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Editorial

At the Nov. 28 Academic Senate meeting, the senate debated a change that would allow students to automatically receive degrees they qualify for.
The change is controversial, as determining who qualifies for degrees would entail school officials accessing student records that are, by law, confidential. Another issue present is that it may affect the academic status of some students who don’t want certain degrees.
All these issues are valid. Yet, if a student earns a degree, they should be awarded that degree with no repercussions.
Doing the work to get a degree and not receiving that degree is equivalent of working at a job and not receiving a paycheck.
According to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), students past the age of 18 are given exclusive rights to their educational records. Exemptions are allowed if it is deemed that “legitimate educational interest” exists in the records. These exemptions are limited, but it would seem to be of legitimate concern to award students with the degrees they have earned.
Secondarily, it seems wrong-headed to punish the success of students who have done the work to receive a degree but for a variety of reasons.
While it has been stated that financial aid benefits would not be affected by students receiving degrees, there is speculation that special employment students, such as California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) and Educational Opportunity Program students (EOPS) students, could have their academic status affected negatively.
Punishing success by students is the wrong path for education and any roadblock in the path of successful students should be eliminated. Students should not be deterred from receiving degrees by the looming threat of losing their benefits.
There are options to implement this change successfully. An “opt-out” option has been considered, which would allow students to withdraw themselves from consideration of the automatic receiving of a degree.
While this option is well meaning, it does not address the larger issue of potentially reducing benefits to students who achieve their degrees.
Another, more logical, idea would be to utilize the potential of the Degree Works software discussed in this issue of the Express. Students who are close to degrees or qualify for them outright could have their records flagged at which point the student can be contacted to either accept or deny their degree.
While Degree Works has yet to be implemented, it is an exciting tool that could aid many students in achieving their goals.
Whatever path is chosen, it should present the clearest possible avenue to rewarding the hard work and dedication of students.
Whatever means are employed to accomplish this goal are not only desirable but also necessary.

On Nov. 6, California voters stood up for education.
With the passage of the state’s Proposition 30, the great work of educating its citizens will continue in our state. Failure to pass Proposition 30 would have resulted in an immediate cut of $6 billion dollars to the state’s entire public education budget.
Anyone who has looked at the latest schedule released by Las Positas College could see what impact that cut would have had on our school.
Anyone who received a copy of the spring semester’s class schedule would notice all the classes that were marked in red — classes which would have been cut if Proposition 30 had not won passage.
Instead, our education system, repeatedly plagued by layoffs and repeated cuts, can now begin rebuilding itself better than it was before.
The Express recognizes that getting people to agree to raise taxes is not easy to accomplish, even in a state as blue as ours — but the electorate of California clearly recognized that an investment in education is an investment in its future.
Not all of the results from the election were as positive for LPC. Measure I, the $28 a year parcel tax that would have supplied the Chabot-Las Positas Community College District (CLPCCD) with $5.6 million dollars annually and $33.6 million over the measure’s six-year lifespan was not approved.
Voters in the CLPCCD did vote “yes” by a margin of 61.58 percent but the measure required, as all local parcel tax measure in California do, a two-thirds majority to pass. The wisdom of this requirement can be argued, as it weakens a city’s ability to raise revenues.
California voters approved Proposition 25 in 2010 by a 55.1 percent margin, which ended a previous two-thirds majority requirement to approve a state budget — the state should consider doing the same for the adjustment of parcel tax rates, as well.
The passage of Proposition 30 took the sting out of Measure I’s defeat but LPC and Chabot College would have found themselves in dramatically improved financial situations had both been approved.
Despite this, every student at any public school in California should be grateful to the voters of California for passing Proposition 30 — your access to education would have lowered considerably and the price would have been increased again had it failed.
This year, the voters had your back. So make it worth their while — work hard, study hard and get the most out of your education.

At least 40 teachers at Las Positas College believe that a president “requires respect” and hard-working student journalists do not.

On Oct. 12, we at the Express published an article entitled “President Walthers on his way out.” Since its publication, the article has become the subject of a campus-wide controversy mostly because it uncovered a controversy brewing among school officials.

In response, we received the letter published above. Not only do we strongly disagree with the majority of its points — we feel it represents a lack of true understanding about the role of the student press and of journalism in general.

