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Saturday, September 26, 2020

Professors challenge chancellor

The English Department issued a statement stating that students shouldn’t be required to take  a class to which they’re not prepared. The proposal stems from enough students failing to meet course standards.

In the Academic Senate meeting, English instructor Charles Sheldon said that for a student to take English 101, it is required that they test into the course directly or take the prerequisites they place into, which are ESL, English 21 and English 28.

A letter presented by Sheldon on behalf of the English Department asked about a push for modifying existing English assessment tools without removing remedial courses.

“Our experience as English composition instructors, however, suggests that students will not succeed without developmental instruction of prerequisite skills for English 101 or higher courses,” the letter states.

In the letter, it mentioned that LACCD Chancellor Francisco Rodriguez cited a lack of equity in the progress of disadvantaged or underrepresent community college students which is the reason the district wants to eliminate remedial classes.

The letter describes potential reasons that these students are unable to successfully pass a college level English course.

“Acceleration of student progress does not address and cannot compensate for the many underlying factors behind the lack of college readiness,” the letter states.

According to the letter, these factors include: inadequate secondary instruction in English, unrealistic and often unattainable expectations of student work/family/college life balance; insufficient, ineffective, or inappropriate use of financial aid for essential course materials and the additional stress, anxiety due to uncertain immigration status, family, mental health and other personal crises.

Representing the English department Sheldon asked the Academic Senate if it could retain existing pre-collegiate English courses, revise currently used measures, verify GPAs for high school graduates and non graduates, facilitate extracurricular resources, and reduce course size limits to meet current needs.

Senate Treasurer Angela Belden said that she supports the English Department and the content of the letter.

“They are seeing students underprepared, which is a bad idea,” Belden said. “It’s not a good idea to have students underprepared.”

However, Belden also sympathizes with students that have to go through a prolonged process to take college level courses after high school.

“After you’ve been in high school for four years and you’ve been doing all of your high school requirements and you have a high school diploma, to then say, ‘Well, you still aren’t ready for college.’ Even though you just graduated from high school locally, that’s not a very student-friendly approach either,” Belden said.

After members discussed the English department’s proposal, Cara Gillis of the Professional Ethics Committee approached the topic of plagiarism and how to handle it in the future.

According to Gillis, a student was accused of plagiarism by a professor. The case went to the dean, but was then ruled out because there were no signs.

Concerns were raised in response to the possibility of disagreement between faculty and administration.  

“We’re trying to get more clarification on that plagiarism. There are some questions that may not be specific enough, so we’re thinking of some kind of presentation of what to do when you suspect plagiarism,”  Gillis said.  

Faculty hopes to avoid confusion in future instances when plagiarism may occur.

On a lighter subject, the senate talked about next semester’s Students Award Brunch.  

The Events and Recognition Committee invited representatives from ASO to attend a meeting in which they discussed the possibility of changing the time and location of the event to create a shorter graduation day.

The goal is to avoid keeping students and their families at school for long periods of time.

The event is usually on the day of graduation in June beginning at 9 a.m. to avoid the heat, but because the event is early, students have to wait a long period of time before graduation begins around 6 p.m.

“It’s like a twelve-hour day for some of our best and brightest students. That’s not exactly the most student-friendly on the day that should be the culmination of their time here at Pierce,” said ERC Chair Jennifer Moses.

The changes, however, may raise the cost of the event, and money would have to be allocated from the Academic Senate and funds from ASO.

These plans are in the discussion phase with further details to be agreed upon.

The Roundup is the student-run news outlet at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif.

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