its own cross-college plan to evaluate majors, transfer issues and degree completion.

“Dr. Leslie chooses to bypass any collective decision-making in order to promote his thoughts of what he believes is best for student success,” Sanchez said.

“Our response to his persistent disregard to having a collective process to promote problem-solving — I believe Dr. Leslie should be removed,” he said, asking trustees to lead the discussion for removing Leslie.

Debra Garner, psychology sophomore at Palo Alto, expressed complaints about Northeast Lakeview and PAC. She had to re-enroll for classes two years ago after repeatedly being dropped because of financial aid issues.

She also said the district discriminates against Palo Alto because it is on the South Side, and she wants opportunities and funding for a building like this college’s renovated Challenger Education Center and Scobee Planetarium.

The classrooms are bursting at the seams, there aren’t enough advisers and she is “fighting for what is right, and what is right is equal education opportunities across the board.”

Kristen Tarin, psychology sophomore at PAC, told Leslie, “In this contract (the people you serve) agreed to let you lead; they agreed to let you be leader.”

After the meeting, Leslie said the back-and-forth helps the decision-making process. Before criticizing, people should understand the facts around the whole transfer process to “figure out the best solutions,” he said.

The next committee meetings start at 6 p.m. March 17, and the regular board meeting is 6 p.m. March 24. Citizens-to-be-heard speakers can sign up from 5-5:55 p.m. outside Room 101.

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8 Comments

  1. Mr. Perez,

    You can’t become a doctor, lawyer, or teacher at Palo Alto, you have to transfer. While they may have not gone about it the right way, that is the basis of what The Alamo Colleges is trying to do, ease the transfer process. I’m certain you know students who have taken classes that wound up being unnecessary for their ultimate goal of being a doctor, lawyer, or teacher. Lastly, are you implying that students who are attending school to gain the technical experience necessary to start a career aren’t as important?

    • To ease the transfer process you don’t have to do away with majors. They went about it the wrong way AND took away the important option of preserving majors. Taking unnecessary classes and keeping majors are separate issues. Besides, the community colleges do not determine which courses transfer. Beyond the core curriculum, universities determine which courses transfer. Regarding technical programs, there’s nothing wrong with them. Mr Perez point was that Palo Alto College has very few options for its students and should have a broader array of programs that lead to higher wages.

      • I agree, no need to do away with majors, but that appears to be the one thing everyone is focusing on. They did go about it the wrong way, but do you really believe the intent was malicious or is the institution trying to find ways to help their students transfer successfully? It is true that the transfer institution has ultimate say in what classes transfer, that’s why community colleges work with transfer institutions to develop transfer plans & articulation agreements, which are binding. Often these plans are different than the Associate of Arts & Sciences that are offered, so a student follows an Associate of Arts in Psychology and learns they shouldn’t have taken so many PSYC classes at the community college level or an Associate of Arts in Business, they wind of transferring to UT-Austin & learn they should’ve been taking Calculus classes instead of Business Calculus classes. That’s the disconnect, a student declares a major & blindly follows the Associate’s degree plan & winds up taking unnecessary classes, so I think the issues are related, but it’s impossible to formulate an Associate’s degree that’s going to line up with all the potential institutions a student can transfer to, so the Alamo Colleges tried to do something about it. Lastly, the only way a community college can give their students programs that lead to higher wages is through vocational, technical programs that give the student a skill set that allows them to go out & get a job & many of the Associated of Applied Science degrees have great starting salaries. An Associate of Science in Pre-Med isn’t going to allow you to work in the medical field. You might be able to be a teacher’s assistant with an Associate of Arts in Teaching, but you can’t be teacher. So, if you want degrees from Palo Alto that leads to wages, the Alamo Colleges is doing that by offering more certificates & AAS, otherwise you have to transfer.

        • Hard to determine intent. Regardless, it was wrong and damaging to students. Everything you have mentioned is already in place. The current liberal arts degree achieves the same purpose you address in your post. Transferability has always been part of advising and colleges have always worked with universities to that end. The issue is whether the majors should have been removed. The answer is no. It is not necessary and it is not what students want. The matter has been researched thoroughly and is no longer in dispute by anyone except one or two people at District, at most. Retaining the majors is an economic imperative for many who intend but do not complete their bachelors degree. There are other reasons to keep majors as an option. Transferability of courses is a separate issue, albeit an important one, and it should always be improved. But it’s not related to keeping or removing majors. Again, the issue is not in dispute by faculty and students. That’s why District’s motives are suspect.

  2. I’m planning on transferring to UTSA in the future and foresee no problems. I visited the Math department at UTSA and they gave me a list classes that will transfer and complemented me on taking as many courses as possible at SAC. It’s the cheap and easy way to get an education.

  3. There was no need to remove the majors, that is where the Liberal Arts Degree comes in. They are not concerned with transferability, but their $58 million administrative complex. His friend Covey, has already received over 5 million dollars, when the students need required textbooks in the new library at Palo Alto College, along with other services and resources. The Board of Trustees was elected by the citizens, and then they created and hired double the staff with high paying positions. He has to go and we are going to do whatever it takes to ‘CUT BRUCE LOOSE”

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