Categorized | Opinion

EDITORIAL: Damage is done; apology is needed.

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The cancellation of the Winter Intersession and the addition of an “Extended Spring” term have caused a myriad of headaches, both for students planning to transfer in the fall, and college officials.

While the college was given numerous warnings beginning in early February that students may not be able to transfer, the college moved ahead with plans anyway.

“Not one single student got up and said ‘I can’t transfer,’” said President Mark Rocha during a news conference on March 26. Apparently, Rocha felt that that meant there were no problems.

To date, 200 students have gotten up to express issues they are now having transferring to other colleges. These students took Extended Spring classes because they believed they would be accepted for fall transfer. PCC erroneously believed that the four-year colleges and universities would be accepting these units.

However, when the Chancellor’s Office notified the college that it was not in compliance with Title 5 and would lose money, things started changing.

So what did the administration know and when did they know it?

According to internal emails obtained by the Courier, the administration was aware of transfer issues students could encounter as early as Feb. 4.

One of the first red flags indicating that there may be problems with Extended Spring came via an email dated Feb. 8 and was addressed to college officials from the admissions counselor of Humboldt State University. “We will NOT be accepting summer session 1 [extended spring] course work for requirements to be admissible. … Only up to spring semester course work will be accepted for admissions purposes,” the email said.

There was no shortage of students and college organizations raising more red flags and urging the administration and the board not to cancel Winter Intersession and replacing it with Extended Spring.

Voices throughout the campus, which were expressing these very concerns, were loud and clear, but the administration refused to listen.

One of these voices was student Sarah Belknap, undecided, in an interview with the Courier on Feb. 28. Belknap told of her personal attempt to tell the Board about possible consequences due to the calendar change. “I sat with information in my hands with my hand raised for over an hour [to tell them that] transfer would not be able to go in [for fall 2013]. This was a completely foreseeable problem,” Belknap said. “It was not so much a mistake but willful negligence.”

Another one of those voices was the Courier. An editorial published on March 21, months before Extended Spring even began said, “Questions have arisen about these classes [extended spring] and whether they will be transferable for fall admission at CSU and UC campuses.” Like others, this voice was also ignored by the administration and college officials proceeded with extended spring anyway.

In addition, in an email dated Feb. 8, the administration was notified by the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office that the California State University College System expressed concerns about admitting PCC students with extended spring courses.

“[CSUCS] need to keep things on schedule and to treat all students exactly the same. To provide exceptions would make them vulnerable to lawsuits and student grievances,” the email said.

The email continued and said, “Do the best you can to make students aware of the situation. There may be some opportunity for students to appeal on an individual basis but there was nothing at the system level that can be done.”

These internal emails do show that college officials were working feverishly with other colleges and universities to remedy this self-inflicted wound. This left the college with the incorrect impression that everything was fixed. But students still were left in the dark about any possible problems with Extended Spring courses.

College officials continued to sell the students a bill-of-goods that there were no problems with Extended Spring courses being used for fall transfers.

But a scathing email from the Chancellor’s Office to college officials told them to admit their mistakes to students. The email dated June 19 instructs college officials what to do.

“Clarify that the district had incorrectly acted to extend the spring term without first receiving approval from the CCCCO, as required under Title 5 Section 55720 [California Code of Regulations]. To correct this infraction, the district will rescind that action and instead offer the [extended spring] courses as part of the summer term,” the email said.

If college officials didn’t know about this regulatory issue, why didn’t they know?

We believe the entire student body should have been informed immediately and officially that there might be problems with Extended Spring. This would have given the students more information to make informed decisions about their education.

The reason why the administration felt the need to cancel Winter Intersession and replace it with Extended Spring has never been fully explained.

A statement released by the Board of Trustees on March 15 said: “The Board has made each of those decisions centered on what it believes to be in the best interests of student success, improved student and faculty service and the Pasadena Area Community College District.”

We believe it’s unconscionable for students to be used as guinea pigs for educational experiments. Let’s not forget that we are talking about students’ education, futures and lives.

