Newly elected academic senate presidents often have important documents handed to them at the last minute before they are due or are not appropriately included in approving the documents at all. This situation occurred not long ago at one of the colleges in a multi-college community college district. At the time, this particular college had been operating at a financial deficit for at least three consecutive years. According to the district’s board-approved “District Financial Accountability Measures,” “if a college has experienced three consecutive years of deficits, the college shall be required to submit a detailed recovery plan for achieving fiscal stability.” The problem with this policy is that the directive to create a financial recovery plan makes no mention of working through shared governance and collegial consultation processes.
The District Financial Accountability Measures did not specifically direct the college president and the vicepresident of administrative services to present the new plan to the local academic senate for recommendations. Rather, the college president, under a short deadline, was assured that the plan did not need to go through a shared governance process. This sort of situation can insert huge loopholes into shared governance and collegial consultation processes as related to professional and academic matters.
One of the last academic senate meetings of 2016-17 at the college in question featured an extremely heated discussion regarding the fact that the financial recovery plan was written by the administration and submitted to the district. The district gave the college president an unrealistic timeline of two weeks to write and submit the plan. The college administration’s idea of shared governance was to present the plan to the college’s Budget Committee meeting, which did include faculty representation. However, although those representative did see the report, the academic senate was not given sufficient time to vet it and make any recommendations through the collegial consultation process.
Because of attendance at the 2017 ASCCC Faculty Leadership Institute, before officially taking office on July 1, the newly elected academic senate president at the college was able to utilize the institute as a vehicle to shop this local situation around to other faculty from across the system and take action at the institute’s mock Plenary through the resolution process. Rather than making up a resolution just for the occasion, the local senate president was able to draft, with the help of others, what ended up becoming one of the adopted resolutions (at the Fall 2017 Plenary).
The faculty at this college were aware that Title 5 §53200 gives academic senates purview regarding “processes for institutional planning and budget development,” which is included in the 10+1 areas of academic and professional matters. Therefore, the faculty was interested in knowing if any other academic senate presidents or others at the Faculty Leadership Institute had experienced being passed over in such an important
decision-making event on their campuses. The senate president in question had inherited a big fire that was now widespread and that augmented the distance between the faculty and administration on the campus.
Since that time, the faculty of the college has recommended to the district’s Budget Committee that the language of the District Financial Accountability Measures document be amended to direct colleges in the district to create such financial recovery plans through the shared governance process. Such a process should allow faculty to vet the document, provide feedback and recommendations, and consult collegially with the college president if necessary.
ASCCC Resolution 13.03, which was adopted at the Fall 2017 Plenary Session but was first developed at the 2017 Faculty leadership Institute as a response to this situation, reads as follows:
Whereas, the administration of a college may be mandated to submit a financial recovery plan as a result of functioning under a deficit for a length of time; and
Whereas, Title 5 §53200 provides that processes for institutional planning and budget development are academic and professional matters;
Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges encourage local senates to assert that establishing a process for creating and submitting a financial recovery plan is a local budget and planning process that falls within academic senate purview as defined by Title 5 §53200; and
Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges urge all colleges that develop a financial recovery plan do so through the shared governance process in a transparent and timely fashion.
To date, the district leadership has not responded to the recommendations of the District Budget Committee regarding this issue. Hopefully, district leaders will be willing to interject clear shared governance requirements into the language of the District Financial Accountability Measures document that will honor the purview that academic senates have regarding academic and professional matters.