The Renegade Rip

16-week semester approved

Jarrod M. Graham

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Students could get through Bakersfield College faster under a new 16-week semester that was recently approved by the BC Academic Senate, according to psychology professor Steve Eso, faculty union president and former Academic Senate vice president.

“What we’re hoping to do is actually make it possible for students now to be able to take … maybe a full load of classes in summer,” Eso said. “Whereas before, because the summer (session) was only like five or six weeks long, you could only take one or maybe two classes. But now that we have more time, we’re talking about maybe 10- or even 12-week summer sessions, and theoretically then, you could take almost a full load, which would allow students to get through faster.”

That idea appealed to BC student Maria Martinez, 53, a child development major and mother of three.

“I’d rather go to school in the summer for longer hours than I would in the regular semesters,” she said. “I have two girls in school and a son in school, so that makes it easier for me.”

It also appealed to psychology major Valerie Gunnels, 18, who has been scared away from summer session classes because of their short duration.

“I won’t take summer school classes, because I’m afraid I can’t handle it because it’s not spread out, like you have a lot of work to do all at once,” she said.

Also, for students with children, like Martinez, the start and end times will synchronize better with those of the public schools, which was a concern for many on the senate, including Eso.

“I got tired of having students in my classes come after the first week of school or second week of school and say, ‘OK, my kids have started school, now I can come to class. Can I get in?’ ” he said. “Well, you’ve already missed two weeks of statistics, so it’s a little hard to make up. So that’s how I got involved.”

Last month, the senate voted 120-56 to replace the current semester of 18 weeks with the new calendar, which is expected to take effect next fall.

Nan Gomez-Heitzeberg, dean of student learning and a member of the implementation committee for the 16-week semester, said that shorter terms seem to increase student retention and success, citing examples such as summer session classes, some accelerated speech classes and other community colleges that have switched to a 16-week semester, like Santa Monica College and Pierce College in Los Angeles.

“(Santa Monica and Pierce) have talked about student satisfaction, and that students felt as though they could be more focused during a shorter time period,” she said.

Not all students feel the change from 18 weeks to 16 weeks is a good thing, though.

“I guess by shortening the semesters, you just put more pressure on yourself. You won’t be able to get things done,” said Julio Cobian, 19, an auto tech major. “Like me, I’m taking automotive classes and those are like hands-on, you know, you get projects and you build them. It shortens and that’s a couple of weeks less, and with those couple of weeks, someone could do a lot,” he said.

Despite that, Eso and Gomez-Heitzeberg said they don’t believe there will be a strong negative reaction to the change from students, with Eso referring to a survey that was conducted several years ago that found approximately two-thirds of the student body was in favor of the change.

But there are still some concerns among the faculty about the change, Gomez-Heitzeberg said, noting that some members of the senate voted against the proposal.

“I would not presume to speak for them, but I am concerned about the same things that I think all of our faculty are concerned about, whether they voted it for it or not – they don’t want the quality of instruction to change,” she said.

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The news site of Bakersfield College
16-week semester approved