The Oak Leaf

Chong back-pedals on summer course cut scheme

Santa+Rosa+Junior+College+President+Frank+Chong+sent+a+brief+email+to+students+that+called+into+question+the+decision+to+cut+the+majority+of+the+planned+courses+for+the+summer+term.
Santa Rosa Junior College President Frank Chong sent a brief email to students that called into question the decision to cut the majority of the planned courses for the summer term.

Santa Rosa Junior College President Frank Chong sent a brief email to students that called into question the decision to cut the majority of the planned courses for the summer term.

Dakota McGranahan

Dakota McGranahan

Santa Rosa Junior College President Frank Chong sent a brief email to students that called into question the decision to cut the majority of the planned courses for the summer term.

Kevin Johnson and Brandon McCapes

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The cuts announced to the summer curriculum yesterday may not be implemented, according to the Santa Rosa Junior College president. Whether some course cuts will continue as planned or if the whole schedule will be available remains unclear.

President Frank Chong sent an email to the student body purportedly rescinding the plan he outlined to delay summer registration for one week, following the administration’s announcement to cut most in-person classes for the summer term.

In his second email to the student body today, Chong said, “We want to reassure you that the summer term has not been cancelled, and that summer registration has not been paused as was previously stated.  Priority Registration for both summer and fall will start on April 2nd as was previously planned.”

Administrators announced the cuts in an attempt to reduce the college’s expenses at a time when funding has been affected by already chronically low enrollment exacerbated by last year’s wildfires.

The change in the administration’s plans followed an outcry by students and faculty over the lack of consultation, transparency and timely warning of yesterday’s decision.

Chong referred students with questions to the admissions and records office, however, the email was sent 16 minutes after the school closed for the weekend.

Student Hannah Cagle organized a Facebook group to host a sit-in in Bailey Hall this Monday in response to the announcement.

In an earlier email to students this morning, President Chong admitted it was a mistake to cut summer courses without “adequate consultation” of faculty and students.

“I have read all of your emails and would like to say that I am truly sorry for the anger, angst and stress that I have created for students, faculty, classified and others,” Chong wrote. “Leading SRJC during these turbulent times is challenging. Quite honestly I am not afraid to admit I made a mistake. I own it and will try to learn from it and not make that mistake again.”

The administration had previously planned to delay summer term registration, which was scheduled to begin April 2, by one week to address student and faculty concerns.

“This will give us some breathing room to come together and plan the budget reductions in a collective manner. That includes Evelyn Navarro, your [Student Government Assembly] President,” Chong wrote.

Faculty members said the move to cut summer courses will adversely affect adjunct instructors who depend on summer classes for income.

“The fiscal impact on adjunct instructors is devastating—suddenly, I’ve lost a third of my annual income,” adjunct instructor Roland Hughes said. “So what does that mean for me? Well that means now I’ve got at least three months with no income coming in. This is putting some adjuncts in a position where they have to critically think about ‘Well can I afford to keep working here?’”

Hughes said the outpouring of support from full-time faculty members sent a strong message to the administration. “The fact that they care and are raising their voices is a show of solidarity with adjuncts.”

Computer science major Edgar Irizarry said that limiting summer classes affects students’ ability to complete transfer requirements in a timely manner. “I feel betrayed. It’s unfair to us—the students—when we’ve been making academic plans with counselors for the summer and fall semesters for months now,” Irizarry said. “Now, my education plan is almost nonexistent and I have to make a new one.”

A student The Oak Leaf will not name took to Facebook last night to encourage students to join him for a “peaceful discussion” with Dr. Chong at 10 a.m. today. His intent was misconstrued by at least one faculty member who suggested the student might pose a threat because he was holding two 400-year-old pirate-style muskets in his profile picture.

The faculty member sent a college-wide email that included the student’s name and picture along with a message that implied SRJC police may need to get involved.  District police visited the student, who is a concurrently enrolled high schooler and MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) admit, at his house Thursday night around 11 p.m. The student explained that the guns in question were Spanish antiques that he had photographed at his place of work, a local coin shop.

The same student was outside Dr. Chong’s office this morning waiting to speak with him while he worked on his differential calculus homework on his laptop.

The student’s instructors criticized the email and said it was inappropriate to send out a college-wide email implying a student may be a threat without any evidence.

“Not only was there no threat in anything said on Facebook, but I am wondering why anyone would share such an outrageous and potentially damaging accusation in public to all staff before investigating and potentially destroying a young person’s career, an instructor wrote. “Let’s not turn ‘see something say something’ into a hysterical witch hunt that destroys lives.”

The response caused the medical assisting program faculty member to retract her statement in another college-wide email on Friday, apologizing for reacting too quickly in an “emotionally charged situation.”

“I am hoping this will not, in any way, change anyone’s opinion of this fine young man,” the retraction read.  

The faculty member personally apologized to the student this afternoon.

SRJC District Police Lieutenant Robert Brownlee addressed the college in an email early Friday morning around 12:30 a.m.

“Police officers had a cooperative discussion with the student and, based on the totality of the information, have determined there is not a credible threat,” Brownlee said.

The outcome of the proposed cuts remained unclear Friday afternoon.

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Chong back-pedals on summer course cut scheme