The Board of Trustees unanimously voted to approve a calendar without a winter intersession, despite being met with strong opposition from protestors sporting winter attire who were kept locked out of the meeting by campus police. Protestors said police refused to let them in saying the room was filled to capacity. However, the board meeting which was held in the Creveling Lounge, had seats available throughout the evening.
Student Trustee Simon Fraser, who could only cast an advisory vote, was the only dissenting voice on the board. Fraser opposed a trimester calendar since it was first proposed in August of last year. As former Associated Students (AS) President, Fraser was the first to warn that students would face potential transfer problems if the college implemented the calendar. His warning and those from other groups on campus turned out to be true when over 260 students were told the units they had taken in what the college labeled as Extended Spring would not be accepted by the four-year schools.
Few faculty, staff and students on the campus support a calendar without a winter intersession. Since a calendar with a winter session was cancelled at the Aug. 29 board meeting, all shared governance groups on campus have been sending representatives to board meetings imploring the trustees to look at all the problems that have been caused by the new calendar and vote for what is best for students. The board chose to once again vote with the administration, which has been pushing the trimester plan.
College President Mark Rocha explained that a trimester calendar would have more students who come in the fall term continue into the spring semester. That is known as persistence, he said. Since there is a shorter break between the fall and spring term, the break is called a hiatus.
â€œInstitutional research did report on the effect of hiatus on performance. The longer the hiatus the worse the performance,â€ Rocha said.
According to statistics provided by the collegeâ€™s Institutional Effectiveness team, persistence rates in 2011 to 2012, the last calendar with a winter, were at 73 percent. In the last academic year, without a winter intersession, persistence was at 80 percent.
Rocha believes the most important goal for the administration to focus on is graduation and completion rates.
â€œI think there is much to do. Many people did great, great work [helping students transfer],â€ he said. â€œWe need to make sure that every student will be treated and moved to graduation. This is this administrationâ€™s North Star and part of reason why we changed the calendar.â€
Trustee Jeanette Mann, who worked on a statewide student success task force, agreed that less time between semesters kept persistence rates higher.
â€œ[One of the] most effective systems of student success is a trimester,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™m sure if you would look at this, during that break many, many, many children forget. Iâ€™m not saying that our students are children, but I am saying there is a huge amount of research, which indicates that not having gaps in learning helps. I support this calendar.â€
During public comment, Anna Torres, a former vice president for the AS and a student who was at risk of losing her transfer to a UC, argued that because the administration did not heed warnings from the AS regarding a calendar change, the administration put students at risk of not transferring.
â€œI asked the board to listen. I trusted that you the trustees would listen to me,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™m not saying you didnâ€™t listen, Iâ€™m saying your administration misled you.â€
One student, Sarah Belknap, clad in a scarf and winter hat, walked up to the podium after public comment on the calendar was officially over. Belknap argued the calendar change had major pedagogicalÂ repercussions, while a calendar with winter helped more students transfer.
“I really want you to strongly consider the winter intersession and its pedagogical merits. It has a huge benefit to students,” she said.
Belknap later silently walked into the meeting carrying a sign that read “Bring Back Winter.” She was almost immediately escorted out of the room by two police officers.
Â How To Avoid Another Transfer Issue
Trustee Geoffrey Baum asked the administration if accepting another calendar without winter would cause more issues with spring transferability.
â€œClearly this administration and board has learned a lot about the implementation [of this calendar],â€ he said. â€œWith the addition of summer formerly granted as Extended Spring, how are we positioned with this recommended calendar to meet that demand so that those students will be served for spring transferability [next year]?â€
Bell explained that the college was going to work on aiding students with education plans to curb more transferability issues.
The quintessential change has to do educational planning, he said. â€œObviously most students had planned to take courses in the winter intersession [for fall transfer]. In the spring and fall, all students will have to have an [education] plan.â€
Meaningful Shared Governance
Academic Senate President Eduardo Cairo spoke out against the recommended trimester calendar during public comment, claiming that PCC President Mark Rocha did not follow shared governance procedures and broke his word when he said he would recommend other calendars to the Board, including one with a winter intersession.
â€œThe college president said he would have three calendars to be up for the boardâ€™s consideration. The calendars have not gone through the shared governance process because very few members of the faculty were on campus,â€ Cairo said.
Trustee William Thomson questioned whether the calendar recommendation properly followed shared governance procedures.
â€œThe statements made that the proposed calendar has not gone through the shared governance processâ€”is that a legal requirement?â€ Thomson asked General Counsel Gail Cooper.
â€œNo Trustee Thomson, itâ€™s not,â€ she said.
Cairo argued that the process to make a calendar recommendation was part of the Academic Senateâ€™s 10+1 annual goals.
â€œThe academic calendar has a direct effect on student success, faculty development and planning. It is a violation of shared governance and may cause issues with accreditation,â€ he said.
Rocha explained that the calendar recommendation only needed to be discussed amongst shared governance groups, such as the Senate and the Associated Students and the Calendar Committee, according to district policy 2300.
â€œIf the first question is if consultation was made to make sure to receive input from all quarters, then the answer to that question is true. If the answer to that question, if shared governance groups approved it, then the answer is no.â€
Fraser argued that both sides regarding the calendar change were heard over the last year, but there was no true conversation between shared governance groups and the administration.
â€œI donâ€™t think weâ€™ve had a conversation that has actually been a conversation. Weâ€™ve heard both sides, but no place to meet in the middle,â€ he said.
Trustee Linda Wah agreed with Fraser about the need for more proactive communication.
â€œThere needs to be some dialogue. I think that this administration has shown commitment in being proactive in helping our students,â€ she said. â€œI think that if there are students who feel there is going to be a significant impact, we can proactively throw in some action to help medicate these issues.â€