A beloved screen printing and computer graphics program at Pasadena City College is no more, after a vote this month by college leaders. But Caltech engineers, local business owners and former professors – alleging the cut was made in violation of college regulations – hope the school will reconsider the decision.
Ahead of a March 17 vote by the CPC board, a dozen recipients of the college’s 70-year-old graphics technology program united to talk about the program’s ability to attract students who dropped out early in high school, rocket scientists and longtime business owners. A former participant in the program said his time in the class allowed him to travel the world as an artist – a far cry from his years of tagging college walls with graffiti.
“Many of our students are part of the groups we often talk about attracting to college — low-income students, students of color, non-traditional thinkers,” said retired faculty member Kristin Pilon Cuatt during the March 17 public meeting. The communication program gives these people a chance to develop expertise around a process, and in doing so, they begin to develop self-confidence and a sense of mastery.
Other speakers who joined Pilon Cuatt described the cuts as a “crime” against the local community.
Principals, however, argue that the decision was made after careful consideration, in accordance with Pasadena City College’s established procedures.
It was only then that the faculty and administration of the college decided to stop offering the graphic communication arts program, according to Alex Boekelheide, special assistant to the superintendent and president.
The program has not offered classes since the 2019-2020 academic year, and the last time it awarded a certificate to a student was in the 2016-17 academic year, Boekelheide said by email.
Comparatively, the college’s Design Media Arts program offers students a similar path to employment in graphic design and related fields, according to Boekelheide. Other programs in Pasadena City College’s Visual Arts and Media Studies division also provide professional training.
“The decision to discontinue the program was made after careful analysis of enrollment, programs, staff and labor market demand, in a process that brought together faculty, administrators and students,” said Boekelheide. “And offered many opportunities for input and guidance from campus constituency groups.”
Pilon Cuatt and the other vocal proponents of the print class have acknowledged that graphic communications technology has never been known for transfer certificates. Instead, they argue, the program reflects the melting pot that is Pasadena, as it allows students to thrive outside of the traditional school system and enter the business world.
“We were never informed that the college would declare the ‘no transfer’ certificates invalid. Will PCC phase out all other CTE certificate programs in light of this new emphasis on transfer? said Pilon Cuatt.
As for the workload, she added, “it is incorrect to suggest that there was no interest as the reason for the CCP’s failure to staff the sections.” The lawyers noted that longtime adjunct professor John Miner was available to teach in fall 2021, but was not scheduled.
A “pool of qualified candidates” was provided to retired directors of Pilon Cuatt, she said.
The retired teacher also argues that the college failed to follow a number of protocols when debating potential cuts.
“The violations of due process are egregious,” Pilon Cuatt said.
The process of abolishing the program began in the spring semester of 2021, according to Boekelheide, when the university division that housed the program determined that it should be discontinued.
“After analyzing enrollment, curriculum, current staffing and labor market demand, the division’s full-time faculty voted unanimously to discontinue the program,” Boekelheide said. A Program Discontinuation Task Force – comprising executives, deans, faculty and students – was then formed to make a formal recommendation to faculty and administration.
The task force forwarded the recommendation for withdrawal to the appropriate body – the Academic Senate Curriculum and Instruction Committee – on October 21, 2021.
At its meeting that day, the curriculum and instruction committee voted to discontinue the program, Boekelheide wrote, detailing a timeline for the program’s discontinuation process.
But it was a process that Pilon Cuat said did not follow college administrative procedures for discontinuing classes, or Brown Law, she said.
For starters, Pilon Cuat said, task force participants representing faculty were never endorsed by the Academic Senate, as required by Section 2.f. of the college’s Administrative Policies 4021.
“In fact, there is no record of the appointment of these professors to the task force,” according to Pilon Cuat. And if the task force presented its findings to the committee on Oct. 21, “then there’s no way this item could have been discussed or voted on the same day without a violation of the Brown Act,” he said. she stated.
Despite the complaints, the college’s Academic Senate approved the suspension of the program at its Nov. 22, 2021, meeting. The PCC Board of Trustees then approved the suspension at its Dec. 8, 2021, meeting, according to Boekelheide.
Calling the process an “approval,” Pilon Cuat said, “in none of these meetings was there any evidence given as to why they would want to cancel this program. I mean, the whole process was kind of like, what kind of college is this?
Frustrated with the decision, Pilon Cuat sent a Cure and Correct letter to the board in December.
Following a request for processing and correction from faculty members, Boekelheide said the Academic Senate reaffirmed its suspension vote at its February 7, 2022 meeting.
Pilon Cuat alleges that the Feb. 7 Senate meeting was still in violation of its administrative policy, since the interruption was not listed in the New Business section of the agenda. Nor did he offer Senate officials the choice of scrapping the program or placing it in inactive status.
“If the college wants to remove the classes, they can go through the process,” Pilon Cuat said. “It’s fine if it’s fair and square. But none of that happened. And that’s why we ended up at the board meeting.
During the meeting, public commentators wondered what happened to expensive printing equipment that Pilon Cuat claims a college dean threw away.
“We checked out the space on Wednesday after the board meeting and confirmed that the equipment and supplies remain at the college,” Boekelheide said. “They will be used for any appropriate courses in the future.”
Pilon Cuat thinks the college is wrong.
“A lot of things left in the classroom currently belong to printmaking classes and are not part of our curriculum,” she said, providing a bulleted document listing dozens of missing items.
“You would think that any college would be reluctant to eliminate programs that are such a service to students and the community, but to do so via violations of Brown Law and CCP administrative procedure is unwise,” said Pestle Cuat.
Removing a 70-plus-year-old program from the college’s record “with such disregard for students is a disgrace and disgrace,” Pilon Cuat added. “It may just be that this career technology program is better suited to the career technology division. I’m sure we could come up with something if we worked together and shared our ideas.
The heads of establishment reiterated on Wednesday March 23 that the college followed its procedure relating to the cessation of academic programs.
“The fact remains,” Boekelheide said, “that the faculty of the Academic Division, the Curriculum and Instruction Committee, and the Academic Senate all voted to recommend that the Graphics Communications Technology program be discontinued.”