Student panel voices opinion

In an effort to improve relationships between Los Medanos College faculty and students, there was a student panel at this weeks meeting, proctored by Tess Caldwell and Janice Townsend the Monday College Assembly meeting took place Monday, Oct. 3 in L109. The student panelists include: Carrie Oliver, Josh Paoli (who is also a student at Contra Costa College,), Hasaun Warren, Carmen Aburto and Jesus Briseno.

The student panel is a part of a newly enacted program at all three Contra Costa community colleges called FAM (Faculty Advising Mentoring). The meeting was supposed to focus mainly on office hours, but it ended being a meeting where the student panel could voice all their opinions of their personal interactions with their professors.

Each member of the panel began talking about positive experiences with their instructors. Paoli spoke about his dyslexia and how his instructor had it too. “He showed me there are other ways to learn.” He also said that one of his professors encouraged him to work on his welding skills.

Oliver told a story about when her astronomy professor, Scott Cabral gave her a project. She had a sports tournament to go to, so she turned it in early. He then told her to fix it and turn it in after the tournament because he knew she could do better.

When asked about their experiences meeting teachers during their office hours, each panelist presented a negative and positive experience.

Oliver talked about the time she took a music class. The instructor never acknowledged her extracurricular activities and wouldn’t let her make up so she only got a third of the credits on all of her assignments because she had to miss class. “There’s nothing you can do except keep trucking’ and that’s what I did.” She said it was upsetting because the grade she received didn’t reflect her academic capability.

Paoli talked about a time when he had to care for his son who was hospitalized at the time. His teacher refused to cut him any slack. “Compassion between teachers and students is important,” he said.

Warren said he had a teacher who was “somewhat rude.” He had had an unsuccessful exchange with said teacher who laughed off his concerns. Warren has cited memory issues and his instructor didn’t acknowledge them. “I can’t help my memory problems, it’s just something that’s there.”

Office hours are really important for one-on-one interaction,” said Aburto, who was out for surgery last spring. She had trouble with one professor responding to her requests for assignments and another professor who wasn’t comfortable sending the assignments with a student not in her class. This made it difficult to succeed in those classes and she ended up dropping both. Briseno said he had an English teacher work with him organize his thoughts. He explained the teacher helped him “breakdown and analyze the material.”

In order to get to know their students, Paoli advised, “Try to relate.” He explained that he had a teacher who “tried to relate through art,” because it was an easy way to get him to understand the material he was being taught. Both Oliver and Warren said saying hello would help the students feel more invited. “It never hurts to try to start up a conversation,” said Warren.

When it comes to the demeanor of the instructors, Oliver said professors shouldn’t have “a God complex about their classes.” She also said not to feign enthusiasm and to be upfront about how they are feeling so they don’t come off as disingenuous. “Don’t fake it. If you don’t want us to plagiarize our work. Don’t give me plagiarized attitude.”

When asked to clarify, she said, “just be genuine — be transparent.”

Panelists were asked a final question regarding diverse student engagement: How can LMC do to better engage with first generation and students of color? Townsend extended the question to include disabled students.

Oliver said club days are “huge and can be really cool,” because they “open a gateway or a door,” allowing faculty to get to know the student body while Aburto suggested having a multicultural day event.

LMCAS President Israel Castro chimed in, asking if there were an organization dedicated to addressing the student concern, how often would they be willing to utilize the service. None of the panelists knew LMC had a student government, but all expressed that such an organization was a good idea.

Castro responded, saying that there is an opportunity for public comment at the LMCAS Monday meetings. Both Warren and Paoli expressed interest but because of scheduling difficulties, said it’d be easier by using FaceTime or Skype.

As final advice to LMC instructors, Warren said the key to keeping students in their classes is “not giving up on the students.”