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State senate again debates campus guns

State senate again debates campus guns

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By ANDRES CHAVIRA

and JAMIE VERWYS

Arizona lawmakers continue to push a bill that would allow concealed weapons in public places, including college campuses.

Pima Community College is waiting to see what happens before pushing forward with its own weapon policy.

HB2072 has become a talking point at Pima in the growing conversation of guns and college safety. Recent college shootings throughout the country have resulted in communities having mixed thoughts on students carrying guns.

The state has made four previous attempts to pass a bill allowing concealed weapons in public places in the last five years.

Pima adopted a temporary weapons policy during a Nov. 18, 2015 Board of Governors meeting, with some hesitation from board members Martha Durkin and Scott Stewart.

The policy requires students, faculty, visitors and staff to leave their weapons inside their vehicles.

Though much of the final touches of the policy were a work in progress, the rule will not become permanent until a decision is made about conceal carry laws in the state.

PCC spokesperson Libby Howell said the temporary policy was slated to return to the Board on Feb. 19 to receive a second approval, but will be pushed back until the law is established.

“We’ve decided to wait and monitor what happens to the proposed gun bill,” Howell said.

“If the bill were to pass, then any restrictive policies PCC might have in place would be moot, at least as far as concealed carry is concerned.”

Bill Ward, vice chancellor of facilities, noted that if HB2072 passes, the college would review internal policies to create a guideline for registering weapons and concealed carry permits.

“We would adapt our policies to reflect the current laws,” he said. “All other state laws governing weapons and firearms related to misconduct and disruption on campus would still apply.”

One concern raised by Stewart when the temporary policy was first created was that the policy fails to take into account that not everyone who carries a weapon also has a motor vehicle in which to store a weapon. If the bill passes, students would have the option to bring weapons with them instead of storing them in the car.

During the period for public comment on the temporary policy, Howell said just two comments came in from the campus community.

“One opposed the policy and the other comment expressed concern over the policy being made temporary, instead of just going ahead and making it permanent,” she said.

The college does not currently offer any courses on gun safety, excluding classes conducted as part of the Public Safety Institute. However safety information is available on Pima’s website and is part of new student orientation.

Ward said if the bill were to pass, Pima would review training options for staff, faculty and students. A presentation on gun safety is currently being reviewed by the provost’s office.

“College police have put together a short 10-15 minute presentation that will be available upon request from faculty,” Ward said. “The presentation is geared toward students and would be offered during a regularly scheduled class or at orientation.”

In Arizona, the right to allow concealed weapons on campus is decided by each individual college or university. According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, there are currently about 32,000 active concealed carry permits issued to people between the ages of 21 and 29 in the state.

Although the bill has not yet passed during previous pushes in the Arizona legislature, it has become very clear that the bill will continue to be brought up in the years to come.

Until a concealed weapons law is finalized in the state, Pima’s temporary policy will remain in effect.

To see Pima’s safety guidelines, visit pima.edu/administrative-services/college-police/safety-security/protecting-yourself-property.html.

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THE WORD: What is your ideal Valentine’s Day?

THE WORD: What is your ideal Valentine’s Day?

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photos and interviews by Melina Casillas on Desert Vista Campus

Pg03-Word-Mariah Zavala

“Spending time with loved ones and eating a lot of junk food.”

Mariah Zavala

Major: Associate of Science

Pg03-Word-David Fernandez

“A beach setup at sunset

with candles, a blanket.”

David Fernandez

Major: Business administration

Pg03-Word-Kelsey Ribbeck

“Something spontaneous,

as long as it’s not

‘Netflix’ and chilling.”

Kelsey Ribbeck

Major: Veterinary science

Pg03-Word-JuanPedro Ahumada

“Hiking up to Ramiro pools,

and then having a picnic.”

JuanPedro Ahumada

Major: Nanotechnology

Pg03-Word-Kari Fort

“A nice dinner where I’m able

to dress up, and then a movie.”

Kari Fort

Major: X-ray technician

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COMMUNICATION 101: Tone is key to understand

COMMUNICATION 101: Tone is key to understand

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Pg03-Communication illustration

By KATTA MAPES

Communication is an essential social skill that we do daily. At the most basic level, it involves sending a message and receiving a message.

We send messages in many ways—some verbal and some nonverbal.

Verbal messages use words that are either spoken or written. Nonverbal messages are sent with gestures, facial expressions and tone, and volume of voice.

Spoken messages are sent through various mediums when we talk to people in person, on the phone or through Skype.

Of course, the deeper nuances of our messages are sent with the nonverbal aspect of our communication. These gestures and facial expressions are available to the message receiver when they can be seen.

Tone of voice, though, can be heard through any spoken medium. Try this demonstration with a trusted friend: Say “You’re a great friend,” first with a sarcastic voice, and then with a loving voice. You say the same words but the tone of voice sends two totally different messages.

Our written messages are generally sent with email, letters and text messages. Emojis, punctuation and word choice provide the nonverbal nuance to the receiver.

