In Appreciation of John Vasconcellos
When former California state legislator John Vasconcellos passed away in late May, 2014, extensive obituaries appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, and San Jose Mercury News. All mentioned his tireless work as a California legislator, his patience and ability to get legislation passed, and his national fame for the 1986 California Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem and Personal and Social Responsibility. While some alluded to his work in higher education, not one of those obituaries referred to the single piece of legislation authored by John Vasconcellos that has had such extensive impact on California community colleges and community college faculty, Assembly Bill (AB) 1725 (1988), which radically altered the framework within which faculty, local academic senates, and ASCCC operated.
AB 1725, along with its subsequent incorporation by the Board of Governors (BOG) into Title 5 regulations in 1991, revolutionized several aspects of California community colleges. The legislation framed its narrative within the future of California and its educational needs in anticipation of the 21st century. It defined the California Community College System and established the stated functions of local boards and the BOG, placing California’s community colleges into higher education and separating them from their original function within the K-14 system. This change included the addition of a second tenured faculty member as a voting member of the Board of Governors. Vasconcellos’ legislation also impacted local and state-level governance structures by requiring the BOG to develop policies and guidelines regarding the academic senate and standards regarding the role of students in governance. In addition, AB 1725 created a program-based funding model based on Full-time Equivalent Students (FTES), and it promoted student access and success.
For faculty, Vasconcellos’ landmark bill replaced credentials with minimum qualifications, including the Master’s Degree. It created the concept of the Disciplines List, used to define minimum qualifications in existing and new academic fields. Responsibility for the Disciplines List created a partnership of the ASCCC and Board of Governors which continues to this day. AB 1725 altered the evaluation and tenure process of full-time and part-time faculty and established faculty service areas, giving faculty a major role in developing hiring criteria, policies, and procedures in collaboration with local board representatives. It suggested the still unrealized goal of 75:25 as the ideal ratio of full-time to part-time instruction. It promoted program improvement and professional development funds for faculty and staff, priorities that are now moving forward again in the wake of the Student Success Initiative. Moreover, AB 1725 promoted vocational education as one of the primary missions of California community colleges.
Finally, for local senates, AB 1725 institutionalized the concept of shared governance and defined the 10 plus 1 areas of academic senate purview. Indeed so much of AB 1725 touched on academic senate purview that the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges prepared a background paper for the Fall 1988 plenary session. (See http://www.asccc.org/sites/default/files/publications/SectionsAB1725_0.pdf).
In short, the work of the ASCCC and of local academic senates revolves around the very essence of AB 1725. Today, faculty leaders in the California community colleges cannot imagine a world in which “rely primarily” or “mutually agree” did not exist.
In some instances, areas that were mandated in AB 1725 have moved beyond what was initially envisioned with further legislative requirements. As an example, AB 1725 required the development of a transfer core curriculum that would facilitate California community college students’ transfer to California State University and University of California. Over the years, several attempts to streamline this process, including common course numbering and C-ID, have finally led to the Associate Degrees for Transfer to the CSUs. These efforts were the result of faculty from all three systems working together to formulate core curriculum in discipline/majors, and they help to achieve a goal envisioned many years earlier through the legislation championed by John Vasconcellos.
The language and issues that faculty and local senates continue to deal with daily and that the ASCCC discusses at its institutes and plenary sessions would be very different had Vasconcellos never authored AB 1725. This bill was the result of a far-reaching vision that was so critical to community college faculty and governance that one of ASCCC’s partner organizations, the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC), names one of its awards the John Vasconcellos Advocate of the Year Award for an outstanding full-time faculty advocate whose work affects faculty statewide. Two past presidents of the ASCCC, Ian Walton and Jane Patton, were honored with this award in 2007 and 2012 in recognition of their efforts to support the voice of faculty in ways consistent with Vasconcellos’ vision.
In short, Vasconcellos’ AB 1725 strengthened and highlighted the important role of faculty in both governance and instruction for the California community colleges. It also gave strength to both local senates and the ASCCC in establishing faculty purview in those specified areas in which faculty have expertise. For this, in gratitude, we appreciate, honor, and give thanks to John Vasconcellos.
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