Canned Policy and Procedures? The Community College League of California’s (CCLC) Board Policy and Administrative Procedure Service

September
2012
Michelle Grimes-Hillman, At-Large Representative, Executive Committee,
Phil Smith, At-Large Representative, Executive Committe

In California, local boards of trustees have the authority to set the overall policy—consistent with state and federal law—of colleges within their districts. The primary mechanism for doing so is through the adoption of written policy documents. Board policies (BPs) are typically broad statements of how colleges and districts should be organized and function; more detailed documents called administrative procedures (APs), sometimes called administrative regulations or simply regulations, are used by administrators, faculty, and other staff to guide implementation of adopted board policies.

Given the complexity of California community colleges, a great amount of work is often necessary to develop board policies and administrative procedures from inception to adoption. Then, once adopted, local boards have to remain vigilant regarding changes in statute and Title 5 regulations. For these reasons, a majority (67 out of 72) of California community college districts subscribe to the Community College League of California’s (CCLC) Board Policy and Administrative Procedure Service. As Education Code and Title 5 change over time, subscribing districts receive regular guidance and suggestions, vetted by the service’s legal counsel, about how to update their local BPs and APs. CCLC provides this service in partnership with Liebert Cassidy Whitmore, a California law corporation.

The CCLC Board Policy and Administrative Procedure Service provides districts with a variety of documents and support services, the most notable of which are the Board Policy and Administrative Procedure Templates, which are described by CCLC as information that is “legally required, legally advised, or suggested as good practice for boards and districts.” Subscribing districts receive an implementation handbook, semiannual template updates, and access to an active listserv. Workshops as well as individual assistance are also available to subscribers to help with adapting and implementing local BPs and APs. This collection of services helps keep in-house legal costs down to a minimum.

There are, however, challenges for academic senate leaders in districts using CCLC’s service. Because it is an ongoing subscription service, districts may forget over time that they are paying for a draft of new policies and regulations, that they are the minimum needed for legal compliance, and that it is not good practice to adopt them in total as a final product. Especially in the areas of the 10+1 academic and professional matters, the local academic senate has a state-mandated “place at the table” when crafting changes to board policies and administrative procedures. Because faculty members are not involved in the development of CCLC’s board policy and academic procedure templates related to the 10+1, local senate review of proposed policies and procedures is critical.

At the Fall 2010 Plenary Session, the faculty body adopted Resolution 13.07: CCLC Board Policy Templates. This resolution directed the Academic Senate to review the CCLC BP and AP templates and to address the role of academic senates in adapting and adopting board policies and administrative procedures from CCLC’s subscription service. Regarding the first aspect of the resolution, the Academic Senate is working to review and analyze the current set of CCLC templates and their relation to the 10+1. As this effort will be lengthy and on-going, findings will likely be shared over an extended period of time. This Rostrum article addresses the second aspect of the resolution: ways that local academic senate leaders can be effective participants in board policy and administrative procedure development.

Local senate leaders should recognize that board policies and administrative procedures are intended for district governance and operation. Colleges within a multi-college district operate under the same set of locally adopted board policies and administrative procedures. Thus, in order to assert faculty primacy in academic and professional matters, senate leaders in multi-college districts must work together to influence district policies. Of course, individual colleges may adopt local procedures; however, they cannot conflict with policies adopted by the local board of trustees or administrative procedures adopted by the district.

The next step for a senate leader is to understand exactly how board policies and administrative procedures are developed and adopted locally. One method for identifying this process is to locate the specific district document that describes how local board policies are developed and presented to the Board of Trustees for consideration and adoption. Often the process will be described on the district website; however, it might instead be described in an internal document. As governance information is often shared during accreditation team visits, the college’s accreditation liaison officer (ALO) may have ready access to a description of the process. Administrative procedures are often developed and considered at the same time as board policies, but no requirement mandates that districts do so. How administrative procedures are developed and approved may be described in separate documents from those that outline the process for Board policy adoption.

Perhaps one of the first questions faculty leaders need answered is whether their district subscribes to the CCLC Board Policy and Administrative Service. If so, faculty must work to ensure that BP and AP updates are not adopted pro forma. With turn-overs in administration and a budget climate that requires fewer people to do more of the district’s work, reliance on the CCLC for policy and procedure language can become commonplace. The academic senate or senates within a district must ensure that the district has a policies and procedures development process in place that acknowledges faculty primacy in making recommendations about academic and professional matters.

Faculty involvement in reviewing developing policies and procedures is critical. Even seemingly benign policies and procedures can have unintended consequences. For example, consider a board policy template that delegates authority to a local CEO to interpret Board policy and administrative procedures on behalf of the Board. At one college, template language was revised to say that the CEO could revise administrative procedures as necessary and without any consultation process at all. Shortly thereafter, citing authority under this board policy, the CEO made a one-time modification to an existing administrative procedure. While one might blame the CEO for taking this action or the Board for allowing it, the local senate was equally responsible because it had not done its review.

