Math lab leaders in limbo


Kylee Valencia

Math 12 student Ayinde Stampp receiving assistance from Math Lab Tutor Prabhjot Singh.

Students looking for additional help in the Los Medanos College Math Lab may have to continue waiting a little bit longer.

LMC’s Math Lab Coordinator resigned on August 5, creating a vacancy for the position. Management stated that a new temporary 20 hours-per-week administrative assistant would be brought in to help offset the loss of the lab coordinator. However, as of mid September, the position has still yet to be filled, which has caused concerns and complaints amongst staff and students alike.

The Los Medanos College math lab serves over 2,200 students, some or all of which may be impacted by this change in staffing.

“Every day, there are a significant number of complaints about the Math Lab, from both students and math faculty,” said Math Department Chair Julie Von Bergen. “The complaints are related to lack of lab coordinator personnel to assist with student questions, help check out calculators, help check out textbooks, and lack of student tutors to help.”

According to Von Bergen, the math lab coordinator typically interviewed, hired, and trained new tutors in August.

“We were told there would be a temporary out-of-class assignment created, but management has not yet created this job,” said Von Bergen. “While a temporary assistant will help with some of the needs of students, this is not the same as having a permanent lab coordinator position.”

Furthermore, a decision was made by the school to reduce the math lab coordinator position from its previous 40 hours a week down to 20 hours a week, despite the fact that the Math department has been asked to increase the number of math courses and math lab hours for the Spring 2014 semester. This has resulted in concern and confusion as to why the math lab coordinator position is being reduced. In addition, cutting student tutoring resources is also seen as contradiction of the passing of Proposition 30 last year, since Prop 30’s primary goal was to raise taxes to fund education and prevent cuts to state schools.

“We have, unfortunately, experienced two events simultaneously that have impacted the short-term ability to fully staff the math lab with

classified staff during the posted hours of operation,” said LMC Vice President Kevin Horan.

“One of our math lab coordinators resigned in the beginning of August to take a teaching position at another institution, and our other math lab coordinator is out on a temporary leave of absence,” added Horan.

Since the math lab coordinator’s resignation on August 5, many math faculty members have been volunteering extra hours to help out students in the math lab, and also assist with paperwork and scheduling.

Some faculty members even came in during the summer break before the start of the semester to help organize and prepare the math lab.

Horan acknowledged that attempts are being made to backfill the vacant positions, but have been unsuccessful in identifying temporary classified personnel to completely fill the hours created by the vacancies.

“Our goal is to ensure that the math lab is staffed by qualified math lab coordinators,” said Horan. “We are working with human resources to address the need to have temporary staff in the math lab while we maneuver through the recruitment process for the vacancy created by the recent resignation.”

Students have also expressed their distaste for the lack of adequate assistance in the math lab.

“The most frustrating part is leaving your hand raised, and waiting for someone to come and help you,” said one student. “There would be three of four of us waiting there with our hands raised, and you’d cross your fingers and hope that the aide came to you first. Nobody wants to be there, so it’s just frustrating the longer you have to be there to get help.”

In light of the shortages, challenges, and position vacancies, Horan had a message for the staff and faculty in the math department.

“I would like to commend the entire faculty in the math department, especially the department chair, Julie von Bergen, for the extraordinary efforts taken in ensuring that the lab is open as many hours as possible during this temporary period of transition.”