Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    We can’t work when nothing works

    As we dig into each new academic year, our faculty throughout the Peralta district must perform many tasks involving the enrollment database, including managing enrollment, deciding whether to add students to seemingly full classes, and setting up “rollbooks” and grading rosters — the classic, start-of-semester tasks that everyone probably associates with the teaching side of educational institutions. 
    Yet here we are, nearly a decade into our colleges’ employment of Oracle’s “Passport” / ”Prompt” / PeopleSoft enrollment database system, and we again are dealing with a user interface that requires work-arounds to access, malfunctions on a too-regular basis, and is poorly programmed in several respects, even when it’s not behaving in a ‘glitchy’ fashion. 
    This dysfunction hurts us. It causes unnecessary delays, confusion, frustration, and extra work. 
    It’s especially frustrating during the pressurized first weeks of classes — a critical time for getting off to a good start and setting the tone for the semester.
    I have to deem these conditions unprofessional and unforgivable.
    How many workplaces include a culture of work-arounds to access information basic to people’s jobs? 
    For years, during enrollment, census and grading periods, Peralta faculty have exchanged emails offering each other tips on how to get to their class rosters, or permission numbers, or the general schedule of classes. 
    How about this tip?
    Make the database function properly!
    How much time have faculty wasted with online rosters that must be manually converted into useful gradebooks? Many of us pine for the day of the printed cardstock rosters. The online rosters can be exported into Excel files, but they do not include basic information like the class names, section numbers, and meeting rooms and times. 
    Many teachers literally type their students’ names into Excel to avoid all the formatting problems we experience when we try to copy the Prompt grid and paste it into an Excel grid. It’s ridiculous!
    How many students have we frustrated, demoralized and lost due to the dysfunction of the registration interface? I know some super-savvy users of myriad online platforms who are befuddled when they try to register as a Peralta student. 
    Even when they successfully register, they can’t tell when they’re done, and they don’t know what to do next.
    We need to bring the District IT team to meet with us, and observe how we use Prompt, and turn our questions, suggestions and complaints into an efficient, functioning system that serves our needs, rather than frustrating our basic required tasks.
    A similar session with students needs to take place, too. As a group, they are extremely frustrated and unimpressed, which a lot of folks surmise has a connection to declining enrollment.
    We are in the Bay Area — user-end focus groups is not a new concept. It’s basic to designers in all kinds of fields, especially software design. And if our District IT people want to tell us Oracle is to blame, then they need to communicate these concerns to Oracle, and demand — as a well-paying, long-term client — that Oracle get the fixes done. 
    Let’s get on with the real work in our service areas and classes, and stop wasting time trying to trick our database into letting us communicate, teach and learn!

    Professors speak out

    In response to Laney College English Professor Chris Weidenbach’s commentary (above), other professors spoke out on issues plaguing the Peralta Colleges:

    Basic things like being able to get copies at the beginning of the semester, having our books in the bookstore at the beginning of the semester, and having Passport work like any other website (not having to know “work-arounds”). This is basic stuff and it is not happening. 
    I would hate to be a new hire this semester. At our department meeting during PD days, a new faculty member stood up and said, “I don’t have access to district email, I don’t have keys to classrooms or my office, and I don’t have access to Passport to see my rosters.” 
    Is this the New Peralta Way? I’ve worked here since 2006 and this is standard for new employees. Business as usual. Why do we accept it? How do we change it?
    Steven Zetlan — ESL

    I have problems with Oracle all the time. The system will let me sign in, take me to the main dashboard, but then when you want to get some useful data (say your faculty center) it closes and crashes. 
    You would think a multi-million dollar system would actually work for the intended users.
    Joshua Polston — Economics

    I met with a new instructor who informed me she did not have access to rosters or keys. These are basic teaching requirements. 
    Let’s make certain that Peralta employees have their basic work needs met, so they can focus on what they’re here to do. 
    Christine Will — Mathematics

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
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