I am going to send you a message: “Habari yako?” Did you get it? Probably not, unless you know Swahili. I sent a message and you read it, but the missing element is understanding.

Even when two people speak and read the same language, misunderstandings will interfere with good communication. The key is to understand what the sender thinks and feels.

Here are some ideas for putting your skills into practice:

Tip 1

Be sure to send a clear message by matching what you say (the verbal message) with how (the nonverbal message) you say it.

This is particularly critical in a sexually intimate relationship. When you say “No,” make sure that your tone of voice, gestures and facial expression also communicate “No.” This sends a clear and consistent message that is easy to understand.

Tip 2

When you receive a message, listen for understanding, without talking. Focus on the verbal and nonverbal aspects of the message sent. Then check for understanding by using the phrase, “If I hear you right, you are saying…”

Civil discourse allows each person to express thoughts and feelings while others try to understand, even when he or she does not agree. This is the key element for basic conflict management as well.

Mapes has a Master of Arts in counseling and guidance from the University of Arizona, and more than three decades’ experience as a school counselor. She is the author of “Stop! Think! Choose! Building Emotional Intelligence in Young People,” 2000, Zephyr Press, available on Amazon.com.

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PCC tightens financial aid claims

PCC tightens financial aid claims

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“Unfortunately, our office had not been monitoring and enforcing students’ progress as the federal regulations stipulate.”

Norma Navarro-Castellanos,

Financial Aid Director

By JAMIE VERWYS

Pima Community College’s financial aid department has been working to identify and resolve problem areas in Title IV funding awarded to students.

On Jan. 11, the college released an outside consultant’s recommendations on financial aid eligibility and remaining compliant with federal regulations.

The 22 reports, from Aug. 3 to Dec. 28, 2015, highlighted inaccuracies in aid awarded to students who were not eligible for all, or part of, the funds they received.

Attain, a management, technology and strategy consulting firm, began their evaluation in July 2015, starting with the website and policies. Norma Navarro-Castellanos currently maintains a position as Pima’s financial aid director while the college awaits the arrival of an executive director to lead the department.

“We looked to several agencies that provide financial aid management,” said Navarro-Castellanos. “Through other schools’ references, we learned that Attain had a very good reputation of helping schools become compliant and service-oriented.”

Attain’s services included the review of the college, help in rewriting policies and workshops to guide faculty in navigating any upcoming changes.

Vice Chancellor of Operations Stella Perez is a spokesperson for Pima concerning the review. She said the consultant offered several training opportunities to student services staff at different campuses.

“The workshops and training sessions were successful,” Perez said. The workshops helped “to ensure we are meeting the most updated criteria and federal guidelines, while evaluating current student service practices and upgrading service excellence measures for our students.”

The cost of Attain’s nearly six months of assistance was a little more than $67,000. Karrie Mitchell, the assistant vice chancellor for student enrollment, said that because there had been no executive director since May 2015, the salary savings went to pay for the consultant.

“We are pleased with the work that they have provided for us thus far and will continue to work with them until our permanent executive director is on board, which will be sometime this semester,” she said.

On Aug. 3, Navarro-Castellanos and Mitchell met with two of Attain’s consultants to assess and gain an initial understanding of the areas of non-compliance. They began with areas that colleges most often struggle to monitor: “program eligibility, course alignment with the program, enrollment changes, satisfactory academic progress, written policies and published information.”

Attain found that Pima’s website and technology were in need of several major updates. According to the report, the net cost calculator was out of date, there were inconsistencies in how schedule changes were tracked and written policy needed to be updated for clarity.

According to Mitchell, technology improvements are in progress and should help students, advisors and financial aid staff.

“We are working on some technology infrastructure components that will help automate some very manual processes,” she said. “Likewise, we’re looking at some of our curriculum offerings to ensure that we have the best and most up-to-date consumer information available to students on the web and for advisors.  Both of these initiatives are large endeavors that have project plans in place to see them through to fruition.”

In their Aug 24, 2015 report, Attain claimed that one of the technology improvements was about 18 months from being implemented. The new software would help to evaluate the necessity of a student’s classes to their program.

Program eligibility was an area identified by the review as being a determining factor in eligibility of aid. Students can’t be awarded for classes that don’t count towards a degree, certificate or revenant coursework for transferring.

There are also requirements to keep a certain grade point average, enroll in a set number of credits, attend classes and take classes that are at least at a high school level. Once a student has passed a course, they can only receive aid for it once more.

According to Navarro-Castellanos, this satisfactory academic progress has proven to be the largest challenge so far.

“The most significant change or impact is how our office had been monitoring Satisfactory Academic Progress,” she said. “Unfortunately, our office had not been monitoring and enforcing students’ progress as the federal regulations stipulate.”

The reports also suggested improving the setting in which financial aid is discussed with students. After looking at the campuses, consultants found that student services areas were in open spaces where personal financial details could be overheard in passing. Higher cubicles and an awareness of one’s volume were the recommendation.

