Meetings bring change to commencement and course withdraw policy


Cindy Pantoja / The Advocate

Contra Costa College announced during a virtual Town Hall meeting on April 23 that due to the shelter-in-place order the commencement ceremony for the class of 2020 will be held in a virtual graduation platform.

By Cindy Pantoja, Editor-in-Chief

Students’ high hopes of returning to campus for face-to-face instruction for the remainder of the semester crashed after Contra Costa County extended its shelter-in-place order last week.

The Contra Costa County Health Department announced in a press release issued April 29 that the seven Bay Area public health officers who ordered a shelter-in-place in mid-March will extend the orders through May 31.

While some restrictions were eased, new measures were put in place to strengthen the containment of COVID-19.

Contra Costa Community College District Interim Chancellor Eugene Huff said in light of the decision to extend the shelter-in-place order district colleges will continue to work remotely for the rest of the spring semester.

“We’re gearing toward (working remotely until) the end of the spring semester,” Huff said. “We made the decision in consultation with the college Academic Senates (Contra Costa, Diablo Valley and Los Medanos colleges). This decision was announced to faculty, who are planning finals accordingly.”

Virtual commencement set

Contra Costa College Dean of Students Dennis Franco announced during a virtual Town Hall meeting on April 23 that due to the shelter-in-place order the commencement ceremony for the class of 2020 will be held in a virtual graduation platform.

“We have contracted with a company that will be hosting our virtual graduation,” Franco said. “It will include a video of our graduation speakers, pictures of graduates and their learning community participation. We want to make sure we aren’t missing the opportunity to celebrate our students.”

Family, faculty and staff members will be able to participate in the ceremony by submitting videos sharing stories about the graduates.

Franco said, “It’s our first time doing something like this, so we really want to make sure that in some way, shape or form we celebrate this important achievement for our students.”

District officials anticipate the social distancing guidelines will remain effective for months, however, the new measures mentioned by health officials might allow some face-to-face instruction soon.

CCC Interim President Damon Bell said essential workers on campus continue implementing social distancing. Due to the new protocol, everyone is required to wear a mask, and also, new signs were placed at every entrance to remind people to follow this procedure.

Dr. Bell said, “For summer, we will continue to work remotely. We are working with faculty who are teaching in the summer, hoping that most, if not all, of those classes will either be online or remote.

“The plans for fall are based on what we hear from the state, and how much longer we are going to remain on a stay-at-home order. Based on that, we will determine whether we will be having face-to-face classes or some combination of (remote and face-to-face) in the fall,” he said.

P/NP deadline May 15

Due to the global pandemic, students have the option to choose the pass/no pass (P/NP) option for all of their classes.

California community college Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley, during a virtual press conference on April 14, announced that there had been a temporary suspension of various specified grade related regulations.

“The CSUs, UCs, and other institutions are honoring the P/NP grading system,” he said. “We want to ease the continuity of instruction and make our grading policy more flexible for students in this time of crisis.”

According to the California Community Colleges website, for courses taken during the winter, spring or summer of 2020, the CSUs have amended their policies to now allow for P/NP grading for major prerequisite courses along with courses commonly referred to as the “Golden Four” — English composition, oral communication, critical thinking and mathematics/quantitative reasoning. also states the UCs have temporarily suspended their cap (14 semester units) on P/NP units completed in winter/spring/summer 2020. However, major prerequisite courses will be decided on a case-by-case basis.

For both the CSUs and UCs, P/NP graded courses are not computed into a student’s GPA calculation for admission purposes.

Students who intend to transfer to a university other than a UC or CSU should check with the university’s admissions office for its current P/NP grading policy.

For CCC students, the deadline to select the P/NP option for a class has been extended for full-term classes to May 15. For short-term courses, the deadline is seven calendar days prior to the last day of the course.

Excused withdrawals rules eased

During the virtual press conference, Executive Vice Chancellor Marty J. Alvarado said new guidance allows colleges the flexibility to issue excused withdrawals that do not count against a student’s GPA or academic probation.

“This guidance should not require comprehensive justification. Typically, under normal circumstances, students would have to write out (a reason) or add documentation that would indicate hardship,” Alvarado said. “Under the current situation, all of that is waived. The assumption is that the impact justification is COVID-19.”

Alvarado said California community colleges are reliant on the guidance that comes from the U.S. Department of Education with respect to financial aid. They are still awaiting clarification on whether some form of documentation for an excused withdrawal (EW) will be required for a college’s financial aid audit.

“Students who dropped near the beginning of the pandemic are included as excused withdrawals can be dated back to when those students dropped,” she said. “We are encouraging campuses to move in that direction. I think the big thing to keep in mind is that we want to hold students harmless during this semester.”

According to a memo sent out by college Admissions and Records Director Catherine Frost in March, CCC students will be assigned an excused withdrawal for all dropped classes that occur on or after March 1, regardless of the reason listed.

Students are advised to email Frost at [email protected] before making the decision to withdrawal from their classes. Frost might be able to help lessen the financial and academic consequences if students can’t make it through the semester because of the COVID-19 disruption.

Students will automatically receive refunds for dropped classes, or their debts will be removed if they have not paid.

For more information, contact Student Services during its virtual office hours, which are held on Zoom, Monday-Thursday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.