By Lylah Schmedel
May 17, 2023
Seats were full at both sessions of the “Laney Students Listening Forum,” where students and professors alike came to voice their concerns about current issues at Laney College. A majority of the students came from the Welding and Cosmetology Departments.
Students brought up facilities issues, such as a lack of A/C or heat in their classrooms. They also raised concerns about the safety and quality of instruction at Laney, which they believe has been affected by short staffing. Additionally, a deaf student shared that she has not received proper accommodations for her disability.
Students from both the Cosmetology and Welding Departments complained that their classrooms did not have A/C or heating during very cold and very warm periods of the year. Welding students, who operate furnaces that produce a lot of excess heat, described the temperatures they experienced without A/C as “unbearable.” Cosmetology students reported using hair dryers to stay warm during this past winter.
Amy Marshall, Director of Facilities & College Operations for Laney College, attempted to address students’ concerns.
“Hang in there, heat is on the way,” Marshall said. She also mentioned that there were already temporary chillers recently installed throughout the campus to regulate A/C.
Cosmetology students also told Marshall that their facilities were out of hot water for several months.
“You shouldn’t have to wonder if you’re going to have hot water, you should pretty much be able to depend on it,” Marshall responded. She stated that hot water was restored on April 11.
Inadequate Staffing and Class Cuts
Welding and Cosmetology students expressed their view that there currently are not enough instructors employed at the college to provide sufficient supervision for individual students attending classes in their departments.
A welding student said that at times a single instructor must supervise more than 30 students, limiting the students’ access to clear instruction as they operate dangerous machinery.
Students and a professor from the Cosmetology Department also expressed a need for additional support staff. The professor said that she is unable to give her students enough opportunities to work on real clients, or teach proper handling of hazardous chemicals, due to insufficient support staff.
“It doesn’t have to be another faculty, it could be an assistant,” she said.
One senior in the Cosmetology program claimed that she has worked on less than five clients, and does not feel well equipped to handle real clients.
Additionally, students who work and attend school at the same time complained about cuts to night and summer classes. They attributed these cuts as part of the reason that they struggle to complete all of the coursework required to graduate.
Laney College President Rudy Besikof cited budget cuts and enrollment declines as reasons for the inadequate staffing and cuts to classes. Besikof and Vice President of Instruction Rebecca Opsata, who was also present at the forum, both said they were taking notes of the students’ concerns, with the hope of addressing them in the future. However, Opsata said she gives “no guarantees” that staffing for welding or cosmetology will improve anytime soon.
Jaqueline Gascon-Lopez, who is deaf, said that she does not have access to an ASL interpreter in her cosmetology classes, putting strain on her instructor who does not know ASL. Her classmates chimed in with examples of misunderstandings that could have been avoided with the presence of an interpreter. Gascon-Lopez shared that she knew of many other deaf people who would join the cosmetology program, if it were made accessible.
The faculty representatives encouraged students who continue to have concerns to reach out to their professors, deans, or various resources on campus such as Eagles Nest, Umoja, Puente, SOAR, and EOPS.