Mitchell said students should expect some changes in the process of confirming eligibility.

“We will be confirming students are in the correct major and following the correct catalog year,” she said. “Students will also see a greater focus on ensuring they are enrolled in classes that are applicable to their program of study.”

Any discrepancies in aid disbursement are a major liability, as it might result in having to pay back the incorrect amount. Pima has already returned more than $6,200 in incorrectly distributed aid back in January 2015 when the college received a federal audit.

College administrators are happy with Attain’s performance.

The consulting firm noted significant progress finding and beginning to correct problems but added, “It appears there are a significant number of issues that cannot be fully resolved in time to ensure that (payments?) be made only to students who have met all eligibility criteria.”

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'Vagina Monologues' welcomes Pima actors for March 31 show

‘Vagina Monologues’ welcomes Pima actors for March 31 show

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IMAG0665

By S. PAUL BRYAN

Pima Community College’s West campus is putting on a performance of “The Vagina Monologues” on Thursday, March 31, at the Center for the Arts Proscenium Theatre.

An open casting call and information meeting regarding this upcoming show, and its need for cast members, is Tuesday, Feb 2 at 3 p.m. in West Campus Student Life, AG-20.

There’s no prior acting experience necessary to be involved in the production. The cast is open to students, staff, faculty and alumni.

“Alumni, former Pima students and students who now attend the University of Arizona are usually involved” said Jennifer Wellborn, Student Life Program Coordinator.

Contact Jennifer Wellborn for more information by email at jawellborn@pima.edu.

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Speakers’ Series to examine innovative cancer treatments

Speakers’ Series to examine innovative cancer treatments

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By EDDIE CELAYA

Pima Community College chemistry instructor Christopher Cabello will present “Teaching an Old Drug New Tricks,” on Feb. 2. It is the first of three installments of PCC’s 2016 Spring Speakers’ Series.

Cabello, who holds a Ph.D. in medicinal chemistry from the University of Arizona, will talk about using older, abandoned drugs and repurposing them to fight cancer. He will also discuss emerging ideas for treatment and prevention of cancer.

The presentation will begin at 6 p.m. in Community Board Room C-105 at the District office, 4905 E. Broadway Blvd. Admission is free and light refreshments will be available.

Cabello has been an instructor in chemistry at PCC since 2008. He is the author or co-author of more than 20 peer-reviewed journal articles.

Two additional presentations in the Spring Speakers’ Series will take place.

On March 1, computer aided drafting and design instructor Steve Grede will discuss PCC students’ involvement in the preservation of the Tucson Community Center. On April 5, biology instructor Timothy Cruz will give a presentation on “The Biology of Music.”

The Speakers’ Series is co-sponsored by acting Provost Dolores Durán-Cerda and the PCC Faculty Senate.

PCC chemistry instructor Christopher M. Cabello kicks off the 2016 Speakers’ Series, Feb. 2. (Photo courtesy of PCC)

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Northwest Campus celebrates Black History Month

Northwest Campus celebrates Black History Month

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By KATTA MAPES

Northwest Campus will present a program about the Black Panther Party on Feb. 2 as part of its Black History Month celebration.

The program will begin at 1:30 p.m. in the Student Life Center, Room D-201.

Student Services Advanced Specialist Bobby Burns will recognize the 50 year anniversary of the movement by showing clips from the film, “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” by filmmaker Stanley Nelson.

The documentary highlights the years 1966 to 1973 and founders Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. Burns will also talk about the 10 points of the party platform, the founders and the food program the Black Panthers started.

For additional information, call 206-2131 or email StudentLifeNWC@pima.edu.

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PCC reviews board, chancellor

PCC reviews board, chancellor

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by JAMIE VERWYS and BRYAN OROZCO

In October, a group that represents full time faculty at Pima Community College raised a question to instructors that caused a heated reaction from members of the Board of Governors.

The Pima Community College Education Association, PCCEA, asked faculty of Pima if they support holding a formal confidence vote on the performance of Chancellor Lee Lambert. This question was only one component of the annual All Faculty Survey given to determine areas where the college can improve or gain insights into the college’s work environment.

In a Nov. 2 Study Session, Board chair Silvia Lee expressed concerns and disapproval for a “vote of confidence.”

“It sounds like you are trying to incite the faculty against the chancellor,” Lee said during the meeting.

She presented a page-long statement against the inclusion of this question to the Board, suggesting it be sent to all faculty. Among her concerns were that the PCCEA had not previously discussed concerns with the Board or Chancellor, and not all faculty senate had been a part of the process.

“It runs counter to building a culture of respect and puts the very future of our college at-risk,” Lee wrote in the letter.

Ana Jimenez is the Vice President of PCCEA and proved an integral part of the process, sending an email to faculty on Oct. 6 that previewed the upcoming surveys. Jimenez justified questioning support for Lambert with the voices of faculty whose morale has “plummeted.”

