Chico State does summer school shuffle

When the state throws surprise special funding at Chico State University, odds are it won’t be turned down. Such is the case with new monies for summer school.

While the tight timeline means some headaches now, Chico State sees the long-term plan to transition to a year-round school as a benefit to students.

So the university is scrambling to set up a summer school system that would take best advantage of the new state dollars while also, in a separate session, accommodating students who are able to pay the higher fees (almost $400 for three units) for non-state-supported summer classes.

“The governor dropped this in our lap and made this the rush situation that it is,” said Professor Paul Persons, chairman of Chico State’s Academic Senate, at the body’s Feb. 14 meeting.

Since 1998, CSU Chancellor Charles Reed has been pushing to add what is essentially a third semester by providing classes during the summer. The idea is that students will graduate faster and the CSU can avoid new construction costs by using its buildings year-round.

Debra Barger, interim dean of regional and continuing education, said Chico State has made a commitment to year-round operations because students need more options.

The state gave the money to accommodate 240 students based on 1999 summer attendance levels, even though 371 were enrolled last summer. That led to worry that the classes the state-supported version of summer school offers won’t match what all students need, so a May-June intersession also will be offered—at the traditional full summer school price.

There will be a wide variety of general-education and upper-division major courses expected to have a “high demand” from students hoping to graduate sooner, clarified Clare Roby, coordinator of summer school, in an interview this week. She said that this year the state-supported session would have classes from every college except two: Business and Engineering, Computer Science and Technology (ECT). Those will show up, along with additional high-demand courses, in the May-June session.

Faculty members agree that, when it comes to students, having more classes available cheaply is best—especially when a summer course is the only thing that stands between a student and graduation. But some senators were wary of accepting a new setup without making sure teachers would be treated fairly by the CSU.

At the meeting, senators considered a resolution that would make it known to CSU leaders that teaching summer classes should be voluntary, faculty members should choose what they want to teach, and the salary should be up for discussion. (Currently, labor negotiations are stalled, and the California Faculty Association’s contract with the CSU is about to expire.)

The No. 1 issue, Persons summarized, is, “We should not be forced to work in the summer.” While some faculty members like to spread their workload across the year or earn extra money during the summer, others want, as Professor Greg Tropea put it, “unbroken blocks of time in which to think and work.”

But several senators pointed out that, with the 2002 summer school schedule going to press on Feb. 15, it was a little late in the game to bicker over work conditions, especially since Chico State has been accommodating in the past. “We want to be careful that we don’t create a situation that’s unworkable,” said Professor Kathy Kaiser. “We should err in the least-harm direction.”

Professor James Postma agreed that student needs should come first. “I keep hearing faculty want this and faculty want that,” he said. “[We can’t] have our cake and eat it, too.”

Ultimately, the senators decided to table the resolution rather than introduce it as an emergency action item. A nearly identical version had been considered last semester.