We understand that “not all faculty agree with the article.” That is a fair, yet expected point to raise.

But, the problem is that there is nothing for faculty to disagree with the article about. Our reporting on this issue was sourced from statements made at public meetings and from an interview with President Kevin Walthers himself.

In no way was the articled fabricated or embellished. In the above letter’s first paragraph, reference is made to “varying degrees of accuracy” contained in the article. No examples of inaccuracy are presented.

To make this charge is not only wrong, it is dangerous. To accuse journalists of inaccuracy is to call into question their competence, their character and their integrity.

Reporters who worked on this story not only conducted themselves professionally but also with great care to put forth the most accurate version of events possible. That included allowing president Walthers the opportunity to comment on the allegations made by the Academic Senate — an opportunity which he did not take full advantage of.

If taken at face value, the letter would lead one to believe that we at the Express have done something malicious. Perhaps it is implied that we have purposefully distorted events to paint a public figure in a bad light. Or maybe it’s being suggested that we have hindered the college’s ability to hire another president.

Which brings us to the most upsetting portion of the letter — the idea that a president “requires respect in order to be successful.”

Woodward and Bernstein did not let Richard Nixon slide because it was disrespectful to publish stories which painted him in a bad light. Bill Clinton’s sex life was the subject of television news every day during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Fox News Channel personalities regularly refer to President Obama as “the worst president of all time.”

Title does not and should not shield a public figure from criticism. It’s not what the American media is about and it is not what the Express is about.

Freedom of the press is one of our country’s core liberties. Our founders thought enough of it to include in the very first amendment to the constitution. The challenging and questioning of authority figures is at the heart of this freedom.

Sometimes the truth is hard and cold. But it must still be told.

To not report on such a serious matter would do the entire campus a tremendous disservice. The students, faculty and staff of this school deserve to know any information that affects the campus so comprehensively.

Holding public figures to account is what allows our democracy to thrive. It is what the students at the Express are learning to do with increasing proficiency.

At the same time, in the letter we are admonished for not performing our jobs in a “balanced and respectful way” and that this is “essential if the integrity of the press is to be preserved.”

The article was balanced — President Walthers was allowed to comment. Balance in journalism is often, incorrectly, assumed to mean a story has equal amounts of positive and negative quotes. In the article, the Academic Senate had their say as did President Walthers. That is a balanced story.

Finally, we are asked to “figure out how to use (our) voice and what (our) legacy will be.”

We do not believe it is our job to paint the school in the best possible light.

That job belongs to the school’s leaders — its president, its administration and its teachers. Our job is to report on how well those factions carry out that task.

We hope our legacy in regards to this article is this — we covered a difficult topic, an important topic, and we covered it accurately.

We did not shy away from impending criticism.

We didn’t fudge the truth or become complicit in deceiving our readers.

As student journalists, we should hope that our lasting legacy is that we continue to hold ourselves up to these highest of standards.

If 40 teachers disagree with us, we completely respect their constitutional right to free speech.

As long as they remember, the freedom of the press is contained in the same constitutional amendment that guarantees them the right to that speech.

Las Positas College will soon have its third president in as many years.

This fact, coupled with the controversy surrounding the administration of current president Kevin Walthers, signals that something is wrong with the LPC-Chabot College district’s hiring process for this position.

The process begins with a nationwide search, with position openings posted in educational trade publications. The school utilizes a consultant firm to narrow the search once applications are received. The district sets criteria for the candidate.

The best candidates are then interviewed for two days by representatives from administration, faculty, classified staff, students, the surrounding community and Chabot College. The three or four best candidates are then chosen and take part in a public forum.

After this forum, the district chancellor then makes their recommendation which becomes the eventual president.

Somewhere between the initial phases of the search and the conclusion of it, two things happened.

First, a candidate was selected that was not the best fit for the school. The school was also not a good fit for the candidate themselves. It is important to note that we here at the Express harbor no ill will towards president Walthers.

California Community colleges have a culture of their own. The culture is particularly distinct at LPC with its strong emphasis on shared governance. Any culture shock experienced by an outside candidate is fully understandable.
The second thing that happened was that the perfect candidate for president of the school slipped through the fingers of the district.

