Paid Leave, Free Wi-Fi: California College Students Form Coalition To Demand More Help

Orange Coast College is a community college located in Costa Mesa, California. (Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/LAist)

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Colleges need to do more and be more consistent in the help they're providing students during the coronavirus crisis, a coalition of students demanded in a letter sent Wednesday to top administrators at California's community college and public university systems.

The demands from the California Students High Education Advocacy Round Table include leniency in grading, paid leave for student workers until they return to work, waiving on-campus parking fees and use of campus wi-fi.

The letter was sent to the central offices of California Community Colleges, California State University, and the University of California. The group's leaders say they formed a coalition to give students a stronger voice in making their concerns known to the systems' administrators.

"This way we combine all of our best thoughts and work together to advocate for the same goal, which in my mind means we're far more likely to get the results we desire," said Amine El Moznine, a member of the round table and a student at De Anza College in Cupertino.

While some colleges are already delivering some of the support services the round table demands, El Moznine said the group wants those services to be delivered consistently and equitably.

"What you're seeing is a lot of students, as we transition to online, don't have access to all the extra help they need, whether that be tutoring services or just a helpful classroom environment," he said.


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The group would like campuses to work with students to come up with alternatives to postponed commencements and other events.

Some students welcomed that recommendation because they feel like their college administrators aren't doing enough to keep students involved and informed.

"In terms of basic needs, food pantries, my college is doing a great job at that," said Tariq Azim, a student at Chaffey College in Rancho Cucamonga.

"In terms of getting students involved, they're not doing a good job of that at all, getting students involved in the decision-making process."

In an email, Alisha Rosas, executive director of equity, outreach and communication at Chaffey, said the college focused on maintaining student support services as it scrambled to move its courses online. "Some of the ways we have done this is to provide weekly communication to students, changed the homepage of our website for easier student navigation and have live chat help available," she said.

The college has extended the deadline to May 8 for students to decide whether they want to receive a pass/no pass grade for a class. But Azim said the college has not done enough to make sure students know about the change.

The round table said the pass/no pass option is a big deal because giving all students that option would lessen the pressure of a letter grade in such different learning conditions.

For many, including Azim who's taken online classes before, the transition to a full class load of classes online hasn't been easy.

"One or two is fine, but when you're taking four or five, it gets hard to manage your time," he said.

The civil rights law firm Public Advocates, the nationwide student organization Rise, and The Campaign for College Opportunity helped organize the round table.

Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled Amine El Moznine's last name. LAist regrets the error.