California Faculty Association demands fair treatment from CSU

The ongoing budget cuts to California’s higher education system have affected students and administrators, but the effects have also taken a toll on adjunct faculty.

Adjuncts, also typically categorized as “lecturers,” are temporarily appointed faculty not tenured to the institutions at which they teach. Their jobs hinge on budget availability and class enrollment. They are paid by the course, and may or may not receive benefits depending on the number of classes they teach.

“As the budget starts to erode, and we have less class sections, the first to lose their jobs are lecturers or adjuncts, because they are part-time and temporary personnel,” said Nate Thomas, CSUN chapter president of the California Faculty Association.

The association is a union that represents 23,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches in the California State University system, according to its website.

Faculty in the Cal State system are currently working under a contract that expired 22 months ago. Members of the association would like to maintain the same terms and conditions in the expired June 2010 contract, but Thomas said a new proposed contract would cut benefits, increase the number of students in each class, and require faculty to pay more for parking.

“What they’re doing is using a bad economy to dish out a bad contract for us and using this crisis to diminish the power of the faculty,” he said.

In addition to their contract status, faculty have not received a raise in four years, Thomas said.

As a result, members of the association have been voting on a two-day rolling strike, which if approved, would take place in the fall throughout the 23 Cal State campuses.

While different types of teachers are represented in the California Faculty Association, each group has varying levels of compensation and job security.

Instructors at universities are generally classified into one of three categories: tenured faculty, tenure-track faculty and lecturers.

Tenured faculty are essentially guaranteed permanent employment and typically teach a 15-unit course load. Twelve of these units are taught in classrooms, and they serve on committees, complete community service and advise students to meet the remaining three units.

Tenure-track faculty are full-time instructors who are on the way to becoming tenured, and do so by performing community service and academic research during a six-year probationary period.

Leslie Bryan is a lecturer in the theater arts department at Cal State San Bernardino, which follows a quarter system. Every 10 weeks, she faces the possibility of losing her job.

“I think my nerves are just worn out right now, but usually around the eighth week, I start getting nervous about what’s going to happen next quarter,” she said. “It’s hard to plan anything long term, because you don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Bryan has taught at San Bernardino for 14 years, and remains non-tenured at the university. She also teaches a class in San Bernardino’s humanities department because she is teaching one theater class less than she normally does.

Like tenured faculty, lecturers are considered full-time with a course load of 15 units, which on average comes out to five classes. They also hold office hours, but are not required to serve on committees or perform community service like tenured and tenure-track faculty.

Elizabeth Hoffman, an English teacher at Cal State Long Beach, is a lecturer and a member of the California Faculty Association’s bargaining committee. She also previously served as the organization’s associate vice president.

Hoffman said the hardest aspect about her teaching status is the job uncertainty, but because lecturers are paid less, they are a cheaper option for the administration.

“It’s very hard to get a full-time load of five classes,” she said.

For this reason, lecturers may pick up classes at other campuses to make ends meet.

Hoffman has taught at multiple campuses, including Long Beach City College.

“Students don’t need faculty running between campuses. Instead of having one person divide their work up between three campuses, why not have more permanent faculty?” she said.

While picking up another class in another department has enabled Bryan to pay rent, it would still be easier for her to focus on one area, she said.

Still, even with the continuous cuts to the Cal State University system and uncertainty she faces as a lecturer, Bryan is passionate about her job.

“I love working with students. I’m going to stay there as long as I can,” she said.

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LADCP encourages community input in changing city streets

Participants in a mobility workshop held Saturday at LACMA highlight the streets they use for short trips, long trips, and their community's main street. (Photo by Agnes Constante)

To improve mobility in the city, the Los Angeles Department of City Planning (LADCP) held workshops Saturday to obtain feedback from citizens who commute around the area.

Data presented at the workshops revealed that the majority of Angelenos get around by driving solo, accounting for 65.7 percent of drivers. A total of 11.2 percent of them commute via public transportation, and other methods of moving around include carpooling, walking and biking.

