BOT Oh my!
There are many interesting, and sometimes frightening, stories about faculty not getting their rights and responsibilities given in AB 1725. Some accreditation reports have noted that some colleges do not have processes and procedures that are indicative of mutual agreement with and/or relying primarily on the academic senate. There have been reported incidents of local boards of trustees overstepping into the areas of faculty primacy delineated in Education Code and Title 5. Faculty must be ever vigilant regarding the ways the rights of faculty play out in college and district processes.
We could assume that when such violations occur, there is evil intent; however, I suggest that we assume that members that take the time and effort to become elected to our boards of trustees (BOT) are well intentioned individuals that want to be valuable members of a community college or district but sometimes are unclear about their role or, in their enthusiasm, inadvertently tread on faculty purview. As academic senates we have an obligation to help our BOTs understand the scope of their role and how their understanding of faculty role ultimately helps our students succeed. We need to be proactive rather than reactionary.
One option to consider is having your local senates develop a seminar for your BOT. Ideally this seminar could be a regular component of BOT retreats or orientations, preferably at the start of each academic year and definitely when there are new BOT members. Maybe, as part of the election process, the local senate could offer a seminar for individuals considering running for election. Consider it a community-building event.
In the seminar, set the stage. This should reflect your local culture, yet if your local culture is one of conflict you might consider a change. It is important to remember that in this seminar you are also setting a tone of engagement and interaction with your BOT. So if you lecture at them, you might expect the same in return. If you dialog with them, you set the tone that this is the type of relationship you want them to have with you. Consider things like the room set up and personal comfort of attendees. Put thought into who on your senate is leading the seminar. Engagement and positive affiliation are essential in setting the stage for a long and collaborative relationship. Try thinking of your BOT as your allies. We need them, and they need us, to make our colleges successful and to support student success.
Next, provide clear information about roles and responsibilities. Provide the BOT with copies of Education Code and Title 5 that you reference. You can find some excellent resources at the Academic Senate website to help you build your presentation. For example, at every Leadership Institute, there are PowerPoint presentations (in the archive) regarding the basis for senate authority, spelling out the 10 + 1. Allow time for discussion. Bring any relevant documents that you think you may need. Remember the members of the BOT come to this role with ideas and expectations about their role and you might be causing some of them disequilibrium in thinking by presenting information that contradicts their original notions. Allow for challenging questions without taking the comments and questions personally. Again, set the tone of collegiality and collaboration.
After the seminar, leave the BOT with contact information for your local senate and possibly set up a time to meet again. If your college has a history of conflict with your BOT, it will take time to mend and to rebuild a collaborative connection even if the entire BOT is new. Before discussing serious issues, build a connection. Do not use this time to try to resolve problems. This is a seminar on the roles of your senate; it is not a problem resolution discussion. Someone could be responsible for keeping a parking lot of issues that come up that need resolution so that the problems can be forwarded to the appropriate group or process for resolution.
Take a deep breath. Think positive. Be the force that sets the stage for clearly delineating the roles and responsibilities given to faculty in the 10+1.
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