Winter session is out of session

Budget cuts, fee increases, course reductions and so many other unjustified rulings have been declared in the past few years, slapping community college students across the face while laughing at our miseries and struggles. Now, get ready for another hard slap and say goodbye to winter sessions at Santa Monica College. It was nice while it lasted.

Last Thursday’s Board of Trustees meeting shook the public up- and not just the midnight earthquake- when it was announced that SMC will no longer continue the 2012/13 winter session and possibly the upcoming winter sessions afterwards. This was a decision made on the fact that SMC’s budget simply cannot support the winter session, whether Proposition 30 passes or plummets on November 6.

As much as SMC’s budget crisis needs to be resolved- hopefully sooner than later- taking out a semester from a whole school year is going to be catastrophic for SMC students, faculty and staff.

For some SMC students, the option of not being able to take winter session courses will withhold them from graduating on time, which is a concern to both counselors and students. This will also create a surplus of many more students desperately trying to get classes in the remaining three semesters; piling up in the wait pool until it suppresses and erupts. Face it; we’ll drown either way- whether it’ll be from lack of courses to add or from paying higher fees.

“If it weren’t for the winter semester, I wouldn’t be in the English class I’m in now,” said SMC sophomore Priscilla Ramos. “It’s unfair; we’re trying to transfer and it’s holding us back. I think they should focus more on other cuts, than cutting classes.”

A few other SMC students voiced the same objections as Ramos.

There were 11,226 SMC students enrolled in the Winter 2011/12 session, according to the CCCCO Management Information Systems Data Mart. Students need the winter session to progress with their education but now that opportunity of taking more necessary courses in the winter has been taken away from all SMC students.

The winter session has been somewhat of a back-up plan for students to take advantage of if they weren’t able to take the necessary classes in the spring and fall semesters, but now that option has been yanked out of their reach.

“This disinvestment in higher education has to stop,” said Board of Governors Vice President Manuel Baca in a CCCCO statement. “But cuts in recent years have led to massive cuts in course offerings at a time of high demand as students clamor to get training for the jobs of the 21st century, or transfer to a four-year university.”

The Board of Trustees passed a new budget based on the hopes that Prop 30 passes and helps SMC climb back up on the road to progression. However the newly adopted budget does not fund a winter session in 2012/13. The BOT voted “unanimously to adopt a $447.6 million budget for 2012-13, which includes $181.7 million in general unrestricted funds and the remainder in funds that are restricted for a variety of purposes, including bond projects, student financial aid and more,” according to the BOT meeting summary.

The budget plan will reduce the $8.84 million operating deficit by $4 million and secure permanent employees’ jobs.

Board of Trustees member, Rob Rader, said that cutting the winter session was imperative in order to keep SMC running  smoothly with the deficit weighing on its back. SMC’s reserves are dwindling and one term shouldn’t be kept if it meant jeopardizing the entire school. SMC’s main goal is to protect its students, faculty and staff, and the newly adopted budget will help sustain that protection, but only if Prop 30 passes.

“If Proposition 30 passes, the community colleges would receive $210 million in additional funds in 2012-13. Most of that money would be used to make good on deferred funding commitments by the state to colleges, but passage of the measure would make room for an additional 20,000 students,” according to the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office statement.

But, if Prop 30 fails to pass, the outcome will be calamitous.

“The $338 million cut in the middle of the academic year would mean 180,000 fewer students would be served. Colleges would be forced to slash course offerings even further, lay off more educators and staff and borrow more,” continues the CCCO statement.

As the BOT stated in their meeting summary, the failure to pass Prop 30 will result in SMC having to restructure its operations permanently and affect the security of permanent employment.

Rudy Contreras, SMC library student worker, said “if winter session wasn’t cancelled, I’d still be employed in the winter. I would have a job.”

For now, all Contreras can do is work this fall semester and wait to hear what will happen to him, and many other SMC student workers like him, once winter comes around. The entire library staff that is working hard this semester is looking at a very uncertain employment possibility in the winter session, according to Contreras.

The loss of the winter session is going to tug at our heartstrings for as long as it's gone and students are going to have to learn to add classes at the speed of light if they want a chance to take any courses in the remaining semesters. As horrible as that may sound, having a winter session to please students- thus bringing SMC’s reserve to an empty, dust-endowed box- won’t make things any more pleasant for students, faculty and staff, than the current situation.