Students demand a voice

By ANDREW PAXTON

Student leaders at Pima Community College have been working to increase their impact, and their efforts are starting to gain attention from the college.

For months, student governments and other groups at Pima have been exploring ways to reach out to college administrators.

In April, students hosted an advocate training session and met with Sylvia Lee, the newest member of PCC’s governing board.

“We don’t have any say in governing,” Marquita “Kyra” Wallace, West Campus student government secretary, told Lee. “I don’t see a voice for us.”

Since that time, student leaders, working closely with Student Life coordinators, have explored ways to turn up the volume.

On Sept. 27, dozens of students representing each of Pima’s six campuses met and discussed ways to make the college more efficient for students.

They identified advising, class offerings, admissions processes, funding for student organizations and veterans services as the top issues that need to be addressed.

“The advising process needs either a really, really intense tune-up, or a complete overhaul,” said Chris Meece, Northwest Campus student government vice president.

Student Services Manager Craig Winters said the advising format gets completely re-evaluated every three years, and that process is happening right now.

“Everything is on the table,” Winters said.

Winters met with the West Campus student government on Oct. 28 to hear first-hand exactly what problems they have with advising.

“It seems like most of the advisers don’t really know what’s going on,” music major Sierra Nealy said. “I got put back two semesters because they were telling me to take my Gen. Eds. when I needed to be taking my music classes congruently.”

Winters said Student Services brings in program coordinators to talk with the advisers, to try to keep up-to-date with what is needed for each field.

But he admits advisers aren’t always aware of what is required.

“Sometimes we find out through students that things have changed,” he said.

Customer service for students seeking guidance from advisers was also identified as a major issue.

“Some of the advisers give you an attitude,” said Paola Castro, West Campus student government vice president.

“I don’t know if it’s because they don’t want to be there, or they don’t like their job, but it’s really uncomfortable to be speaking with a person who doesn’t want to help you out,” she said. “It’s very, very disturbing,” she said.

Castro said she had this experience with multiple advisers. Many other students present expressed similar experiences.

Winters asked the student leaders how the advising process could be improved.

The students suggested having advisers specialize in just a few subjects instead of trying to do blanket advising.

Another suggestion was for a survey to be sent from the college to a student shortly after seeing an adviser. The survey would ask for feedback about their experience and whether they were satisfied or have suggestions for improvement.

PCC’s top leadership has taken steps to seek more response from students.

At the Oct. 10 Board of Governors meeting, student representatives who sit on the board were asked to begin submitting a student issue or concern, as well as possible solutions.

Previously, the student representatives would read brief notices of events happening at each campus.

April May Ramey is the current president of Student Government at Downtown Campus and is serving as one of the student representatives this semester.

“Giving the students an opportunity to state concerns and possible solutions from their campuses is one of the best ideas that the board could ever put forward,” she said via email.

“The students are the reason for Pima. We should have a voice and opportunity to bring these issues forward and have them resolved for future students and the success of Pima,” she said.

Other students leaders agree with Ramey.

“Having a governing board willing to be more open to the student voice is huge,” said Alec Moreno, West Campus student government co-president. “It’s a step forward in the right direction and a push to give students a say on what goes on around campus.”

The student leaders want more students to join them.

“If you are passionate about making a difference, I would encourage you to get involved,” Moreno said. “You don’t know what opportunities are available unless you look for them.

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