“The faculty concerns that prompted this letter included expressions of frustration regarding processes and procedures that had been implemented with little or no faculty input,” she said. “The annual survey is something that is administered each year and we encourage participation from all faculty every year.”

Jimenez elaborated that lack of support from the Board was unfortunate and most likely a misunderstanding of intent.

“While PCCEA is happy to explain how we determine what questions are on the survey in a given year and we always welcome the opportunity to speak directly with the Board, it was unfortunate that some Board members apparently didn’t understand our role and thus we were surprised at both the tone and content of the accusations levied during the Board Study Session,” Jimenez said.

Before the All Faculty Survey was distributed in October, reviews had already been completed on the chancellor, as well as the Board of Governors.

Using tools set by the Association of Community Colleges Trustees, a non-profit that governs community colleges throughout the United States, Pima held evaluations. It was looked at as an opportunity to discuss and clarify the performances of the board and the chancellor from the past two years.

Pima spokesperson Libby Howell said these types of evaluations are common practice in public entities.

“This is a typical process, not only for institutions in higher-ed, but for other kinds of non-profits,” she said.

“In Pima’s case, however, it is especially important because of our recent experience being placed on probation by the Higher Learning Commission.  Although we are no longer on probation, it is necessary that we stay on the right path in terms of the institution’s governance.”

The board conducted a self-assessment based on nine key functional areas. The self-assessment helps the board to set standards, clarify expectations and serve as an example of the ongoing commitment to accountability and assessment for the college community, according to their self-assessment.

In comparison to their evaluation from last year, the area most improved was that the “board members keep the chancellor informed of community contacts and issues.”

The item that dropped the lowest from 2014, by .90 points, was that, “the board is adequately informed about the important issues facing the college.”

The board collectively determined that they were making progress and acknowledges that there is a lot of additional work to be done for the next year.

Part of having the self-evaluation is to see how clearly the board understands the institution’s bylaws and if further training is needed, Lee said.

“The chancellor’s job is to do the day to day management. Our job is to govern, set policies, mission, vision, but it is not to do the day to day work, and our bylaws clearly say that,” Lee said.

The board rated the chancellor on eight goals ranging from facilitating programs and services for students to increasing the level of community engagement by the board of governors as well as the chancellor.

The highest rating the chancellor received was the ability to maintain a high standard for ethics, honesty and integrity in all matters. The lowest rating he received was in rallying the college to implement standards of quality and excellence in keeping with HLC guidelines.

Howell said the All Faculty Survey will be available soon.

She said self-assessments and surveys are important in determining new goals for the college.

“This will not only help the institution move forward, but also show the HLC how serious administration and the Board is about making constructive improvements.”

Jimenez is hopeful for Pima’s future.

“There is a lot of work to be done and we hope that the future Board will make a commitment to honoring college policy, renewing trust and working with us to make Pima a wonderful place to work and learn.”

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ICC takes on textbook prices

ICC takes on textbook prices

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by DAVID PUJOL

Textbooks at Pima Community College has grown to levels that make students’ wallets cry.

The Inter-Campus Council and Provost’s Office are making an effort combat rising textbook prices. Some options that have been suggested are open education resources or to use common textbooks for similar classes.

If instructors and the campus start to use OER and streamlining textbooks that option would allow students to save money they would’ve spent on textbooks.

But one of the most important things that ICC suggested that could be done is talking about it. If no one starts talking about this nothing will happen. Ignorance isn’t bliss ignorance is expensive textbooks prices.

The increase in costs has student turning elsewhere for cheaper textbooks. Most commonly students are utilizing the Internet to try and save a few dollars.

It’s reached the point where textbook prices can influence what classes students take.

“I wonder how many students that buy their books actually reopen them in the future if they own them,” said Mia Convertino, PCC student. “I think renting is a really good option, unless you really want a book.”

Convertino, a student in the vet technician program, said if she wouldn’t have rented her textbooks this past fall semester she would’ve paid between $500-$600 in required books.

“Renting is a really good option, even though it’s not always an option,” she said.

Students who don’t necessarily need the textbook for their major end up buying them anyway, said Nathan Rojas, electrical engineering major at Pima.

“I’ll wait, unless it’s a book I really need for my major,” said Rojas. “But if it’s not for my major I’ll wait to buy it.”

Certain administrators believe the cost of books on students strictly depends on their major. Karrie Mitchell, vice chancellor of student development at Pima, is one of those administrators.

“It depends on whose lens you’re looking through,” Mitchell said. “For science and engineering majors, they would most likely say ‘yes’ as textbooks in the Science, Technology, Mathematics & and Engineering (STEM) fields tend to be more expensive due to the technical nature of the information.”

Mitchell said STEM textbook prices will be pricey regardless.

She added, “Liberal Arts majors would be more likely to say no (when compared to STEM majors prices of textbooks) because the information contained in the textbooks might not contain such industry specific knowledge.”

There are multiple outlets for purchasing textbooks online. Similar to the search for the Holy Grail, finding affordable priced textbooks can be strenuous.