A public apology from the administration to the students and faculty would be welcome and much needed in order to put all this behind us.

College officials like to use the term “moving forward” for a way to try and put scandals behind them. But, it would be impossible to move forward unless this administration first steps forward and owns-up to its colossal mistake and publicly apologize to the students, faculty and staff of PCC.

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11 Responses to “EDITORIAL: Damage is done; apology is needed.”

  1. Former Courier Editor says:

    Good job guys!

  2. let them eat cake says:

    This editorial is like throwing a hand grenade into the Creveling Lounge during a board meeting.
    If it does NOT wake up the Trustees that something is DRASTICALLY wrong at PCC, nothing ever will.
    Does anyone know how to spell R-E-C-A-L-L????!!!!!????!?!?!!?

  3. Concerned classified staff says:

    The only way PCC can correct the problems which continue to snowball and cast shame on the college, is to remove Rocha and the Board of Trustees!

  4. Sweet Home says:

    Maybe if you guys would do some real reporting…

    “According to internal emails obtained by the Courier, the administration was aware of transfer issues students could encounter as early as Feb. 4.”

    …Oh, my bad. Carry on.

  5. Roger Marheine says:

    The Courier editorial so eloquently articulates a shameful chapter in the college’s recent history. As the president of the PCC Faculty Association, I pledge my alliance with students who are attempting to correct this egregious situation. Obviously an immediate reinstatement of Winter as part of the school’s academic calendar would be a critical first step. Congratulations and thank you to the Courier for its lucid and courageous coverage of this latest educational debacle at our college.

  6. Student activist says:

    It is time to demand solutions. I propose that the students and faculty impacted by this lack of judgement sign a petition demanding an apology. This should be read and presented at the Board meeting and then sent to the press. Next, students impacted should file a class action law suit. Take that story to the press. Once those immediate actions are taken, send this excellent article and all documentation to the accreditation organization. Rocha and the Board need to accept responsibility for their actions now.

  7. C. Potter says:

    Nice job of reporting!

  8. madame senator says:

    Bravo, Courier, for telling it like it is.

    The most telling line: “The reason why the administration felt the need to cancel Winter Intersession and replace it with extended spring has never been fully explained.”

    An apology would be a first step, and not just from VP Bob Bell or President Rocha in their nonchalant “Oops, my bad!” style. The Board also needs to be held accountable for why THEY have made the choices they have, and then they need to clean house. Neither the students nor the faculty have confidence in the administration. Probably given the opportunity (and job security) the classified staff would also vote no confidence. Confidence in the Board of Trustees is also at an all-time low.

    PCC cannot ‘move forward’ without righting its wrong. They grossly violated shared governance and insisted on making unilateral decisions despite attempts across the campus for the past year and a half urging them not to.

    Winter should be reinstated immediately for 2013-2014, as the Calendar Committee and Faculty Senate have voted on last semester and subsequently presented to the Board. Perhaps other calendar options can be considered in the future, but there ought to be a reason and data presented for considering the change to begin with, and of course it needs to be vetted through the various constituent groups that hold planning meetings and vote democratically for months on end and not be unilaterally imposed. Considering other calendars should not just be at the whim of one inept administrator and a bunch of out-of-touch, obstinate trustees who give him full reign.

  9. Concerned Staff says:

    Something that is not mentioned in this article is that as a result of changing Summer 1 to Extended Spring, the federal government gave a larger apportionment of financial aid to students. When Extended Spring was changed back to Summer 1, the federal government asked for that extra money back.

    Although the college made the decision to pay that money back, it is still money that comes out of funds that could be used for other needs. At the Academic Senate meeting on Monday, it was revealed that the amount being returned to the government is around $800,000.

    Again, none of this would have happened if Winter had not been canceled.

    • madame senator says:

      Those funds that are now going to be used to repay the federal government were entrusted to PCC by taxpayers. A formal apology should also include an apology to the public for misuse of funds.

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