College hour on hold

The issue of low enrollment loomed over Monday’s Academic Senate meeting as faculty members discussed the success of College Promise.

Vice President of Student Services Earic Dixon-Peters summarized data collected in fall 2017 and spring 2018 that compared Promise, Promise-eligible and first-time students’ persistence rates and GPAs.

Dixon-Peters said his office documented 4,700 students as non-persisters, or students who did not return to Pierce after three semesters off.

“We had strategic effort to reach out to students who dropped off and it seemed to make a difference,” Dixon-Peters said. “I think it’s important for everyone to know where we’re at with our student enrollment and the factors contributing to our lack of enrollment.”

College Promise students had a 90 percent persistence rate, high when compared to the 78 percent persistence rate for Promise-eligible students and 61 percent for other students.

Dixon-Peters said part of the Pierce approach to remedying low-enrollment must include shedding the false idea that its student body is primarily full time.

“Seventy-five percent of students in fall 2015- spring 2016 were part time. The majority of students are part time at Pierce,” he said.

Dixon-Peters said Pierce’s enrollment is worth taking a closer look at because its student body does not resemble other colleges.

“The perception of Pierce as a transfer school where students are full time may be off. How we program, how we set class schedules, how we organize our office hours, services, may impact our students. We perceive that they’re on campus during regular school hours. They may need some other scheduling support we may not be aware of,” Dixon-Peters said.

Part of the discussion regarding low enrollment included the addition of a designated college hour, a time block in which classes cease and the focus is on student engagement on campus.

Adrian Youhanna, a geographical science instructor, said Sheri Berger, the vice president of Academic Affairs, has tabled the possibility of a college hour until a faculty-based work group convenes to decide on the best time slot to place the tentative hour dedicated to student life.

“She’s not putting a rush on it anymore,” Youhanna said.

Youhanna said the work group will include physics instructor Ryan Eagle, Dean of Institutional Effectiveness Amari Williams, and psychology instructor Angela Belden. Department Chair of Performing Arts Michael Gend will be responsible for communicating plans for the college hour that may begin in spring 2019.

“The representatives will report to their constituents because there’s a disconnect between people serving and what is relayed,” Youhanna said.

Philosophy instructor Cara Gillis said because the college hour first came up in discussion, the Senate’s Professional Ethics Committee has decided to review the guidelines offered to ease the process of communication and decision making between Pierce College faculty and administrators.

“We thought, given that there has been some tension in faculty-administration interactions in areas that seem to be under the purview of the  senate, that it might be worthwhile to look at the Shared Governance Agreement,” she said.

Gillis said the review involved reading the agreement, and the text the agreement was originally devised from, Chapter 18 of the Los Angeles Community College District Board Rules.

“It indicates how and when the administration should respond to Academic Senate recommendations,” she said.

Gillis said especially worthy of note was the clause that required the administration to try in good-faith to collaborate with the senate and, in the case that no agreement could be reached, the administration must put into writing why it refused the senate’s suggestion.

Gillis maintained that improving the communication problems between the faculty and administration will have effects that extend into classrooms, not just offices.

“We wanted to go about this in a productive manner and serve the interests of the students primarily,” Gillis said.