Consultants and the 10 + 1
The use of consultants in all facets of community college life continues to increase in scope and in cost, and when faculty question the use of consultants or request input into the process of determining the use of consultants, they are often told by administration that the use of consultants is purely operational and does not impact any areas of faculty concern. Our breakout discussion on consultants at the Academic Senate Fall 2005 Plenary Session provided many examples to show that consultants do indeed have the potential to impact all areas subject to collegial consultation under Title 5. Here then are cautionary tales for you to bring to your administrators when they tell you that you don't need to be concerned about consultants on campus, and what to ask for once you have their ear.
Facilities Planning: As part of the planning for a bond campaign, a district hired a consultant for facilities planning. The consultant had worked on other college facilities plans previously. Faculty were told that the consultant would work with the college's existing program review documents to prepare the plans and that further faculty input was not needed. When the plans were presented at a Board of Trustees meeting for consideration, the plans showed a dental hygiene laboratory. The only problem was that the college had no dental hygiene program, nor was one mentioned in the program review for the health sciences area.
Potential 10+1 Impact: Educational Program Development (#4) and Processes for Program Review (#9). While there was no usurpation of faculty roles intended here (the architect was actually reusing portions of successful plans from other colleges), it's easy to see how the inclusion of elements in facilities planning could reflect particular interests of individuals and their desire to influence program development and be a way of circumventing normal processes for program review.
Technology Planning: The woeful tales regarding the implementation of enterprise software such as People-Soft, Banner, or Datatel are numerous. Consultants hired to implement the software have promised the moon, and when colleges actually find out that they can't get there, it is too late to change software. Many colleges have reported that successfully applying prerequisites took many semesters, during which many students were denied access or were able to enroll for classes for which they were not prepared. One college was told that there would be no problem with recording and using +/- grades. As it turned out, the system was never able to be adapted to use +/- grades, and the college was required to give up +/- grading altogether.
Potential 10+1 Impact: Standards and Policies regarding Student Preparation and Success (#5) and Grading Policies (#3). The failure to apply prerequisites directly affected the ability of students to either enroll in classes for which they were suitably prepared. The impact on grading policies should be self-evident.
Strategic Planning: As part of a college's strategic planning process, a consultant was hired to perform a costeffectiveness analysis. Faculty were assured that this was a normal process for the business services division and that there would be no impact on them. When the report came out, however, every area of the college was reviewed, including instruction. Each department had been evaluated in terms of revenue, productivity, and cost-effectiveness and ranked. Suggestions were also made for reorganizing the college to improve cost-effectiveness.
Potential 10+1 Impact: Curriculum (#1), Degree and Certificate Requirements (#2), Educational Program Development (#4), and College Governance Structures related to Faculty Roles (#6). While faculty were reassured that the data would not be used for evaluating programs, the performance of the cost-effectiveness analysis provided information that could be key to any discussion of program discontinuance. Anytime that the discontinuance of programs is discussed, there is a potential impact on other programs and the degrees and certificates offered. The suggestions for reorganization also had the potential to impact faculty representation on the local senate and other college governance committees.
Grant Applications: Many colleges have hired grant consultants, particularly for highly competitive grants such as Title III. One college hired a grant consultant who would only be paid if the college successfully got the grant. The consultant proceeded to fill the grant with projects that had worked elsewhere, with little regard for how the projects would actually fit with existing college programs. When asked about this disconnect, he said the college could simply change the projects once the money came in.
Potential 10+1 Impact: Curriculum (#1), Educational Program Development (#4), Policies for Faculty Development (#8), and Processes for Program Review (#9)-in short, pretty much everything. The grant application included faculty development, new program elements, and changes to curriculum. In addition, the consultant relied on his prior experience to develop the grant application, bypassing established processes of program review. Faculty breathed a great sigh of relief when the grant didn't get funded and the grant consultant moved on to another college.
Flex Day Activities: Many faculty despair of flex-day activities, especially when consultants are involved. At one college, a motivational business speaker was hired that culminated her talk with a video about potato sorting, which she enthusiastically compared with the educational process. At many colleges, consultants on student learning outcomes have been brought in to train the college community in how to develop and measure student learning outcomes. The consultants have varied widely in expertise and quality.
Potential 10+1 Impact: Faculty Roles in Accreditation (#7) and Policies for Faculty Development (#8). Given the dearth of resources for faculty development, it only adds insult to injury when precious funds are spent on development activities that provide little benefit to our work for our students. Student Learning Outcomes are one area that provides the needed connection between faculty development and student success, but there are firms of wide-ranging suitability out there trolling for the dollars that colleges are putting out in order to meet the new accreditation standards.
Faculty input is essential in the evaluation of proposed development activities and the consultants hired to conduct them.
Policies for Planning and Budget: All consultants have an impact on the budget because all of them cost money, sometimes incredible, mind-boggling amounts of money. Faculty are to be involved in the development of Policies for Planning and Budget (#10), and the use of consultants is a worthy topic to consider in the planning and budgeting process. To try and get an idea of what your college is spending on consultants, look at the 5000 budget code. While this includes a variety of expenditures under the title of "Other Operating Expenses and Services," your college is supposed to be including consultant services in this line item.
Board Policies: One college also reported that it has hired a consultant to help revise Board Policies. Given that your collegial consultation agreement with the Board is codified in this document, this is another example of a situation where the local senate is clearly impacted. This is definitely a "+1" issue.
Now that you have examples to share with your administration concerning the potential impact of consultants on areas directly affecting the role of faculty in college governance, what is the role of the faculty senate in the work of consultants? Here are some recommendations for your local senate.
1. Work with your union on this. While there is a clear impact on faculty roles, there is also a clear impact on the college budget. This is a good one for strong senate/union collaboration.
2. Examine the 5000 budget line and raise the topic of consultants in your budget and planning process discussions. Find out as much as you can about where consultants are already being used, how much is being spent, and what future consultant usage is being proposed.
3. Ask to be a part of the group writing the Request for Applications (RFA ) for a consultant. In this way, you can insert expectations for how the consultant will work with the faculty senate and faculty involvement in the evaluation of the consultant's work.
4. Ask to be on the selection team for the consultant, a natural extension of the senate's role given that it has helped write the RFA . In this way, the senate can also work with the team to develop interview questions that can elicit information about the consultant's previous work with community colleges and the consultant's understanding about how it should work with local governance groups, including faculty.
5. Request that a portion of funds for any project requiring a consultant be earmarked for reassigned time for senate-appointed faculty to work with the consultant.
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