The race for Pasadena City College’s Board of Trustees in Area 5 has incumbent Linda Wah and challenger Kristine Kwong, chair of the South Pasadena Parks and Recreation Commission, competing in the June election.
In September 2010, Wah was appointed to serve as trustee for Area 5, which includes San Marino, South Pasadena and Temple City, and has continually been re-elected since.
Wah holds two degrees from California State University of Los Angeles — a bachelor’s degree in business information and a master’s degree in business in management information systems. She is a San Marino resident.
Kwong, a South Pasadena resident, is an education lawyer representing both public and private sector entities throughout California on a variety of operational issues such as labor and employment, student matters, operational compliance and litigation.
In the public sector, Kwong has worked with special districts, parks and recreation districts, water districts, sanitation districts, K-12 schools (public, private and charter) and universities on a variety of matters.
Following are responses they provided to five questions:
Q: How would you improve student body diversity, affirmative action and equality on the Pasadena City College campus?
Wah: PCC has one of the most diverse student bodies in the state. We can identify 1,430 unique ethnicities in the PCC community. They are supported by 80 campus clubs designed to meet the needs of our students. Our students often comment they find PCC a welcoming environment and supportive of their many different cultures and backgrounds.
As one of the trustee leaders for Diversity Equity Inclusion Access, we are focused on instituting DEIA policies, programs and training. Among those policies which will close the gap, is the placement of students in transfer level classes. This year, PCC was named the only California community college to place 100% of our LatinX and Black students into transfer level math and English.
Kwong: A primary way of improving diversity is expanding dual enrollment at our local area high schools. Students that participate in dual enrollment have a higher likelihood of attending college. Additional efforts are needed to foster a stronger relationship between our high schools and PCC to bring in more dual enrollment classes. The law that allowed for dual enrollment was signed in 2015 yet both South Pasadena High School and San Marino High School did not participate in this program until 2021. Temple City High School does not have any dual enrollment classes.
Expanding dual enrollment allows diverse students to earn college credit classes while enrolled in high school that can be transferred to college, making college education more affordable. PCC has a 100% acceptance rate which means any student who applies to PCC will be admitted. Unlike UCs, CSUs and private colleges, community colleges such as PCC accept everyone, which is why I advocate for more visibility and community engagement to educate parents and students on the benefits of attending community colleges.
Q: How do you feel about faculty, student and staff dissatisfaction with the PCC administration, including past votes of no confidence, and does that reflect on the board of trustees?
Kwong: The long history of dissatisfaction by faculty, students and staff is a reflection of the ineffective governance by the current Board of Trustees. A change in culture and priorities is desperately needed to raise the level of satisfaction to create a conducive environment for faculty to deliver exceptional education and for students to focus on learning.
Wah: The recent vote of no confidence was taken by 70% of the faculty reflecting their dissatisfaction with the administration’s decision to return to in-person teaching, even though agreements had been reached to do so. The vote was not issued by students or staff. While the vote did not extend to the board, the board is committed to working closely with the president to help resolve the faculty’s concerns. Recommendations for increased communication and dialogue have already begun and will continue.
Q: How would you improve student success in transferring to four-year colleges and universities?
Wah: For the past four years, PCC led all California community colleges with the highest number of transfers to CSUs and UCs combined. Programs like Credit for Prior Learning, Credit by Exam and dual enrollment help to shorten the amount of time it takes students to complete their program and be transfer ready. There is also focused outreach to students who are near completion to help them clear their path and complete on time. Transfer success is also being strengthened with continued articulation agreements with four-year universities, which we currently have through the TAG and ADT programs with universities like Arizona State, CSUs, UCs, USC, University of Redlands, and others.
Kwong: The average number of years to finish a two-year degree is six years. This is not acceptable. I advocate for tracking and intervention of students immediately upon admission to ensure students are on track to transfer in a timely fashion. Continual assessment of progress and intervention with support services should be utilized to help students timely transfer and complete college.
Q: Are there technological improvements that can be made at Pasadena City College?
Kwong: Yes. Improvements in technological infrastructure are needed for students to have access to digital resources. Although PCC has provided access to digital textbooks, and hotspots in parking lots, many students do not have sustained access to internet on campus. Improvements in technology throughout the campus are needed to allow students to access these digital resources. In addition, PCC may need to explore ways to provide high-speed internet access for students using distance learning from home. With the increase in on-line learning, PCC also needs to invest in teaching tools that could support both faculty and students in establishing robust on-line learning experiences.
Wah: Coming from my technology background, I believe there are always opportunities for improvement. PCC is continuously looking for ways to improve and streamline how we do business and how we deliver a successful educational experience. Self-Service applications for students is a recent example. Our experience with navigating COVID pandemic underscores the importance of taking advantage of technology to offer classes and services in multiple modes to deliver the education our students need and the experience they desire.
Q: How do you feel about the financial status of Pasadena City College?
Wah: PCC is in a very strong financial position. One of the primary duties of the board is fiscal oversight, and I take that responsibility seriously. We have made the kinds of decisions that have put PCC in a position of fiscal stability.
Even during past budget challenging years, PCC has not had to issue layoffs of faculty and staff. Fiscal stability is also a component of the accreditation process, and PCC has received high marks in this area. PCC’s fiscal health is strong enough that we continue to be able to offer a two-year College Promise of free college to those in need.
Kwong: Although PCC has experienced a drop in enrollment by 30%, funding has remained steady due to the hold harmless budget from the state. However, whether the state will continue to fund in this manner is up for question. If the state does not continue to fund at the level of pre-COVID when PCC enrollment was at 23,000, then there would be a major financial impact on PCC. In addition, funding resources should be utilized to create a long-term plan to increase enrollment, expand technological infrastructure and provide intervention services to ensure students graduate and complete degrees on time.