Flexibility, Compromise, and Leadership in Decision—Making: AB705 Regulatory Process as a Case Study

ASCCC President

The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges (ASCCC) offers local senate visits and technical assistance visits to colleges as part of the college’s membership with the ASCCC. When colleges request a visit from the ASCCC, we often ask whether the college has a process or procedure documenting what is supposed to happen in the specific situation under discussion. If such a process exists, we work to determine where it is written down and whether the college is following what is written. If no written process or procedure exists, we ask the college to reflect on why the process or procedure has not been created. Often, we find that some understanding existed among the various constituents at the college about how decisions were to be made, and the precipitating event for the request for assistance is the turnover of key personnel in leadership positions who reached that understanding.

In the absence of a written process or procedure, many colleges will attempt to develop a process during the crisis or immediately after a resolution is reached. We often find that these moments are not the best time to create a process: either the situation is still unresolved and the process developed will only be appropriate to the crisis at hand or the process is constructed at a time in which all parties feel wounded over the recent conflict, leading to a very rigid and overly cautious or complex process that makes action cumbersome or difficult in the future.

The best processes clearly define who is involved in the decision making and how input is obtained from constituent groups, and they leave enough wiggle room for leaders to adapt to specific situations. That wiggle room implies a certain level of trust among the leadership of the college, including the senate president. Without that trust, progress on pressing issues cannot move forward in a meaningful way no matter how a process or procedure is written, and such situations are generally indicative of a larger and more systemic issue that must be addressed first.

At the system level, we have collegial processes and procedures that have produced a recommendation regarding the Title 5 language for implementing AB 705 (Irwin, 2017). When the governor signed AB 705 in October 2017, the timeline written into the law required the entire system to respond more rapidly than usual for such systemic change. Title 5 states that the 10+1 areas of academic and professional matters are within the ASCCC’s purview, and thus AB 705, which deals with issues of placement and remediation, falls under our realm. The Chancellor’s Office provides systemic leadership and compliance. While we may generally expect Title 5 language first and then guidance memos for implementation of any new law, that process would not have served our colleges and students given the legal mandate and timeline for implementation. Hence, guidance memos from the Chancellor’s Office and the ASCCC were published prior to Title 5 language in summer 2018, as a fall 2019 implementation deadline for mathematics and English necessitated some direction to colleges about the expected structure of compliance. Copies of all ASCCC resources regarding AB 705, including guidance documents, are available on our website at asccc.org under the AB 705 tab.

The statewide collegial process allows some wiggle room for action, like that involving AB 705, as all processes regarding curriculum rely primarily upon the advice and judgment of the ASCCC. Furthermore, the ASCCC and the Chancellor’s Office agreed to trust one another and to follow collegial processes to move forward. This trust was not easy to achieve after the divisive conflicts from the last budget cycle, but both parties agreed that our desire to serve students as best as we could in compliance with the law had to take precedence over any lingering distrust or ill-feelings. Having found that common ground, we were able to engage in the regulation-making collegial process and produce the necessary guidance for the colleges we serve.

In fall 2018, draft Title 5 language was submitted to 5C, the California Community Colleges Curriculum Committee, to evaluate, change, and perfect in accordance with the published guidelines on the Chancellor’s Office website.[1] 5C has a general charge to make recommendations to the Chancellor’s Consultation Council and the Board of Governors regarding regulation and policy on matters related to curriculum. This charge is fairly flexible and establishes the role of 5C regarding where recommendations are to be forwarded. The composition of 5C is also clearly outlined as having eight faculty appointed by the ASCCC, four representatives appointed by the Chief Instructional Officers, two Chancellor’s Office representatives, and one curriculum specialist appointed by the CCC Classified Senate. Resource members include representatives for noncredit, CTE administrators, and the Chancellor’s Office legal counsel. This group represents the collective wisdom of the system in curricular matters.

The draft language submitted to 5C was a starting place for its members to evaluate several sections of Title 5, and the committee ultimately proposed changes to five sections: § 55002, 55522, 55003, 55063, and 55500. A copy of the recommended changes can be found at the Chancellor’s Office website under the Legal Division.[2] Those recommendations were forwarded to the chancellor through the Consultation Council in January.

Consultation Council is a large committee with 18 members representing a wide variety of constituent groups of the community college system. It meets monthly to advise the chancellor on matters going to the Board of Governors according to its charge.[3] This body has been apprised of every board agenda item during this academic year in an effort to return to previously established processes of consultation.

In January, the council engaged in a discussion of the Title 5 regulations for AB705 implementation. Our system colleagues supported sending the recommendations forward unmodified and deferred to the ASCCC upon assurance that the collegial process was followed.

The regulations were then presented at the January 14, 2019 meeting of the Board of Governors for a first reading. The chancellor recommended that the Board of Governors accept the proposed changes as written through the consultative process. For regulations, a 45-day comment period is required, and during that comment period the Board of Governors must have an open hearing to provide for public comment in person. Comments may also be submitted by February 18 through the link provided by the Legal Department of the Chancellor’s Office.[4] The next step in the regulation-making process is a second reading and action by the Board of Governors. We hope, as always, that the board will respect the collective wisdom of the system and adopt the proposed language as written. Finally, the last step in the regulationmaking process is that the Board of Governors sends the recommended Title 5 changes to the Department of Finance for a review. The Department of Finance reviews all Title 5 changes to ensure the fiscal needs of implementation of regulatory change are accounted for in current allocations. Then the regulation is sent to the Secretary of State for enrollment.

Even after a bruising conflict, we have an obligation to move forward to serve our students both locally and at the state level in ways that may sometimes require a modification of established processes. To do so, we have to establish trust even if it is at the very basic level of agreeing that we all want what is best for students and must strive to attain that end from each of our professional perspectives. No administrator or senate president entered our field of work to inflict harm on students; we all have in common our devotion to education and the students we serve. From that common ground, we can determine the issues that we all want or need to address and agree to do so together. Then we can follow or adapt our processes and trust we will arrive at the best outcome possible for our students.

1. http://extranet.cccco.edu/Divisions/AcademicAffairs/CurriculumandInstru….
2. http://extranet.cccco.edu/Portals/1/Legal/Regs/RegArchive/Text%20of%20A….
3. http://extranet.cccco.edu/SystemOperations/ConsultationCouncil.aspx
4. http://extranet.cccco.edu/Divisions/Legal/Regulations.aspx