Tensions ran high at meetings across campus as students, faculty and staff discussed a recommendation to cut 248 summer, fall and spring class sections and move the 2012 winter session. “Sections will have to be reduced next year,” said PCC President Mark Rocha at the College Council meeting Feb. 23, which had dozens of students in attendance. “We will be taking time needed over the next month or two to make a decision [as to which sections will be cut].”

This was a much different sense of urgency than was previously relayed to the Enrollment Management Committee. By law, PCC needs an adopted budget by June, but the EMC was trying to recommend a budget-balancing proposal as soon as possible.

Created by the PCC Board of Trustees in January, the committee was tasked with examining a proposed reduction of 600 sections in response to the potential $5.3 million budget cut for the 2011-2012 academic year. The committee voted at its third meeting to push forth the recommendation to the College Council for further review, after which the Council would forward the proposal to the Board.

A week prior to this vote, Associated Students requested a list of data from the administration so it could analyze the effects of the five presented scenarios. The AS did not receive this information, so President Jamie Hammond abstained from voting due to a lack of quantifiable data.

Fashion major Ali Olign was one of seven students who spoke at the council meeting. Frustrated with the EMC for going forward without votes from student representatives, Olign argued that the student voice was being stifled.

“It is troublesome for me to see… rushed decision-making when so much is at stake,” she said. “I would ask that all members of shared governance seek input from those on campus who will be most affected and analyze long term affects of the cuts.”

Faculty Association President Roger Marheine commended student speakers and agreed that things were moving too quickly. “In the history of collective bargaining that I’ve been involved with at [PCC] for about 10 years, generally rushing such approval is never a good idea,” he said.

Marheine recalled a 2009 decision to cut the 2010 winter session and the debacle it caused with PCC and the FA. “It was a gross error on the part of the [Board] who believed there was no money, when in fact there was a considerable amount,” he said, adding that students protested and winter session was partially reinstated. The FA filed charges with the California Public Employment Relations Board and is currently seeking restitution for PCC’s failure to negotiate in this prior cancellation of winter session.

“If winter [2012] is altered in any way, it is a negotiable contractual item. [The FA works] very strongly with the faculty at large. This would have to be negotiated or we’ll be back in a PERB hearing,” warned Marheine. “I don’t think the college wants that.”

Rocha explained that he understood the process, but Marheine interjected saying, “I’m not sure you do,” a stand that was met with applause by faculty, staff and students in attendance.

Marheine proposed the FA would look into “alternative, creative responses to help save some of these classes and hopefully help save winter session.”

Academic Senate Vice President Patty Lynn believes the scenario recommended to the council is the best of the five considered. “I don’t know that any of them is one we are comfortable with,” she said. Lynn understood the concern over EMC’s rushed recommendation, but reminded everyone that there was a time frame to consider.

Simon Frasier, an AS member, spoke passionately against section cuts. “We may talk about the number of sections, but what we’re really talking about is the number of students,” he said. “And that is a big issue on campus with more students enrolling.”

“The situation is dire,” said Rocha. Reducing the size of the administration is a serious option being considered, with retirement incentives in place. “In the final analysis, the heaviest burden will come on the staff,” added Rocha, clarifying that he will not replace staff, do layoffs, furloughs, or reduce salaries.

Sabah Alquaddoomi, associate dean of enrollment management, sits on the EMC. “I don’t think we can ignore what’s coming to us from the state and say, well, nothing is going to happen,” he said. “At the end of the day, I think we’re going to all be accountable to the students and to the community- did we manage this correctly?”

The EMC is once again reviewing the budget-balancing scenarios.

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