“We know how important it is to start changing our streets from single-purpose streets to actually accommodating bicycles, pedestrians, as well as transit,” said Claire Bowin, city planner for the LADCP.

At the workshops, which were held at Van Nuys City Hall and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), multiple stations were set up displaying information about the city’s transit system, demographics and street features that could make it easier for people to move around.

“The idea is to really just get LA moving more effectively,” said Bryan Eck, mobility planner for the LADCP.

Jessica Bremner, a resident in Silver Lake who commutes to Downtown LA for work, gets around via public transit.

“I am car-less, so I walk and take the bus and Metro every single day,” she said.

Bremner said some ways the city could enhance public transportation would be to add more bus lanes and more frequent service.

As a female, Bremner said she is concerned with the safety of bus stops and shelters. She would like them lit better, as she also commutes at night.

Echo Park resident Richard France found the workshop at LACMA nice because he was able to speak with people involved in the planning process, but is skeptical about the impact of citizens’ input.

“I think there needs to be a dose of reality in all of this. There are so many constraints that all your input is going to be for nothing if (the city doesn’t) have money,” he said.

This project is currently in its early stages, but the goal is to finalize plans by 2014, according to Eck.

Two other workshops concerning this matter will be held 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in Los Angeles, and 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Pacoima Neighborhood Constituent Services Center. Both workshops will take place Saturday.

http://sundial.csun.edu/2012/02/49891/

Learning Through Travel – St. Francis Student Shares Argentina Experience

Nov. 10, 2011

Paul Dean poses in front of the Casa Rosada, the “White House” of Argentina. (Photo courtesy of Paul Dean)

Eight weeks in Argentina was all it took for Paul Dean’s perspective on the world to change.

“[This trip] made me think I’m pretty small in the world, and I can affect how countries view each other,” said the St. Francis High School senior.

And now, after having gone to South America, Dean is considering pursuing intercultural business.

Dean traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina this past summer through AFS, a non-profit international exchange organization that operates in more than 50 countries. It allows students and adults to learn about different cultures through various programs.

“For students who realize that there is a world beyond Southern California, an AFS exchange can present a once in a lifetime opportunity to live not as a tourist, but as a citizen of your host country,” said Matthew Jacobs, volunteer sending coordinator for AFS in Greater Los Angeles.

Those who participate in the program live with a local family, attend school in the country they visit, and meet people in that country.

Dean did all of these, and observed differences between the American and Argentinean education systems.

“Schooling there is a really big problem,” he said.

Since he was there during the summer, he wasn’t required to take tests or complete assignments, as his credits wouldn’t count. However, he noticed that there were only three tests given during his time there, that teachers were lenient during class time, and that there was hardly any homework given.

After attending school at Rio de la Plata Sur, Dean finds the American education system better.

“A lot of times teachers there are seen as friends rather than authority figures,” he said.

Another aspect of the culture that stood out to Dean was the friendliness of the Argentinean people.

“If you ever need help if you’re trying to speak Spanish, they’re more than helpful,” he said. “Friendship means a lot to them…. People were glad to meet me.”

Paul Dean poses with his Argentine host family and friends on his last night before returning to California. (Photo courtesy of Paul Dean)

What also helped Dean fit right in was his love for soccer, as the sport is popular in Argentina.

“I’m a soccer player, but soccer in the U.S. is nothing compared to soccer in Argentina. Soccer is like more than a religion there,” he said.

One of the highlights of Dean’s trip occurred on his second day in the country when a riot broke out following the demotion of River Plate, an Argentinean soccer team.

“For a week, that’s the only thing people talked about,” he said.

While the AFS program is designed to have participants live like locals, Dean also visited tourist sights including La Casa Rosada (which literally means “The Pink House” and is the equivalent of America’s White House), El Obelisco and La Plata.

