It's Old! It's Young! It's a Student!

By Al Krauss

The Academic Senate, Superintendent/President Carl Ehmann, the minuscule ASMC, full time English teacher Nancy McClelland, and assorted others have plunged into a debate with the Eagle staff about who can or can't write for this newspaper.

There is a kind of Catch 22. Firstly, if you say the paper should be written by "students only", and you're thinking of "students" as innocent, pliable young things fresh out of high school, then you' ll have to take a pretty close look at the composition of the student body.

For example, this article is written by an "outside agitator" (expression used by those persons concerned with shining on the issues) who might or might not qualify to write for the paper under the proposed new rules, being over the age of 50 and a student by virtue of taking two evening courses.

Or, you could ask another question: Whom does the paper serve? Does it serve the people who read it and find in it an exploration of issues and events broader than what might be defined strictly as "...of student or curricular concern"?

If you answer yes, then you're going to have to look at the paper as an integral part of the College, serving several purposes at once.

This is a moment for all of us to take the very necessary pause that refreshes (no credit to the leading junk drink).

We perched for an Eagle's eye view from above our portrait on the water tank and watched the assortment of people drifting along among the great green lawns and monuments to the former college president, B&G czar Lee Lowery (the library bears his name, for those of you who have not been here forever).

We descended into the throng during midmorning class break, took on human form, and noticed something strange. Females seemed to outnumber males (they do literally, and by a large margin, as you will discover if you look further on down in this column).

In fact, there is a decidedly broad age range among the pedestrians traipsing along the walks between buildings and to and from the parking lot.

We noticed also, with our all seeing multi-dimensional eye, that there are a lot of teachers who don't have phones or offices, and that this class of persons seemed to be indistinguishable from the general crowd.

Using our human intelligence combined with those Eagle eyes of ours, we determined to solve the mysteries, not only of the strange mix of putative (suspected to be) students, but of the shortage of phones and offices among teachers (try to reach an unlisted one - unless they've volunteered to give their home phone to students, it's like searching for the disappeared ones in the Chilean prison system).

The explanation for the missing phones/offices turned out to have a very simple answer. Would you believe it? Consistently, there have been so many part-time faculty that they outnumber all other categories of employee. This means, there are more of them than all of the administration, full time faculty, and classified employees put together, and then some.

In fact, part timers have averaged roughly between 52% and 56% of all persons drawing wages or salary from the College. There are 180 of them, and they draw relatively low hourly wages for the equal work they do in terms of class prep time, student consultations, lectures, etc. And they have none of the "perks" (perquisites) of administrators or full time faculty, like name recognition, or cubby holes for storing bag lunches.

For purposes of comparison, next semester it is estimated that there will be all of 25 full time faculty members (down from 37 over the past few years). This means, full time teaching, not half-administering, half-teaching.

And, to get an even more balanced perspective, it is worth noting that in this same upcoming semester, the number of administrators will be higher (27) than the cited number of full time teaching faculty.

It's old, It's young, Is it a Superstudent?

In our hybrid raptor/humanoid form we penetrated further into the administrative aires (def: lofty perches, not only for us Eagles, but for another species of large creature known as vultures) where we obtained a statistical report prepared by Dr. (Thomas) MacMillan, dated June 7, 1997, entitled "Mendocino College Accountability Resource Data".

Actually, our action wasn't all that conspiratorial (sorry). Kristi Taylor happily lent this bird a copy of the report in return for a promissory note: my human soul if it were not returned.

You must know that the data in Dr. MacMillan's report was not developed to answer the kinds of idle questions ordinary mortals and eagles might ask, but was formatted specifically to satisfy the needs of various federal and state programs (bureaucratic compromises).

We mentioned the preponderance of females? Well, they outnumber males consistently over the span of six school years included in the study by an overwhelming majority. In fact, the ratio is very nearly two to one.

As I say, look around!

