Legislation impacting curriculum, teaching, and learning has become increasingly more common over the last decade. Legislators, elected by the people, are responding to calls for improvements to the California educational system. In response, legislators do what they were elected to do: write laws. Legislators propose bills, many of which are sponsored by special interest groups or advocacy agencies with resources to lobby for bill passage through public events, reports, and media coverage. However, these same legislators also need to be well-informed with all of the facts. When it comes to legislation regarding curriculum, faculty voice is critical. Voices from populations such as historically underrepresented ethnic or racial groups, part-time faculty, discipline specific associations, and student support programs like EOPS, Umoja, Puente, and MESA are needed.
The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) is recognized in both Education Code §70901 and Title 5 regulation §53206 as the official voice of the 58,000 faculty in the California Community Colleges system in regard to curriculum and academic standards or, as stated in Title 5 §53200, academic and professional matters. In particular, the ASCCC represents faculty positions to the governor, the legislature, and other government agencies on potential, proposed, or chaptered legislation. The ASCCC accomplishes this function through methods such as legislative visits, written communication, and collaboration with system partners. 
However, the faculty voice from local academic senates and discipline or program representative groups is also very important. Some of the major obstacles to providing faculty voice include knowing what to say and where and how to say it. Ultimately, the voices of all faculty advocates are needed and wanted in providing support and education regarding curricular matters, academic freedom, and student support. The following are some actions faculty can take to help maintain a voice that is loud, clear, and heard.
FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH CURRENT ISSUES RELATING TO FACULTY AND STUDENTS IN THE CALIFORNIA COMMUNITY COLLEGES SYSTEM
The easiest places to read about current issues are the following:
- The ASCCC tracks legislation impacting faculty, students, and local academic senates, providing a monthly report during Executive Committee meetings under agenda item IV.A. Legislative Report. An initial report is published with the agenda, and then an updated report is added to the meeting agenda items before the meeting day. Agendas are available at https://www.asccc.org/executive_committee/meetings.
- The Faculty Association of California Community Colleges (FACCC) lists current legislation that FACCC is tracking on the organization’s website at www.faccc.org. FACCC is a faculty-driven organization with a professional staff. As is stated on the FACCC website, the staff and the governing board work with “local unions and academic senates to ensure that faculty voices are heard in the halls of government and across the state.”
- The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office tracks legislation impacting higher education at www.cccco.edu/About-Us/Chancellors-Office/Divisions/Governmental-Relati….
- Information regarding all California legislation is available at leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/.
MAKE SURE YOUR LOCAL ACADEMIC SENATE HAS A LOCAL LEGISLATIVE LIAISON
The ASCCC encourages local academic senates to advocate for faculty and students. Beginning in fall 2015, the ASCCC created a legislative liaison role for local academic senates to consider in order to strengthen communication between the ASCCC and local senates and to more effectively respond to the continual increase in legislation impacting curriculum. A legislative liaison facilitates two-way information sharing between the ASCCC and the local academic senate, and for some local senates this work may be too much for a single individual. Local senates are encouraged to examine their own structures to determine whether legislative work would be done best by a single person, several people, or a local committee. More detailed information on the roles and responsibilities of the local legislative liaison can be found on the ASCCC website at https://www.asccc.org/legislative-liaison.
ATTEND LOCAL ACADEMIC SENATE MEETINGS AND UNION OR COLLECTIVE BARGAINING MEETINGS AND ADVOCATE FOR STUDENT PARTICIPATION WHERE APPROPRIATE
Local academic senates fall under the Brown Act, and as such all meetings are open to the public. Faculty should check with their local union or collective bargaining representative to learn about opportunities to become informed regarding issues they find important and which meetings are open to attend. In addition, faculty can encourage colleagues to invite the student voice, as it is a valuable component for formulating recommendations in regard to curricular matters.
IDENTIFY YOUR LOCAL CALIFORNIA REPRESENTATIVE AND ARRANGE AN INTRODUCTORY MEETING
Faculty can find their local assembly members and senators, for both their place of residence and their college, at findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov. In collaboration with the local academic senate or discipline organization, faculty can arrange a visit, either in-person or virtual, to meet their representatives. Faculty might also consider inviting student representatives to join them in this introductory meeting. In the meeting, faculty should thank the representatives for the work they do, share with the representatives who the faculty are and the work that faculty do, and stress that the faculty are available to assist the representatives with any questions or information in regard to curricular matters. Often a representative’s staff will be at the meeting, and sometimes only the staff will be at the meeting. Such a situation is not a problem. The staff often does the detailed work about the bills and keeps track of crucial information for the representatives. Faculty should be sure to thank the representative and staff and follow up by the next day, or sooner, with a thank you note and any additional information that may have been requested. Following this visit, faculty will be in a better position to meet with their representatives regarding particular legislative issues.
ATTEND A CALIFORNIA COMMUNITY COLLEGES BOARD OF GOVERNORS MEETING OR A LEGISLATIVE HEARING
Currently, many meetings have virtual options for attendance, so attending is fairly easy. Observing meetings should help faculty to learn how such meetings work so that when they would like to make public comment, doing so will be easier and hopefully less intimidating. When one does decide to make public comment, a good strategy is to a share a personal or student story that supports one’s points. Meeting details are available at the following websites:
- California State Senate: https://www.senate.ca.gov,
- California State Assembly: https://www.assembly.ca.gov,
- California Community Colleges Board of Governors: https://www.cccco.edu/About-Us/Board-of-Governors/Meeting-schedule-minu….
ATTEND OR VIEW A FACCC/ASCCC LEGISLATIVE AND ADVOCACY WEBINAR
In an effort to empower all faculty, including local legislative liaisons, to have a voice that is heard, the ASCCC has partnered with FACCC to provide legislative and advocacy training webinars monthly from January through May of 2022. Information about the webinars as well as recordings can be found at https://www.asccc.org/calendar/202204.
If individual faculty or local academic senates have interest in more information on current issues or professional development for being a faculty advocate in regard to academic and professional matters, they can work with the local academic senate president and legislative liaison to request services from the ASCCC for a local academic senate visit by contacting the ASCCC at www.asccc.org/content/request-services. The faculty voice is important, whether one is a representative of the local academic senate, an EOPS program coordinator, a discipline organization representative, or a department member; it needs to be loud, it needs to be clear, and it needs to be heard.
1. For more information on ASCCC advocacy, see https://www.asccc.org/legislative-updates.