Dean’s participation in the program was encouraged by his mom Terri, who at one point was an exchange student in Ecuador through AFS. Like her son, Terri’s experience gave her an appreciation of different cultures and people. She also remains in touch with her host family and sees several of them every few years.

“The fact I still have another family in another country and still keep in touch is a pretty special relationship,” she said.

Dean said he recommends the program 110%.

Paul Dean is seen here with his host family at an amusement park, “Ciudad de los Ninos.” (Photo courtesy of Paul Dean)

“If you’re willing to give up one summer … it will change your view and you’ll have a ton of fun doing it,” he said. “It’s hard missing your family [while you’re away], but it’s something that’s worth it. I’m glad I did this while I have time.”

More information about AFS programs is available at www.afsla.org and www.afs.org.

Neighborhood Uses Facebook to Keep Watch

Aug. 4, 2011

From personal profiles and games to event listings and business pages, Facebook serves a number of diverse purposes for more than 750 million users.

For Sparr Heights, a neighborhood located in northern Glendale, Facebook Groups has emerged as a popular function of the networking site. A group called “Sparr Heights Neighborhood – 91208” was created in June 2010 and serves as a virtual neighborhood watch program for the community.

“I wish every zip code had [a Facebook group],” Evan Gore, founder of the Sparr Heights Neighborhood – 91208 group, said.

Gore created the group after his high school reunion and after his house got robbed, both of which occurred last year.

“[The robbery] sort of got me more mindful of wanting to tell people and communicate with neighbors,” he said.

The group currently has more than 180 members who also use the group as an open forum to make announcements about various topics, from yard sales to upcoming events.

“It’s a great way to advertise neighborhood events that one might not know about otherwise,” said Lynda Hessick, a member of the group.

Unusual observances are also posted on the group’s wall. Recent concerns include recurring helicopter noise earlier in June and American flag thefts in early July.

Apart from these purposes, members use the group to announce if they’re giving things away, ask for recommendations on professional services (like for good plumbers and accountants), look for missing pets and seek resources from others.

While not all members are personally acquainted with one another, the group has fostered an online sense of community that has even assisted newer members in becoming more acclimated to the area.

“[Everyone] is sharing information and so welcoming and friendly,” said Valerie Robinett Joico, who just moved to Sparr Heights from San Francisco. “It has helped us with our daily lives as well as our social lives. As far as neighborhood watch is concerned, it gives such good info and everyone has each others back … that helps me sleep at night.”

Additionally, the Facebook group has served as a platform for members to organize donations for a family whose house burned down a few months ago, as well as donations for a needy family last Christmas.

The Sparr Heights Neighborhood Facebook page is open and visible to the public, and although privacy has long been a concern with the networking site, Gore doesn’t think the issue is something to worry much about. He hasn’t seen any evidence of abuse and pointed out that people can adjust privacy settings so as to share only specific information.

For Gore, one of the more positive outcomes of the way Facebook works is that he has developed acquaintances with people in the neighborhood who have recognized him from his profile photo.

The group has been up and running for a year now and users continue to use it as a means of informing fellow members and seeking information.

“I’ve asked for information, referrals, ideas and never been disappointed with the results,” group member Renee Brandt said. “I know the people offering input and trust it.”

http://www.crescentavalleyweekly.com/news/08/04/2011/neighborhood-uses-facebook-to-keep-watch/

Foothill Resident Stands Amidst the Clouds

July 14, 2011

La Crescenta resident Gary Nelson is at the top of Mount Everest on May 19. (Photo courtesy of Gary Nelson)
In May, Gary Nelson stood more than 29,000 feet above sea level. After days of trekking through snow-covered mountains in Nepal, he made it to the top of the world’s highest peak: Mount Everest.

“I’d been thinking about [climbing Everest] for a long time,” Nelson said. “A year ago I realized, given how old I was and the fact I fall out of shape so fast … that it was either now or I probably wasn’t going to do it.”

At 52, Nelson, a lawyer specializing in trademarks, is an avid climber.

