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Compressed calendar debate needs student voice, opinion

By Editorial Board

The Contra Costa Community College District is less than three months away from making a decision that might reduce the length of the spring and fall semesters each by two weeks.

Making the switch to a compressed calendar of 16 weeks from the current semester length of 18 weeks would potentially enable the college to add a winter intersession, thus providing students a fourth semester in the academic year to complete course requirements sooner.

If the district goes forward with the idea, it will take a year to get approval. The deadline for a decision by the Faculty Senate Coordinating Council is May 1. If approved, the district would apply before fall 2015 with an anticipated implementation of fall 2016.

While discussion has been ongoing among faculty for weeks, students are only now starting to hear about the possibility of change through word of mouth.

As district Executive Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services Eugene Huff said, “We need to make sure all voices are heard. It will be an informed decision either way we go.”

At this point, however, making sure all voices are heard sounds more like a nicety than a reality.

So where are the conversations?

Considering this is something that, if enacted, will impact the way courses are taught and the way students will learn, we need to encourage full student participation in the discourse.

At its meeting last Thursday, the Associated Students Union did not discuss the possibility of shortening semesters. No fliers or information regarding the matter have been posted anywhere on campus.

With roughly three months before the deadline, the ASU still has time to rally student interest, exchange ideas and embolden the students to whom they are beholden.

For example, a knee-jerk reaction to students hearing “shortened semesters” was most typically a “yes,” save for the nursing and lab-based majors. Upon hearing that the duration of the semester would be curtailed, but the hours required for credit and state apportioned funding would remain the same, many students changed their answers.

What it means is that semester length would be shorter, but individual class meetings, to compensate for time requirements, would be longer.

Of course, this is reaching further than just Contra Costa College. Switching to a compressed calendar would affect the entire district, so student advocacy groups at sister colleges Los Medanos and Diablo Valley ought to encourage these discussions and make their students heard too.

If you dislike the idea enough, write a letter to the district, the Academic Senate, administration or the ASU detailing your grievances with condensing the calendar.  Write The Advocate letters, which can be published, and disseminate your opinion to our college community.

These are dialogues we need to pursue.