Vying for a Voice at City College

KYLE ROKES, news editor

The Board of Trustees is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a mailer that will be a first step to establishing an official representative body for over 20,000 students enrolled in continuing education.

However, some adult education students already operate self-appointed groups that have been active and present with ideas at board meetings.

“Trustees could be more welcoming, more responsive to the suggestions of older students,” said Ann Crosby, a member of the Associated Continuing Education Students at the Aug. 26 board meeting.

Up until now, no such group acting as a voice for non-credit students is officially recognized by the college administration.

A large number of individuals, including those enrolled in adult education or ESL, and county jail inmates working toward a GED, do not have an official voice when the college makes decisions that could affect them.

Some see taking action as a wise step for the board, four of whom are up for reelection on Nov. 2.

“You will endear yourself to the voter immediately before the absentee ballots come out,” ACES co-president Eleanor Larson said to the board on Aug. 26.

The courses, popular with many older residents, experienced cuts over the past year prompting criticism of the college’s new administration.

Community members said there was a lack of shared governance. They also said their opinions were ignored when choices about the program were decided.

Superintendent – President Andreaa Serban and the board have repeatedly defended their cuts. They claim they kept the college from having to borrow money like other schools that are now strapped with debt.

Cutbacks also allowed them to retain staff. The college has yet to fire a single full time faculty member, they add.

ACES co-president Cathie McCammon said during a phone interview that those claims “might look good on paper,” but didn’t take into account those instructors who are idle.

“Even though they’re still on the books, they’re not getting paid because of the cutbacks,” she said.

“They don’t have any classes to teach.”

The ongoing controversy prompted some community members to take steps at getting directly involved in future planning.

ACES established itself in April, and has 50 official members.

The other group is the Continuing Education Student Council. They’re slightly newer and emphasize the need for a stronger voice on behalf of the Spanish speaking demographic, including migrant workers.

Carlos Martinez is the council’s acting president.

Both groups are expected to attend tomorrow’s meeting. ACES and CESC members also attended the board’s open study session last Thursday.

In the meantime, the college said it has been actively researching the issue, looking for an existing model in the state.

“Most community colleges have some kind of student body for credit students,” Vice President of Legal Affairs Sue Ehrlich said at the Aug. 26 meeting.

She pointed out the state’s education code lacks any specifics about how to maintain, let alone form, such a body for non-credit students.

“There’s really no right way to do it.”

Copper Mountain, Compton Center, the San Diego community college system, and most recently San Francisco City College are being looked at as examples, she said.

 

Dr. Desmond O’Neill, one of the trustees up for re-election, suggested last week that the best option would be to allow the thousands currently registered in continuing education to decide.

He proposed a college-funded mass mailing be sent to everyone on the program’s contact list. Those enrolled would be asked to respond with what kind of representative body they’d prefer, if any.

An official vote on the action could not be made during the study session, so one was scheduled for tomorrow’s regular meeting.

If approved, the mailer’s contents and release date will be addressed at a later date.