Eminence-Do I Know It When I See It?

Chair, Standards and Practices Committee

"Eminence"-the word of terror to the chair of the Standards and Practices Committee. Well, maybe not "terror," but it sure brings up a lot of questions in any discussion of equivalencies to disciplines in the Disciplines List. The equivalency process in section 87359 of the Education Code states that "no one shall be hired to serve as a community college faculty.unless the governing board determines that he or she possesses qualifications that are at least equivalent to the minimum qualifications."

Many districts recognize eminence as a basis for granting equivalency. Although eminence is not specified in current law, it is not prohibited and has been established in many districts. As with all aspects of the equivalency process, it must be "developed and agreed upon jointly by representatives of the governing board and the academic senate, and approved by the governing board." The process would need to include a definition of eminence, criteria for establishing that a candidate is superior in the field, a review of the candidate's ability to satisfy the general education portion of a degree, plus local issues which might include the fairness and equitability of the determination. The bargaining agent for the district may also want to participate.

But the problem is that there is no legal definition of "eminence." A repealed section of Title 5 (section 52270) defined eminence as "superior knowledge and skill.in comparison with the generally accepted standard of achievement in the subject field.and should be based on the conviction that the applicant, if measured by recognized authorities in his subject field, would be judged superior." Some districts have required that this recognition of eminence must be beyond the geographic area of the district-it is not enough that the district itself is impressed with the person's skill or knowledge.

The Academic Senate has not taken an official position on the use of eminence, but a recent resolution (Spring 2007, 10.06) directed the Academic Senate to "conduct a survey on local practices for assessing `eminence' and develop guidelines for local senates to consider when determining eminence." Well, we did conduct the survey (thanks to all that participated) and presented the results at a breakout at the Fall 2007 Session. Things were pretty inconclusive. In fact, many colleges responded that they were waiting to hear from the Academic Senate before they developed a policy. So we have our work set out for us.

Suggestions were received at the breakout (and subsequent gatherings) for help with eminence:

  • State champions in competition (e.g. debate, dance, football)
  • National winner (e.g. winner of TVs "Dancing with the Stars")
  • Prize Winners (e.g. chefs, authors, actors)
  • High Pass Rate in State or National Exams (e.g. high school teacher who has students that score high on standards tests or has a high passage rate for the CAHSEE)
  • World famous in the field

Faculty want to find the best possible candidates to fill a pool from which hiring assignments can be made. Adding candidates to the pool who have exceptional subject area knowledge, as in eminence, is the goal of many departments. That is why we still grapple with the idea eminence instead of just abandoning it.

Sources of Information:

Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. Equivalence to the Minimum Qualifications.2006
Academic Senate for California Community Colleges. Qualifications for Faculty Service in the California Community Colleges. 2004
California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office. Minimum Qualifications for Faculty and Administrators in California Community Colleges. 2008