Enrollment plans affect free hour
Because of Santa Monica College's staff and faculty team effort, student enrollment, which dramatically decreased two years ago as a result of tuition increase and loss of working space due to ongoing construction on campus, is now regrowing.
During the May 9 Board of Trustees meeting, Carole Currey, the chair of the board, congratulated everyone - the trustees, classified staff and faculty - for being efficient and getting the job done.
However, as Jeff Shimizu, the vice president of academic affairs, communicated to the audience and trustees during his report on the enrollment, there is still a long way to go and many sacrifices to be made in order to reach a full restoration of the enrollment.
Shimizu said their target is to attract an additional 1,100 full-time students to enroll by Fall 2005.
The dramatic rise in tuition from $18 in Fall 2003 to $26 in Spring 2005, combined with the decreasing availability of classes on campus because of obstructive construction, has discouraged many students from taking classes at SMC.
In response to this crisis, the faculty has developed a plan of action. The plan consists of increasing long distance education, weekend classes and also adding 30 classes during the time slot 11:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which has been the campus activity hour for the past 20 years.
The news of this plan created uproar at the Associated Students office. Many worry that it will be challenging for club members to meet and wonder why the activity hour should be compromised.
Student Trustee Dina Cervantes said she worries that this measure will take away from students' opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities.
"Politics is the art of the possible," Trustee Robert Rader said.
Rader explained that while he regrets that they have had to infringe on the activity hour, the most important priority in this time of crisis is to get the students on campus and then worry about their college experience.
Rader also commented on the success of previous measures to increase the enrollment as he said they have achieved a 150 percent increase since last year.
According to Shimizu, the loss of the 15 classes in the Liberal Arts' bungalows next fall semester due to construction, has urged them to displace those classes to Drescher Hall as well as into the up-coming Airport Campus, as they cannot afford to lose any more enrollment.
The addition of new classes was also effectuated to accommodate the high demands from students who needed to take General Education classes during the activity hour time slot.
Students interviewed throughout the campus had divergent opinions on the issue.
While older students like 35-year-old Gunter Guletz said the priority of students should be on education and nothing else because this is a "grown-up environment," strong supporters of the activity hour, such as Scholars Club member Michelle Shahinian, said this plan would hurt the college and the students.
"It is unfortunate that education has become a means to an end, because it should be an intellectual endeavor," said Sociology Professor Christina Preciado, criticizing students who do not participate in any extracurricular activities on campus.
Another supporter of the activity hour, Psychology Professor Laura Guild, said that while she understands the effort of the administration to utilize their available resources to solve this crisis, she thinks the "free hour" is necessary as it is a communal time where students can interact, socialize, and make connections.
Jeronimo Saldana, A.S. president, said that he and Professor Richard Tahvildaran presented a motion named the "Sunset Clause," to Interim President Tom Donner, which was passed on May 11 by the District Plan Advisory Council. This motion requires the DPAC to recommend to the president to reevaluate the necessity of additional classes during activity hours, once the full-time enrollment will be completely recovered.
Shimizu also agreed that it should be a "pilot plan."