Community Colleges Prioritizing Accessibility

In many cases, the conduct offices at community colleges are just beginning to focus on their own department's needs and their changes within their personal lives after having prioritized student reach outs to seek to create equity where able amid a shift to online learning that creates barriers for so many. 

If you're reading this, you have at least some form of privilege. Before you dig too deeply into the sense of discomfort and defensiveness that just washed over you, consider whether you can answer yes to one or more of these questions:
  • Are you accessing this article via internet? Is that internet being accessed from your residence? 
  • Are you currently sitting in your place of residence? Is that location air conditioned/heated? Is it secure? Does it have running water? Is the power on?
  • Are you reading this on a smartphone, laptop, or other device that you own or had access to borrow, such as from an employer?
  • Does the content of these blogs relate to employment which you currently hold?
  • Are you able to read this article using your eyesight? If not, do you have access to audio software?
  • Do you know where your next meal is coming from later today?
  • Is the article written in your primary or first language?
  • Do you hold a college degree and/or high school diploma/GED? Does your level of literacy enable you to read and interpret this writing?
There are thousands of characteristics that could classify as being of privilege even if identities such as race, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, sexual orientation, ability, and socioeconomic status are usually at the center of the discussion. 
Though varying levels of privilege exist at every institution and some strides have been made over the past decades to meet varying student needs in search of equity, the schools most in tune with student accessibility are arguably remain community colleges. The open access nature of community colleges brings with it a wider range of student needs and a higher level of awareness of student needs.  
While four-year institutions were quick to announce remote operations and online courses, community colleges waited longer to make these decisions knowing that the impact to students, faculty, and staff would be significant. In some cases, the schools have continued to make announcements about campus operations on a weekly basis amidst the frustrated cries of students who see the research institution down the road committing to planning months ahead.
Though not entirely exclusive to community colleges, attempts to work with students first focused on access to technology and other resources before shifting to other needs students likely face during this time. Like other institutions, there has been an increased willingness to work with students on a case-by-case basis and to include pass/fail options, changes in withdrawal deadlines, incomplete coursework, and conduct cases including sanctions. Adaptations to workforce education classes could not be moved online and now are taught in tiny sections where no more than 5 persons convene at a time. Some have instituted calling campaigns to check in on all students, gauge their needs and disposition, and offer guidance and resources where able. Yet another prioritized courting donors for gifts that would directly benefit students such as through the purchase of technology for those without access to it.
In many cases, the conduct offices at community colleges are just beginning to focus on their own department's needs and their changes within their personal lives after having prioritized student reach outs to seek to create equity where able amid a shift to online learning that creates barriers for so many. 
As the nation drifts into a recession, historic trends indicate that community colleges may see increased enrollment within the coming years as the unemployed and underemployed look to develop tangible training or skills without the need to relocate and with no need to pay an average of three times more for the price tag of a four-year institution. While the future may end up positive for community colleges at a time when many colleges face financial hardship, what we have at present is a privilege check. 
To be clear, I do recognize the students-first efforts being made at varying institutional types and know that an awareness and empathy for students experiencing hardship is present other places. But to sit down with a group of all community college folx and hear discussions of access to education at the forefront of thought demonstrated the unique nature of these institutions and their servant leaders. Let's not forget that students with barriers to their education exist at every institution and use the conversation started by community college employees to fuel us to advocate for students with barriers to their education on our own campuses.
Aside from discussions of access to education and privilege considerations during transition to remote learning and employment, Friday's ASCA Chats topic of “COVID at Community College” also touched on the following topics:

Hearing cases:
  • One institution no longer doing full panel hearings, only one-on-one
  • Still scheduling as done before, just online instead of in-person
File contents:
  • Schools using Microsoft 365 to share files with a “kill link,” which no longer works after an allotted period of time, but Google Docs also has similar feature
  • Waivers being used to let students waive their right to see a physical copy of case file, but able to see the redacted version digitally
  • Guidelines for electronic file sharing outline that screen capture or distribution will be considered an additional code violation
  • Mixed feedback of whether campuses had met since going remote
  • Continuing within virtual world as similar as possible to on campus setting
Academic partnerships:
  • Nature of cases changing. Most on campus incidents were related to classroom disruption, but online environment alters that
  • Contacting academic teams to say “we are still here” and explaining how conduct offices can be of assistance (what to look for, online behaviors, academic integrity, etc)
Personal reflections:
  • Being home leads to feelings of isolation
  • Have more meetings now than when working on campus, struggling with balance
  • Peloton, Nike Training, and Daily Burn all have extended free trials currently
  • If able, encouraging persons in meetings to use video to allow for more connectedness 
  • Able to better focus on other projects, nice to not have to feel “on” all the time
  • Summer projects being started earlier
 Bonus: --
Want to join a future chat? Check out our schedule and register online
Have additional thoughts or recommendations on any of the questions/topics discussed during today's chats? Feel free to share in the comments.
Any opinions, stated or implied, are those of the author and do not reflect the official view, position, or endorsement of the Association for Student Conduct Administration.
Photo: Crisserbug | Getty Images


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