“I searched the web high and low for my textbooks prices. I’ll check Amazon, Chegg or Half-Priced Books,” said Alicia Verdugo, PCC education major.

The famous website Ratemyprofessor.com isn’t just for helping students decide what professor to take, it now has a checkbox when rating a professor to indicate how much the textbook is used in each class.

Professors have even taken a stance on helping students with affordable textbooks. Some have eliminated the use of textbooks all together.

“Sometimes, teachers try to work with us and work around the textbook,” Rojas said. “But, he (one of his professors) ended up telling us we had to have it, even though he wanted to save us money.”

Instructors have informed students ahead of time about chapters used for the course.

“I have a professor who doesn’t require us to buy the textbook because he tries to give such great detailed lectures that we learn just the same, if not better,” said Verdugo. She spent under $200 for textbooks this semester.

Regardless, saving money on textbooks doesn’t always happen. There are ways to combat the high textbook prices, Mitchell said.

Students must take action. She recommended for students to join the Student Advisory Board and participate in an upcoming survey about textbooks that will be coming out in a few weeks.

Students suggested working with the instructor before purchasing the textbook to request to leave a copy on reserve in the library for class use. Some suggested to purchase the book and don’t open it until the professor has made it clear that the textbook is absolutely required.

The point is that textbooks are still expensive for students, especially those at a community college, said Convertino.

“We should be trying to help save money for these people who probably don’t make enough money to buy their textbooks each semester,” Convertino said.

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Pima News Briefs

Pima News Briefs

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Pima obituaries 

Pima Community College extends their thoughts to the families of two retired members of its faculty.

Mahdi Alani, a math and physics instructor at the college who received a Ph.D in nuclear engineering at the University of Arizona, passed on Nov. 21.

Alani is survived by his wife, an adjunct instructor at Pima, and three children.

Ysidro L. “Chilo” Gutierrez, a retired faculty member who taught Drafting at Downtown Campus also passed on Nov. 20. Gutierrez was the recipient of many awards at Pima, including a certificate of appreciation, in recognition of 25 years of service and work as a faculty member with the Drafting Technology Advisory Committee and Department Chair from August 1970 to May 1995.

A service was held on Nov. 24 at 10 a.m. The service included a praying of the rosary, mass and a viewing held at Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church, 1800 S. Kolb Road. It was followed by a procession and graveside service at Our Lady of the Desert Cemetery, 2151 S. Avenida Los Reyes.

by Travis Braasch

Graduates sent off by candlelight

On Dec. 10, Pima Community College will honor 61 students graduating from its nursing program.

The ceremony will start at 4 p.m. at 260 S. Church Ave., in the Tucson Convention Center’s Grand Ballroom.

A graduate of Pima’s nursing program receives an Associate of Applied Science Degree and is eligible to take licensure exams to become a registered nurse.

The students will graduate by candlelight and ceremonial elements borrowed from the Nightingale School of Nursing in London.  Pima will be extending the same 150-year-old traditions as Florence Nightingale, the Nightingale School’s iconic founder.

“Nursing is most truly said to be a high calling, an honorable calling. But what does that honor lie in?” said Florence Nightingale. “It lies in working hard during your training to learn to do all things perfectly.”

The Pima nursing graduates will each receive the same time-honored pin that Nightingale once gave her own students. After their pinning, each student will make the Florence Nightingale pledge and dedicate themselves to the welfare of those committed to their care.

“Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, chose to honor her graduating student nurses with a pin as a symbol of excellence, and with the recitation of the nursing oath, the student entered the profession of nursing. The pinning ceremony continues today as a rite of passage for a graduate’s successful completion of nursing school,” according to the college.

In the 2014-2015 school year, nursing was Pima’s fourth most popular degree program, boasting 157 graduates from the program at West Campus alone. Pima also awarded 128 certificates and saw 42 students complete the practical nurse clock-hour training.

In addition to an associates degree, students at Pima can simultaneously earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Northern Arizona University. Of the 61 graduates, 15 are concurrently enrolled in the dual program

In the program ceremony, the students made sure that proper thanks were given.

“The graduating class of Fall 2015 sincerely and gratefully acknowledges the support of the Pima Community College nursing administration, faculty and staff,” they wrote.

To learn more, visit pima.edu or call 206-4500.

by Audrie Ford

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My sweet good-byes

My sweet good-byes

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by KIT B. FASSLER

My mother was a singer.  When I was growing up in the small island in the Philippines, she reminded me about the significance of a voice.

“The voice is the soul.  When you are dying, the soul leaves first.  The ‘breath’ or the spirit is the last one to depart.”

We thank Pima Community College of allowing voices to be heard by supporting Aztec Press.  Journalism courses are offered to prepare students for transfer to a university.

As the fall season quietly departs, many are leaving Aztec Press.

“This is my last semester in the campus, but I’ll still come and help the next sports editor during the transition,” Deanna Sherman, the current sports editor said.  “I’ll be a full-time student at the University of Arizona.”

