Students trying to save their daytime literacy class from elimination
By Patrick Vaillancourt, News Editor
Students in an adult basic literacy class at Douglas College were disappointed to learn that their request to petition the college board of directors to save their daytime class will not be heard.
A committee consisting of literacy students as well as their I-CARE program tutors requested to speak at the next meeting of the Douglas College Board of Directors scheduled for November 21 at the David Lam campus in Coquitlam. They were preparing to make a presentation to the board, pleading with them to overturn a college senior management team decision about eliminating the daytime adult basic literacy class. Last week, their request was formally rejected.
Agenda item requests to the board are first screened by the Board Executive and Governance Committee (BEGC), a sub-committee which includes all of the committee chairs as well as the chair and vice-chairs of the college’s board of directors. College President Scott McAlpine and Shelagh Donnelly, the executive assistant to the college board of directors, are listed as resource personnel for the BEGC.
In response to the request made by the group of literacy students, Donnelly suggested that the BEGC referred the matter back to McAlpine.
In an email obtained by the Other Press, Donnelly wrote that “Dr. McAlpine advised that he and Dr. Kathy Denton, the college’s vice-president academic and provost, have arranged to meet with you in early December.”
Faye Douglas, the I-CARE tutor spearheading the request to present the concerns of adult literacy students to the board, wrote back to Donnelly, saying that her response was vague and requesting clarification.
“Am I to understand that we will not be provided with an opportunity to make a presentation at the November 21 board meeting?” wrote Douglas.
“You’re correct regarding the November Board meeting,” replied Donnelly, saying that she would be in contact if the board would be interested in meeting with her and the literacy students.
Specifics of the proposed meeting were not disclosed in the email, and at press time there is no information about when that meeting will take place or if a mutually agreeable compromise has been proposed.
According to the BEGC Terms of Reference document, dated 2010, committee members are to be “independent of management”; however, an exception is made for the Douglas College president, who is to serve as resource personnel to the committee.
The group has been invited to send one student and one tutor from the committee for a meeting with McAlpine and Denton. The meeting, according to sources familiar with its terms, will allow the student and tutor to make a presentation before McAlpine and Denton, who will then judge whether the group merits time at the January 23, 2014 Douglas College board meeting.
The elimination of the daytime literacy class, which will take effect at the end of the 2013, will affect about 12 students, many of whom cannot access Douglas College’s evening literacy class due to a physical handicap or family responsibilities.
Students are calling the elimination of their class unfair, and are angered by the notion that the board will not meet with them at this month’s meeting.
A representative with the Douglas Students’ Union (DSU) who is familiar with the plight of these literacy students, and did not want to be identified until the DSU had a chance to discuss how and whether they will respond, said that senior management did not want to put the literacy case before the college board until after the daytime adult basic literacy class has been eliminated.
“What’s absolutely clear to me is that the senior management team is looking to drag this out until the new year by eliminating any hope these students have of saving their class,” said the DSU source. “It’s much easier to say ‘too late’ to a group of students whose class has already been cut than to say ‘no’ while the class is ongoing.”
The literacy students are now writing letters to their provincial members of the legislative assembly and are coordinating a response to this latest setback.