The academic senate should periodically review the overall process through which Board policies and administrative procedures are revised. This review might consider issues such as whether BPs and APs are reviewed on a cycle or only when new updates are received from CCLC, the ways in which the academic senate can initiate a change or new policy, and whether the academic senate looks at all proposed changes to BPs and APs or just some. Students, classified staff, and employee bargaining units also have an interest in the official BPs and APs and their roles in the process need to be defined clearly. To avoid unnecessary conflict, how all constituent groups provide input into the process should be carefully delineated.

Most districts organize their board policies and procedures into larger categories such as academic affairs and human resources. Although not every community college district will organize their BPs and APs as the CCLC does with its templates, an overview of its chapters may be a useful starting point to explain the range of policies that a district is likely to have and to help identify policies and procedures that would be of particular interest to senate leaders.

The policies and corresponding procedures of the CCLC templates are divided into seven chapters. Each chapter is listed below along with a brief commentary about the chapter’s contents and its relationship to the senate’s academic and professional matters:

Chapter 1: The District. Among other things, this chapter includes the organizational mission of the district. Certainly most California community college district mission statements make some reference to students or curriculum. If a district decides to change its mission, the academic senate should be involved.

Chapter 2: Board of Trustees. Typically, this group of policies relates to how the Board holds meetings and delegates authority. Also, it usually describes the process for developing and adopting policy and procedures. As these policies and procedures normally do not change very often, institutions may forget about them and begin to operate simply based upon past practice, which can drift over time. Academic senates should go to the source, the board policy, and not just assume that everything is being run according to policy.

Perhaps the most important item found in this chapter of the CCLC’s templates is Board Policy (BP) and Administrative Procedure (AP) 2510 entitled Participation in Local Decision-Making. This template references Title 5 §53200 et seq. related to the academic senate's role. The governing board typically includes policy or procedure language about which academic and professional matters it will reach “mutual agreement” or will “rely primarily upon” with the local academic senate. The CCLC template notes that the language included in BP 2510 is only the minimum necessary as defined by the Board of Governors in Title 5. The note also advises that the text of the policy template may be locally enlarged or modified as long as no required elements are omitted. The CCLC template for BP2510 reads,

The Board is the ultimate decision-maker in those areas assigned to it by state and federal laws and regulations. In executing that responsibility, the Board is committed to its obligation to ensure that appropriate members of the District participate in developing recommended policies for Board action and administrative procedures for [ CEO ] action under which the District is governed and administered.

Each of the following shall participate as required by law in the decision-making processes of the District:

Academic Senate(s) (Title 5 §§53200-53206) The Board or its designees will consult collegially with the Academic Senate, as duly constituted with respect to academic and professional matters, as defined by law. Procedures to implement this section are developed collegially with the Academic Senate.

The template does not address how the board should consult collegially. Thus, local academic senates should insist that their Boards define which of the 10+1 academic and professional matters they will reach mutual agreement with their academic senate on and which they will “rely primarily upon” the voice of the academic senate for.

Chapter 3: General Institution. Many of the BPs and APs contained in the General Institution chapter will be of great interest to bargaining agents, since many of them deal with working conditions. But this chapter also contains local policies and procedures related to accreditation, institutional planning, and grants among others topics, and thus it also has relevance for academic senate leaders.

Chapter 4: Academic Affairs. The local senate will want to go through this set of BPs and APs very carefully. This chapter contains the policies and procedures on repetition, grading, academic freedom, and most things related to curriculum and grading. The senate may wish to delegate various sections of this chapter to local senate committees on an ongoing basis. That way, any proposed changes to policies or procedures can be fully vetted by the senate.

Chapter 5: Student Services. This chapter includes all things involving student success: matriculation, enrollment priorities, and course enrollments and withdrawals. As with the Academic Affairs chapter, the local senate should thoroughly review any proposed changes to BPs or APs in this section.

Chapter 6: Business and Fiscal Affairs. Any policy or procedure that covers budget planning processes should include mention of the role of the academic senate in developing them.

Chapter 7: Human Resources. Perhaps this chapter will be of more interest to the local bargaining agent, but it also includes professional development, faculty evaluation processes, the institution’s commitment to diversity, and hiring procedures for all employees.

Of course, the commentaries noted previously are not intended to be exhaustive. These brief remarks are only meant as pointers to those board policies and academic procedures that may touch upon the senate’s academic and professional matters. Each change to a board policy or academic procedure has the potential to impact the 10+1, perhaps in an unintended way. For this reason, the state Academic Senate urges that local senate leaders be vigilante in their review and analysis of all proposed changes to the district’s board policies and academic procedures.

The articles published in the Rostrum do not necessarily represent the adopted positions of the academic senate. For adopted positions and recommendations, please browse this website.