Committee Service: What's in It for You?

September
2004
Yula Flournoy,

Every time you attend a plenary session or one of the many Academic Senate institutes, you are asked to fill out a form to volunteer on a committee. Many are called, but fewer answer, perhaps because many do not understand what serving on a committee entails and what rewards it offers.

THE COMMITTEES

First, a few basics: there are 13 standing committees that invite statewide faculty participation, each one chaired by a member of the Executive Committee. These committees are Basic Skills, Counseling and Library Faculty Issues, Curriculum, Educational Policies, Equity and Diversity Action, Faculty Development, Legislation and Governmental Relations, Occupational Education, Relations with Local Senates, Resolutions, Standards and Practices, and Technology, and. (Go to www.academicsenate.cc.ca.us/ExecCom/Stand.htm for more detailed information on each committee.) Three other committees-Budget, Publications, Research-provide internal support to the work of the Academic Senate itself.

These committees perform many functions, and it is impossible to list them all here and still expect you to read on to the rest of this article, yet here are a few of the most important:
present breakout sessions at plenary sessions to inform the field
write resolutions for adoption at plenary sessions to guide the work of the senate and practice in the field
respond to resolutions adopted at plenary sessions directed to the committee
help write papers when needed to guide the field for adoption at plenary sessions
serve on associated statewide, intersegmental committees
for Curriculum, Relations with Local Senates, and Occupational Education Committees, help design and produce the annual senate institutes
serve the field by responding to inquiries, offering informal technical assistance and information, monitoring significant

The time commitment for committee members is generally 6-8 three-hour meetings per year, attending one or more plenary sessions as possible, and attending the institute if your committee is responsible for its organization. Committee membership also entails some homework as assigned by the chair. You can dedicate as much time as you want to the committee, but no one will expect you to put in more than we outline here. Also, you may be able to receive flex credit for your time, if your college awards such credit.

To make your participation easier, the senate covers all necessary travel expenses, including airfare, mileage, and meals, according to our adopted reimbursement policies. Most committees meet once at the beginning of the academic year in person to get to know each other and establish rapport. The Senate also encourages the use of CCCConfer, an online meeting tool with conference calling and sharing of electronic documents. This mechanism keeps costs down while also reducing travel time. Additional face-to-face meetings may be held as the committee sees fit. For example, an upcoming breakout session may necessitate meeting together to go over logistics. In most cases, the committee as a whole decides when, where, and how to meet.

MEMBERSHIP

A few of the Senate's committees only meet at particular times, such as the Elections and the Resolutions Committee, which meet only during plenary sessions. Three other internal committees, as noted, have members drawn only from the Executive Committee.

Most committees, however, have as members people like you-faculty from diverse backgrounds and areas. We try to bring together a group of people representative of the field, from different disciplines, geographical areas, and cultural backgrounds. With an average of six members per committee, that means the Academic Senate needs a large pool of volunteers to ensure broad representation. The official selection process appears online at www.academicsenate.cc.ca.us/ExecCom/AppointProcess.htm.) The Academic Senate Office retains the names of applicants who are not initially selected; frequently throughout the year ad hoc committees or Chancellor's Office task forces require additional faculty for assignments of shorter duration. Names remain in our database for these needs.

While broad representation is important, another aspect we consider is expertise. We benefit when you share your knowledge. Sharing your experience and understanding of issues helps the rest of the state. California community college faculty and, most importantly, our students need your help to ensure that our system is the best it can be. We cannot make sound decisions if we do not have the best information, and many times that information and analysis is in your head.

Some of you may be thinking at this point, "But I don't have any experience!" Do not let this stop you from volunteering. Of course we want experienced committee members, but we also want new faculty willing to take leadership roles at the state level to ensure a smooth transition as more experienced members retire. Besides, you probably have more experience than you think. Even if you are relatively new to the system, we need you to work with the more experienced members so that their insight and institutional memory is not lost.

So what's in it for you? You know why we need you, but what you really want to know is why you need us. You can learn about solutions discovered at other campuses; you can simultaneously serve your colleagues elsewhere in California and find answers to dilemmas at your own campus.

The most important thing you will receive from serving, though, is something we all hold dear: learning. You will learn more about how the system works, your role in it, and what you can do at a local level to improve learning and governance. For example, someone serving on our statewide Curriculum Committee for the first time may know little or nothing about state issues or the legal details about curriculum approval, but by the end of the year of committee service, that faculty member will have a strong background in curriculum and be able to serve on the local curriculum committee with more understanding and more gravitas when working with local administrators who often respond to faculty with state experience in a completely different way. Your committee membership will remind you how the integrity of each college contributes to the system's reputation over all and how the contributions of each faculty member strengthens local senates everywhere. It's a chance for professional growth and development and a fun experience as well.

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.