The Academic Senate Faces Many Challenges


This year the Academic Senate will face many challenges. I would like to take this opportunity, in the first Rostrum of the year, to define two of those issues and describe the role of the Academic Senate might play. The areas I will discuss are welfare reform and distance education.


In passing welfare reform legislation, Congress initiated a social experiment that has changed an entitlement system, which provided support to families with dependent children, to a jobs program intended to move recipients off welfare and into work. States now receive limited block grant funds rather than having direct federal aid meet the full needs of recipients. California’s plan for the use of these funds is outlined in the CalWORKs program recently enacted by AB 1542 (Ducheny, et al).

Will welfare reform succeed in putting aid recipients to work, or will it merely dump them into the streets after their two-year aid time limit runs out? The answer lies in California’s ability to generate jobs detailed in the following analysis by Assembly-woman Dion Aroner. Most of the state’s 900,000 welfare recipients will need to find work. They join the 1,000,000 who are not counted as unemployed because they have given up looking for work. Another 500,000 are underemployed. Last year California generated just over 600,000 jobs, about half new and most not at entry level. These statistics had led many to be pessimistic about the success of welfare reform.

Under CalWORKs, those eligible can receive aid while being trained (24 months for current recipients, 18 months for newly qualified). Currently, California community colleges serve almost 140,000 recipients who have self-selected our programs. Newly qualified recipients must be referred to us by the Department of Social Services (DSS) into programs which we must demonstrate to DSS are adequate to meet labor market needs.

Rather than expecting a flood of new students from the welfare ranks, community college will have to work hard just to maintain the present level of participation of aid recipients. Our challenges will be to redesign the way we structure our curriculum and deliver our programs to meet the short time frame; to qualify these programs with DSS so that we get referrals; to provide services to recipients; particularly child care and work study, and to assist in job development and placement for those who complete our programs. And remember, these services will be in great demand by non-welfare students, also eligible under our open enrollment system. Following the above numbers, as many as 3 of 4 students needing job training to find work may be non-welfare recipients.

What has been observed is the tremendous focus on politics rather than the needs of recipients. The Academic Senate has and will continue to focus on the needs of students. This summer the Executive Committee wrote and distributed a paper entitled, “The Academic Senate Perspective on the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.” This paper makes suggestions on involvement of community colleges in job creation, particularly the need for a livable wage, jobs with self-esteem, connection with employers to lead directly to employment, and assistance in relocation. The paper addresses educational program design, emphasizing adaptable, transferrable skills and initial assessment of recipient needs. Key in curriculum redesign will be adapting existing programs to shorter time frames, and integrating basic skills, general employability skills, and specific subject matter skills. The paper also stresses the need for support services in a wide range of areas. A list of 18 specific actions are recommended to local senates.

We urge faculty leaders on your campus to read this paper and take a strong role in developing your college’s CalWORKs plan. Guidelines for this plan were distributed by the Chancellor’s Office to colleges earlier this month and are due by November 14th. The required elements of the plan are: curriculum development and redesign, coordination, job development/job placement, work study, and child care. Six workshops are being held during September to discuss requirements for the plans: 9/12 Los Angeles CCD, 9/15 Orange Coast, 9/17 De Anza, 9/23 Grossmont, 9/24 Los Rios CCD, 9/26 Modesto.

These plans require the signature of the local academic senate president. Be sure that your senate takes a primary role in developing your colleges’ policies and procedures for meeting welfare recipients’ needs for new and redesigned curriculum, new program development, and support services for student success, all of which are academic and professional matters.

A joint FACCC/Senate workshop on CalWORKs will be held October 3rd at Laney College and experienced faculty practitioners will share their expertise in addressing student needs under CalWORKs at Academic Senate-sponsored workshops on October 10th at Cerritos College and October 25th at the Peralta District Office. We also plan two more such workshops for the spring.


Technology is an on-rushing tide: $14 million was appropriated last year, with 75% distributed to colleges for video conferencing, satellite down links, Internet access, and fiberoptic infrastructure. The remaining 25% was distributed by subsequent paper will examine the principles of technology-mediated instruction and make suggestions about how faculty should take leadership in directing the future development of TMI. The Academic Senate is also represented on California Virtual University (CVU) planning committees and continues to assert the need for academic standards within CVU. Additionally, we are looking at possibility of collaborating with US and CSU faculty on a statement of academic standards in distance education.


Flooding colleges with new equipment and technological capabilities does not assure that these resources reach students in a manner which improves instruction and services. Faculty must become familiar with these new resources, explore their possibilities, and adapt them to past few years, the Academic Senate has maintained a strong faculty technology training, both during Fall and Spring Plenary Sessions and at special workshops. Plans are underway to expand this effort. The Academic Senate is a partner in the 4C@ONE project to train faculty in TMI based on a two-year $1 million grant (part of that 25% of the $14 million telecommunications fund) obtained by a ten-college consortium led by De Anza College. Preliminary plans include workshops, an online information exchange, and a series of summer institutes (3-to-5 day hands-on training sessions). The Academic Senate is also recruiting faculty to be trained on the new Picture Tel video conferencing equipment. (The contract provides for training 40 participants this fall and 60 next spring.) The Academic Senate also hopes to be a partner in developing the Faculty resource Center, to be created by another grant awarded this month. We also anticipate being involved in the guidelines for use of the $4 million technology staff development fund just approved for this year.


Your academic senate must play a primary role in assuming that these technology resources now at your doorstep are effectively used. Your college should have a technology plan developed through a process agreed upon by collegial consultation with your senate. The budgeting of the allocations for technology, instructional equipment, and faculty development should follow a process arrived at by collegial consultation with your senate. Courses offered in distance learning mode should be separately approved by your curriculum committee following policies and procedures developed in collegial consultation with your senate. If these events are proceeding without your involvement, assert your rights now!