Board Policies: The Perfect Storm

South Representative

If you are reading this article, then you are already too far gone into the oblivion known as "board policies" to ever return to normal. The tornado of whirling policies, procedures, and drafts attempts to suck you up to new levels of frustration and arduous efforts. Fear not, however; the updraft takes you just where you and your senate need to be. The tornado will drop you in a new location, and after the rebuilding, every indicator will point to the new location as being safer and better.

Board policies provide the most direct way for academic senates to exert influence on academic and professional matters. These policies shape the way the district will treat students, employees, respond to accreditation, fulfill the mission statement, and more. They communicate the philosophy and intent of the local governing board regarding the educational experience for students, as well as all the other operations of the district. Discussions of philosophy are the perfect time for academic senates to participate and contribute to development of ideals and values for educational experiences and student success. If the policies directly deal with academic and professional matters, then the board must consult with the senate per local agreements (rely primarily or mutual agreement). Beyond those defined areas for consultation, senates and boards will want to engage in dialog about many of the philosophies guiding the policies for the district.

The review of old and the development of new board policies is work-tedious and focused work. Even with a regular cycle for review, as required by the accreditation standards, there are so many policies and so little time. But the academic senate can prioritize the policies that influence academic and professional matters, and direct energies toward perfecting these policies. With new revisions of Title 5 adopted, and more soon-to-be adopted by the Board of Governors, a review and update of many current board policies should be on the agenda of local governance committees and councils in the fall.

And while these revisions will be on the radar of most administrators, now is a good time for senates to bring forward other recommendations while the door is open to discuss policies. Almost every paper written and adopted by the Academic Senate has ideas or examples of board policies applicable to that topic. For example, the paper about minors on campus has sample board policies for important issues regarding minors, and the recent paper about academic integrity also has recommendations for policies that call for the creation of a climate of honor and respect, keeping in mind the authority of faculty to assign grades.

To assist with the actual wording and legal considerations for board policies, the Community College League of California (CCLC) has provided policy templates for member districts. These templates provide key words, references to laws and regulations, plus draft procedures for the policies too. Each governing board, in consultation with constituent groups, will be able to tailor the templates to fit local needs and goals aligned with the mission statement. In the future, it would be helpful if the CCLC called upon the Academic Senate for consultation on the templates in order to expedite the work of local senates. Even asking the Academic Senate to help identify which of the policies fall under the purview of the senate would greatly assist local senates. Perhaps a resolution will be forthcoming calling for a conversation between the Academic Senate and CCLC for improved board policy templates.

In the meantime, prepare for the windstorm of revisions to your local policies because of the revisions to Title 5. Many of the changes directly fall under the purview of the senate, so plan now for the number of local policies that need to be developed or rewritten, and how the senate will recommend changes through your local consultative process. The tornado will have left you in a better place because faculty are proactively engaged to create academically sound procedures and experiences for students.