Mandy Lam/Courier Pasadena City College students walks in the quad on campus on Thursday, October 8, 2021.

While many students expected to return to campus this fall due to relaxed Covid-19 mandates and the PCC campus reopening in July, the Pasadena City College Curriculum Committee (PCCCC) had other plans.

The PCCCC, followed by the approval from the Academic Senate, granted approval for forms submitted by faculty members to continue remote learning despite the wishes of administration and PCC’s elected student government, Associated Students.

Superintendent-President Dr. Erika Endrijonas said that when they were creating the schedule for the Fall 2021 semester, they intended to have face-to-face classes at around 60 to 70%, with each class operating at 50% capacity.

Governor Gavin Newsom lifted the stay at home order on June 15th in which social distancing as well as capacity limits had ended, which influenced administration to lift the 50% cap as well. However, four days before the beginning of the fall semester, many PCC courses moved from in-person to online, without the Associated Students knowledge or input on the decision and leaving students with little time to adjust to the change.

The Courier received a document that the Associated Students passed via Communications Vice President Philycius Oey, that condemned the emergency approval for remote education and asked for a resolution proceeding forward.

“Earlier in the year, the college conducted a survey that yielded 5,084 responses from students, that showed that 46.59% of students favored coming back to campus, and 53.41% did not. It’s also important to consider the fact that students that haven’t been able to attend PCC through this virtual setting, whether it’s because of housing insecurity, technology access, etc. did not participate in this survey,” David Ramirez, associate student trustee, said.

In order for any faculty member to teach remotely, they must fill out a Distance Education Addendums Form, otherwise known as a Form D. During the pandemic the approval of these forms were allowed in order for PCC to continue to offer classes through the Canvas online platform. The initial approval of these forms were for a one-time only occasion and due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“When the pandemic hit, we were allowed to approve Emergency Form D’s so that we could continue instruction,” Endrijonas said. “However, that emergency approval ended with Spring 2021, which meant that if the faculty had not completed the Form D curriculum approval process by the end of Spring 2021, their class could not be offered online.”

Endrijonas stated that these forms require approval by the Curriculum Committee as well as the Academic Senate, which both had agreed to approve the forms for the fall semester due to insistence from PCC faculty on the matter and against administration’s wishes.

Delta variant of Covid-19 was a contributing factor in the Academic Senate’s decision to recommend approving the Emergency Form D. We had several faculty concerned with the fact that they would be meeting face to face with potentially unvaccinated people and the deadline for proof of vaccination was not until September 30th, fall started in late August,” Dr. Gena Lopez, academic senate president said. “The faculty’s apprehension was based on the uncertainty associated with the spread of the Delta variant due to the data that was available at the time and the unclear provisions that were made for PCC offices/classrooms.”

The Courier reached out to The Curriculum Committee but received no comment.

The ASPCC also stated concerns for students they felt were underrepresented.

“This also means that our most underserved and disproportionately impacted students have been set back in their education again and need to compete that much more to get classes in-person this semester since the college is only about 20 percent in-person at this time,” Ramirez said.

While students are not permitted to vote on decisions that are in regards to labor negotiations or the union, The Associated Students maintains that since the decision to teach remotely impacts student’s course schedule, a representative for PCC students should be allowed to provide input.

“AS does not have a right to representation within union and labor negotiations, and so our goal was/is never to influence decisions that directly impact personnel of the college,” Ramirez said. “However, California state law gives students the right to have their concerns reasonably considered when there is a decision being made that significantly impacts students, and a decision that significantly impacted our course schedule is one where we deserved an input.”

According to the Associated Students, the demand for online instruction and distance education was at an almost equal split according to a survey that was conducted. Those who requested in-person instruction may not be able to do so since the campus is only at 20% in-person learning at this time, which was the leading concern for members of the Associated Students.

Board of Trustees members Berlinda Brown and Linda Wah said that the decision of how PCC conducts it’s instruction is determined by PCC faculty.

“The August approval of all distance education addenda were allowed to self-select whether to stay face-to-face or switch to online instruction,” Brown said. “This is not something that the Board does, it comes from the faculty.”

Wah agreed.

“I am aware that Associated Students indicated they are best served by in-person classes, and we have a number of faculty who have also elected to teach in-person,” Wah said. “However, I know there are some students who preferred online synchronous or hybrid instruction. I believe we need to serve the students in the way they feel most beneficial.”

Associated Students has said they would like to establish a “college-wide committee” chaired by a student representative in groups such as the Academic Senate, Classified Senate, Management Senate, and others. This representative will speak on behalf of PCC students for issues that will impact the student body directly.

Ramirez stated that the ASPCC is hoping to have the committee established before the year’s end.

In a memorandum to the PCC faculty, Dr. Laura Ramirez, vice president of instruction stated, “In comparison to the prior academic year, the college will substantially increase the number of in-person classes to meet student demand and access this spring.”

The vaccination mandate requires those who are employed to have the vaccine by Dec. 31 2021 for Los Angeles community colleges. Dr. Endrijonas also said that the schedule for Spring 2022 is complete and the face-to-face instruction will be at 65 to 70% with 50% capacity and the faculty does not have the option to change the mode of instruction.

This story has been updated.

 

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