“He climbs mountains because with every climb, there is a goal which is to reach the top,” his wife Sherrie said. “The satisfaction of reaching the top is what drives him to climb more mountains.”

In addition to Mount Everest, Nelson has tackled Mount Kilmanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa; Denali in Alaska; Aconcagua in South America; and Mount Elbrus in Russia.

The La Crescenta resident began preparing for the climb last summer when he scaled Mount Baldy. He also worked out regularly on a stepmaster.

Nelson’s ascension to the peak of Mount Everest involved going up the mountain and coming back down three times to help his body acclimate to the change in altitude. There were a total of five camps where trekkers would rest before continuing their way upward.

He reached the top of Mount Everest at 7:45 a.m. on May 19, beginning his final ascension at 9:45 p.m. the previous day.

Gary Nelson stands in front of prayer flags at Mount Everest.

“Summit day was pretty fun. [It] was pretty spectacular,” he said. “It felt great. The weather was perfect. There was no wind, and it can get vicious up there.”

Although Nelson was physically fit enough for the climb, he developed a mild case of pulmonary edema, a condition in which fluid builds up in the lungs. The buildup in Nelson’s lungs was due to the rising altitudes. He had to see a few doctors, but the damage wasn’t permanent.

“What [the pulmonary edema] does do is probably make me more susceptible to it [in the future], should I go up that high again. And so it’s something I have to worry about now if I ever climb [Everest] again,” he said.

He added that he didn’t observe symptoms of the condition unless he was higher than around 23,000 feet. He does intend to take precautions for future climbs by bringing medication along.

Scaling up thousands of feet in the snowy slopes of Nepal where temperatures dipped below freezing required Nelson to wear a special suit that weighed five pounds. And while ascending with the extra weight posed a challenge, he found going back down more difficult.

“Coming down you have more opportunity to fall,” he said. “That’s why it’s easier to get hurt.”

In fact, during the climb Nelson fell into an ice crack covered by snow, causing his left knee to twist. He also banged the same knee against the Hilary Step, a rock face well known to climbers near the top of the mountain. Yet despite this injury and the pulmonary edema, he successfully made it to the top of the mountain, back down and returned home in mid-June.

“Once he made the decision to take on this climbing challenge, I knew very little would prevent him from achieving this goal of summitting Everest,” Sherrie said. “He doesn’t back down from anything in life unless there is a really good reason.”

Making it to an altitude of more than 29,000 feet may seem a daunting goal, but for Nelson, it serves as a useful reminder.

“I need to constantly remind myself that I can do things that I don’t necessarily think I can do when I first think about it,” he said. “Climbing … eliminates your excuses of why you can’t do things.”

http://www.crescentavalleyweekly.com/news/07/15/2011/foothill-resident-stands-amidst-the-clouds/

Former GCC Softball Player Pursues R&B Career

June 8, 2011

Jamie Avancena

She’s a descendant of a former Philippine president, but that’s not how Jamie Avanceña wants to be labeled.

“I want people to know me for me, [not as the great granddaughter of former President Jose Laurel],” the San Marino resident said.

Avanceña, 23, is initially shy when it comes to meeting people. It’s not an expected personality trait of athletes or aspiring artists, but she is: an athlete, an aspiring artist, and, at first encounter, she’s a bit shy.

It is clear from her activities that Avanceña has a knack for sports. At the age of 4 she began playing golf, and at the same time she took ballet, tap, and hip-hop dance lessons. She began playing softball when she was 7 years old, and continued playing the sport in middle school and high school. In 2001 and 2003 the teams she played for won the Little League World Series, and beat Arizona in the 2002 USA Nationals.

Avanceña attended GCC from 2006 to 2008 and was nominated softball team captain in the 2007-08 school year. During her attendance at Glendale, she ranked in the Western State Conference.

