Academic Senate discusses enrollment and budget shortfall in first meeting of 2024

Academic Senate discusses enrollment and budget shortfall in first meeting of 2024

Correction: A quote from Senator Eddie Tchertchian was corrected on Feb. 22, 2024.

At the first meeting of the spring semester, Academic Senate President Margarita Pillado introduced new senators joining the senate, and discussed budget, enrollment and fossil fuel divestment topics. The meeting was held on Feb. 12 in Building 600.

Pierce Interim President Ara Aguiar presented information about Pierce’s enrollment. The numbers are up 15 percent above last year and are approaching a rebound to pre-pandemic levels, according to Aguiar. As of this semester, enrollment is down 13 percent compared to 2017.

“Each semester that goes by, we’re closing the gap further and further,” Aguiar said.

Senator Jeff Favre commented on a spike of bots in asynchronous classes, and asked if there are actions being taken to lower the number. 

“The district now has a whole new mechanism of how they remove bots from the system,” Aguiar said. “They actually go in and remove them and then they send us a list of anyone that was identified using their software that identifies them.”

“And then we get the list—each college gets the list—and then we actually have someone reach out to that bot, or that person, and try to reinstate them if they’re a real person,” Aguiar added.

Aguiar noted that with artificial intelligence, bots now respond back, do assignments and answer questions. 

“In the math department’s synchronous classes, we have not had many student bots,” Senator Eddie Tchertchian said in an interview after the meeting.

The Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees has asked colleges to reduce general budgets by five percent, preventing hiring in many areas, according to Aguiar. 

“We have been tasked to do a three-year projection,” Aguiar said. “First year—reduction in general funds. And then do a three-year scenario of what to expect.”

The next few years may see a lot of uncertainty, said Aguiar when discussing the budget and funding.

“Just to give you an idea, Valley has done a proposal, we’ve done some initial proposals,” Aguiar said. “Almost for certain we’re going to be about $5 million—not this year, but next year—in the hole, at minimum.” 

Enrollment since the winter semester has been down, and students are encouraged to enroll in late-start classes in the second eight weeks of the spring semester, according to Aguiar. Departments are encouraged to let the administration know if there is a need for additional late-start classes.

The Academic Senate in Building 600 at Pierce College in Woodland Hills, Calif., on Feb. 12, 2024. Photo by Icy Smith.

Political Science Professor Denise Robb prompted a discussion on the California Fossil Fuel Divestment Act (SB 252), and three students spoke in support of it during public comment. SB 252 would divest faculty pensions from fossil fuels, according to Robb. 

Guided Pathways Coordinator Judy Lam discussed involvement in the Career and Academic Pathways (CAPS) community and upcoming professional workshops in STEM. 

The Associated Student Organization (ASO) has vacancies and is looking for senators to join, according to ASO President Gayane Zazyan, adding that ASO wants to advocate for students. 

“ASO interest has been really high, we have a lot of students applying, and we’ve been interviewing and we will be trying to table more outside,” Zazyan said. “We need more interaction out on the Mall, helping students, just so they know who to go to if they need someone to advocate for them.”

Delilah Brumer and Raquel G. Frohlich contributed to this story. 


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