The 2018-2019 school year at Los Medanos College will look radically different. A decision has been made to shorten the semester from 18 weeks to 16 by the United Faculty and Contra Costa Community College District.
These changes are in response to Governor Brown’s new budget as a cost saving measure.
The final calendar is not set in stone; possible ways to shorten the calendar, according to the United Faculty Executive Director Jeffry Michels, include “taking a whole week off for Thanksgiving, or starting or ending on different weeks, or the placement of Spring Break will still need to be discussed.”
This change will result in classes being lengthened to still, hypothetically, have the same number of instructional and lab hours while shortening the calendar.
While the final form the compressed calendar will take is very much up in the air, it is certain that the calendar will be implemented, and that it will disproportionately affect lab science classes.
Many oppose this idea, especially professors who teach lab science classes. By adding on a few more minutes, professors would have to contend with students experiencing mental fatigue as well as having labs run for an awkward amount of time.
Biological science Professor Denise Speer expressed dissatisfaction with the lengthening labs. “With fewer weeks each lab would have to be longer,” said Speer. Doctor Durwynne Hsieh, who also harbors serious concerns about lengthening labs, echoes Speer’s concerns.
“You can’t really do another experiment in 20 or 30 minutes,” said Hsieh concerned that the extra time on the labs will ultimately be wasted.
With fewer, longer lab sections, it is impossible to still have every experiment currently in the curriculum. Another issue is that of student’s mental fatigue.
“3 hour labs are more than a little on the long side,” said Speer, “with fewer weeks each lab would have to be even longer.”
Mental fatigue is a problem with extended classes across the board, but according to Speer, lab science classes are even more taxing when lengthened.
“Three hours of scientific inquiry is exhausting,” said Speer, “Lecture is already an hour and twenty minutes long which is pushing it.”
Speer is also worried that while the school year will have the same number of hours, the later parts of the day “will be more time where students brains are not engaged.”
Hsieh shares similar sentiments saying that the changes will lead to “mental fatigue” and that students were “already at their limits” in both lecture and lab where critical thinking was concerned.
Hsieh is also worried that by lengthening class time, it will crowd the schedule ultimately resulting in fewer classes. According to Hsieh the decision will not only “eliminate some labs,” but “affect our facilities,” and “could lead to class cancelations,” ending simply with “I am not a fan.”
LMC student Jose Alfonso Camos was also unhappy with the upcoming changes. “You have to do more work in a smaller amount of time,” he said.