Information About Reading Proficiency Requirements

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Dr. Bob Simpson

December 12, 2013

Information About Reading Proficiency Requirements

I believe that as we debate and discuss important matters, our conversations should be factually based. Recently, some factually inaccurate information has surfaced regarding the Reading Proficiency graduation requirements at Cypress College. I want to assure that all members of the community are aware of the facts, and — most importantly — I want students to understand how the college works toward issue resolution with their interest foremost in our minds. Cypress College is a student-focused institution, and the work we do here is because of and for them.

In the spirit of transparency, I also want to provide some background information on the issue. Last month, during her report to Members of the Board of Trustees of the North Orange County Community College District, Cypress College Student Trustee Claudia Peña stated that she was concerned about the Reading Proficiency graduation requirement at Cypress College. Ms. Peña stated that she believed additional courses offered at the college should also meet this requirement. Similar concerns had previously been expressed at the Cypress College Curriculum Committee by a group of faculty, and were subsequently a topic discussed in the media, including articles in The Orange County Register, the Fullerton Observer, and our student-published Divergence Magazine. The information shared at the Board meeting and in these articles was not factually accurate. I believe it is important to correct the record for the benefit of our students, the community, the public, and historical accuracy.

The Reading Proficiency Requirement has been in place at Cypress College, substantially in its current form, since 1978. The faculty of the college established through the curriculum review process that students should be able to read at a minimum level of proficiency before they have earned an associate’s degree. There are a variety of ways in which students can demonstrate this requirement, including a satisfactory score on the English placement test, a passing grade in a variety of English courses of the college, or by passing a rigorous Reading Proficiency test.

One of the concerns expressed to the Board and in the media is that there are more ways for students to meet the requirement at Fullerton College than are available at Cypress College. In point of fact, there are eight ways for students at Cypress College to demonstrate proficiency in reading. There are only seven ways for students to do so at Fullerton College.

Another concern expressed in these arenas was that Cypress College was in violation of District Board Policy. Our Policy states that courses meeting general education requirements at one of the District credit institutions will be given that same consideration at the other institution. We have followed this policy and will continue to do so. The Reading Proficiency Requirement is not a general education course; it is a local degree requirement. Local degree requirements are established by the colleges across the state and vary from institution to institution. There is no policy or regulatory basis for arguing that local degree requirements must be uniform even within a District.

I am particularly dismayed by the assertion that I have not been available to comment on this issue. To my knowledge neither the Observer nor Divergence sought to contact me or my office for a statement. Since becoming president, I have consistently maintained an open door policy for any member of the campus community or the public who wishes to speak with me or raise a concern. Each week, I host “President’s Office Hours” where I am available to anyone to discuss any issue; these hours are posted in the @Cypress Newsletter each week. During the semester, I also hold “President’s Open Forum” events that are open to all, and I am additionally available by appointment.

Although I am happy to contribute to the resolution of important matters of the college whenever I can do so, the majority of issues at the college are resolved without the need for my involvement. Students are officially represented by elected members of Associated Students who serve in an official capacity on a number of college committees, including the President’s Advisory Cabinet. Employees are represented in a variety of capacities through committee participation, bargaining units, and bodies such as the Academic Senate. Despite the impression given in the published articles, our Associated Students have not taken an official position related to the Reading Proficiency Requirement. Likewise, I have discussed the concerns with the Reading Department Chair, the Language Arts Division Dean, and the Executive Vice President; none has received complaints on the issue from students.

In terms of how the campus is responding to concerns over the Reading Proficiency requirement, as recently as last week, members of the Reading Department and the English Department met to review and explore the best way to proceed, including the possible expansion of the number of courses that will meet the Reading Proficiency Requirement for graduation. This work is being conducted in a collegial and collaborative manner to ensure that students’ needs are met while maintaining the academic integrity of graduation requirements. Changes to the proficiency requirement, if warranted, will be approved through the college’s curriculum review process, incorporated in the 2014-2015 Cypress College Catalog, and implemented for the fall 2014 semester. Since any such changes must first be published in the catalog, this timeline means that they will be made available for students at the first possible opportunity.

One of our four core values at Cypress College is “collegiality” and I believe deeply in this principle of working together to discuss and resolve our differences. I expect that this issue will be resolved — as most issues at the college are — within that context of professional respect.

These are matters of great importance, matters about which honorable people can disagree. It is our desire to resolve these issues in accord with the regular processes of the college, being respectful of the right of faculty to determine curriculum and academic standards in accord with their determination of what constitutes appropriate rigor and pedagogy, while keeping foremost in our thoughts and in our actions what we believe to be in the best interest of our students.

Dr. Bob Simpson, President
Cypress College

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