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.

Campus Police deny access student protestors attendance to the Board of Trustees in the Creveling Lounge of the CC Building on Wednesday, July 17, 2013. The rules of conduct for the meeting stated no signs were allowed and the protestors refused to obey.  Photo courtesy of Neil Protacio.
Campus Police deny student protestors access to the Board of Trustees in the Creveling Lounge of the CC Building on Wednesday, July 17, 2013. The rules of conduct for the meeting stated no signs were allowed and the protestors refused to obey. Photo courtesy of Neil Protacio.

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.

“Institutional research did report on the effect of hiatus on performance. The longer the hiatus the worse the performance,” Rocha said.

According to statistics provided by the college’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.

“I think there is much to do. Many people did great, great work [helping students transfer],” he said. “We need to make sure that every student will be treated and moved to graduation. This is this administration’s North Star and part of reason why we changed the calendar.”

Trustee Jeanette Mann, who worked on a statewide student success task force, agreed that less time between semesters kept persistence rates higher.

“[One of the] most effective systems of student success is a trimester,” she said. “I’m sure if you would look at this, during that break many, many, many children forget. I’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.”

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.

“I asked the board to listen. I trusted that you the trustees would listen to me,” she said. “I’m not saying you didn’t listen, I’m saying your administration misled you.”

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 pedagogical 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.

 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.

“Clearly this administration and board has learned a lot about the implementation [of this calendar],” he said. “With 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]?”

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. “Obviously 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.”

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.

“The college president said he would have three calendars to be up for the board’s consideration. The calendars have not gone through the shared governance process because very few members of the faculty were on campus,” Cairo said.

Trustee William Thomson questioned whether the calendar recommendation properly followed shared governance procedures.

“The statements made that the proposed calendar has not gone through the shared governance process—is that a legal requirement?” Thomson asked General Counsel Gail Cooper.

“No Trustee Thomson, it’s not,” she said.

Cairo argued that the process to make a calendar recommendation was part of the Academic Senate’s 10+1 annual goals.

“The 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,” 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.

“If 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.”

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.

“I don’t think we’ve had a conversation that has actually been a conversation. We’ve heard both sides, but no place to meet in the middle,” he said.

Trustee Linda Wah agreed with Fraser about the need for more proactive communication.

“There needs to be some dialogue. I think that this administration has shown commitment in being proactive in helping our students,” she said. “I 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.”

14 Replies to “Board rejects second chance for winter intersession”

  1. We never really believed that the Board was capable of their own thought or action.

    Every testimony and every bit of evidence shows that last year’s calendar was a car wreck. There followed a carnival of mis-steps, bad-aid fixes, lies, and oddball patches that seriously damaged PCC’s reputation and ability to deliver education to the community. So why repeat it?

    At its root is a dull-witted thuggish management that feigns ignorance of state law re: the operation of PCC. (AB1729) Pres Rocha absolutely lost the college months ago, and still has no idea why. He’s leader with no followers, beyond direct subordinates and a handful of sycophants.

    Restoring the approved calendar structure (that works) would be a great step to get the college out of this mess. There’d be Student Success, Student Access, Student Retention, Student Persistence, etc.

    -But the Board would lose face.
    Can’t let that happen, so:
    “We are so confused, Pres. R., please advise us what to do!”
    “Are you sure this is legal? ” etc.

    1. I saw this article in Forbes–“Is Your College Going Broke?” The colleges profiled are private schools, but the account of what happened at a school in Kentucky reminds me of what’s going on at PCC. In 2010 Owen Williams was hired to run Transylvania University. He tried to run it more as a business and by all accounts the school’s finances were improving. However the faculty gave him a “no confidence” vote. Despite support from the board, Williams announced his resignation.

    1. The “real agenda” of the board does remain mysterious. Is it all about costs? Contempt for teachers, or for unions? A desire for dictatorial control? Unwillingness to admit they’ve made errors? I think it’d be a great goal for the Courier reporters to try to get the board members to open up about what motivates the decisions they’ve been making in the face of strong objections by large numbers of faculty, staff and students. (And with very few faculty, staff or students stepping forward to support their decisions.)