“She was probably one of the hardest workers and one of the finest kids we had as a leader,” softball coach Dave Wilder said. “[She was] absolutely the greatest kid … [she was] a very, very good student. [She] worked hard, never talked back and was always there for everybody.”

In the time she played softball, Avanceña received the recognition typical of star athletes. But that type of attention wasn’t something she sought.

“The only reason people knew me was because of sports,” she said. Beyond that, people didn’t know much about her and she even felt invisible.

Avanceña was offered a full scholarship to the University of the Philippines for her achievements in softball, and she attended college there for a year. Yet despite where her athletic talent landed her, she relinquished her scholarship and came back to California.

While her mom wanted her to play softball, she didn’t know for sure if playing for the national softball team of the Philippines was her dream, or if it was her mom’s.

“I grew up with a family where I felt like I couldn’t be myself,” she said. “I felt like I was in their shadow.”

Other members of the aspiring artist’s family were active in Philippine politics. The sons of former President Laurel became vice president, senators, and congressmen. Some other relatives include a former Minister of Labor of the Philippines and a current justice in Makati City.

She doesn’t intend to follow in her relatives’ political footsteps, but Avanceña sticks closer to the path of her uncle, Cocoy Laurel, an artist who has performed on Broadway.

Last summer she released her first album containing four R&B tracks. She co-wrote the fourth song on the album, “It’s My Time,” which is about her breaking out of her shell.

While Avanceña is pursuing a career in music, she admits to not always having had the qualities of a singer.

“The funny part is, growing up I couldn’t sing, I couldn’t dance, I had no tone, no beat,” she said. Despite this, she said singing has always been her passion.

Avanceña first got into music when her grandmother, who she calls Lola Julie, encouraged her to sing karaoke when she was younger. The first song she learned to sing in tune was “Always and Forever” by the funk/disco band Heatwave.

Because she was close to her grandmother, Lola Julie’s death in 2005 presented a difficult time for the then-San Marino High School student. After getting through it, she decided to take a risk and see where her R&B music career would go.

“To this day whenever I sing I make sure to [also] sing for my other grandmother, my Mama Rose [who recently passed away],” she said. “I really sing for them and I got closer to God because of my grandmother Rose because she was in the Catholic Womens League.”

In the Philippines, Avanceña became a song leader in church because of her Mama Rose’s involvement there.

The stepping stone for the aspiring artist was when she auditioned for Tawag Ng Tanghalan, a singing competition, in 2008. The contest was held at the LA Convention Center, and she brought a CD that was incompatible with the player. She was left with no choice but to sing a capella, and she still managed to win third place.

“That’s when I realized to really believe in myself,” she said. “It gave me that confidence. I thought, ‘If the judges see something in me that I don’t see in myself, maybe I’m really meant to do this.'”

She is currently working on her next album with music producer and artist Big Rod from Fun Factory. Big Rod has worked with big names in the music industry including the Backstreet Boys and music manager Johnny Wright.

While Avanceña continues overcoming her shyness and trying to let loose, the music producer said the aspiring artist has a personality that’s easy to work with.

“She’s been an athlete all her life so she’s used to taking critique and then adjusting her game to it, and that’s what she does with her vocals also,” he said. “If I have a problem, I let her know, and she fixes it.”

Another positive aspect Big Rod highlighted about the singer is the unique vocal quality she possesses.

“Her voice is kind of a shape shifter,” the music producer said. “She can make her voice do what it wants to do. She has power … but she can bring it down and sing nice and mellow.”

The Filipina singer is wrapping up her second semester at Pasadena City College and preparing for her upcoming album. She has been listening to dance tracks and ballads, as these are the types of songs scheduled to be featured on her new record. She’ll also be moving to the Philippines during the summer to further her music career.

Despite having faced a lot of uncertainty before finally deciding to pursue a performance career, Avanceña recognizes the hurdles she’s faced as ones that have shaped her character.