Wading into the gold mine for factoid nuggets, we uncovered an odd anomaly, to wit: The number of enrolling students who contribute their body count to something called other ("other" than male or female) has grown each year, from 0.02% in Fall of '9l to 0.52% in Fall of '96, or a 26 fold increase.

Either the general level of the understanding of satire has risen, or people are becoming remarkably innovative.

We understand, of course, that a gay/lesbian person might not care to consider him/her self identifiable by the straight standards of an official bureaucracy. Bottom line, this piece of seemingly trivial statistical marker must carry some sort of message about the changing times.

Bear with my pecking beak here (you know, of course, that Eagles will scavenge dead meat in the absence of fresh game, just like any good vulture). However, the information hasn't been dead very long, so here is some more for your plate:

When you look at the breakdown by age, you realize that information relating to full time/ part time students is not correlated to age at all, even though you "know" that a greater proportion of the youngest students are likely to be full time.

The under 20 group for the past three years accounts for 20% of the students, while the next age category (20 - 29) is only slightly larger (just over 25% for the same three years).

Still, looking at that three year period, senior citizens (that's what you become in these tables, if you're one day into your 50th year) have amounted to just under 15%, with the bulging middle group (not bellies, but ages 30 - 49) constituting 40% of all students.

How do you use such information? Lots of young twenties don't believe they've left their teen years behind. The rest of us may or may not shine on our age differences, and even the best among us tend to want to be treated as the individuals we are, not by the categories on information forms.

The under twenty group includes a good sprinkling of students who are technically part of the "K-12" category. You have to sleuth around on another page, in a table showing students by Academic Level, then subtract the number given there for students K-12 from the number of students under 20, to arrive at a number of "maybe" high school graduates under 20.

That leaves you with a piece of "extrapolated" information (fancy term for calculated guess) to the effect that the kind of "student" some faculty members fantasize about when they talk "student" belongs to the group of under 20 "maybe" high school grads, who only make up 15% of the student body.

It's only when you look at the tables which purport to define the numbers of full time versus part time students, that you begin to realize how statistics spin off into meaninglessness. Except, of course, for the agencies spewing out tax dollars according to legalistic formulas. (parenthetical remark/question here for the English Department: would you have preferred formula?)

If you thought the distinction between a 29 yr. old and a 31 yr. old might be academic (no pun intended), what about the distinction between a 5 unit part time student and a full time 7 unit student? Who is leading a part-time life, and who is leading a full-time life?

Then, take a look at the tables which dutifully sum up all the "Stated Student Goals" of all "matriculated" students, that is, been "formally admitted with a stated goal."

Adding up all the categories, meaning all the students who consider themselves as having the goal of [1] transfer only, or [2] AA/AS only, or [3] both transfer and AA/AS, or [4] Voc AA/AS, or [5] Certificate of Completion, we come up with just a little over a trifling 8% of students who have a "goal" as defined by statewide institutions of higher learning.

Does this mean that most students "have no goals"? Rather, aren't we all, on staff, in administration, as students, as human beings, in the process of defining ourselves and setting goals, both practical and dream-driven?

I speak as a student when I say that I'm sure Dr. MacMillan, and anyone else living in the real world of highly unique individuals, understands the weakness of trying to sum us all up.

Single moms re-entering the work force, high school nongrads sort of exploring, or catching up, or getting ready for 4 year schools, technicians picking up more skills, or any of hundreds just taking in new experiences, refresher courses, and on and on, we are all unique in a myriad of individual ways. .

Furthermore, returning now to that throng of people on the sidewalks at the beginning of this article, we understand that we have seen a College Community which contains its own unique diversity, where students and staff members blend in a mix of people with few real boundaries except the arbitrary ones imposed by administrative persons of limited perspective (they have no Eagle blood in them).

In this world we all live in, we might well be asking ourselves how best we can help each other.

Then, perhaps, we can really discover who we are.

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