Intensely debated change to associate degree requirements narrowly gets approved by Faculty Senate

After over two hours of student, faculty and senate commentaries, Faculty Senate voted 17-16 to approve the Curriculum Committee’s recommendation that removes local requirements to obtain an associate degree.
On Thursday, May 2, Faculty Senate voted to approve the Curriculum Committees proposal of only Title 5 requirements to get an associate degree. This means PE, multicultural, and lifelong learning and self-development are no longer required.
On Thursday, May 2, Faculty Senate voted to approve the Curriculum Committee’s proposal of only Title 5 requirements to get an associate degree. This means PE, multicultural, and lifelong learning and self-development are no longer required.
Hornet Media

With tension in the air, the Faculty Senate’s traditional Thursday meeting turned into a battleground of fiery debate on the second floor of Cruz Reynoso Hall.

Following the Curriculum Committee’s recommendation to only require the minimum Title 5 requirements for associate degrees, Fullerton College’s Faculty Senate voted to approve the recommendation during their meeting on May 2.

The new curriculum approved would now require students to only complete the Title 5 state requirements, in order to graduate with an associate degree from Fullerton College. If this recommendation also gets approved by the District Curriculum Coordinating Committee and NOCCCD Board of Trustees, then courses in the areas of physical education, multicultural, and lifelong learning and self-development would no longer be required for students.

Prior to the vote, 18 members of the public spoke on the proposed recommendation for almost an hour. Multiple counselors, coaches and students spoke out in 3-minute sessions against the potential new associate degree requirements. Of those who spoke, 14 were in favor of keeping the original three requirements as part of the requirements for an associate degree, including the students who spoke.

Ryan Osborn

“Our students are facing chronic stress issues that can have detrimental effects on their physical and mental health. Teaching the importance of self care activities, exercise, mindfulness, intentional breathing… can help students manage their personal well being,” said PE instructor and football head coach Garrett Campbell in his speech to the Faculty Senate. “This could disproportionately affect specific students such as DSS, re-entry, and veterans, just to name a few.”

However, there were also four members of the community and Curriculum Committee itself that spoke in support of the proposed curriculum change.

Matt Taylor from Guided Pathways said to the Faculty Senate that only around 30% of students who start at Fullerton College leave with a degree.

“All 30% percent that finish their AA and AA-T end up taking four plus years to get done, and students who need 60 units are achieving over 86 units,” said Taylor.

Opposing members of the Senate then presented their stance and asked for the discussion to be postponed, stating they wanted the opportunity to gather more information from students.

Members of the Senate that were in support of the recommendation were ready to vote, stating that the committee had spent five months taking in data and talking to members of campus before they made their proposal.

Following a few alternating remarks from both sides, adjunct PE instructor and golf coach Naveen Kanal asked the Senate to postpone this vote to the next Faculty Senate meeting.

Once the subject was on the Senate floor, the majority of faculty members voted in favor to postpone this recommendation. However, once the vote was completed, chaos ensued.

Once the results were out, Faculty Senate president-elect Bridget Kominek shared with Faculty Senate president Jeanette Rodriguez that the faculty needed to vote on this measure immediately because if they were to postpone, they will not have anything to bring to the DCCC meeting on Thursday, May 9, which is the last one of the semester. If a decision from the Faculty Senate is not brought to that DCCC meeting, the recommendation to implement Title 5 by fall 2024 would die.

After Kominek shared this information, Rodriguez determined that the faculty needed to re-vote based on newly acquired information. However, according to parliamentary procedure, they could not simply re-vote. A motion had to be made to cancel the previous vote.

What happened next could be described as confusion and mayhem. After about five minutes of discussion, Rodriguez stated that the bylaws allow for an override of a motion that’s been passed, but the new motion needed to be approved by two-thirds of the Faculty Senate to then cancel out the previous vote. English professor Danielle Fouquette made the motion to override the vote postponement, which passed with well over two-thirds of the senate vote.

Now, the recommendation from the Curriculum Committee was back on the floor. After a little more deliberation on both sides between PE instructor and men’s basketball head coach Perry Webster and Kominek, the motion to approve the Curriculum Committee’s recommendation was called to question. This means the debate was over and the Senate had to vote on the Curriculum Committee’s recommendation on associate degree requirements right then and there.

This graphic shares how each member of Faculty Senate voted at their meeting on May 2. The vote was whether to approve or deny a recommendation to enact the Title 5 minimum requirements to obtain an associate degree by fall 2024. (Jake Rhodes)

Once Faculty Senate secretary Heather Halverson counted the votes, she stated the senate had voted to deny the committee’s recommendation. Once everyone in the room understood what they heard, cheers erupted. Webster yelled out a resounding, “Yes!” while football coach Phil Austin slammed his hand on the table in approval.

Then, in dramatic fashion, Halverson had to speak up and say she had miscounted, and that the associate degree requirements suggested by the Curriculum Committee had in fact been approved, with a vote of 17 in favor, 16 against and two that abstained.

Shock engulfed the room, with all in attendance either confused, upset or not knowing exactly how to respond. With the Faculty Senate’s approval, the new graduation requirements for Fullerton College will be presented first to the DCCC and then if approved to the NOCCCD Board of Trustees to discuss if these new associate degree requirements will indeed go into effect in fall 2024.

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