Personally, I’m going to miss the following talented editors who are leaving this semester:  Sebastian J. Barajaz, opinion/insight and A&E editor; Deanna Sherman sports editor; Alex Fruechtenicht, photo editor and Danyelle Khmara, news editor.

These are talented students and I wish them success in the future ahead.  Having been with these brilliant writers in class and in the press room, I found a family.  We support each other as students and even in our personal lives.

As an adult learner and a late bloomer in the field of journalism, I’m truly grateful to Pima for helping me and the younger students reach our highest potential.  In the press room, editors and reporters practiced their craft and also worked long hours to write, edit and publish the paper.  It is a tedious work but with determination and a sense of humor to beat deadlines, we succeeded.

I’m so blessed and lucky to be surrounded by classmates whose love of advocacy through writing make my senior life worth living. Their energy, laughter and camaraderie would certainly inspire me to keep learning and studying as long as it takes.

Good luck to you all, respectable reporters and editors.  Thank you and don’t forget to press on and keep writing.

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Pima grapples with budget limit law

Pima grapples with budget limit law

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by NICK MEYERS

Pima Community College won a narrow victory earlier this year when a bill in the state legislature that would have cost the college an additional $30 million in spending failed.

The vote came less than a year after the state eliminated $7.1 million in funding to the college.

“It’s something that would have had a catastrophic effect if it had passed, because we would have had to immediately reduce our budget because of that bill,” said Michael Peel, government relations liaison for PCC. “We had to move quickly with the advocacy against this and all the community colleges were against such a bill.”

According to Pima’s Executive Vice-Chancellor of Finance David Bea, “You’re talking about massive cuts. It would have meant layoffs and cutting high -cost programs.”

Rep. Justin Olson, R-Mesa, introduced HB 2442 during a legislative session on Feb. 19, which would have changed a formula limiting Pima’s expenditures,  based on full-time student enrollment, to reflect the college’s actual enrollment as opposed to the estimate the college currently provides.

The bill is currently on hold while a study committee hears cases from community colleges, local businesses and the Arizona Tax Research Association. Pima administrators have attended the three sessions held so far to advocate for the college’s current budget decisions.

The formula calculates expenditure limitation for Arizona community colleges, which were introduced into Arizona’s state constitution in 1980, to restrict the spending of money collected from property taxes within each county.

The current calculation takes a snapshot of Arizona community college spending 35 years ago, adjusts for inflation and enrollment and dictates how much PCC can spend in revenue collected from property taxes.

The legislative committee spared Arizona’s community colleges in deciding to table the bill. Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, introduced another bill that formed a study committee to explore the issues surrounding the calculations of Pima’s and other community colleges’ expenditure limitations.

“The formula is nutso,” said Libby Howell, spokeswoman for PCC.

“It’s this very arcane formula,” Howell added. “It uses a price index that nobody uses. It’s not valuable.”

The majority of support for HB 2442 comes from the ATRA, Olson’s previous employer. ATRA represents large business interests with officials from businesses like CenturyLink, Intel and Southwest Gas populating its board of directors, according to the group’s website.

“ATRA is very influential at the state level,” Bea said.

In defense of the bill, ATRA’s senior research analyst, Sean McCarthy, maintained that while multiple facets of state governance must adhere to expenditure limitation, community colleges are the only “jurisdictions” that have the ability to so freely dictate their budget.

“This provides a good step forward,” he said. “Right now what we’re doing is, essentially, disrespecting the constitution.”

However, now that the issue of expenditure limitation calculations is being discussed, almost all parties involved agree that some change has to be made.

“The expenditure limitation problem is a complex one,” Kristen Bollini, a lobbyist for community colleges in Arizona, said during public comments when the bill was introduced. “The estimates versus actual FTSE is a very small component of an overall challenging formula for the community colleges.”

In September, ATRA released a report analyzing Arizona community colleges’ finances, and accused Pima of exaggerating the estimate of full-time enrollment in order to “sidestep a declining expenditure limit.”

Indeed, PCC reported an FTSE of 23,000 while current enrollment hovers somewhere around 18,000—an overestimate Pima officials knowingly made.

Bea said “it would have been extremely unlikely” for Pima to reach such high levels of enrollment, as the college has seen enrollment decline since 2011.

However, like Pima, other community colleges have the tendency to vastly overestimate their enrollment in order to maximize expenditure limitations.

In 2014, Mohave, Graham and Pinal community college districts estimated FTSEs at a higher percentage of actual FTSEs than Pima.

The college stands by its estimate as it claims the extra cash is necessary to operate in the 21st century.

Howell said that the exaggerated estimate “allows us the opportunity for growth and to plan ahead. If you told any other kind of business that they could estimate what their customer demand was going to be, it’d completely hamstring them.”

A major difference between 1980s Pima and today’s Pima is the higher cost of technical programs such as nursing, dental hygiene and truck driver training. The current formula for expenditure limitations does not reflect the higher per-student cost of these programs compared to per-student costs of 1980.

