School’s out for summer: admin cuts summer courses

Kevin Johnson and Brandon McCapes

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Students planning to complete coursework over the summer may need to change their academic plans.

Santa Rosa Junior College will cut most in-person classes for Summer 2018, a move that sparked harsh faculty blowback during an already tense negotiation process between the college and faculty union.

Senior Vice President Mary Kay Rudolph announced the cuts in an email to faculty and staff at 4:18 p.m. on Thursday, the end of the academic week.

All English and social sciences classes will be cut, unless offered online and only a handful of classes from the STEM, health science and math departments will be offered.

The move comes at a time when the district is looking for ways to address the 2017-18 budget deficit. The reduction in the summer curriculum is expected to save the college $2 million, according to Rudolph.

She said that cutting summer classes is preferable to making large cuts to “mainstream program offerings” in the fall and spring semesters.

Administrators will analyze fall classes to terminate classes that have low enrollment. Certificate programs and majors that are no longer of “significant interest” to students will be removed from the curriculum.

“We need to focus on how to deliver excellent education under new and different circumstances in a fiscally sustainable manner,” Rudolph said.

On March 27, SRJC President Frank Chong addressed the 2017-18 budget crisis, and proposed a plan to “right size” the college by reducing the number of classes offered at a time of declining enrollment.

Faculty members questioned the timing of the announcement and suggested the administration has political motives.

In response to Rudolph’s email, Dianne Davis, an SRJC disability specialist, said the move is short-sighted and students will bear the consequences.

“The timing is so clear,” Davis said. “Impasse continues, inaccurate budget information is disseminated. This is a total nuclear option directed at getting the faculty in line.

Davis’s email criticized Chong for mismanaging the college and said the decision retaliates against faculty by hurting students.

“Frank, I hope you had a nice time at your latest political and photo op gig today while Mary Kay got the gig of sending out the bombshell,” Davis said. “I will look forward to seeing your picture in [The Press Democrat] again out and about in the community while the district goes under. It will be interesting to see how this ridiculous idea gets spun in the press. Way to throw the students under the bus to get back at the misbehaving faculty.”

Mathematics instructor Debbie Albers criticized the lack of shared governance in determining summer course cuts.

“If the decision to cancel most of the summer offerings for Summer 20‘18 has been an ongoing process, then I would like to hear about how shared governance came into play,” Albers wrote.

Amy Merkel, a counselor and transfer center director, said it was “extremely disturbing and unthoughtful” to be told of the summer schedule changes one workday before students begin to register for summer and fall classes.

Laura Aspinall, an SRJC disability specialist questioned the timing of the move after the mediation process between the district and faculty union recently ceased.

“Priority registration starts on Monday and DRD faculty have spent the last few weeks literally seeing hundreds of students in preparation for summer and fall registration,” Aspinall wrote.

Dr. J. Davis Mannino, a psychologist in the department of behavioral sciences, said the loss of income for faculty members will be difficult.

“This is an incredible hardship to me, and many other faculty, who count on summer wages to account for lost wages when our ten month contract ends,” Mannino said. 

The cuts may impact students who have already developed education plans that include summer courses. Even courses with high enrollment rates like MATH 15 will not be offered.