Board continues to push for generic majors

photo of Joseph Coppola, instructor of Speech and Faculty Senate President speaking at open student forum
Joseph Coppola, instructor of Speech and president of Faculty Senate, speaks at open student forum on Oct. 8.

By Heather Orchard
Pulse Staff Reporter

Palo Alto students continued to protest for their right to choose their own major at the open student forum held in the Performing Arts Center on Oct. 8, 2015. The approval of Policy E.1.3 by the District’s Board of Trustees will prevent majors from appearing on new 2016-2017 students’ degrees and transcripts.

While students currently enrolled at Palo Alto are exempt from this new policy, many still have an opinion on this matter. The board will make their final decision to approve or reject this policy on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015 in the Killeen Center at the District Offices at 6 p.m. Students can begin signing up in order to be heard at 5:30 p.m.

“I am currently enrolled in classes at Palo Alto, so I am not personally affected…but I feel…future students will have more limited options for transferring their credits,” said Sierra Garcia, a sophomore Liberal Arts major at the Frank L. Madla Early College High School.

This policy is not new to former students, as the announcement was made in the Fall semester of 2014.

Elizabeth Tanner, vice president of Academic Success, believes that the Board did not get enough feedback before they acted (in 2014). As a result of not being asked for their opinion, students rallied, posted fliers, and attempted to have the policy overruled in order to make themselves heard.

“It’s demeaning to an extent. I chose a major that fit me—something that reflects what I love and what I’m good at. I’m not generic. Why should my degree be?” said Twyla Herron, a sophomore Journalism/Mass Communication major.

The policy mandates that students will graduate with their Associate of Arts, Associate of Science, Associate of Applied Science or Associate of Arts in Teaching with no specific expertise attached.

These concentrations, according to the policy sent out by the District’s Vice Chancellor for Academic Success, are transfer-specific degrees. The District believes this policy will help students take only the classes they need to continue on to their senior institution.

The Board found that the average student took 93 hours before obtaining their associate’s degree while only 60 are required. Tanner believes this policy, if passed, will redefine the advising conversation between the advisors and the students.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board approved 13 Fields of Study and Palo Alto currently offers 11. The Fields of Study offer students an alternative to the generic degree and provide them with a specific specialty.

The fields of study include: Advertising/Public Relations; Business; Computer Science; Criminal Justice; Education (EC-6 Generalist); Education (7-12 and Other EC-12); Journalism/Mass Communication; Mexican-American Studies; Music; Radio and TV Broadcasting/Broadcast Journalism; and Speech Communication.

Joseph Coppola, instructor of Speech and president of Faculty Senate, said that these Fields of Study are posted to a student’s transcript.

Faculty members from each department at Palo Alto are pushing for a revision of the District’s policy. Their position is that majors should not be eliminated from student transcripts and degrees.

“Education is a tool for empowerment,” said Coppola, who is also a Palo Alto graduate. Many of the educators on campus have come from the Palo Alto community and have strong ties to it. “We’re here for the students,” he said.