“We are very different today than we were in 1980,” Bollini said in defense of all Arizona community colleges. “The programs this state needs are very different today than they were in 1980, and it’s time to adjust the formula.”

Pima also maintained a “fiscally conservative” budget in 1980, placing them far below the average of Arizona community colleges. In fact, Pima had the lowest expenditure per student of all Arizona community colleges in 1980. This allows other colleges to spend more per student than PCC.

If Pima’s expenditure limitation was set to the average of all Arizona community colleges, the college would see a $60 million increase in available funds.

“It’s a fascinating case of policy gone awry and not understanding the long-term implications,” Peel said.

The college’s expenditure limitations do not affect the rate of property taxes. PCC has maintained a tax rate below the state average for the last 10 years.

Almost every community college district in the state raises property tax rates the maximum 2 percent every year, and Pima doesn’t have a secondary tax, unlike some districts.

A few other nuances of expenditure limitation keep community colleges from being able to maximize their potential budget, such as what is and isn’t included in the law.

One common example is that funding for buildings are exempt from the expenditure limitation.

“We could build a building, but we can’t run a program in the building to educate the students,” said Howell.

If changes are made that aren’t in the colleges’ best interests, costs may need to be accounted for in other areas. Currently, tuition is the largest source of income for colleges that is not included in the expenditure limit.

“That puts huge upward pressure on tuition,” Bollini said. “If we’re going to continue to operate community colleges in an affordable manner…tuition increases are not the way to go.”

Also included in the expenditure limit are certain financial involvements from local businesses.

According to Bea, depending on how a contract is worded, if a business wants to fund a program at a community college, the college may not be able to accept due to expenditure limitation.

“We’re trying to maintain the very expensive workforce development programs, the very programs that we’re penalized for providing in a time of economic need for Arizona,” Bollini said.

This has rallied support for community colleges from local businesses in the ongoing study committee.

A Tucson company called World View is one such business that came to Pima’s aid in the latest study session on Sept. 30. World View is a space-tourism company that builds high altitude balloons to send people into space beginning in 2017.

Maricela Solis de Kester, a government relations representative for World View, said during the study session that the company may have to move to Florida for better access to workforce development programs.

The company approached PCC about hosting a program to train 400 employees for a prospective factory but Pima is unable to develop the program due to expenditure limitations.

“If a business wants to go to us and say they want to continue and extend a program, they should be able to do that without any barriers,” Peel said. “We’re in a day and age where grants and entrepreneurial activity and business investment are the future.”

While all parties agree that something must be done to address the issue of expenditure limitations, no certain solution is in sight. With the current legislative session coming to a close, time is running out for legislators to arrive at a solution.

College officials said several options exist that may satisfy the needs of all community colleges. Possible changes include weighing certain programs to receive more money or changing the way the formula accounts for inflation.

“There’s a lot of areas that we’d like to see improved,” Peel said. “The question is, how beneficial is one change compared to other changes to the law? That’s where the negotiations get very complicated. There’s all these factors you have to take into account.”

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Pima plugs away at accreditation

Pima plugs away at accreditation

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by AUDRIE FORD

Pima Community College officials continue to make progress rectifying concerns regarding the college’s accreditation status.

On Nov. 2, Acting Provost Dolores Durán-Cerda and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Accreditation Bruce Moses sent an email to Pima’s faculty and staff to inform them of the status of Pima’s accreditation.

The update is part of process that began in 2012 when PCC was first investigated following concerns reported by the Coalition for Accountability, Integrity, Respect and Responsibility.

Pima’s accreditation agency, the Higher Learning Commission, sent a fact-finding team to the college in January 2013 for a comprehensive review. The team conducted more than 100 interviews and collected data and other evidence during its three-day examination.

The investigators found several issues, including unaddressed sexual harassment allegations against the former chancellor, a work environment based on intimidation, and policies that conflicted with the purpose of the college.

As a result of these findings, the HLC placed Pima on a two-year probation beginning in April 2013. In February of 2015, the HLC removed Pima from probation and placed them “On Notice.”

The “On Notice” status doesn’t impact financial aid or transfer abilities, and all three state universities have confirmed they will continue to accept PCC transfer students as long as the college remains accredited.

While “On Notice,” Pima must submit reports to the HLC to prove they are making strides towards improving in the areas Pima failed of the commission’s Criteria for Accreditation, Federal Compliance requirements or Assumed Practices.

Pima must submit their next report in July 2016, detailing progress made in distinct areas identified by the HLC.

According to Durán-Cerda and Moses, Pima has already made improvements in the 11 areas the HLC identified as problematic. Moses has narrowed 26 concerns into four categories with a simple  color coding system to illustrate progress.

College officials said Pima has reached 40 percent compliance on the 26 areas of concern.

Moses stresses that while certain items may be “in the green,” that does not mean that work is finished. Many of the areas require constant update and revision for improvement, part of the college’s new stance on making constant progress.

At the Nov. 18 Board of Governors meeting, Moses said that great progress has already been made in the eight months since Pima began working towards improvement.

