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

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    Teachers union concerned about class cuts

    Instructors, students demonstrate at district trustee meeting

    by Saskia Hatvany

    PFT Diversity Chair Kimberly King speaks at the rally in front of the District Office on May 8. More than 60 people were at the demonstration. (Photo by Saskia Hatvany)

    Over 60 Peralta faculty, students and concerned community members rallied en masse before the May 8 Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees meeting, decrying proposed class cuts to the 2018 Fall Schedule.

    The Peralta administration is citing lack of funding as justification for the potential cuts, even though an annual $7.5 million parcel tax (Measure B), passed by voters in 2012, is still in effect. These funds are intended to support core academic programs, such as math, science and English, training students for careers, and preparing students to transfer to four-year universities.

    Jennifer Shanoski, president of the Peralta Federation of Teachers, said that the colleges have been overspending in past semesters and, as a result, certain departments are being cut at the expense of others. There could be as many as 105 fewer classes on next year’s schedule, she said.

    The ESOL Department is expected to suffer the hardest blow. According to Dr. Sedique Popal, chair of the Peralta ESOL Advisory Council, the ESOL department could lose half of it’s classes next semester.

    Sue Altenbach, a kineseology instructor at Peralta Colleges, protests at the PFT rally on May 8. Over 60 students, faculty and community members gathered at the district offices to contest potential class cuts. (Photo by Saskia Hatvany)

    ESOL instructor Yeo Sugajski said that her Saturday class is no longer on the schedule, meaning that many of her students will be unable to take it. “On Saturday, it’s mostly adult working students trying to improve their English so they’ll have better job opportunities,” she said.

    Merritt College biology instructor and part time PFT representative Brad Balukjian said that even though state funding has been declining, Measure B money can still provide a safety net for these classes. But he said that the money has instead gone to classified staff and non-instructional faculty such as nurses, counselors, and librarians. Although funding is needed in those areas, Balukjian argues that the funds should be coming from the district’s general fund.

    The cuts have also come as a shock to students, who rely on the availability of core classes to complete their degrees. Ethan Hill, a Peralta student for two years, was the first of over 30 speakers at the trustees meeting to decry the class cuts. He said the high demand for core classes results in more work and pressure on teachers. “In my first English 1A class there were 30-something students to just one teacher,” Hill said.

    Jenny Lemper teaches ESOL at the College of Alameda. She stood in front of the trustees with some of her students, which included a diverse group of Muslim women who have found a welcoming community in the ESOL Department at COA. The class cuts would displace many of these students’ classes, and affect them reaching their goals in the long-term, Lemper said.

    Laurie Sample, a Laney instructor who also works for the International Rescue Committee, stressed to the board how essential ESOL classes can be for refugees, asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking, especially in sanctuary cities such as Berkeley and Oakland.

    “Meanwhile,” Balukjian said, “part-time faculty are left wondering about their jobs next year and students are left wondering what classes will be offered.”


    Saskia Hatvany is a staff writer at the Laney Tower.

    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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