Here we are into the first week of the third month of the fall semester and student services are still back-logged. Why does it seem to take forever to make a counseling appointment or pick up books from the bookstore?
Granted, the beginning of a new semester is one of the busiest times of the year, yet Palomar should be fully prepared to handle the rush.
According to Rosalinda Lucas, a peer mentor at the Counseling Department, “counselling appointments are about three weeks out.” That’s a wait of nearly a month just to talk to a counselor!
It’s the same story at the bookstore. Services at the bookstore are also sluggish. Students who ordered their books online and opted for in-person pickup were met with wait times of over a hour and a half. In order to make it to class on time, many forfeited their place in line and had to return later.
So what is the problem? Why are student services so slow?
Staffing issues appear to be the biggest part of the problem. According to Christine Winterle, vice president of human resources, it has been a struggle to hire and keep employees ever since Covid-19. After having the luxury of working remotely, some staffers chose to find jobs that allowed remote work permanently. Yet, others chose to retire, have been promoted or have moved out of the area.
Winterle mentioned that Palomar has recruited 22 new classified or permanent employees within the last year. She stated that service issues are “less about shortage and more about strategy,” and that 22 new recruits is a healthy number for a community college. As a VP of HR she’s not in charge of all departments, but is currently working to fill several positions.
As far as the bookstore goes, Winterle mentioned that Palomar works with a third-party company named Follet (eFollet). Follet’s purpose is to supply books and staff the bookstore. Palomar doesn’t collect information on the employment status of Follet or its hiring practices, said Winterle. She assumed that they were probably having difficulty finding employees after covid.
Winterle referred me to Dean Leslie Sellas of counseling and the Vice President of Student Services, Nick Matta, in order to do a deeper dive.
However, for now it looks like Palomar is content to have its students deal with high demands and slow services while they navigate through the post-covid climate.
Palomar’s motto is “Learn.Create.Suceed.” Yes, we can “Learn,Create.and Suceed” but at a slow pace. Are we expected to stand in long lines, wait a month for services that should be a week until “someone” figures out how to meet the students’ demands here at our school? I guess so.
In the end, Palomar does have a responsibility to provide it’s students with quality services and education in a timely manner. Hopefully by next semester slow and steady will win the race.
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