High hopes, long odds


Vladimir de Jesus hopes to teach art, but has flunked remedial math three times.

Community College Students Face a Very Long Road to Graduation writes Gina Bellafante in a New York Times profile of a student at New York City’s La Guardia Community College. Vladimir de Jesus enrolled in September 2008, left after the first semester to work full time, then returned in 2012. In six semesters, he’s earned only 27 credits of the 60 he needs to transfer — and he’s flunked remedial math three times.

A fine arts major, he hopes to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees and teach studio art and art history.

De Jesus went to a low-performing high school, cut classes and dropped out, but earned a GED. He fathered a child when he was 17. He helps care for his six-year-old and uses some of his earnings as a freelance tattoo artist to help pay her Catholic school tuition. He suffers from ulcers.

More than 70 percent of LaGuardia students come from families with incomes of less than $25,000 a year, writes Bellafante. Many are working, raising children and facing personal and  health issues. Community colleges offer far less counseling than better-funded colleges and universities. The neediest students are on their own.

Toward the end of last semester, Mr. de Jesus had fallen behind on his math homework. There were domestic complications: the death of his grandfather, and the stresses of a college student’s typically strained romantic life. At one point he lost the lab work that he had done in class, which would make up 5 percent of his total grade. Not having a computer of his own, he had been checking laptops in and out of the library. In the process of returning one, he had left the lab work behind. When he went back to retrieve the papers, they were gone.

The final exam for Math 96 would make up 35 percent of the total grade, and as the day of the test approached, Mr. de Jesus knew that with the demerits he would face for his poor attendance and his unfinished homework, there was little chance he would pass. On the morning of the exam, he didn’t show up, and he failed the class for the third time. As it happened, more than 40 percent of the students in the class also failed.

“This whole thing with math just hits your spirit in the wrong way,” he said. “It demolishes your spirit. You become lazy.”

Gail Mellow, LaGuardia’s president, believes students shouldn’t have to master algebra if they’re not planning to pursue a math- or science-intensive field. La Guardia is experimenting with Carnegie’s statistics and “quantitative reasoning” alternatives to traditional developmental math.

De Jesus is postponing a fourth try at remedial math and considering applying for a job with the Sanitation Department, reports Bellafante. Given his long odds of completing a bachelor’s degree and low earnings for fine arts graduates, that’s not a bad plan. He could take art classes, do art and forget about trying to pass math.

Taking art outdoors — and large

In a neighborhood plagued by graffiti, Community College of Denver students painted a 100-foot mural on an alley wall by Flame Works Auto Body.

The mural shows “your art can be used in a positive way,” said Thomas Garcia, one of the art students. “I think that’s a good message.”

Obama depicted as crucified Christ

painting of President Obama in a crucifixion pose  is on display at Bunker Hill Community College Art Gallery in Boston.

The painting by Michael D’Antuono is part of a larger exhibit called “Artists on the Stump – the Road to the White House 2012,” reports Fox News.

Called “Truth,”  the painting shows a crown of thorns rests on the president’shead.

Its original unveiling at New York City’s Union Square was cancelled nearly four years ago because of charges of blasphemy.

“The crucifixion of the president was meant metaphorically,” D’Antuono told Fox News. “My intent was not to compare him to Jesus.”

D’Antuono blamed the controversy on conservative media “trying to promote the idea that liberals believe the president to literally be our savior,” reports Fox News.

‘Outstanding’ prof combines writing, art

Lois Roma-Delley, who teaches writing and women’s studies at Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC) in Arizona, was named the 2012 Outstanding Community College Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Roma-Deeley pairs student writers and artists, who create visual art and write about it, a process known as ekphrasis, reports Community College Times.

Roma-Deely, who has a doctorate in interdisciplinary studies with a focus in poetry, designed and administers a lauded visiting writer and scholar lecture series on her campus and coordinates a popular annual creative writing competition for students.

. . . (She) was noted for her attention to students, who begin her courses with a writing exercise to assess their “learning readiness,” as well as to evaluate their mastery of skills needed to successfully complete her course. At the end of the courses, students self-evaluate their learning and set academic goals.

Also honored as state professors of the year are: John Hamman, professor and chair of the math department, Montgomery College (Maryland); Rees Shad, coordinator of media design programs, Hostos Community College (New York), Greg Sherman, physics professor, Collin College (Texas).

College museums draw donors

Community college museums can “raise the college’s profile, help attract donors, strengthen ties to the community and enhance educational programs,” writes Community College Times.

A museum at Johnson County Community College (JCCC) in Kansas focuses on contemporary and Native American art.

The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York has a collection of more than 50,000 garments and accessories, some of them hundreds of years old.

Miami Dade College’s Museum of Art + Design presents exhibitions of notable artists and complements the college’s art galleries.

The Dinosaur Museum at Mesalands Community College in New Mexico combines fossils with artwork.

JCCC’s art museum has “brought extraordinary national and international visibility to this campus,” said Bruce Hartman, director of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. “An enormous number of people have come to campus that otherwise wouldn’t have set foot here,” Hartman said. “Some of those people have become donors or we’ve been able to otherwise engage them.”

Actor Vincent Price, known for his roles in horror films such as “The Fly,” donated 2,000 works of art to what’s now known as the Vincent Price Art Museum at East Los Angeles College (ELAC). Now part of ELAC’s Performing and Fine Arts Complex, VPAM’s inaugural show in the new building featured eight ELAC alumni who have become well-known artists.

Teaching immigrants English through art

New York City’s Queensborough Community College will work with museums to teach English to adult immigrants through art, reports the Times-Ledger.

Culture and Literacy through Arts for the 21st Century will be a partnership among community colleges in the CUNY system, Queens College’s Godwin-Ternbach Museum, the Rubin Museum of Art, the Katonah Museum of Art and El Museo del Barrio plus The Literacy Assistance Center and Visual Thinking Strategies.

Teachers and museum educators to work with a minimum of 50 students and their families per year.

Ohio college bans abortion pamphlets

Forbidden to hand out anti-abortion pamphlets on her community college campus, student Ethel Borel-Donohue is fighting for her First Amendment rights with the help of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio bans distribution of literature on campus, except by student groups with prior approval.

“The right to distribute literature about controversial topics is one of Americans’ most hallowed rights,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “If someone’s claim to be offended by speech were all it took to overrule the First Amendment, we would all be reduced to silence. Thankfully the Constitution does not recognize a ‘right not to be offended.'”

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, Borel-Donohue handed out 15 flyers alleging that birth control pills and abortion may raise breast cancer risks.  She gave the flyers to classmates in a paralegal course after class had let out. One student complained of being offended; the paralegal program chair told Borel-Donohue not to hand out any materials.

FIRE also is protesting censorship of an art instructor’s painting at Gainesville State College in Georgia. Stanley Bermudez’s painting, showing torch-wielding Klansmen and a lynching superimposed on a Confederate flag, was removed from a faculty art exhibition by GSC President Martha T. Nesbitt. The “health and reputation” of the college was at stake, said Nesbitt, who said the painting’s imagery “has been perceived as aggressively hostile in other areas of the country.”