Moses also expressed concerns about the upcoming holiday breaks.

“We’re going to lose a month’s worth of work just because of the nature of the holidays,” he said. “So this is a very important time to keep an eye on where we’re at as an organization.”

Moses said that one of the most pressing needs for Pima was a mission and vision statement assessment. Because Pima currently lacks an established mission and vision, other areas that needed to be addressed had to wait.

The HLC laid out specific requirements for the mission and vision in a letter on March 9. They said that Pima needed “a well-defined, inclusive formal review process of the institution’s mission, including description of implementation and resulting outcomes.”

“We have to wait for that domino to drop,” Moses said of the mission and vision.

The college is currently reaching out to the community to input in redefining its mission statement. For more information on how to get involved, contact the office of Institutional Planning, Research and Effectiveness at 206-4934 or research@pima.edu.

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Pima considers educational exchange with fire and police departments

Pima considers educational exchange with fire and police departments

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by DANYELLE KHMARA

The Northwest Fire District, Rio Rico Fire District and The City of Tucson requested a one-year Intergovernmental Agreement with Pima Community College and specifically, the Emergency Services Institute, to exchange training that would benefit all parties involved.

As part of the agreement, the two fire districts are requesting that Pima offer fire science, emergency medical technology and paramedic training to their employees, according to the college.

In exchange, they would offer Pima students field experience by participating in vehicular rotations.

The City of Tucson, on behalf of Tucson Fire District and Tucson Police Department, is offering Pima students the same field experience in exchange for a program in which PCC teaches city employees in the areas of fire science, emergency medical technology, law enforcement, paramedic training, Airway Lab services, advanced life support continuing education and emergency vehicle operations.

Currently, there are two fire science programs offered by Pima Community College. One is a technical academy certificate. The other is an associate degree of applied science. Both are different sub programs which essentially aim to teach the skills it takes to be a fire fighter.

The program is taught at the West Campus and at Tucson Public Safety Academy.

Pima’s chancellor Lee Lambert recommends that the Board of Governors accept the agreement, according to a statement concerning the partnerships.

The 2014-17 Strategic Plan includes adding directions for all the parties to work together in a way that would make all students and employees ready and well trained to work in these departments.

The college hopes to “improve responsiveness to the needs of business community and economic development opportunities,” through the agreement, according to the plan.

Pima will submit quotes on education costs, based on current tuition rates, to the fire and police departments as they request services.

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From the Editor: Social media, meet journalism

From the Editor: Social media, meet journalism

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by JAMIE VERWYS

Many of us saw the same images and eye witness accounts of the attacks on Paris on November 13. A complex mix of sadness, anger, fear, support and suspicion were the forefront of media outlets and quickly spread across the Internet.

While we all may have our own separate thoughts and concerns about the tragedy, chances are most of us got our information from the same place, Facebook.

Social media is a part of the daily ritual of thousands of people around the world, so it makes sense that users quickly started tweeting and honing in on the ability a site like Facebook had to send them to the heart of the chaos.

Everyone has every right to go online and inform themselves about what is going on in the world. People should have quick and responsive spaces to talk about their feelings and gain support. Nothing is quicker or more visible than social media, and it’s almost guaranteed you will receive a little token of comfort in a “like” validating your feelings.

Sure. Social media has some beneficial offerings in obtaining up to the minute updates, images, videos and personal stories. We need to remember, just because we read it first on Facebook, doesn’t mean it’s true. A lot of misinformation has been produced about large tragedies by social media.

With the recent attack on France, rumors both harmless and more than a little dangerous became viral in matters of moments.

A Twitter user made a claim that the lights on the Eiffel Tower had been turned off for the first time since 1889 in light of the attack. The photo and false statement took the fast track around the globe and quickly spread as a public symbol of respect. Even some journalists and news outlets picked up on the tweet and reported it.

Turns out the whole thing was some kind of social ‘I told you so’ experiment by Twitter user @ProfJeffJarvis, who wanted to show how quickly information can be spread and accepted. The Eiffel Tower lights are turned off for many occasions and dimmed regularly, as in every day.

A French soccer player was “sighted” rescuing someone from the attacks, identified by Twitter users, incorrectly. The same “Where’s Waldo?” game happened on Reddit in 2013 during the Boston Marathon bombing, when users began to speculate on the identity of the bomber and incorrectly accused people.

As long as the Internet exists, there will always be room for misinformation to zip out to millions of people every day. Social media has become entwined in almost every facet of our lives, and will continue to play a large role in the face of the tragedies.

Regardless of the advice to distrust the media to cover these topics, I urge you to look to reputable journalists who have ensured the highest level of accuracy in their reporting. In this very issue, one of your peers takes a look at current world affairs, so check out the Insight page for more details.

You can get on your Facebook and talk about how all this craziness in our world makes you feel but remember this. On social media, you share information and apologize for a mistake later. A journalist ensures accuracy first, then shares information.

Enjoy the issue.

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