“Everything that’s happened in the past has built me into the person I am today,” she said.

http://www.elvaq.com/home/index.cfm?event=displayArticle&ustory_id=2dfde02f-f856-43c3-bf91-21804f5766c4

Credit Unions Offer Alternative to Banks

May 11, 2011

GIVE THEM SOME CREDIT: The mission of credit unions is to serve their community members. Because they're not-for-profit institutions, community members will typically receive better rates and service than those at banks. (Photo by Agnes Constante)

Money just seems to be getting tighter and tighter these days, and for most people, there’s no choice but to live on a strict budget. Whether your money is in a savings account or locked in a time deposit, you’re really not seeing any more than chump change added to what you’ve got in the bank.

Credit unions offer a viable alternative to the for-profit model of banking institutions, and are able to offer a number of benefits to students based on their strucure:

1. Credit unions are not-for-profit institutions

The main difference between banks and credit unions is that banks are for-profit institutions, while credit unions are not-for-profit institutions. This means that they are tax exempt and are there to serve the needs of members of the community.

Unlike banks, where customers don’t have a say in who runs the institution, credit unions are governed by a board of directors elected by their members. Board members are volunteers who don’t get paid.

2. At a credit union, you’re considered a shareholder

“When you open an account, technically you become a shareholder of the credit union,” Stuart Perlitsh, CEO of the Glendale Area Schools Federal Credit Union (GASFCU), said. “You then own a share of the credit union.”

As a shareholder you have a voice in who sits on the board of directors, and you even have the right to run for a position on board if you’d like.

3. You’ll get better rates

Since the goal of credit unions isn’t to profit, members reap the benefits if there’s any extra income.

“The more members we have, the stronger we become,” Carolynn Lyons, business development director of the Glendale City Federal Credit Union (GCFCU), said.

Benefits may come in the form of higher dividends on savings accounts and/or time deposits, and reduced interest rates on credit cards.

4. More than 28,000 ATMs

One common myth about credit unions is that there is a lack of accessible ATMs, but there are actually thousands available throughout the United States. Both the area schools and city federal credit unions are part of an ATM network consisting of more than 28,000 fee-free ATMs. This outnumbers the roughly 18,000 Bank of America ATMs and 12,000 Wells Fargo ATMs throughout the nation. An added convenience, Perlitsh said, is that there is no fee for withdrawing cash at any 7-Eleven.

Credit unions also typically provide locators on their websites so it’s easier to find an ATM close to you.

5. Your money is insured

Similarly to how money in a bank is insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), funds at credit unions are also secure. Federal agencies like the National Credit Union Administration and the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund typically cover $250,000 per account, just like the FDIC does for banks.

6. It’s easy to join!

If you live in a certain city, chances are you’ll be eligible for membership at a credit union. For instance, Burbank Community Federal Credit Union simply requires that a person lives, works, attends school, volunteers, worships, or belongs to an association in Burbank for membership eligibility. Similarly, the GASFCU only requires that a member is a student, faculty, or staff at GCC to open an account.

Most membership requirements can be found on the websites of the credit unions and by calling the institutions.

Other credit unions, like the GCFCU, have more specific requirements, such as being employed by the City of Glendale.

Even if you fall short of these requirements, the Glendale Area Schools credit union has partnered up with the city’s parent teacher association, while the Glendale City union has partnered up with and Friends of the Library. The unions will pay the fee for your membership in these city organizations, so that you are eligible to become part of the credit union.

Money might be getting tighter these days but there are credit unions around to genuinely help you make the most of what you’ve got.

Glendale Area Schools Federal Credit Union
1800 Broadview Drive
Glendale, CA 91208
(818) 248-7425 or (800) 844-5363
http://www.gasfcu.org

Glendale City Employees Federal Credit Union
517 E. Wilson Ave., Suite 102
Glendale, CA 91206
(818) 548-3976
http://www.glendalecitycu.org

http://www.elvaq.com/news/2011/05/11/Features/Credit.Unions.Offer.Alternative.To.Banks-3998284.shtml