The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

The student news site of Diablo Valley College.

The Inquirer

Big changes fly under DVC radar

Time is running out for the public to comment on recommendations that would make fundamental changes in the requirements for community college students.

The state Student Success Task Force will hold its final meeting on the recommendations Dec. 7 in Sacramento.

“It’s a game changer,” said Chancellor Helen Benjamin, at a Contra Costa Community College District meeting on Nov. 1.

Many students are unaware of the huge policy changes in place that could have a major impact upon their class choices, their access to financial aid and other educational issues.

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Psychology major Cruz Conrad said, “I don’t know anything about the recommendations.” Other students interviewed were also unaware of the proposal.

The Student Success Task Force exists to help California’s community college students achieve more degrees and transfers.

Supporters of the Task Force recommendations applaud the document’s acknowledgment of how student orientation, early diagnostic assessment and increased counseling have been proven to increase the academic success of students.

However, critics dislike, among other issues, its requirement that students declare their program of study by the beginning of their second semester and commit to an educational plan that is inflexible, and that it raises fees if the student should choose to take a class that is not part of that educational plan.

At the district meeting, Benjamin asked the crowd, “How many believe that there needs to be some reform in the Community College system in the state of California?”

Most of the audience raised their hands and nodded their heads in agreement. But many people disagreed with the types of changes that the Task Force is recommending.

Katrina Keating, treasurer for the United Faculty, pointed out that the Task Force wants assessment, orientation and the development of an educational plan to be done online.

“Even our research shows that students that take the assessment do better,” Keating said. “And there’s a lot of research that shows that students who get oriented do better. But they’re wanting students to do all of that online and I have issue with that. A’ there’s something to be said with actually talking to somebody; B, we have a lot of students that come to us [who are] not really clear on how to use the computer effectively.”

Referring to the requirement that students only take classes that are in their educational plans, Keating pointed out that Steve Jobs credited a random calligraphy class with giving him the inspiration for fonts for the Mac.

 “Think about what Mac would be if he hadn’t had the opportunity to take that class that wasn’t on his ed plan; that wasn’t part of his major. That’s why I have serious issues with the ed plan,” Keating continued.

The issue of students having to pay higher fees to take classes that are not part of their educational plans is one of particular sensitivity.

When it was discussed at the Inter-Club Council meeting on Nov. 3, Neil Kumar spoke to how taking exploratory classes enriched his life in ways that his friends and family could not.

“Many of us grow up here,” said Kumar, 23, a civil engineering major.

There were concerns with students being required to declare their majors early. At the district meeting, Keating recalled her own academic journey.

“When I was a freshman in college, I had no clue what I wanted… Years later, I came back to school and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do.”

She switched between business, sociology and anthropology before finally choosing mathematics. “Students need room to explore… I am saddened that people feel that exploration is a waste of time.”

Coyde Ignont, a 19-year-old humanities major said, “I didn’t pick my major until my fourth semester at DVC. And most people I know didn’t decide on their majors until later. It’s not fair that they’re forcing students to make this decision on the spot like that.”

ASDVC Vice President Alex Silva is concerned about the way the proposal centralizes authority at the state level. “Seventy-two districts can not be efficiently controlled at one central place… Each community has its own needs. Each district knows its own communities. The people in Sacramento don’t know about the many things that affect large student populations in certain communities.”

Jeffrey Michels, an English instructor at DVC and president of the United Faculty, wrote in the official response of the California Community College Independents, “The most effective way to improve public education in California, including Community Colleges, is to restore public investment in schools and colleges. Our system is severely underfunded with the lowest student funding in K-12, CSU and UC. Recent funding cuts have done tremendous harm to California’s students and to our economic future. Reforms without increased investment are unlikely to succeed… .”


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About the Contributor
Theresa Marie, Staff writer
Staff writer, spring 2013 and fall 2011. First place, feature writing, 2013 Journalism Association of Community Colleges NorCal Conference.

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Big changes fly under DVC radar