      1. I don’t know what unsolved mysteries you are talking about. Any organization that doesn’t worry about costs isn’t going to be in business for very long. I don’t know how the board feels about unions, but in any case hatred for public unions is at an all time high since the BART strike, the Detroit bankruptcy, bankruptcies in Stockton, Riverside, the posting of DWP salaries by the LA Times, etc. etc. Dictatorial control? You can get rid of these guys by VOTING at the next city election.

      2. Thank you for replying, AIG, though you don’t seem to have an answer for me. CalPERS and CalSTRS pensions are determined by the state legislature, not the district. So, whatever idea motivates the board’s support of Rocha’s administration (even when all evidence shows that things are being mismanaged), pension reform isn’t it. You are correct that anti-union sentiment is running high on the political right these days, and it would be interesting to know the board members’ views on the appropriate roll of unions in the district.

      3. Egg, Ayg, Aig?,
        I would vote to triple PCC teachers’ pensions for combat pay alone… They follow their love of teaching and work extra hours for free, they give their heartfelt best to keep the college from turning into a diploma mill.
        But in the past two years they’ve been sabotaged at nearly every turn by the fumbling Pres and his Board of cardboard cutouts.
        Egg, don’t be confused–maybe you could take a class at PCC? A college is a college. It is for learning. It’s not a business, not a city, not an aquarium, not a donut shop.

      4. Scrambled egg, you’re right–college is not like a donut shop. Donut shops don’t have big pension bills that they are unprepared for. CalSTRS, which pays community college pensions, will run out of money in 30 years. Pensions are part of the reason why one quarter at UCLA costs $4500. In a few years UC will be spending more on pensions than on classroom instruction, and you the student will be paying for those pensions with your big tuition bill.

      5. thanks, Scrambled AIG, for your comment. that pretty much summarizes how a lot of the faculty (and aware students) feel. the Board doesn’t care. (the excuse that they are oblivious just doesn’t hold water). ‘

        the only constituent they MAY be concerned about is their own in their respective districts…

  2. So let me get this straight…

    The Board cut winter to help persistence by making the gap between fall and spring shorter. What was a two month gap is now a two week gap. They moved the spring semester closer to the end of the fall semester.

    Now that makes a FOUR MONTH gap between spring and fall for the following school year. The gap hasn’t gone away, it’s just been moved, thus creating a larger gap elsewhere.

    “‘Institutional research did report on the effect of hiatus on performance. The longer the hiatus the worse the performance,’ Rocha said.”

    Remind me again why this is a good idea?

    Rocha? Board members? Bueller? Anyone?

  3. Hello. My name is Emily. I’m a sophomore at PCC who will be trying to transfer into a University in time for the 2014 Fall calendar. Unfortunately, there are still more classes I would need to take in order to make my dream a reality. So instead of spending a regular amount of two years at a community college, I will be spending three.
    About how Rocha explained how more students will be taking more classes in the Fall, please tell me this. Were there more students taking more fall classes this year in comparison to last year? I did not see any statistics being mentioned anywhere about classroom attendance in comparison to the more traditional, and in my opinion, more functional, calendar.
    The only people that think this is a good idea seems to be the “Board of Trustees”; the reason I quote is because I’m not sure if they would exactly be trusted after this accident took place.
    Please PCC, the reason I take classes here rather than GCC is because the campus is beautiful and the people are actually somewhat likable. If you have any common sense, bring back the Winter intersession.

  4. What a great job you did of reporting that board meeting. I was there and you got it all right. I am so impressed with your coverage. I couldn’t believe some of the things that were said. The administration said they just had to tell the shared governance groups what was going on, but they didn’t have to seek their approval.REALLY????? Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t shared governance supposed to be what the name indicates–sharing, everyone participating–It is NOT “this is what we are doing, so tough if you don’t like it.”

    I have one question for the board about the trimester being more educationally sound than any other calendar. If that is the case, why aren’t all the four year schools on the trimester?

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