ESL students locked out of classes by Schedule Plus policy

Carmelita Islas Mendez

Departments on campus have had difficulties with enrollment due to a policy put in place by Cerritos College says speech department chairperson Angela Hoppe-Nagao.

The policy is in regards to how classes are listed in Schedule Plus, a website which is used to help students form a class schedule.

Smaller departments such as English as a Second Language have complained about this practice claiming that this has hurt class enrollment and has even lead to the cancellation of their classes.

The issue many professors have is that “the Friday at midnight prior to the start of the semester all classes switch to closed even if there are open seats,” said Hoppe-Nagao.

Hoppe-Nagao said, “This is a controversial issue in that there are some people on campus who like this approach, but this is hurting a lot of smaller departments and it is hurting a lot of students.”

The argument against removing the practice is that students who add after the first day or week have a hard time catching up with missed material.

Jose Fierro, president of Cerritos College, said, “Most of our faculty want to do the right thing, but when you see late students failing every semester you start keeping track.”

ESL instructor Joann Sugihara Cheetham said, “Showing classes as closed on Schedule Plus the Friday before the semester begins is misleading to students.

“In ESL, many students read closed on Schedule Plus as the class no longer taking students. They may be unfamiliar with the college enrollment process in addition to having language and cultural barriers, they often give up or find other options.”

Cheetham explained that many times she has to email students to answer any question they may have due to the campus’ guideline .

Cheetham said, “I email all of our previously enrolled ESL students to clarify that many of the closed classes are in fact still open.

“However, this message only gets read by existing Cerritos College students, not prospective ones.”

Cheetham said that even though Schedule Plus states to see instructors if the class is listed as closed many students do not pursue the class.

Fierro said, “There are departments that have said, ‘No, I want the class to be closed on the first day of class because I want students to be in my class on the first day of class.’ and there are faculty like Angela [Hoppe-Nagao] that is saying, ‘No, I want the students to have the opportunity to come the first week of class.’

“It is hard to say that this faculty member is correct and this one isn’t. I think both ends have a valid point.”

Both Hoppe-Nagao and Cheetham have said that the guideline is confusing to have in practice since enrollment in community colleges are declining.

Hoppe-Nagao said, “I think it would be in the colleges’ best interest and in the best interest of every student that rather than classes switching to closed, if there are open seated, it should still say open.”

Fierro presented a possible solution saying, “I think we have to find a solution that could allow departments to set preferences if the whole department agrees the classes for that department will be kept as open, rather than finding who did this, who was in favor and who was against.”

However, Fierro said that it was unsure if removing or changing the policy was a possibility since the change was done by a previous dean with other faculty members.

Fierro concluded by saying, “At the end of the day, I think what we need to find is a solution that is best for the students and the rest of us can manage to adapt to something that is a bit different.”