By Claudia Drdul
City College’s elusive Graduation Guarantee has been heavy in signage but barren in detail.
Banners draped across Ocean Campus’ cafeteria urge students who have experienced cuts this semester to “see a counselor to get the City College Graduation Guarantee!” However, the reinstatement of courses based on their necessity for graduation, transfer or certificate completion has not clearly been successful.
“We lost many courses required for certificates and degrees and they have not been reinstated,” said Photography Department Chair Erika Gentry in an email to the Guardsman. She listed five different courses which have yet to be added back to the Spring 2020 schedule which are required for a transfer degree, Associate’s degree, or a Career and Technical Education (CTE) certificate.
Moreover, the elimination of courses like Photography 102C, which is required for both an Associate’s degree and a CTE Certificate, has left “$150k in grant funded equipment sitting unused,” according to Gentry.
A letter written by an Administrative Justice professor was read by AFT 2121 Vice President Wynd Kaufmyn at a Higher Education Action Team press conference outside of City Hall on Dec. 10. This plea for the reinstatement of Administrative Justice 63, read “fingerprints, is a required course in the CSI certificate program. It was cut last week along with dozens of others. Since then, I have had several upset students tell me that this is the last class they need to complete their certificates.”
The Administrative Justice professor who teaches this course, Mary Juno, informed the Criminal Justice Department Chair and Dean about next steps to put this required class back on the Spring schedule to no avail. “The information was passed on, but the class was not reinstated,” she said. Juno has decided to “try to develop it for online delivery and teach it this summer. No idea if that will go through, though.”
Upon request for clarification about the terms of this “guarantee”, a City College spokesperson said, “The graduation guarantee is the College’s pledge to provide the required classes a student needs to graduate, transfer, or earn a workforce certificate in May 2020. Our academic counselors are on hand to work closely with students and Department Chairs to ensure necessary coursework is available for students who will graduate in May.”
Contact a Counselor
Thus far, City College’s Academic Counselors have received only two emails regarding how they should handle students seeking to reinstate needed courses through the Graduation Guarantee. The most recent email sent on Dec. 16 by Academic Counseling Department Chair Lisa Romano said, “Dean Henderson-Brown has asked that we not bounce the students back to academic department chairs but rather help them the best you can by suggesting other options.” Tessa Henderson-Brown, the intirium dean of equity and student success
These options include either searching for alternative courses to fulfill major requirements or passing along said student’s contact information to respective department chairs. The email ominously concluded with, “The department chairs are working with Dean Henderson-Brown on this. Dean Henderson-Brown will communicate the student’s needs to AVC Kaeuper. We are hoping to get some answers soon.”
Academic Counselor Li Lovett has found it challenging to find substitution classes for majors like Math, where students must follow long course sequences with few areas that contain options. Students who are seeking degrees in competitive majors like Computer Networking and Information Technology, which offer many course substitutions, may experience issues upon transferring because “the more competitive the major, the more courses you must complete…the idea that you could use this in all situations is very fraught.”
Lovett spent her winter break collecting testimonies from dozens of students who emailed her about the negative impact of class cuts on their graduation timelines, ability to transfer or mental well-being. Several students explained they either “had to shift majors,” “fight for classes that are overbooked,” or even find classes they need at “UC Berkeley or other community college campuses.”
Divide and Conquer
Some have questioned the tactics being implemented by the use of the Graduation Guarantee. “Department chairs were told if you need a class for a student to graduate, let us know and we’ll bring it back, but cut something else instead. Classic divide and conquer” said Professor Rick Baum at a panel held on Dec. 8 at the Howard Zinn Book Fair.
This tactic seems to ring true as Social Science Department Chair Darlene Alioto said in an email to The Guardsman, “I know I am going to try to put my courses for the degree back for Fall – but I do not have an allocation as yet. And if that allocation is not big enough, then I will have to let something go in order to offer a class that was cut”.