Pending approval, semester will shrink

Faculty Senate support reduced academic calendar

By Cody McFarland, Associate Editor

The districtwide Faculty Senate Coordinating Council has taken a position in favor of the compressed calendar. Now, pending approval from the State Chancellor’s Office, spring and fall semesters in the Contra Costa Community College District will be reduced from 18 to 16 weeks districtwide, effective fall 2016.

Wayne Organ, Contra Costa College Academic Senate president, said the official position is worded, “(The) FSCC has reached consensus to support the United Faculty entering into negotiation discussions concerning a 16-week semester calendar.”

Now it is on the UF, the independent collective bargaining association for faculty districtwide, to form and submit a proposal to the State Chancellor’s Office by fall, with a one-year negotiation period and potential implementation date of fall 2016.

Organ said that the stance was taken following a survey conducted by sister school Los Medanos College to gauge faculty’s opinions on reducing fall and spring semesters by two weeks.

Faculty Senate LMC voted Wednesday in favor of compressing the calendar. They were the last faculty group in the district to decide, although CCC, because faculty were so proportionately divided, took the stance to remain on the fence until hearing LMC’s position.

Though more than a year away, students and faculty are still mentally preparing for the adjustment, and continue to debate the pros and cons.

“I hope it happens. I think it will be a great opportunity for students,” communications major Yesenia Malara said.

Since first hearing about the compressed calendar debate in late February when The Advocate was conducting an anonymous student survey, Malara said she immediately took a position in favor of the two-week reduction because it would extend the summer session and allow for a winter intersession.

“Enhanced summer session is a plus,” she said. “It would be good for incoming students.”

The college freshman said an extended summer session would do well by incoming high school seniors who want to hit the ground running. She considered taking a summer section right after graduating, but was unsure if she could handle the pace of a six-week class.

The opening up of a winter intersession and enhancement of summer would enable CCC students to complete educational goals sooner than at other local community colleges not offering a compressed calendar.

Another benefit is that, according to studies on semester reduction from various junior colleges in California already on compressed calendars, found online at, student success, retention and completion rates increase, at least slightly, on a compressed calendar.

Cons to semester reduction include the lengthening of class sessions to account for state mandated instruction hour requirements for course credit, and the reduction of scheduled, necessary labs for science classes.

Nursing major Fiona Gao said, “I think it’s a bad idea. Time is really tight already and it takes a lot of time to memorize things and really grasp the material.”

Because nursing majors are already subject to rigorous course loads, compressing the calendar would shrink the gaps between deadlines and prove more demanding, she said.

By and large, faculty in the Natural Sciences and Applied Sciences Division are the most opposed to making the switch.

Now that a position favoring compression has been made, faculty anticipate making adjustments to their schedules and curriculum.

“That’s what it is. We’ll have to go with the flow,” chemistry department Chairperson Thuy Dang, who favors semesters remaining at 18 weeks, said. “It will be an adjustment, but it will be fine.”

She added, “Adjusting the lecture will be easy. But adjusting the lab will be a big issue.”

Dr. Dang expressed concern over the ability to revert to the current schedule if 16-week semesters do not actually benefit CCC students.

“It’s nice to try new things, but if it doesn’t work, can we switch back?” she asked.

Considering CCC serves a large demographic of underprepared and first-generation college students, it is important such students develop strong academic foundations, which may require extra time and attention from professors — time and attention that would be curtailed by reducing spring and fall semesters from 18 to 16 weeks.

Still, others believe 18 weeks is too long and does not serve students’ or faculty’s needs well.

“People are dragging by the end of the semester,” history professor Manu Ampim said. “The quality of teaching declines when faculty are tired.”

For professors who do not teach during intersessions, Ampim said the extended summer and winter breaks would provide a good chunk of time for professors to “review, reflect on and refresh” their lesson plans.