Longtime administrator and one-time interim president Bob Kratochvil would have been an ideal choice to run the school. Having spent more than 10 years at LPC and being steeped in both how the school functions and its culture more than qualified Kratochvil for the position.
Kratochvil was also well-liked and respected by administration, faculty, staff and students during his time here.

Yet he was not hired, as the district’s Board of Trustees required that any candidate for school president must have completed their PhD. Kratochvil was in the process of doing so, but as he had not completed his doctorate he was not allowed to apply for the job.

This fact did not prevent him from becoming the president of a school, as he now serves in that capacity at Los Medanos College (LMC) in Pittsburg, Calif. By all accounts from the student press of LMC and articles published by other community colleges, Kratochvil has hit the ground running.

Soon, the district will have to begin the process of hiring yet another president.

The district should take a long look at the process they have used to select candidates and ask themselves if it is the best way forward towards guiding their decision.

They must also take care in asking themselves whether or not our next president will fit into the culture of our school, Las Positas College.

The newly instituted 1440 degrees are both a positive and negative for community college students.

The result of the Student Transfer Achievement Reform Act (SB 1440), which was signed into law in 2010, was the creation of specialized Associate of Arts degrees and Associate of Science degrees. Once a student completes one these degrees, they are guaranteed admission to California State University system.

In addition to admission, students will receive priority consideration for entry into their major program.

While these changes are undoubtedly good for students who seek transfer, it represents a trend in California’s education system towards narrowing the focus of community colleges.

Community college was once a place where, in addition to working towards transfer, students could take classes at their own pace for no other reason than their own personal development.

Junior colleges were meant to enrich and improve the communities that surround them.

Along with this change, California schools have cutting course offerings to emphasize transfer eligible classes, the limiting of course repeatability and limiting fee waivers and financial aid grants.

All the changes signal a fundamental change in the purpose and mission of California’s junior colleges.

Where once they were places of higher learning where a person, regardless of income or standing in society, could come and have the time needed to learn and grow at their own pace— they now run the risk of becoming little more than transfer factories.

Understandably, times are tight in California— especially in its educational system. School budgets have been slashed across the board. Teachers and staff are being laid off regularly.

As the economy improves, which it eventually will, much of what has been cut from budgets should be restored. Teachers and administrators should be rehired. There should be large-scale rollbacks to restore full access to as many students as possible.

When more funds are available, community colleges in California can once again become what they have always been and should always be— bastions to that great American idea that anyone with the will to work and improve their standing in life always has a chance to do so.

Just last week the Associated Students of Las Positas voted to approve using their funds to partially finance the salary of their Staff Assistant, Sheri Moore.

This is due to budget cuts and redistribution of funds affecting colleges all across California. Based on recent budget projections, LPC will need to cut seven positions total in the near future.

Now even with ASLPC taking on the burden of financing half a classified employee’s salary, there is the potential for others to lose their jobs. The classified employees at LPC are not where we should be cutting from because they are the grease that makes the machine run.

A classified employee is any person who is not a teacher or administrator and provides staff support.

There are more than 100 classified employees that range from counseling assistant, custodial, early childhood development specialist, athletics assistant, and many more.

Even here at The Express our Business Manager, a professional journalist, is under classified and at risk of being cut. This would very much affect our day-to-day activities and functionality. It would change the image of our newspaper.

When the college and the board sits down and decides where to cut and carve at Las Positas, they should clearly think through every decision because every person who is taken out of the equation will have work to be redistributed.

This could severely hurt programs at the college, which is the unfortunate reality that maybe cutting classes could be the better option.

Every serious student has had the experience of being in a class- room with students who have no desire to be there. Students who, despite the repeated protestations of the teacher, simply won’t keep quiet. One can speculate as to why they’re there but it’s not much of a stretch to assume that someone is requiring them to attend classes.

Our school’s classified employees all are greatly committed to Las Positas and the loss of just one is devastating to them, their department and the students they serve.

If classifieds are fired, eventually when the school will have more money and will want to bring classified employees back one by one. That will be a long, painstaking process of selection. Bringing classes back is substantially easier.

It is an unsatisfactory feeling to advocate for the cutting of classes but the reality we face is in trying to make the “lesser of two evils” decision.