Counseling at Pasadena City College

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Just a disclaimer: I’m a proud Pasadena City College student. It took me some time to look myself in the mirror and realize this; but in all honesty, I actually like the school and all its quirks, including its unfinished arts building, its scary elevators, its potheads that lurk the Mirror Pools in the afternoon, and the designated smoking areas that look like cat boxes. I rediscovered my passion for writing on accident here by taking a reading and composition class my very first semester as a nursing major. That solidified my decision to take on journalism as a major and I have not yet lost sight of my goal of becoming a writer.

And with that being said….

Aw hale no.

To spare you from the long backstory, here’s an extremely condensed one: I’ve been a PCC student for 5 years now and a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m a really bad student. I’ve had to retake many classes, especially after I became consumed with my time in the Courier newsroom. I also hate math. I failed it twice and dropped it the third time so I could retake the course a 4th time without having to petition. Turns out, the board that governs over public education changed the law and counts a drop as a fail. So therefore, I took a refresher at another college and returned to PCC for an alternative course.

I’ve made several appointments to find out what I needed to do in order to get out of PCC and found out that the goal of simply snatching an Associates in Science Degree was not far out of reach. I retook every course that I received D’s in and took up extra courses because the requirements changed (also, because of the law). Last semester, I took that refresher course (elementary algebra) alongside photography, nutrition, and a health and fitness for dancers class. I passed and thought I was just a math class away from my degree. I turned in a graduation check to the counseling department and was greeted by an Asian receptionist who handed my ass to me the first day of the Spring semester.

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“See attached: Missing Math and 2 PEACT Units for A.S. degree. Dance 2A does not meet PEACT requirement.
You may petition for the Certificate in Journalism: Print Media with the department.”

Granted, I had not registered for the math class yet (I was crashing the Survey of Math Ideas class and thankfully got in), but WTF. Why didn’t my dance class count? I used the information provided by the counseling department to choose the classes I needed to graduate. IN FACT:

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I took DANCE 2 not DANCE 21A or 21B. I decided I would do a same-day appointment with the counselors so I could bring up the issue.

Now that my peace was unrighteously disturbed, I took notice in the littlest things. Like how the floor looked like casino carpet. Or how some of the seats still had stains that, for some reason, made me assume was vomit. Or how miserable a lot of the students were looking just sitting there, waiting for their name to get called.

I sat there, waiting more than an hour for my name to be called by one counselor who was looking over the hundreds of students who were waiting for a same-day appointment.

When my name was finally called, I told her that I had received my graduation check and was wondering why my Dance 2 course did not fulfill the requirement. I told her that I used the paper that the counseling department had given me and made my decisions based on the requirements. She looked up my records and HMMMM’d for two minutes.

I emphasized that Dance 2 was not Dance 21A or 21B. She referred to her big book of secrets, which I assume is the course catalogue. Then, after having flipped through a few pages, she found Dance 2.

“Oh yeah, Dance 2. Yeah, that’s totally different,” she said as-a-matter-of-factly. “Yeah, you actually have to get up and twirl and stuff for it to count.”

“But I did,” I told her. I dare not told her how we did ballet attitudes for our midterm. How we suffered through pilates mid semester. Or the fact that I choreographed Justin Bieber, Black Eyed Peas, and Miguel for my final. “We did a lot of conditioning and exercises,” I said instead.

“It’s not too late to add into a PE class,” she said. She was about to close this case. “You’ll be able to graduate by summer.”

My mind’s racing at this point. All I could see was the look of disappointment in my parents’ face. If you’re Asian, you would understand. And if your parents are Asian with low standards, you’d still understand that being in a community college for more than two years is still embarrassing.

“I highly doubt I’ll be able to add a class,” I told her. “PE courses fill up fast.”

“Well, you know, summer was split into two. You’ll be able to finish by the second half of it.”

My mind had completely tuned her out and I just mindlessly said, “Okay, thank you.” She tried to throw in a, “Just try to crash a course if you can,” but I guess she didn’t remember that teachers abide by a wait list rule now.

I did the next best thing and went to the division dean of performing arts. After a few minutes, I told him the situation and all he could offer as a means of consolation was a petition to the dean of instruction. He gave me a green slip that I filled out and he cosigned it. I went back to the counseling department where the dean’s office was and delivered the petition. My attempts to alleviate the situation and restore my sanity didn’t end there. I aired out my grievance to one of the student representatives of PCC and also talked to the news editor of the newspaper I used to write for – who coincidentally had an interview with the dean of counseling (you see how I planned that?).

Anyway, It took about a week for this letter to be mailed to me:

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A few days later, I decided to send another graduation check, having been able to register for the math class and also having my petition granted. I was expecting a pending notice – which means I would have to pass this semester’s classes in order to graduate. A few days later, an online counselor emailed me back. Here’s the back and forth:

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Seriously? What the fuckery most foul?

I’m not sure what’s happening over there behind-the-scenes, but the counselors and, dare I say, probably MOST of the people who should be helping the students are so out of touch with their own system that it’s bringing the goal of student success to a halt.

Why are we even here?

A campus that serves over 30,000 students and all we get is a single counselor behind a desk that’s placed in the middle of public view where your whole entire transcript can be aired out in the open?

A campus that is working hard to be a leader in technology – even going as far as hiring a vice president for information technology and a trustee who played a huge role in her community for technology – and they can’t even do over-the-phone advising, much less, email me back the next day?

A campus that claims to care for its students and yet when we demand answers, all we get are these half-assed attempts at logical explanations like, “oh yeah, you actually have to get up and twirl around.”

It’s downright outrageous.

I don’t understand how I can line everything up for these people and they just somehow manage to endanger my goal of graduating. Am I wrong for assuming that Dance 2 would count a week after my petition was granted?

It seems to me that miscommunication is not only between students and the administration and management that runs that campus. It’s also within their system.

I can’t wait to graduate. Hopefully, they’ll let me.

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About neilprotacio

Freelance journalist who just so happens to know what goes well with certain breads.
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2 Responses to Counseling at Pasadena City College

  1. Pingback: Eyebrow raising editorial from the Pasadena Sun. | Neil Protacio

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